Category Archives: Fitting

Fitting a Track Bike

Fitting a Track Bike

Colby Pearce


A bicycle should be fit based on two primary considerations: the physiology of the rider, and the demands of the event.

The physiology of the rider may include the smoothness of the pedal stroke, the joint angles at which effective force can be delivered, and ability to bend at the hip without compromising the lumbar spine.

In the case of track cycling, the demands of the event include: a broad range of cadence demands (from standing starts and low speed accelerations in a big gear, to sustained high cadences during a team pursuit and high speed sprints in a points race or keirin), an aerodynamic rider position, high power output (both sustained and in short durations, frequently with short recovery), precise weight distribution over the axles for high speed maneuvering. Track races have higher average speeds than most road events, so in some cases it may make sense to place the rider in a more aerodynamic position on the track bike.

The starting point of this article will be assuming that fit on the road bike is dialed in. From my perspective, this means:

  • Proper saddle setback, which puts as much weight as possible on the saddle given the mass distribution of the rider, the limb and torso length, limitations lower back and hamstring mobility, flexibility and ability to generate symmetrical force while in a position of acute hip flexion.
  • Proper bar height and extension which is set according to the mass distribution of the rider, the limb and torso length, limitations lower back and hamstring mobility, flexibility and ability to generate symmetrical force while in a position of acute hip flexion, and is set within context of the demands of the event the bike is being fit for (for example, longer road rides with lots of vertical gain vs. shorter, faster group rides).
  • Proper saddle height set within the parameters of pelvic stability and pedaling technique.
  • Proper arch support, foot correction and cleat position.

Relative to an aggressive road position, the track bike may have the following considerations:

  • Bar height: may be lower (1-3cm) reach than road bars. This depends on the context of the road position. If the rider is already very aggressive on the road bike, no change may be necessary. If a rider is at their functional limit on their road bike, no change may be possible. When a rider shows a high level of function, a good baseline is to place bar height so the torso is horizontal with a slight bend in the elbows when in the drops. This allows for a slight relief of the torso angle (perhaps 5 or 10 degrees) with the arms straight.
  • Stem length: may be shorter, the same or longer depending on the style of the rider. Some athletes tend to “curl” the spine under maximal loads at very high cadences. While this is not ideal form, it may be very difficult to change this habit under maximal load and as a result, the bars may “get too far away” during sprints. This may be particularly true for a rider who uses an old school “flat/dome” style saddle (such as a Flite, Rolls, or Arione) and who comes forward towards the tip of the saddle under high load. For riders who are more anchored in the saddle, ride with a more extended spine and have a more complete pedal stroke, a longer reach may work better. This is because as the athlete sprints through turns, they will have the sensation that the bars are coming towards them, as a result of the centrifugal force of the turn compressing the athlete. In some cases, trial and error on the velodrome may need to be the final determining factor in stem length. This cannot be simulated on any trainer or fit bike.
  • Handlebar width: may be the same as road, or 1 size (~2cm) narrower. Many riders find that the increased clearance provided by narrower bars gives a window of safety they appreciate when in a peloton. A narrower bar is more aerodynamic, but gives the rider a reduced point of leverage to pull from during standing accelerations and standing starts. Most riders find the narrower width to be acceptable on the track, even though there are moments when it is necessary to apply a lot of force to the bars at low speed, in a very big gear. One product in particular, the 3T Scatto track bars, come in very narrow 350mm and 370mm widths. Many riders find these bars work well for sprinting and some even use them for points racing and other mass start events. They are not advised for madison racing, as the tops flare forward from the stem, which does not allow for a stable platform from which to throw in a rider during exchanges.
  • Pedal stance: many track riders use road pedals or modified road pedals on the track (clipless pedals with an added toe strap) so in most cases, pedal stance ends up being 9-12mm narrower than on the road, due to the fact that most track cranks have a narrower pedal separation distance than most road cranks. The typical PSD (or Q factor) for track cranks is 136-140mm. Most road cranks are in the range of 148-152mm. Many riders tolerate a narrower stance quite well, but this may be more of an accident than by design; if the rider is prone towards symptoms of “medial collapse” (IE one or both knees hitting the top tube, or one or both feet showing signs of pronation) then moving the feet closer together will help alleviate these poor movement mechanics without educating the rider of the root cause. For riders who would do better on a wider stance, riding a track bike may be problematic and could require some creative equipment selection. The simplest choice may be a pedal system with longer axles (both Shimano and Speedplay currently offer these options).
  • Saddle setback: setback can be the same as road or slightly more forward, depending on if bar height changes. As the bars come lower, the hip angle will become more acute (all other factors being equal) so if the goal is to maintain hip angle between bikes, the saddle could come forward to accomplish this. Another way to achieve the same goal could be to use shorter cranks on the track bike. Moving the saddle forward comes at the potential compromise of posterior chain muscle recruitment and support of the torso by the saddle. As the saddle moves over the bottom bracket, there is usually more reliance on quads to drive the pedals and more postural muscles will be recruited to support the weight of the thorax.
  • Crankarms: cranks can be the same or shorter (2.5-7.5mm) on the track bike. Often, riders coming from the road have the instinct that their crank length should be constant between all bikes in order to minimize the impact of change. At times, when a rider uses a crank that is too long for mass start racing or sprinting, it will limit their top end cadence. This can be a race deciding metric. Crank length choice is multi-factorial and should be evaluated with the help of a competent professional fitter. If you don’t know what length cranks you should be on, start by reading this article:
  • Cleat position: may be the same as road, or further forward. As the cleat and axle move forward (towards the toes) the lever arm created by the foot becomes longer, but more ankle stabilization is required by the gastroc group to make effective use of that leverage. A forward cleat position favors events that are shorter in duration; require very high cadences, and explosive change in pace. For riders specializing in endurance track disciplines (points race, pursuit, madison, omnium) Steve’s method 1 is recommended. For riders focusing exclusively on sprint disciplines, riders may be forward of method 1. For information, see Steve’s article:
  • Saddle height: normally this would be the same as the road bike, but adjusted for different length cranks. This means if your track cranks are 2.5mm shorter than your road cranks, your saddle will be 2.5mm higher on the track bike in order to maintain leg extension at the bottom of the stroke. This is most easily accomplished with the exact same saddle on both bikes. If different saddles are used on the bikes, accounting for the compression of padding and base materials, and different base shapes can get quite complicated and amounts to a pile of guesswork as there is no easy or reliable way to quantify these factors. For a rider who wants to precisely control variables, identical saddles are the first choice.

Another factor to consider in track bike set up is weight distribution relative to the axles and the bottom bracket. Track bikes are different in that when the rider is cornering or changing direction, they are always pedaling (hopefully!). This means that standard handling rules do not apply. A rider does not coast, put the outside foot down, push hard on this foot and simultaneously lean hard on the inside bar to make the bike lean as they would on a road or cyclocross bike. This means the rear wheel potentially has less weight to “anchor it” during quick changes in direction. Skipping a tire during an abrupt change in direction on the track can be disastrous, so we work to avoid these scenarios. In particular, during madison exchanges if the rear wheel is not weighted properly, the bike can become unstable which leads to powerless exchanges or in the worst case, a tumble.

It is somewhat common for a rider to ride with their saddle more forward than optimal on the track. Because the fixed gear “assists” the rider through the dead spot (from 10 o’clock to 12 o’clock), many times an athlete can have pretty poor technique and not really be aware of it. If the saddle is too far forward on a road bike, when a steep climb begins the rider will feel loaded quads and a magnified dead spot. The decreased inertia and slower cadence will magnify the poor technique and it will be easy to diagnose the problem. This is camouflaged, to a degree, by a fixed gear bike and the fact that there are no climbs on a velodrome.

Dortmund 6 Days




SMP Setup Tips

Guide to setting up SMP saddles

Italian manufacturer SMP manufactures saddles with base shapes that more closely match the shape of the human ishium than most other saddle designs. This feature makes the saddle an excellent platform for a rider to generate power. Setting up a saddle that reflects the shape of skeleton more accurately requires more precision than a saddle with a less specific shape. When saddle setback, angle and height are all precisely adjusted, and the correct model is selected for the rider, the saddle will completely disappear under the rider. This is the end goal of any saddle fitting.

Some points you may find helpful:

  • The nose angle should be set as low as possible, provided the rider is stable. When a rider is stable on the saddle, its possible to ride in the drops for long periods of time (20 or 30 minutes) on a false flat downhill under moderate power (high Z2 or Z3 pace) without doing “The Typewriter”. When a rider is not stable in the saddle, under moderate or full power, they will scoot towards the nose in small increments, and into under-extension, until they are forced to correct their position with a giant movement backwards. This cycle is repeated and power is lost during all the moving around. The lower the nose angle, the easier it is to rotate the pelvis forward and engage glut.
  • The saddle nose is too high if the athlete feels pressure in the front of the crotch, provided they are seated in the “trough” of the saddle. In a saddle with significant curvature, there is only one correct place to sit, at the bottom of the “trough”. Scooting further back, there is a “wall” and scooting further forward puts the rider on the “ramp”. If the rider feels pressure in front, first make sure the rider scoots back to be seated in the “trough”. If the rider consistently scoots forward onto the ramp, the saddle may be too far back behind the bottom bracket and may need to come forward 5mm on the rails. If the rider is seated in the “trough” and still feels pressure (especially in the drops), the nose angle should come down in 0.2 degree increments. A small adjustment can make a big difference.
  • The nose angle should between 0 and 5 degrees nose down in most cases, and roughly proportional to the saddle-to-stem drop as a starting point. The better a rider is at rolling the hips forward and sitting on the bike with an extended spine, and the lower the stem is relative to the bars, the more towards 5 degrees the saddle nose should be.
  • The true finalization of saddle angle must be done riding outdoors, as no indoor trainer or rollers accurately simulates road load. Subtle changes in a rider’s pedaling style will influence bike posture on the trainer, which can lead to a perception of stability on the trainer which does not exist in outdoor riding. Get it close and then let the final test be over a week or more of riding in real world conditions.
  • In the absence of a digital level, an “Angle Finder” application can be downloaded for your smartphone in order to set up saddle angle with precision. Place a level object (such as a rigid book or wide ruler) across the top of the saddle and measure angle with the phone on this surface. Some things to remember: make sure your bike is on a level surface, or the saddle angle will be meaningless. Use a four-foot dowel or other long straight object and lay it next to the wheels, and use the angle finder to confirm the level of the floor. Also, if your smartphone has buttons or other gizmos on the side which will change the angle relative to the surface to be measured, they must be accounted for, or the other side of the phone can be used for measurement. The measurement is taken from the highest points (the tail and the high point of the nose).
  • Many riders sit further back on a SMP saddle in comparison to traditional saddles. In many cases, in order to keep the same position relative to the bottom bracket, this means placing the SMP 5-10mm further forward than the previous saddle. It depends on the rider and the saddle, and may not apply if a rider was previously riding a saddle that was too narrow.

There is some adaptation to a cutout saddle. The nerves under the ishial tuberosities must adapt to carrying the weight of the torso, especially if the rider has not ridden a cutout saddle in the past. This adaptation will vary in length depending on how heavy the rider is, how padded the saddle they chose is, and how much riding they do. A general timeline is one to three weeks. The discomfort can reach a crescendo before adaptation occurs and relief is achieved.




Fitting a Gravel or Cyclocross Bicycle


Positional Adjustments for a Gravel or Cyclocross Bicycle

By Colby Pearce

Riders frequently ask me if there is a correlation between the fit of a road bike and a gravel. The process is not formulaic or necessarily simple, however there are some basic guidelines that can be useful in setting up a gravel bike using the road bike as a starting point.

While there are potentially some differences between setting up a gravel and cyclocross bike, for most purposes this text can be applied to either scenario.

The recommendations made below are assuming your road bike fit is dialed in. From my perspective, this means:

  • proper saddle setback, which puts as much weight as possible on the saddle given the mass distribution of the rider, the limb length, limitations lower back and hamstring mobility, flexibility and ability to generate symmetrical force while in a position of acute hip flexion. It also accounts or the anthropometrics of the rider. This means the athlete has to be able to hinge at the hip effectively.
  • proper bar height and extension which is set according to the mass distribution of the rider, the limb and torso length, limitations lower back and hamstring mobility, flexibility and ability to generate symmetrical force while in a position of acute hip flexion, and is set within context of the demands of the event the bike is being fit for. Bar height and extension impact rider CdA as well as handling of the bike over different terrain [hills, descents, smooth surface, loose sand, water, etc].
  • proper saddle height set within the parameters of knee and ankle extension, pelvic stability, pedaling technique and setback.
  • proper arch support, foot correction and cleat position.
  • proper posture of the athlete on the bike, under load and fatigue, which requires good proprioceptive awareness as well as proper strength and conditioning of the deep core [the inner unit].

All bicycles can be placed on a spectrum in regards to their intended purpose. On one end of this spectrum, we have time trial bicycles, especially those used in most US or UK races which tend to be straightforward out and back events that typically lack hills or corners other than a single “U” turn. When setting up a rider’s position on a TT bike, very little concern is given to how the rider’s weight distribution impacts handling, because the events do not have many changes in direction or varying terrain, and in many instances it is assumed that the aerodynamics of the event are the dominant predictor of outcome, even at the expense of handling.

On the other end of this spectrum, we find downhill mountain bikes. The riders make huge accommodations to their positions in order to ensure the bike handles properly for the demands of the event, even at the expense of a rider’s power production, and certainly without regard to aerodynamics [although the sport went through a brief phase of rubberized skin suits and disc wheels]. The saddles are set at ridiculously low heights (or dropper seat posts are used) to allow maximum adjustment of the rider’s center of gravity over steep terrain, stems are incredibly short to maximize rider leverage on the bars when riding over rocks and drops, bars are super wide to provide the widest possible hand stance, and cranks are short for ground clearance. Most riders probably cannot approach their true FTP or MLSS on this type of bike, but a downhill race does not demand that they do so. The demands of this discipline require that handling over rough, steep, rocky terrain is more important than power production. A fast downhiller constantly changes the relationship between his or her center of gravity and the BB and wheel axles of the bicycle in all planes of motion [transverse, sagittal and frontal] and in order to accomplish this, the cockpit must be “compressed”. If the distance between the bars and saddle is too long, it will limit the ability of the rider to manipulate the center of gravity in order to maintain tread contact with the trail at key moments, or to maneuver their center of gravity relative to the bottom bracket in order to enhance traction by manipulating weight over the suspended wheels of the bicycle.

Gravel riding represents an area of middle ground between the above examples of time trial and downhill MTB, and thus the bicycle is set up to allow a rider to make adjustments of the center of gravity relative to the wheelbase and bottom bracket, but not on the scale of a downhill bike. Aerodynamics are generally not a consideration for gravel bicycle fit, as the average speed of competitions are not high enough for the coefficient of drag to be a significant factor in the outcome of the race in most instances. There may be exceptions at the pointy end of an elite competition, and aerodynamics always needs to be a consideration in any bicycle set up to some degree [even if it is very small] but largely in gravel is it not a factor. That said, in ultra endurance events when riders find themselves isolated or in small groups for long periods of time, aero bars may be advantageous.

On that point, I rarely take the stance of a traditionalist or someone who values nostalgia for the sake of nostalgia, but I do believe that aero bars don’t belong on a gravel bike. This is equivalent to mixing sushi and Mexican food; there are some flavors that just don’t go together, nor should the attempt be made.

Gravel riding and racing requires some fundamentally different skills than road riding. In order for a rider to negotiate off road terrain at varying speeds, he or she must be able to shift their weight using the dimensions of the bicycle cockpit. Off road cycling requires dynamic weight placement on the bike to a much higher degree than road cycling. Changing weight emphasis, or moving the rider’s center of gravity, during off camber, uphill, downhill, grassy, rocky, sandy or other challenging conditions is essential to riding fast and staying upright. A rider whose bike is set up too stretched out, with the bars too low, or slammed too far back will not be able to perform these tasks effectively. Rider weight is shifted between all points of contact (front, middle or rear of the saddle, tops, hoods and drops on L and R sides respectively, and L or R pedals) to influence the contact patches of tire tread and drive the tread into the ground. This is how a rider negotiates the varying surfaces of a gravel or cyclocross course and stays upright.

Road riders are more habituated to keeping their center of gravity directly over the bottom bracket when cornering. That is, when viewed from the front, the riders center of gravity will lean at the same angle to the horizon as the bike is leaning. As the bike leans, the rider leans, and as the bike uprights, the bike uprights.

In order to increase leverage on the tread of a tire, the rider must decouple the center of gravity from the lean angle of the bike. This means leaning the bike more than that of the body.

Practical Application

Common gravel bike dimensional differences, relative to a road position, are listed below (in no particular order). These recommendations are based on the premise that the road position is reasonably aggressive, meaning that the road position is set up with some consideration to aerodynamics and that the rider has the functional ability to apply power smoothly in a position with a relatively large saddle offset, low bars, and long reach. If the rider’s road position is not very aggressive due to reduced anatomical function or biomechanics limitations [beer gut, long tibias, history of injury that prevents or inhibits effective hip hinge] the positional differences between a road and gravel bike will be less or possibly none.

  • Stem length: typically shorter by 1-3 cm. This facilitates the ability to move over the bars when the rider needs more weight on the front wheel. This is crucial for the entrance to corners that require increased weight on the front axle. A shorter stem also reduces the length of the lever on the steering column, which creates a shorter radius to turn the wheel the same amount (in terms of angle relative to the top tube) in comparison to a longer stem (given the same bar width). During gravel and cyclocross races, more steering is required due to the low speed turns encountered on the course. By steering, we mean actual turning of the bars; on a road bike most cornering is accomplished with less steering and more leaning of the bike.
  • Bar height: The handlebars can be 1-3cm higher. Due to the lower average speeds of gravel and cyclocross races, aerodynamics are not a significant consideration in the parameters of the fit, and raising the bars allows for more variation in how the rider carries his or her weight on the front end of the bike. That said, in my opinion many gravel, cyclocross and mountain bikes are set up with bars higher than they would be optimally placed. The concern many athletes frequently have about setting up bars low on a cyclocross or mountain bike is going over the bars on a steep descent. In most cases, this is pilot error as the butt must be far enough back behind the BB to not let the weight launch forward over the front axle when negotiating steep descents, or it is a tired sloppy rider who has lost core control. The most stable position with superior front wheel control is in the drops (as opposed to the hoods) and the drops should be used on steep descents. Additionally, a lower bar increases front wheel weight bias, which is generally desirable when setting up a gravel or cyclocross bike. I talk more about this below. Note that “1-3cm lower” is relative to the saddle, IE saddle to bar drop, not measured from the ground or front hub. Because gravel and cross bikes have forks with longer axle to crown dimensions, as well as differing bottom bracket heights than road bikes, any X-Y measurement you make of points on a road bike from the ground are useless when applying them to a gravel or cyclocross bike.
  • Drop angle: frequently I notice cross riders who neglect or ignore their drops completely, always choosing the tops or hoods for all conditions. In most cases, the drop angle of their bars is also incorrect. Typically, the rider finds the hood angle is too low over bumpy terrain and rotates the entire handlebar to move the hoods higher (instead of unwrapping the bar to the hoods and moving the hoods alone), compromising the drop angle in the process. When the drop angle is set correctly to maintain a neutral wrist, and the proper hood angle is preserved to do the same, the rider typically resumes use of both positions at the appropriate point on the course. When the wrist angle is neutral, it is much easier for the rider to apply effective cornering force to the front wheel tread by driving the inside bar down towards the ground.
  • Handlebars: typically one size (~2cm) wider. This allows for increased leverage during out of the saddle efforts in a high torque, low RPM situation (such as up a steep climb). Longer bars also allow for more leverage when pulling on the hoods or drops during seated, maximal efforts. The biggest argument for a narrow handlebar is aerodynamics, which does not apply to most events or rides in cross, so the benefits of a wider bar can be utilized without compromise.
  • Pedal stance: is typically the same or wider. Most cranksets used on CX bikes are the same as road cranks (with possibly different chainrings) but depending on the road bike and type of pedals used, a rider’s cyclocross bike may have a wider pedal separation distance. This may be desirable or not, depending on the rider. If the rider requires a very narrow stance, MTB pedals may not provide optimal cleat placement. Most MTB pedals have longer axles than road pedals, and most MTB cleats have less lateral adjustment than road pedals, thus a rider’s feet may be much father from the centerline of the bike than optimal. Keep in mind that pedal separation distance also effects the handling of your bicycle; the wider the stance, the easier it is to “steer” the bicycle over bumpy or loose terrain by weighting your feet. A narrower stance makes it more challenging to do this. Downhill riders prefer cranks with wider pedal separation distance to maximize the ability to stabilize the bike by planting the feet.
  • Saddle setback: is typically 1-4cm less than on a road bike. Again, this is to allow the rider opportunity to shift his or her weight in order to accommodate the greater variety of terrain encountered in a CX race relative to most road races. In road riding, the weight bias between front and rear axle must be very close. During a high speed sweeping corner on asphalt, if either wheel slides out it is usually a big problem. In contrast, during medium speed cornering over uneven terrain, the front wheel is more critical than the rear. If the rear wheel breaks loose, a good handler usually has no problem with a minor slide. However, if the front brakes loose, the rider must be very skilled to avoid going down. Thus, in off road terrain the weight bias changes to emphasize the front wheel. As we push the saddle further forward, we increase weight on the front axle (all other variables equal). This comes at the potential compromise of posterior chain muscle recruitment and support of the torso by the saddle. As the saddle comes forward, there is usually more reliance on quads to drive the pedals and more postural muscles will be recruited to support the weight of the thorax.
  • Crankarms: are typically the same length as used on a road bike, or sometimes shorter. Because of the punchy, acceleratory nature of cyclocross races, shorter cranks are desirable. A longer crank will give better acceleration in a big gear from a dead stop, but will prove limiting when accelerating from moderate or high speed to very high speed, when quick leg turn over and high force are simultaneously needed. If you are riding cranks which are considered “normal” for your road bike size, inseam length, foot length, type of racing and movement function, then there is a good chance you will use the same size on a gravel or cross bike. If you are pushing the envelope on your road bike, consider sizing down by 2.5mm. Note that for the vast majority of all cyclists, going to shorter cranks has very little potential negatives, but riding cranks that are too long or even slightly too long is likely to have negative downstream consequences. If you don’t know what length cranks you should be on, start by reading this article:  
  • Saddle height: will be the same or possibly slightly lower [by a few mm]. A lower saddle accommodates weight shifts towards the front and rear of the saddle more readily, without putting a rider extremely far out of their optimal range of leg extension. Because of the high torque/ low cadence nature of gravel and cyclocross, these events tend to bring out any challenges a rider has towards pedaling smoothly, in particular when fatigued or after hours of riding bumpy or loose terrain.
  • Saddle choice: ideally, identical saddles are used on all bikes. This simplifies the variables of saddle padding thickness and density, base height from the rails, base shape and flex.
  • Bar width: normally I recommend one or two sizes wider bars than used on the road. The only reasons to use narrow bars are [ostensibly] for aerodynamics, which are not a big concern as noted above, or maneuvering in a peloton more easily [frequently not a factor in grave races, although there are moments]. The trade off is better leverage on the front wheel while cornering over loose, bumpy or unstable terrain.

Keep in mind that you typically cannot directly measure the difference between road and gravel saddle heights, because normally you are dealing with different shoes, pedals and cleats [which means a different stack height], pedal separation distance, and sometimes saddles. The best method to solve this problem:

  1. set up the gravel or cross bike to the same measured saddle height as the road bike; using an identical saddle
  2. on a day when a ride that is moderate in intensity and duration is chosen, upon returning to the bike den, immediately change shoes and head out for a few laps around the block on the gravel or cross bike.
  3. note any sensations that are different regarding saddle height.

Back to back comparison is always the best method, it is usually quite obvious when there are significant differences in saddle height using this method.

A note on cyclocross shoes: some riders select shoes that have less rigid soles for the running portions of the course. In my opinion, this is not necessary. The time spent running during a cyclocross race is minimal in terms of the total length of effort on the majority of courses, it is rarely a selective element in and of itself, and most cyclists run like ducks anyway. For those who come from a running background or have good running technique, the runs in most cyclocross races are chaotic affairs and typically take place on muddy inclines or wooden stairs, so there is not much technique involved other than doing it as fast as possible without taking yourself out.

Also, be advised that your off road pedals and shoes may not provide the same stable platform as your road pedals and shoes. A major pitfall of most off road pedal systems is that the lateral stability of the shoe is dependent on the contact of the shoe lugs with the pedal. In some cases, lugs on certain shoes are not standard height, causing the foot to “rock” or the opposite, making it difficult or impossible to engage the pedal. Additionally, when you go running around all over the place in your off road cycling shoes, you wear down the lug height, which decreases the stability of the interface with the pedal over time. This can in some instances lead to knee pain or other problems for certain riders. To evaluate how effective your pedal and shoe combination are working, clip your shoe into the pedal and remove your foot from the shoe. Then rock the shoe back and forth [tipping it from side to side, not by moving the heel L to R but by rotating the pedal around an imaginary axis running from heel to big toe] and look at the lug/ pedal contact. If there is more than 1mm gap on either side, you are riding on an unstable platform, and this should be remedied.

Weight Balance

Setting up the proper weight balance on a gravel or cyclocross bike is necessary to maximize cornering ability on bumpy or slick terrain. This process can involve some trial and error, but it is relatively straightforward overall. The essence of cornering is that an increase in weight must be placed on the front wheel during the corner entrance. Exiting the corner, weight must be placed on the rear wheel to avoid fishtailing and allow tread engagement for acceleration. This does not mean 100% of a rider’s weight goes from front to rear during a corner; rather a subtle shift occurs during the cornering without abrupt transition.

If the bike is set up with too much saddle setback, the bars too high, or a stem that is too short, the rider will have a tendency to wash out the front wheel in corner entrances, and will have a tendency to brake more than necessary for corners as compensation. This is because too much weight is focused on the rear of the bike.

Also note that an inherent front wheel bias exists in all off road handling conditions. On a road bike, in a fast sweeping downhill corner, if either the front or rear wheel breaks free, the rider will usually go down. In low or medium cornering speeds in loose off road terrain, a good handler will be fine with minor rear wheel slide, but the front wheel slide is a significant challenge for most. This is one reason why the first wheel to be suspended on a mountain bike is the front. Front wheel tire contact is more important than rear in off road riding, and so weight balance will be more front wheel biased for off road cornering than road for any given rider when bikes are set up to optimize handling.

Conversely, if a bike is set up with too little saddle setback, a stem which is too long, or bars which are too low (or some combination thereof) a rider will have too much weight on the front wheel and will have a tendency to slide out the rear wheel, frequently after the apex of a corner. As a general rule, if you dump it on your gravel bike, you should try to make note of which tire slid out and in what part of the corner, and after 3 crashes of the same nature, a change should be make to position, technique, or both. When making changes in saddle setback, bar height or reach, do it in 5-10 mm increments and change only one parameter at a time. After a few rides, you will have an idea if the variable changed was effective, or whether additional modification is needed.

Ride consciously,

Colby Pearce


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