Sunday, July 10, 2005

New Bike love

I'm getting so so close to dialing in the fit of the new bike. This has been over a month process.


I'll have to admit that at first I was not feeling the mojo. Which goes counter to everything you think will happen when you get a new ride. The Doctor Dollar feelings start as soon as you make the decision to buy it. The expectations are high. "Man, I am going to be flying on this thing. I am going to be Lord, King, God, Buddah and will have to move up to expert after the first ride"

Um, no. First few weeks, I was getting a little worried. -Did I make the right decision to go Full Suspension? Did I make the right decision going with this type of FS? Did I make the right decision going with this frame geometry? On and on.

But yesterday and today I had some incredible rides on it. It is SO amazing how changes in positioning affect power output and handling off road. And it is so specific to the individual.

I feel like a month has been lost, but in a way I've learned so much about myself and what works and doesn't work for me. In order to know that something is working right, you have to break it. Does that make sense? But having the bike not work well for me early on, has made me appreciate what it means to have it dialed in, and to know that it is dialed in right.

First thing I did wrong, was no set the fore/aft right. I set the saddle in the same position on the rails as my hardtail. But something just didn't feel right. I felt like I couldn't get on top of a gear, couldn't spin a gear right. Was wondering if it was the FS, and the bob in the rear. But what works for me is to be at KOPS (knee over pedal) and maybe slightly forward on steep climbs. I'm not going to get into the debate of KOPS and all, but it is a good starting point. I was way behind the pedal axle. I think part of it was not factoring the movement in the suspension which moved me away from the BB slightly, and also the seat tube angle must be slightly different than the hardtail. So moving the saddle forward helped with that.

But then I started with a stem that was too short. So the handling felt to quick, and the front end was popping too much. I looked at the geom chart and mistakenly looked at the actual top tube measurement and not the EFT of the new frame. So then ended up going with a stem too long, thinking that it is what I needed. Climbing improved a little, but technical climbing got worse. Downhilling was ok, but the steering was so slow. And I felt like I had to turn the bars in order to steer in the single track. I was having to force my weight back on the downhills and then the front tire was pushing and sliding.

Went to another stem I had around that was in between the first and the last in legnth. Oh my. This feels good. Not just the handling, which improved so much in the single track. I was able to lean and flick the bike in the tight stuff. But also the power output at my legs.

This is where knowing what position works best based on your flexibility. I've got very poor hamstring flexibility. So if I am leaned down to much due to a lower drop to the bar, or being too extended than my power is compromised. Going to the shorter stem, and also raising it a little put me in a much better power position. Also counter to what you'd think, the shorter stem climbed better in technical sections. This is because it brought the bar more underneath me, and I could do the Row-row-row your boat trick to pull on the bars and drive the rear wheel into the ground better.

Yes it was harder to keep the front end tracking, and it required much more body dynamics in the pulling and bending more at the waist to keep the front end down, but worth the sacrifice.

I''m getting close. The current feeling is that the saddle seems too far forward. But messing with fore aft will mess with my knee/pedal position. So I think the drop to the bar is still a little high. In fact I did stop and move the saddle back about 5mm. Pedaling didn't feel as good, and actually going downhill it got a little worse. Just like before with the longer stem, the front end felt unweighted a little and harder to steer and felt like it wanted to slide. But I was able to get the front end to pop up on demand better with the more reward body position. Which was better on tech climbing.

This is my reasoning for looking to raise the bar a little. What happens what you are standing up and then you bend over at the waist? Your butt move backwards. If it didn't you would fall over. So on the bike If you bend over at the waist your butt wants to move back. If your seat position is set, and you are bending too much it is going to feel like your seat is too farward. At least I think so.

Also I'm having trouble manualing the front end. Not a real manual, but that front end loft that is so so important in technical riding. I think part of it is related to your weight balance, part is related to your bar height, and part to the fork rebound you get after compression. I've still got a lot of initial stiction in the fork which slows down the timing of a front end loft. Hopefully due to the 04 damper, and that an 05 damper will fix it.

I'm not sure if a lower bar height or a higher bar height will help with lofting the front end. Conventional wisdom would say that the higher bar height would make it easier to loft the front end. But one thing I'm learning is that sometimes the total counterintuitive thing is what works in the end.

The other area that has been really hard is the shock settings. It is a SID dual air XC. Which is a non platform shock. I'm trying to get the full travel at least once during a ride, but also not have it be a bob monster. The neg air chamber sets how easy it is to start inital movement, basically how plush it will be. I high neg setting makes for a NICE ride downhill, but more bob. But the other thing is that for technical climbing you want the shock to be active, not locked out. So it can be a double edged sword.

I think this type of suspension design would benefit more from a platform shock, but don't know for sure and don't know how well those work for their desired purpose. I wasn't too impressed with a the SPV platform fork, but have heard that it and Fox's and 5th element's platform operates better in the shocks.

Regardless, things are moving in the right direction, and I'm feeling the mojo. The last few rides have been phenomenal, and I've got some quantifiable evidence as opposed to just feel.

Wow, quite a lot of ranting about just riding a bike. A lot of people are perfectly content just riding their bike like it is. But they'll never know if they are missing something. It might be perfect the way it is, but you never know till you try. You gotta break it sometimes in order to know it's working right.


At 2:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If your chainstays are longer on the new fs bike than your old ht you might find manualing abit harder. Also if the tt is longer that might make lofting the front harder. Higher handlebars easier; shorter stem easier. A high rise bar on a xc racer might make the front end abit light on climbs... do you have problems with this? Perhaps flip the stem to give neg rise if you do. I went to a flat bar for better climbing, but I just put on the lowrise for more fun trail riding.


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