Setting up a DS/4X suspension bike for trail riding

Love the site. Love the book. I recently bought a 2009 Specialized SX (not Trail) frame to set up for all around trail use. I’ve ridden a few DS/4X bikes and I love how they feel. I’m gonna run a single front ring for sure and know to use 34t with a mtb 11-34 cassette. What other stuff do you suggest as far as setup goes such as fork, crank size?


Lars Thomsen from Trail Head Cyclery wrings out his SX in Santa Cruz.

Hey Danny,

Yeah man, short-travel DS/4X bikes like the SX rip on trail! Especially if you:

– Run a chain guide with a 34t chainring and a wide-range cassette (as you’re planning). These days all of the companies — MRP, e.thirteen, Truvativ, etc. — make good guides. I’ve been running Gamuts since the garage days. Simple and effective.

– Use a telescopic seatpost like the Titec ‘Scoper. If you have the money, rock a remotely adjustable post like the Gravity Dropper, Crank Bros Joplin or Specialized Command Post. This will give you the adjustment range to climb at full XC height and rip at extra-low braaap height.

– Depending on how fast/burly your rides are, rock some XC or all-mountain tires. I roll Specialized Eskar Controls on my Stumpy and P.3, and they have been pretty quick, very grippy and super durable. Other can’t-miss candidates include the Maxxis Minion and Kenda Nevegal.

The Mighty Mark Garcia rolls my original SX in Whistler.

– Get a set of pretty wide, pretty light and very strong rims. There are plenty of nice all-mountain wheelsets out there. I’ve had great luck with my Sun Charger 27s. Two vigorous years on my Stumpy, with an embarrassing lack of maintenance, and they’re going strong.

– Use your standard crank length. For most of us, that’s 175mm. You need neither the torque of longer cranks nor the clearance of shorter cranks.

– For extra XC love, consider clip-in pedals. Some riders swear by flats all the time; for trail riding I like the extra power and control of clips.

– Use standard XC/all-mountain brakes with 6-inch rotors. My Hayes Stroker Trails come up a bit short on gnarly DH — that’s not what they’re made for — but they work perfectly for DS/4X and trail riding.

– Pair a short-ish (50-70mm) stem with wide-ish bars. The short stem preserves the bike’s sweet flickability. To find your ideal bar width, get down and do some pushups. How far apart are the outsides of your hands? Mine are 28 inches apart, and that’s my favorite bar width.

– Get a fork with about 100mm of travel (any more will slacken these bikes too much). For general-purpose rippage, try a 32mm FOX air fork like the F100. If you need extra stiffness/burl, try a 36mm FOX FLOAT, dropped to 100mm. RockShox and Marzocchi also make great forks; I’ve had consistently good experiences with FOXes.

– Most important: Get strong. Build skill. Have fun!

Also read:

Telescopic seatpost for DJ hardtail

4x/DS bike for trail riding

Know more. Have more fun!

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