|You're correct when you say that there's no right or wrong answer when it comes to suspension setup. Assuming that you're not way off in left field, there is certainly a range that you want to be in. That said, I see a hell of a lot of people out in left field when it comes to fork setup, with many running a spring rate so soft that the fork clangs off the bottom out bumper at the mere hint of an impact. It's one thing when the too-soft fork has four or five inches of travel, but it's a whole other ball of wax when said badly setup fork has eight inches of stroke. The issue is that when a downhill fork is too soft it ends up running far too deep into its travel, which in turn changes the bike's head angle drastically, something that has a massive effect on its handling. Just picture yourself braking hard into a corner, especially one on a steep section of the trail, and the fork going from sitting maybe a few inches into its stroke to being nearly bottomed out. The result is a much steeper head angle that will have your Demo 8 handling like cross-country bike when you want the exact opposite, which is what you're feeling when you say that you are a "bit off balance in the turns." |
My opinion is that while aiming for a definite sag figure for a bike's rear suspension makes a lot of sense, doing the same up front doesn't, especially when talking about downhill forks. Some riders might need to run crazy stiff front ends if they're chargers (some World Cup pro's forks barely sag under their weight), ride steep terrain, or just like stiffly sprung bike. A stiff fork setup can lead to front ends that push and wash out on flatter trails, though, so it doesn't work for everyone. Forget about trying to run a specific amount of sag, and instead go by feel. If you're feeling weird in the corners and like your weight is too far forward, drop that medium spring back in and ride the same trails to see the difference. You weighing 150lb doesn't automatically mean that you should go with the soft spring, so don't believe anyone that tells you that. And remember that while your suspension's first job is to absorb the terrain and keep your wheels on the ground, it's second is to preserve your bike's geometry and handling - a bike that handles consistently is a bike that you can trust and ride quickly. - Mike Levy
|Popular convention and thousands of miles spent riding clutch-derailleur-equipped one-by drivetrains with narrow-wide chainrings here at PB says that you won't need an upper guide. If your chainline is correct (50 to 51 millimeters from the center of the seat tube to the centerline of the chainring teeth) you should experience similar results, which works out to one or three tossed chains - or none - per year of riding. I prefer not to because I don't like the rubbing sounds that guides so often make in the cross-over gears. Before you start celebrating about the money you are going to save on that upper guide, though, consider that almost every racer on the Enduro World Series runs a one-by drivetrain and, with a handful of exceptions, all run an upper guide. Evidently, EWS racers have either experienced many more derailments than PB test editors have - or perhaps the penalty for even one tossed chain during a race run is simply too great to risk. So, if you are a betting man, I'd suggest you give it a go sans guide - you may get lucky like we have been. If you race, or you tend to shout and throw things when sidelined by simple mechanicals, then I'd suggest that you play it safe. An upper guide is lightweight, simple to install, and cheap insurance - RC|
Both SRAM and Shimano claim that the combined effectiveness of their clutch rear derailleurs and specially-profiled one-by chainrings virtually eliminate the possibility of dropping a chain. Shimano-sponsored Jared Graves runs a top guide on his one-by-eleven setup - and you would be hard pressed to find another EWS pro without a top guide or a front derailleur.
|When I started downhilling, I wore my boyfriend's old Mohawk Gas Station baseball jersey and pair of North Face hiking shorts that were part of my work uniform. I may have looked like a train wreck, but the clothes did the job and my immediate addiction to the sport ensured I would purchase a suitable kit over the course of my first summer of downhill love.|
If you are just trying out downhilling and you're not ready to splurge a bunch of cash on new gear, I would recommend you find clothes from your closet that are comfortable, moisture-wicking and breathable. A pair of knee length, loose fitting shorts, like hiking or skate shorts are a great start. Look for something with room around the knees to provide space for your pads to sit under and make sure you are be able to move around in them. Try and avoid anything that's too long in the crotch, as catching your shorts on your seat can result in trouble. You mentioned that you already had access to safety stuff, so I assume that you at least have the essential body armour: DH knee and elbow pads, and a good-fitting DH full-face helmet. If you haven't thought of it already, get your hands in a pair of full-finger MTB gloves. They may seem trivial, but gloves offer you better grip on the bars, and an extra layer of protection when you decide to sample the local soil.
After your first day on the big bike, when you are in love with downhilling, you'll want to invest in a proper kit. Your list should begin with your own full-face helmet, body armour, gloves and shoes. Try stuff on, make sure it fits and make sure it's comfortable. If your kit doesn't feel right at the store, riding isn't going to make it better. I like to wear knee and elbow pads made from soft viscoelastic material that hardens on impact, but a hard-shell option is great too. It never hurts to have more on than less when starting downhill, so you may want to consider full-length leg pads as well as an upper-body protection vest. Goggles are essential, and you should treat yourself to some DH-specific shoes - the soles alone will have you in awe of how much grip they offer on the pedals. Finally, Invest in a good pair of shorts and a jersey. Many companies have devoted time and resources into designing product specifically for women, so make sure you try these options on, as the fit will be far more suitable for a female figure than men's stuff ever will be. Clothes designed for mountain biking are cut to move with your body while you are on the bike, so take advantage of them and get yourself set up. You'll look like the biz and you'll appreciate the functionality too. - Rachelle Frazer
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