Fashion vs. Fit: Is Longer Always Better? - Opinion

Jan 13, 2018 at 3:38
by Matt Wragg  
Header for Matt s Op Ed pieces.


"Longer, lower, slacker." Those three words have become something of a cliché in how we talk about new bikes. Before we go any further, let me be clear, all three aspects are good progress. I don't think anybody would argue that even in the recent past bikes were too short, too high and too steep. So as product managers and their teams work to try and make their new bikes better than the ones they made before they tend to follow those three things.

Those product teams work in relative isolation from other brands - you don't think the engineers at Specialized want to show their hands to their counterparts are Trek, do you? It's a competition and it is pretty undeniable that if you make a bad bike or at least one significantly worse than your competitors, then your business is heading down the drain (you know who you are). So the result is that when the new bike gets passed to the marketing team, the first question is (or at least should be), "Why is this better than the old bike we were making?" You can picture the conversation, "Oh, well, we made it longer..." You know how the rest goes.

If we pause and consider the three elements, I want to make the argument that one of these adjectives is not fit for purpose. There is plenty of mileage in discussing how slack a head angle should be, or how low a bottom bracket can be, they are both important in determining how a bike behaves on the trail. Where I take issue with the triumvirate is "Longer." Answer me one question - why is a longer bike better? If you have been keeping up on bike launches, I would expect you to mention something about being more stable, faster maybe. Yet these descriptors are a nonsense - it's an empty argument. Why would you need a more stable bike when your current one feels pretty good already? And how do you measure stability? What does it mean?

Urge HQ visit. Cogolin France. Photo by Matt Wragg.
Fabien Barel is always a rider to watch in terms of position on the bike - as one of the early proponents of longer bikes with bigger reaches, his position is the stuff of textbooks - if you look here you can see that he's centred within the bike and in a strong, relaxed position, ready for whatever the trail throws at him next.

This is where mountain biking's road-based roots show through. The first mountain bikes were basically whatever was lying around with a big handlebar and some fat tyres. Then came the adapted road bikes, more or less the same frame with a flat handlebar. During mountain biking's first epoch it is fair to say that geometry wasn't a huge consideration, things like not snapping, braking, and having suspension that worked, quite rightly, came to the fore. It is only more recently, when buying a new bike is far less of a lottery than it has ever been, that people started looking at the layout of the mountain bike and asking, "How could this be better?" Enter the race to "longer, lower, slacker."

While we stay talking in superlatives, we are staying firmly within the realm of marketing fluff. I believe that it is only when we get past this that we can start to really understand how a mountain bike is supposed to fit its rider. And for me, that is the most important word of all: fit. If you look to the road, those guys know precisely how a bike should fit the rider. If Chris Froome turns up to ride for your brand, you can bet he and his management will come with a precise specification of how he needs to be placed on the bike to perform at his optimum. The same goes for XC. For those disciplines the rider is in the saddle for the critical part of the racing and it is well-understood where the rider needs to be in relation to the bicycle and it needs to be millimeter perfect. When you start looking at more gravity-fed parts of cycling the simple truth is that there isn't the same level of detail or understanding available. To call it guesswork is probably a bit harsh, but going by the number of times "longer, lower, slacker" was repeated in 2017, it may not be too far from the mark. Until we are talking about fit as opposed to marketing vagueries, then we are still pissing in the shallow end.

So, how should your bike fit you? I spoke to a few people about this and there seems to be little consensus, so what I am about to lay out is an idea, a theory. It is based on riding a bunch of different bikes and a lot of time thinking about their different qualities, the positives and negatives and what they mean out on the trail. What it certainly is not is definitive. All I am sure of right now is that I have a clear idea of a range of reach values I want my mountain bikes to fall within, and I can put together at least a semi-coherent argument as to why. Well, maybe not even semi-coherent, that is for you to judge...

This was the first observation. When the arm and torso are in the strong ready position the hip is pushed backwards and apart from any weight distribution implications you can see clearly that the angle is closing - this puts the hip in a weaker less comfortable position.
This was the first observation. When the arm and torso are in the strong, ready position, the hip is pushed backwards, and apart from any weight distribution implications, you can see clearly that the angle is closing - this puts the hip in a weaker, less comfortable position.

This all began for me with the two bikes I had in 2015. One was a Mondraker Foxy, the other an Ibis Ripley. If you are the type to sit and study geometry charts (I am, I'll admit that), then these are probably not two bikes that many people would choose in combination. The Mondraker was a medium, yet sported a full 473mm reach, paired to a 30mm stem. The Ibis was a large, the biggest bike in Ibis' range I could physically swing a leg (and a dropper post) over, but the reach was a very old-school 409mm with a 50mm stem bolted on. The rough calculation puts these two bikes at about 45mm apart in terms of reach, which in some ways is not much, but out on the trail, it became very apparent and significant.

The first part of my observation is very easy for you to repeat the next time you head out riding. When you reach the fun part, pay attention to where your sternum is in relation to the stem. Good riding position is fairly straight forward, your spine should be flat-ish, arms relaxed, not too straight or too bent, so they are ready to react to whatever the trail throws at you. When you're in this position you should notice that your sternum is just behind the stem, with a modern trail bike, this will leave you nicely behind the front axle. This is a good place to be, strong, relaxed enough to hold for extended period and with full control of the front wheel. Take time to think about this a few times and, if you're lucky enough, try it on a couple of bikes and you should find that this part of your riding stance is a constant, regardless of the bike you are on (this doesn't apply to dirt jump/pumptrack bikes in the same way).

On the same bike if you come forwards to put the hip in a more natural position for aggressive riding you can see that this then pushes the torso forwards over the stem - a very precarious position to hold.
On the same bike, if you come forwards to put the hip in a more natural position for aggressive riding, you can see that this then pushes the torso forwards over the stem - a very precarious position to hold.

Once I realised that this torso/arm position was a constant between both of my bikes, the next question is to look at how I was compensating between the two very different bikes. What I observed is that it was my hip angle was closing to keep my torso position constant on the shorter bike, although I also think my torso became slightly more upright on the shorter bike. If you look at racing shots of Aaron Gwin or Loic Bruni, it's clear to see that they keep their torsos relatively flat, and there are very few riders with such perfect form as that pair. Switching back to the Mondraker I realised that my hip angle on that bike was more open, putting me in a stronger position to react to the trail and creating less tension in my hip, which made the bike more comfortable on long descents. Back on the smaller bike, I tried focusing on the hip angle and ignoring my torso. Relaxing my hip angle to the same position I was riding on the Mondraker pushed my torso forwards, my sternum coming ahead of the stem, putting me in a very precarious position with all my weight over the front axle.

On a proportionally-sized bike you can see that the torso and arms are in the strong ready position and the hip has space to take a strong ready stance position also.
On a proportionally-sized bike, you can see that the torso and arms are in the strong, ready position and the hip has space to take a strong, ready stance position also.

The next step was to take these observations and try them on several different bikes. The first and one of the most interesting bikes was a friend's large Mondraker Dune. That had a reach of over 500mm and for me, it was far too much. If I put my torso in my ideal position, the bike was so long that I could feel my hips coming over and ahead of the BB, in other words, it was stretching me too far out. Over the following year, I rode quite a few different bikes of different sizes, tried some different bikes and kept coming back to my arm and hip angles. After a while it became apparent that on a bike shorter than 450mm I could feel the additional stress it put through my hips and I was stuck choosing between compromising one part of my stance or the other.

When the bike is too long you can see that although the arms and torso are still in strong position the hips are brought forwards on the bike - stretching the body out to a weak position where your control of the bike is reduced.
When the bike is too long, you can see that although the arms and torso are still in strong position, the hips are brought forwards on the bike - stretching the body out to a weak position where your control of the bike is reduced.

So where does this leave me? Well, I'm a 5'9" rider with something like 29/30" inseam - in other words, I have short legs, hence a long torso for someone of my size. By focusing on the two angles I have arrived at the point where I consider myself to need a bike with a reach between 450mm and 475mm. I tried shorter and I tried longer - I spent a few days on a 480mm Orbea Rallon this summer on a job and it was close to being ok but didn't quite work. On more open, straighter terrain it felt ok, but as soon as we got too tight, natural switchbacks, it was simply too much bike for me to get through easily. Which is fine, at 5'9" the idea that I would be on an XL is ridiculous. After a couple of years on the Mondraker, adapting to the different demands of riding longer bikes, going back onto a bike with a 450mm reach, which is still relatively long by current standards, felt short, lively, playful, you can recalibrate your perceptions and I am still to find a true downside to these bigger bikes.

Taking a look at current bikes on the market, my preferences are clearly towards the more progressive end of things, although brands like Transition and Giant have nailed their sizing close to where I now believe a modern bike needs to be. On the flipside, it is here that I don't necessarily agree with what is being pushed by companies like Geometron and Pole. While I would like most companies to build bigger bikes, I think there is also a limit to how big we can and should go. My caveat here is that I do think Geometrons and the suchlike do have their place, I am certain that taller riders will need to ride bikes that smash past the 500mm reach barrier that many brands seem wary of, and they are leading the charge in that respect. I am also 100% certain that there are benefits to bigger bikes, but only to the point where the bike still fits the rider so he or she is able to enjoy that benefit. The 480mm Orbea is certainly more stable than the 450mm one I ordered, but it's not a usable benefit for me.

As I have already stressed, this is my theory. I have tested it on quite few different bikes and it seems to work for me. I hope at least this piece is a start in opening a discussion into how we talk about bike sizing. I now have a range of reaches that I consider proportional to my body size - I think the fact that it's a range is important, that within that range there is some scope for personal preference, but those preferences are based on the idea of how the bike fits me, not on marketing bullshit. There are still questions, Chris Kilmurray (Tahnee Seagrave and Greg Callaghan's trainer) stressed that, "Joint mobility, muscular strength and elasticity are very individual specific qualities", so he was not sure how generally applicable this is, that it may not be possible to derive a conclusive model of bike fit.

Even if I am right, I don't exactly know how this can be adapted into something useable for consumers or bike companies, at the end of the day I am a photographer/journalist, I don't have the time or resources to conduct a meaningful study into bike fit and I need to focus on things that will pay my rent. Maybe this is not the right way to be looking at this problem, and actually, I'm ok with that. What I hope is that we can move to a point where how a bike fits the rider is what we talk about. A wise, or at least grumpy, man once told me that bike companies need to move past "better" and talk about performance criteria for their bikes. I believe that fit should be at the forefront of that list.


310 Comments

  • + 243
 Long and slack is fine, but please NO LOWER. For those of us that ride trails like the east coast that are littered with mandatory log-hops, these low BBs are frustrating by increasing BB shell or lower linkage strikes even for riders skilled in log-hopping
  • + 32
 agreed.
  • - 53
flag parallaxid (Feb 22, 2018 at 13:22) (Below Threshold)
 No one on the east coast owns a chainsaw?
  • + 40
 Not to mention the 2 foot field stones.
  • + 176
 @parallaxid: We do, we just don't neuter the trails by taking features and obstacles out
  • + 74
 Why does the east coast think their trails are so unique?
  • + 65
 @me2menow: No loam. All rocks.
  • - 3
 @0gravity: If it completely kills the flow it's better to do something with it. In my opinion if you're really worrying about your chainring hitting the logs, grab a shovel and throw a bit of dirt against it. That way you can catch some extra airtime. Doesn't need to be a perfect lip because 'perfect' is less fun.
  • + 32
 @me2menow: Maybe I shouldn't have said east coast because this applies everywhere but I've been fortunate enough to ride all around the US and there are honestly a lot more log hops on the east coast than West coast. Same issue though also applies to rock hops and step ups, which are everywhere. Main point is the low BB has a downside
  • + 88
 @parallaxid: If you're cutting stuff out of trails to make them easier, you're missing the point entirely.
  • + 20
 @Mattin: I agree with that. We often build up a ramp on one side so it's either a jump for someone going fast or a roller for someone not comfortable hopping the log. And then the obstacle still stays there for the die-hard log hoppers
  • + 12
 One solution - adjustable BB heights. These are also rad for those of us who like to experiment with wheel sizes.
  • + 10
 @parallaxid: Not to come off as ornery, but are suggesting removing items from a trail to make it easier?
  • + 4
 @parallaxid: While I am no longer on the east coast, it is fun trying to clear all those logs.
  • + 3
 i just always use barel's point of finding the optimum settings for bike and rider.
  • + 14
 @cmkneeland: And roots. I get annoyed with the low BB when I stand and mash through a rock garden, or anything remotely technical. Sometimes just the rear suspension compression is enough to cause a pedal strike.
  • + 3
 @0gravity: Can not up vote this enough...
  • + 1
 100% I remember riding a rental in 2016 after a few years away from riding. I couldn't take a pedal stroke if i was on a semi-tech part of trail with out clipping pedals. Also, bb hit so easily. I had to be careful of it
  • + 3
 Having just added a fatbike to the arsenal, the difference is striking (ah....) between it and my Reign on pedal strikes. On the Reign I didn't realise just how much I was subconciously thinking about pedal placement, everywhere, about the only time you're not thinking is the smoothest straightest section. The fatbike has changed my perspective, it's like "wow I can actually keep pedaling through section x, or section y".

My local is smooth groomed sandy clay with a reasonable helping of roots, so not really a lot to strike on, not crazy rocky gnarly things. I'd have to (personally) say the Reign is about the usable limit for how low BB's can get.
  • + 50
 @Mattin: altering a trail because it isn't all "flow" is blasphemy. This is mountain biking, not a pump track. There should be sections that really challenge your technical skills. Eliminating those sections because they "interrupt flow" is wrong.
  • + 14
 Lower BB's may work with shorter cranks. But I'm talking shorter than those currently available, like 150mm. I predict super short cranks could be the next trend about to come to mtb. Time Trial are looking at it at the moment. I read a study of crank lengths years ago. The summary of what I remember is over extension is bad for knees but there weren't any obvious disadvantages of using smaller cranks
  • + 1
 @0gravity: this is an acceptable alternative.
  • + 0
 @0gravity:

ZeroGee say what? Bay Area ain’t no east coast slow speed root/rock gardens as far as u can spin yo.
  • - 9
flag Kramz (Feb 22, 2018 at 14:44) (Below Threshold)
 One thing I always thought was a positive proponent of bicycles (especially mountain bikes) was you could make them with infinite ground clearance without any negative aspects, yet pretty well no manufacturer does.
  • + 1
 @IllestT: fascinating!
  • + 5
 @IllestT: Less leverage on the crank = lower power output for the input effort?? Only thing I can really think of. But with these chainrings the size of a digestive and rear sprockets the size of dinner plates I guess that's not a huge issue!
  • + 2
 @parallaxid: I upvoted and lold
  • + 14
 BS. I am in New England, I ride in technical chunk, my two trail bikes are 29ers with 27.5/2.3 wheels and I haven't died yet. Low BB bikes rail and are super fun.
  • + 2
 @haroman666: apparently not. It's a very interesting read if you have time!
  • + 7
 You guys need to learn to ratchet instead of spinning through tech.
  • + 4
 @0gravity: bunnyhop that isht
  • + 0
 @0gravity: Not quite sure trail maintenance is considered neutering...
  • + 19
 Why the hell you are marking the wheelbase as 'reach' on those diagrams?
  • + 1
 *Except for trials manufacturers.
  • + 2
 @StiHacka: they might be fun, but after having ridden my vitus escarpe with a 12 3/4" approximate bb height, my xtr trail pedals have been completely chewed up from pedal strikes and I would prefer to be able to pedal up through a techy climb without bashing my pedals than railing corners ever slightly better
  • + 1
 @parallaxid: chainsaws: we operate 'em
  • + 2
 @0gravity Exactly what I was going to post. It would be nice if the bike companies acknowledged the east coast market.
  • + 1
 @StiHacka: truth!
  • + 4
 Pedal strikes are a bummer, but it’s the result of improperly timed pedaling technique and not paying attention to the terrain. You won’t here this from the industry because it is insulting to tell customers to learn how to pedal. Someone please please make a spoof movie about “how to avoid pedal strikes...” it would be harious.
  • + 1
 @0gravity:
Exactly
  • + 1
 @haroman666:
Thats the thing, you just run a lower gear. Cadense is lower and as far as testing seems you dont lose that mutch in levrige thanks to the gears.
  • + 7
 @Thustlewhumber: But how many times in a row can you ratchet without getting annoyed? I'm talking a solid 30 foot long rock garden, flat or slightly uphill that you can't make a complete revolution of the cranks without hitting something. I find myself getting speed in the smooth sections of trail, then coasting through the rough stuff.

It would be nice to keep up the speed through the rough. Hey, I'm still glad to have the lower BB though...
  • + 1
 @parallaxid: nope, we all just bunny hop crap ????
  • + 2
 @cmkneeland: not at atitash. All loam nothing else
  • + 1
 @0gravity: couldn’t say it any better
  • + 5
 @me2menow: Touché, but it's not just that they're rocky/rooty/whatever - you can find rocks and roots anywhere. But the regional topography of this country is different, a lot of the trail styles are different, hell the ground composition and root structures/depth of the trees are different.

In the DC region, for example, we're constantly pedaling up and down quick, short hills, so we don't have the long, uninterrupted downhills where we can keep our pedals flat and float over the rough stuff.

Somebody else mentioned ratcheting - it's a key skill out here.

Either way, it's not a strong complaint, but the East Coast does occasionally feel left out, especially given our population density and buying power. Maybe it's just perception, who knows...
  • + 7
 @RBalicious: one man's "trail maintenance" is removing another man's challenge and enjoyment in riding. One of the local trails that I helped build is only 1.8 miles long but has 20+ log overs that are not built up and range from 8 inches to 24 inches in height. Its amazing to see riders use to this terrain that can float the bike over them like the logs aren't there and others that constantly strike the logs and end up walking a lot of the trail.
  • + 5
 @me2menow:
It’s pretty unique. Much different than middle America, much different than the southern west coast, which is much different than the northern west coast.
It would be silly to deny that different bikes work better in different areas.
  • - 5
flag jflb (Feb 22, 2018 at 18:50) (Below Threshold)
 @IllestT:
Uhhhhhh?
Shorter cranks handicap your power.
That’s why most downhillers don’t use 165 anymore.
  • - 3
 I'm not the only one who feels this way?! Ride a new trail bike these days and you're striking pedals before you leave the parking lot...ridiculous!
  • + 5
 @0gravity: good point here. The worst wipeouts I’ve seen in the last 5 years among experienced riding friends have been pedal strikes. Not slow speed either, think cartwheeling off the side of the trail at high speed, some with bad injuries. Lots of embedded rock here in The Rockies that doesn’t always mix well with “lower” geo.
  • + 7
 @Kramz: Raising the B.B. negatively affects cornering.
  • + 9
 I love the low BB on my trail bike. Cornering is amazing...which is key to going fast downhill. It's a worth while trade off for having to be mindful about pedal strikes and hopping over obstacles.
  • + 6
 I'm not into riding trails with fallen trees on, it doesn't make sense to change geometry in general just for log hopping on the east coast. I prefer the stability of a low bb it helps on really rough stuff you feel more balanced even if the chainring catches sometimes it rarely breaks I run a 30t chainring and it pretty much solves the issue. Also I find the lower the bb the better for cornering especially flat corners and railing turns has got to be one of the best bits when riding.
  • + 6
 @jfkusa: negative. I disagree. I actually prefer to corner bikes that aren’t scraping on the floor, lower and lower isn’t better and moar better. Actually I think the pedal strike argument misses the point completely because regardless of how close your pedals are to the ground having the BB swinging way below axles can negatively impact the ride of the bike. Sure we can use a little bit of B.B. drop say 10mm but anymore and the bike starts to become a barge. I totally accept that other factors are very much at play but lots of B.B. drop makes the bike very planted, too planted if taken to extremes and cornering is just another aspect of the manoeuvrability of the bike (enter arguments about bikepark berms and corners vs tight ruts etc). Just like ever-growing reach numbers, chainstay, wheelbase - making bikes this way allows mediocre riders to be less mediocre but I believe it may also hinder great riders from becoming greater. It’s similar to the way traction control and driver aids in cars allow average joes to drive faster but the really talented drivers need to switch them off to unleash their own potential and that of the car (sorry everyone who’s bored of my analogy). It’s not an exciting answer but I think it’s clear our bikes should be a bit longer, a bit lower and slacker than in the past but I feel we have already surpassed the sweet spot that will allow improved confidence for all while still allowing dynamic riding to shine.
  • - 1
 @me2menow: I'm just a southeastern man and I've never been out west- do y'all have trees and rocks over there??
  • + 1
 @gnar-shredderz: I've actually never ridden Attitash. I'd like to, I just don't have a bike I'm willing to sacrafice.
  • + 1
 Absolutely agree. I would go so far as to say that bike companies should make an East Coast/ West Coast style bike. Sadly EC bike would be contrary to some of the current trends. BB height for sure. But also HA doesn’t need to be quite so slack for EC riding. Lots of very tight single track here in PA, with plenty of log overs roots and rocks. That’s on the climbs as well as the downs. We’ve got some serious tech here that has a style all it’s own.
  • + 2
 Slow tech going root hole root don't love low BB
  • + 3
 @me2menow: Great example! I don't think anyone complains about BB height when you don't have to pedal.
  • + 3
 Try adjusting your volume spacers and adding a bit of air to the rear shock. Often it is just a matter of keeping the suspension in the rear high enough to prevent excessive BB drop.
  • + 5
 @albert4252: I had that argument with our local trail building organization. I grew up on natural trails, when I moved to the mid-atlantic all the trails were natural with log hops, etc. About five years ago, they started cutting out the logs we had been riding over for years and turning everything into flow track. It's a shame, the fun challenging stuff keeps getting removed by overzealous trail builders. If there's a big storm, I go to my local trails, remove some of the dead fall, rebuild washed out stuff as necessary, and make sure the water bars are in good shape, otherwise leave it alone. These guys go out and turn all the old challenging single track into super highways. It's a damn shame. MORE does more damage to my local trails than good. I had a guy tell me once that there were too many obstacles on the trail and I shouldn't ride it... But mountain biking is about the obstacles.
  • + 4
 @BikesBoatsNJeeps: we get a small shitshow on 140+ travel bikes hacking at our root systems claiming it's too rough. it's already a delicate balance to work with local authorities but to then have to deal with riders destroying the natural trail features is truly special. no tools fix stupid.
  • + 5
 @pa-yglide: I get it now! East Coast trees are skinny! Over here in the PNW trying to figure out why we never considered going over trees, they're too big if you aren't on a trials bike. Plus we have terrain that is steep, so it makes more sense to cut / build a jump out of these things.
  • + 2
 @ThomDawson: well put.
  • + 1
 Can we put a figure on “too low a BB”? On a 650b standard tyred Hardtail I think 50mm drop is absolute max, 45mm maybe be my ideal. My bike with a 50mm drop is amazing I love it but I do have to pay a lot of attention to pedal placement, more than any other bike I’ve ever had, when there are rocks fixed in the ground or close tree stumps I have to be careful else i’ll loose my toes.

Reach - I’m a big fan of it having increased in recent years, since the ~2015 model year bikes I’ve been able to get on mediums (that have always had the right length seat tube ~18”) for me being 5’10” and not feel cramped or end up with neck ache.
  • + 1
 @Timroo1: tell that to the NSMBA.
  • + 1
 @IllestT: what about leverage for power?
  • + 1
 @vtracer: Then buy a jeffsey... Oh wait, you did.
  • + 1
 I was ok with low BB as a fellow bEAST coast rider when bashguards were the norm, now that they are not, here here brother!
  • + 1
 @charles0210: you know you can still buy bashguards right
  • + 1
 @me2menow: yes, and I do bbuutt still a pain, costs me extra $$$, and I'm not a fan non-ISCG based off nothing other than laziness and ignorance.
  • + 4
 @keen515: They make bikes with higher bb's for pedaling and clearing techy climbs...xc bikes, short travel 29ers, blah blah. If your riding a longer travel bike with "modern" geo chances are your wanting a bike focused on going downhill. Maybe you should consider buying different style bikes east coasters? @ogravity
  • + 2
 Maybe consider getting a different style bike? Xc? Short travel 29er? Etc... All mountain, Enduro and even most Trail bikes will get you to the top one way or another, but are really built to smash on the way down. I personally will always trade pedal and climbing performance for downhill capabilities.
  • + 1
 @ThomDawson: I actually like scraping the floor going round a corner it only happens if you're going flat out, I see it like a superbike rider scraping there elbow. I like to push my bike to the limit and the modern geometry makes this easier and increases the limitations of the bike. So what if it doesn't have a comfortable, easy, "dynamic" (whatever that means) ride.
I see it like the difference between a classic sports car(jaguar e type) and a track car(Ferrari formula 1). The jag being more traditional geometry and the Ferrari being long low slack.
The jag feels lovely to drive, light steering, controllable accelerator, smooth ride.
The F1 car on the other hand is a pig to drive, not much grip unless your above 100mph, twitchy steering, pokey accelerator, every bump goes through your body.
The jag is for a driver of any ability that just loves the drive and appreciates cars. The jags limits are easy to reach and make every driver feel like a boss. The jag can be driven on most public highways.
The F1 car is for the skilled driver who wants to go flat out, push the limits, be the fastest and loves the adrenaline buzz. The F1 cars limits are hard to reach and make the average driver look like an idiot.
The F1 car can only be driven on race tracks.
  • + 2
 @skerry: yes you guys still have big trees out there. We “Oncelered” ours long ago.
  • + 1
 @charles0210: put a bashguard on then
  • + 4
 @Hoob93: I’d put your analogy the other way around! Super low bikes are easier to corner at slower speeds. They replicate what a good rider was doing in the first place by putting the B.B. really low before they’ve even initiated a corner, you don’t have to push through the bike or be travelling fast to get the bike into cornering mode. Experienced riders do this by loading the bike through the corner which in turn produces more grip as the suspension pushes away through to the exit (which, by the sounds of it, you’re well aware).
The bike with a more moderate BB height might ride a little tall and perhaps even a bit twitchy but comes alive when you start to push it - like your Ferrari.
The super low bike feels great to average riders almost everywhere but give it to an experienced rider and they’ll push beyond the limits quickly - Jag.

But to step away from the analogy I’d say there are other benefits of having access to good cornering geometry during corners and not permanently in “cornering mode”. The bike is agile, line changes are rapid, it can be picked up, manualled, hopped with greater ease than a super low ‘barge’ of a bike. It doesn’t need a huge amount of speed to get off the ground. During slow speed sections the bike is quick to steer, nimble. You just need a little conviction to put it through a high speed corner.

Disclaimer: as I said I accept that B.B. drop is a good thing, until it’s not. To clarify 15mm or so is what I’m suggesting as an upper limit for a 160mm bike and I would probably do what I could to make something that low ride higher until I wanted it not to (and have done on two recent bikes).
  • + 2
 @ThomDawson: I see what you mean. I do agree that there's such a thing as a bb that's too low. I don't mind a bit of scraping though adds to excitement in a strange way and I personally prefer as low a bb as possible without it scraping too much. We all ride differently, at different ability levels and ride in different places. Really it's just a matter of personal preference at the end of the day, you'll have the best rides on whatever you think feels best and gives you confidence.
  • + 2
 @Hoob93: I totally agree. Hopefully we will continue to find a good range of choice in bikes and not too much at either end of the spectrum so everyone can find something they can ride well.
  • + 3
 @haroman666:
I probably read the same article that @IllestT did and it was interesting stuff. My last road bike I had, I got an awesome deal on an Ultegra crankset because it was comparatively short (165mm I think?) and had zero issues riding with it. I was expecting it to feel wrong - I have long legs and am 6’ tall, always rode 175mm cranks - but I have always spun easily and pedalled in circles (from my early time-trialling years) so I’m sure this pedalling style helps. This makes perfect sense on a mountain bike where spinning and smooth technique is paramount to getting over rocks, roots and rollers. I don’t yet ride an oval ring but it may also make a lot of sense with shorter cranks. The power output loss you mention is probably(?) less relevant off-road where your cadence is constantly changing with variable terrain, compared with an extreme opposite like track racing where you want to wind up a big gear and sustain it for a period of time without having to worrying about trail features or gradient change effecting your rhythm.
  • + 2
 @Endurahbrah: exactly why i agreed. nothing about where the trail is. nothing against flow, or any of the other comments being made. it's me hitting my pedals. and i'm not even on a low and slack bike.......granted i am still wheels that people thing came from a radio flyer. but yeah, i couldn't imagine being 20mm lower
  • + 0
 THIS! Broken toes is not a good thing!!!
  • + 1
 Long, slack, and -12mm BB. That is all.
  • + 1
 @IllestT: I'm running SRAM 155mm NX cranks and loving it, I still strike pedal every once in a while but its mainly because I pedal SO much more frequently. I also have been able to clean some super steep tech climbs that I've struggled with before from being able to get in one more pedal stroke.
  • + 1
 Agreed.
  • + 74
 In my (not) humble opinion long and slack bikes are good mostly for slack people. What I would focus on is not some angles of bones as Matt did. It is the relation of riders center of mass to tyre patches. The shallower the angle the less the terrain will tip you out of balance but inevitably, you will have less influence on what the bike is doing. Companies who claim that their bikes are long but at the same time playful and turn great are full of shit. I don’t care, I won’t be alarming and hating unless most bikes have 1300 wheelbases, right now there are some niche frame makers, who make long bikes and I’m happy about it. We need biodiversity ( even Redalp) But don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining. Long wheelbase means straight line stability and trouble turning, manualing, bunnyhoping. It’s physics. It’s a good compromise for those who just want to ride faster in straight line. But I strongly advise anyone, get on a DJ or BMX, go to a skatepark, or dirt jump site with some steep faces and you’ll realize that there is a world you had no idea about existing, where you go up to the sky and then face straight down. You will realize how much soace there is to be used between your arse and rear tyre. It will get you to move like you never did. But if you just want to stand there doing almost nothing but still chase your friends, yeah, please help yourself
  • + 4
 There is some real truth to this. I really notice this when I hope on my old Giant Anthem X 29er with its 71 degree HTA compared to my new Ripley LS at 67 (with 140 fork). I still prefer the Rip but on really steep and tight hair pin turns, there is no doubt it is tougher on the Rip.

Different tools for different jobs i suppose...
  • - 10
flag RBalicious (Feb 22, 2018 at 15:37) (Below Threshold)
 Well articulated! I definitely don't want to come across as an ass, especially considering you are Swedish, and English is likely your second language (or third/fourth). "Biodiversity" does not apply in this subject matter, even as much as I personify my bikes... I still really appreciate your point however.
  • + 8
 @RBalicious: I don't think waki obtained/asked for Swedish citizenship
  • + 0
 There has to be a happy medium. BMX/DJ are fit for purpose, but not ideal for all purpose trail riding. I consider myself a fairly dynamic rider, and after switching to a more modern, longer geo, found it hard to switch back to a shorter length. While I can do whatever I need on either, on a big forward weight transfer required for larger moves, the short bike leaves my body weight pretty far over the front of the bike, and in a relatively unstable position. Depending what I'm rolling into, that may be detrimental. A heavy forward lunge still leaves me within the cockpit of a bit longer bike, so I complete the move, and am in a better position for whatever comes after. I can't say that I noticed any more capability on the shorter bike; but I notice the additional risk going back short.
  • + 2
 WAKIdesigns: first I believe we had an argument about this 8 or so years ago when you told me that longer was better and that short stems where bad (maybe it was darkhorse) second you make a good poin. when I talk about not being able to buy a freeride bike i.e. They don't make them. This is a lot of what I'm taking about so many company's claim having a freeride bike but they aren't they are heavy "enduro bikes" the bb is too low the rake is way too high they are way too large, doing a trick is ridiculous. This is why we have no more Robby B's anymore
  • + 3
 It's not just the wheelbase though. A reach that's too short will make it hard to get in the right posture. I'm too tall for most XL bikes so I'm very familiar with having to use a poor posture to get in the position. He's right, you either end up with your weight centered improperly or you have really round your back and you feel folded over.
  • + 4
 If you're tall (I'm 6'4) then longer bikes are much appreciated even on dirt jumps. I hope all bikes get longer us tall guys have been waiting for years for bikes that actually fit on smaller bikes my rides always descended into a battle with crippling back pain
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns. If you ride steep downhill trails you are wise to run a slack head angle, not a slacker.
  • + 5
 I think there's nothing wrong with edgy fashion as long as it's not a norm pushed just for the sake of profits at the cost of everyone else. Like 650B, that was a rather edgy fashion between 2007 and 2012 - like haro Werx - just imagine those shitty tyres, forks terrible geos, or hipster hardtails of Kirk Pacenti with crappy forks and shitty tyres - which person in their right mind could leave SC Nomad, Spec Enduro and think, oh that slightly bigger diameter makes all the change in the world... I know who, someone who can't ride. And what do we get now? Since 2012 nearly every single bit of the bike has been improved and what companies say, oh 2018 650B is better than 2012 26" bike. No shit! but it's not because ofthe wheelsize alone.

So I'm more than happy that LLS trend has made front ends longer in relation to seat tubes. I'm all for tall people getting long bikes, long droppers. I get it. Fine. Because that gives me opportunity to chose to go a size smaller, more stand over, longer post, or the other ways around, longer bike without being limited by seat post height. Whatever. Good! But going full retard with 460 stays, 500 reach 62 head angle on a fkng trail bike - really? Ok ok, if I look at BTR or Sick Bicycles, all cool, these dudes give great flavor great option, but i get itchy the moment someone starts to tell me a performance story, uses words like science, considering virtually NOBODY but top racers need that, I definitely don't.

@RBalicious I use the word biodiversity on purpose, I just forgot ""
  • + 1
 I would tend to agree @WAKIdesigns, i switched from a Strive with the race geo to a Capra, there were a few reasons for the change but the length of the Strive, while excelent at speed, took some of the fun out of riding and the shorter Capra has fixed that.
  • + 1
 I could'nt agree moooreee Waki you're 100% RIGHT here !
  • + 1
 A long wheelbase isn't harder for manualling - it's different. It's harder to get into a manual, but more stable when the bike's there. Watch top level BMX pros having to fight to keep their bikes in a manual due to short wheelbases, but they've no issue getting the manual up.
  • + 2
 @DarrellW: long wheelbase, long stays in particular ARE hard for manualing for regular on trail use. Yes, big bikes may be harder to pick up while they are easier to keep up in the float zone since the bigger the bike the bigger the zone is. But for 99.9999999 of on trail situations where manual comes handy, you need to just lift it and occasionally hold it for a second, not perform a trials skills show. BMX is awful to manual since the float zone is so small. But both sports have completely different goals to achieve with that skill. Off course you’ll get used to the long bike but it will still be harder.
  • + 1
 Short, high, steep is the future with some natural bioflex in my wheels, maybe a narrower axle?? Bar mounted wheel quick release triggers? Oh heeeell yeah. "Bio release"
  • + 2
 @BryceBorlick: many bikes have reached some good numbers already in 2014. Like most Yetis, Konas or Enduro 29-1. No need to use 2005 bikes as comparison to latest long bikes
  • - 3
 @WAKIdesigns: even with quotation marks, it still wouldn't apply. Diversity alone, yes. Again, as much as I wish my bikes were organisms. They are not. Grammar and punctuation seem to becoming a thing of the past unfortunately.

I am still learning a lot by reading these articles as well as people's comments. So thanks for the lessons!
  • + 2
 @RBalicious: hm... I read the definition on wikipedia and I stand by my use of the word "biodiversity" as a way of coloring up the word "diversity"... I'm such a poet you see... grammar and punctuation... I've been on an academic writing course once. I do not think it applies here... I think you are looking for a 19 year old hottie in truckers union. Shame on you
  • - 2
 @WAKIdesigns: because wikipedia is a reliable source if information...
  • - 1
 @WAKIdesigns: Sorry buddy, you are obviously an intelligent individual. Not once have I taken a shot at your character, so here you go:

www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/biodiversity?utm_campaign=sd&utm_medium=serp&utm_source=jsonld
  • + 32
 There was never an option before. If you were under 5'10" you were good, anybody above that has always had to make do with our brand of choice's largest offering. Now that I am able to find bikes that give a proportional reach to my height and build, I am able to make an informed and better decision. I for one love the longer portion of the new equations. The lower and slacker are just icing on the cake. For what its worth, I am 6'2".
  • + 3
 Whilst I totally agree with you (and am also 6'2"), oddly it's always tended to be taller guys on the DH race podiums.
All I'm saying is being too big for your bike isn't really a racing disadvantage
  • + 5
 @IllestT:

Yep, just think of the 'tiny' bikes Peaty crushed on.

You could hear the rumblings of 'too long' in the PB commentator army rising for the last few months. This industry cracks me up.
  • + 8
 @IllestT: Back in the mid 2000s riders often had custom made bikes that were much bigger than production models. Peaty's Orange had a 1230mm-ish wheelbase in 2005, years before a bike that long would be available to actually buy. Minnaar's V10s were always custom 'XXL' size, Barel's championship winning Konas were similarly massive for the time as well, plus one of them had a 59 degree head angle, because Geometrons are apparently behind the times already.
  • + 2
 @Fix-the-Spade: yeah fair point actually.
I was in Les Gets in 2004 and saw Fabien's Kona. I think it was Kona front triangle (probably from a size massive Stinky), but that's about it. The back end looked homemade and even the forks had little to do with Marzocchi other than being black.
And yeah Peaty's, Brendan's and Marc's Oranges with the banana shaped swingarm weren't production - they were enormous!
  • + 7
 @IllestT: Bryceland sized down his race bikes (I think) to keep the wheelbase more manouvreable and just used a slightly longer stem. For me he is one of the best bike handlers in the world. Not saying that’s the way everyone should go, just saying I agree that smaller bikes can be good too.
  • + 7
 @ThomDawson: I agree. I'm 6"1 and my large Capra "fits" me perfectly. But when I ride a medium Capra (or any M bike) I tend to have a lot more fun. I do give up tiny, and I mean tiny amount of straight line stability but what I gain is the ability to just dominate the trail and throw my bike wherever I want it to go. Plus it's a lot more flickable in the air. With a large I feel like its on rails, which is good for speed, but sometimes it feels like it's stuck on those rails. My next bike will most likely be a medium even if they don't "fit" me perfectly.
  • + 21
 Being 6'3 I'm very happy with this trend. I don't think I owned a bike that properly fitted me until a few years ago. I now have 3 bikes with reach ranging from 473mm running a 50mm stem to over 500mm running a 35mm stem and I feel so much more centered over my bike and find it so much easier to weight the front wheel, where as I tended to ride off the back more on shorter bikes. I think it's very difficult to say when a bike is too long, as there are so many body shapes and even the more extreme frames like Pole and Geometron will suit some riders.
  • + 4
 473mm running a 50mm stem vs 500mm running a 35mm stem, shorter reach with longer stem vs longer reach with shorter stem, what do you think? Which one do you prefer?
  • + 0
 @marzocchi170: It's hard to say really, as both bikes are quite different, 473mm on a 27.5 160mm enduro bike and 500mm on a 29er hardtail, I originally tried a 50mm stem on the hardtail but it felt a bit too long and the bike was a bit of a handful in tight twisty stuff, going down to 35mm made all the difference. I can't say I notice any disparity in steering speed between the two.
  • + 2
 @metaam: Another interesting point I heard Stanton bikes make, is that since reach increases as the axle to crown gets shorter on a fork (ie as it compresses) and the head angle gets steeper, when you ride through a rock garden on a hardtail, only the front end gets lower so the bike effectively gets longer. Full suspension bikes get lower on both ends, so there is not much net change in reach. What this basically means is that it would not be unusual to size a hardtail slightly shorter than a full suspension for the same person and same fit dynamically.
  • + 2
 @KennyWatson: While that's true, the reach variation would be pretty minimal on a 120-140mm fork. I guess it goes back to what I was saying in my original comment. While I understand what Stanton is saying I would find his bikes way too cramped for someone of my dimensions (for instance the Sherpa has 449mm reach on a 21" frame). We are all different in our riding styles and body shape, so it's great that there's so much choice with geo nowadays.
  • + 2
 I only recently learned why my biking sucked, I'm 6'2'' and my shorter friends all got me to buy short medium sized frames because it worked for them... the reason was always "our trails here are tight, you need this".

I went harder than I've ever gone when I rented a 27.5'' L Santa cruz V10 last summer, from a life of riding short ass bikes.

The fun part was riding a mondraker dune a few weeks ago, I couldn't for the life of me do a proper wheelie on a size M, but trying someone else's size L I could wheelie perfectly fine.(It theoretically should have been the opposite, right?)

My next is likely to be a 29'' YT capra Smile
  • + 18
 I build custom sized steel full suspension bikes, @StarlingCycles. I've built over 100 frames now for customers of lots of different sizes and am getting a good handle on what fits different size riders.

The first thing to note is that we are very able to accommodate small changes in size, say +/-15mm on reach with negligible impact on how the bike rides. So, being accurate to the nearest mm is not required.

But I've ended up recommending, 480mm reach for a 5'11" rider like myself, about 500mm for 6'2", 530mm for 6'6". Then 450mm at 5'9", 430mm for 5'5". To be honest I've built more bikes for taller riders, so am less confident about the smaller sizing.

But obviously this is a 'rule of thumb' and very dependent on other rider parameters, and specific to dynamic geometry of bike. Although the tolerance in sizing helps make it better than you'd think. My numbers also seem to agree with what a loots of the MTB media reviewers are telling me. So perhaps there's some science in there somewhere.

The other thing to note is that chainstay lengths should be proportional. I currently can't offer custom chainstay lengths (I'm working on it), but my 29" Murmur with 445mm stays is better for taller riders >5,10". The Swoop with 430mm stays is better for shorter riders.

A few truths:
-current longer (read correctly sized) bikes, are only say 5-10% longer than older bikes. It's an iteration, not night and day.
-longer bikes are not worse uphill,
-longer bikes go round corners as well, if not faster, but may require more user input;
-for longer reach, you need steeper seat angle to get correct pedalling position,
-any more?
  • + 4
 -Longer bikes have more traction especially with longer chainstays. -Longer bikes provide a longer sweet spot to move around aka no more hanging off the back and thus less likely to go over the bars. -Longer bikes climb better because they suffer less from front end wandering or wheelying
  • + 3
 Good info. Are these reach numbers you're recommending including the stem length? If not what stem length are you assuming?
  • + 1
 You had me at "proportional chainstays". Dammit, you're making me want a Starling!
  • + 1
 Good to see you varying chainstay lengths. Too many manufacturers bolt the same rear end on their frames throughout the range. Common sense tells me that if the rest of the frame has different dimensions, so should the rear. Otherwise, the bigger the frame, the more the rider's weight is pushed back. By the way, your frames are a thing of beauty.
  • + 16
 The one thing missing (or at least not mentioned) in this equation is bar height/stack values. In my eyes you can only compare reach figures on different frames properly if they are setup with the same bar height. Your ideal stance is dependant on your center of gravity on the bike which is dependant on the relation between handlebar position, bb position and how comfortable you fit in between these two.

That means imo it is logical to think that the distance between "horizontal lines" through handlebar and bb should always be the same on every bike for your perfect descending position.
Same of course goes for the distance between "vertical lines" through handlebar and bb, that is what you figured out in this article.

A bike with 460mm reach and 620mm stack is about the same mainframe size as a bike with 470mm reach and 600mm stack - assuming a 66°HA on both bikes.

If you really want to know how big the actual main frame (which determines your riding position at a given stem length+bar height) is, considering all the good bikes have basically the same HA, you should probably be comparing wheelbases independant from the bikes chainstay lengths.

For example (these numbers actually work out):
Bike 1 1227mm WB / 440mm CS / 470mm reach / 635 mm stack / 66°HA
Bike 2 1210mm WB / 430mm CS / 480mm reach / 600mm stack / 66° HA

One bike has 10mm shorter wheelbase. HA is the same. If you want to compare those frames sizes, in your mind, add 10mm to the WB of "bike 2" in order to make up for the difference in chainstay length.
Conclusion: Bike 2 has the bigger frame even though it has shorter reach.

I actually can't really stand people mindlessly throwing around reach numbers independant from the stack heights anymore. Especially not people reviewing bikes for a living. Can't blame the people on the forums though, they are just helplessly trying to compare bike sizes and find a fitting frame.
Then someone tells them a large Knolly Warden is longer than a large 2018 Intense Carbine because it has 5mm more reach when in fact the Carbines mainframe is actually about 30mm longer.
  • + 1
 In the second last paragraph at the beginning I meant "One bike has 10mm shorter chainstays" but cant edit anymore.
  • + 12
 As a tall but proportional rider (6-4, 34 inseam, 6-3 wingspawn) I think this dude is on to something. I like how he identifies a proper position that *should* be constant. When I get on a Yeti XL at 463mm of reach, I compensate by simply riding more upright in a less ideal position (unless someone can explain that is better). Sure its all good until I hit the downhill and have to "tuck back" instead of "tuck in" to the bike...thus getting into a position to far back (I'm not going to lean over the bars like the "short reach" diagram does for fear of going OTB. For me the most comfortable bikes have been Pivots newer, longer reach bikes (from the few I've tested). It does kind of suck to be stuck with fewer options than guys that can simply up or downsize a bike in any brand tho. That being said, when it comes to big bikes, I've heard the larger XL sizes just don't sell due to us tall dudes being a really small demographic. Apparently often a company loses money on those sizes. Perhaps that is where some of this sizing/fitment/reach situation comes in...making a range of sizes that give your largest market options. But geez, for a dude that is 5-9, the bike size/fitment world is your oyster man. Just buy a bigger or smaller bike...
  • + 5
 You nailed the description of riding too short bike with "riding more upright" and "tuck back instead of tuck in" Big Grin This is exactly how I always felt on bikes back then, even on larger sizes. I'm also 6'4 and finally got this great and natural "tuck in" feeling when I bought my Spectral two years ago (size XL, 480mm reach).
  • + 0
 Riding upright was a trend you could see from ratboy & Greg on santacruz always felt it was a technical advantage to help pump harder then being compressed to the frame aka gwin/bruni position.
Observation more then fact?
  • + 0
 I'm 6'4" and ride an XL Yeti SB5.5. I feel exactly the way you do. Like when I ride just horizontal trail I'm a little compressed and "high" on the bike. Climbing is ok accept that it is very easy to get too far over the front axle. Then going downhill I have to consciously get way behind the seat and lower my ass (close my hip angle) which makes agility/control more difficult. It's most noticeable on the steeps. Overall, even though a super capable bike by design, it actually makes me tentative in a lot of situations going both up technical stuff and down it. Primarily due to concern about going OTB easily. So then I am too far off the back and that compromises cornering and overall balance. So what am I doing about it? Slightly long stem (60mm) less spacers (only 5mm) and riser bars (35mm). But still not nough. Next step? I bought a XXL Capra 29 with 505mm reach a steeper seat tube angle, and a shorter seat tube. Hope that is the answer. If I were 6'0" then I would say the XL Yeti is the ultimate bike because of its performance.
  • + 1
 @DaBunj: how’s the xxl treating you?
  • + 0
 That's the best way of describing how I feel on my bikes. At 6'2", which is hardly massive, I rarely ever feel centred on the bike. I'm either stood too high in order to maintain a central position, or my arse is hanging off the back to stop my forks diving when I try and get low on high-speed turns - not ideal! I guess that having long legs and arms, but a fairly short torso mean that i need to bend my hips a lot to stay low, but pushes me backwards as my arms are long.

I'm currently on a XL 2017 Capra and have decided to order a new XL Nukeproof Mega 275 Factory which increases the reach from 458 - 515mm. Fingers crossed this helps.
  • + 9
 Two things caught my eye A LOT in the past few days.

First is that some people were saying that Unno frames (reach 455mm, IIRC) are short. Amazing. Let's not forget they come straight from a bike genius and the most influential guy on todays longer, lower, slacker geometry. (I highly recomend to listen his podcast for Vital)

The second is that many top brands (including Trek, SC, YT, Mondraker and Transition, the few ones I checked) sport longer reaches on their trail bikes than in their DH ones, wich is something I still can't wrap my head around.

To me this is reaching the top of the curve, right before people realize things went too far and take a couple steps back to stabilize in the sweet spot.
  • + 1
 Why the reaches not the same both the DH bikes and the ENDURO bikes?
  • + 1
 @marzocchi170: Longer forks and slacker head angles on DH bikes maintain a long wheel base, I guess.
  • + 8
 It's another point that can give people some kind of 'bike anxiety' - that their perfectly useable and 'current' bike could be unrideable all of a sudden as it doesn't have a 500mm+ reach for a medium and 62 deg head angle.

It does look like geometry is settling a little now with medium frames being 430-445 reach from many of the big brands and XL being close to 500mm if offered (trail / enduro bikes) head angles seem settled around 64-66 deg.

What I do have opposition to is so called 'companies' harping on about being disruptive and innovative because they are adding 50mm to usual reach figures and going to 62 degree head angles with seemingly no care as to if they are selling total crap - the ISP is that it's longer / slacker and that's it, nothing else, no clever suspension, no novel construction methods, just tripe.

As usual, bikes at the moment seem better than ever, and that goes for geometry too.
  • + 7
 Thank you for that. I'm about 5'10", but my primary ride has a reach of a 428mm medium. Al this talk of LLS was making me think I wasted 3 years riding something wrong and would have to start all over from scratch. I think I might just ride it and enjoy myself instead of worrying.
  • + 7
 @Dethphist: This. I'm 5'11" and my large 2014 Camber Evo has a 434mm reach. At the time it got a 10/10 review in MBR but a few years on and now its reach sits in the distinctly 'old school' camp. Although I believe longer would be better, I have to keep telling myself I don't need to get a new bike as it's not the (absence of) 30mm that's holding me back but rather the terrified little child between my ears.
  • + 3
 My current bike (441R) must be unrideable then. I better throw it away and buy a new one with 500mm reach.

Seriously though I think you get used to what you are riding. My current bike is pretty stable at speed thanks to 446mm CS and 66HA. It's probably not the greatest on tight stuff but I live with it. It manuals like crap but I can't manual anyway so no loss. Reach is 441 so not massive but STA is slack enough to give me a reasonable seated position.

I think it's all a balancing game and hopefully we are almost at the point where we know the rules.

I am also getting a bit bored of it all.
  • + 0
 Those companies you call disruptive provide frames with less reach as well. If you want to buy a Pole and are 180cm tall but don't want to follow their recommendation and get a size L with 510mm of reach you can always buy any size smaller. Their size S has 450mm of reach. You just slap on a longer dropper post and you are all set.
  • + 1
 @SintraFreeride: Im not talking about Pole.
  • + 1
 @Racer951: Nicolai / Geometron then? If not name and shame
  • + 8
 Bike makers seem to insist on building bikes to win racers, hence the lower, longer, slacker mantra. Going fast is good but so is manualling, jumping, bunny hopping, tight switchbacks and getting over rocks and roots - so give us bikes that are suited that as well.
  • + 7
 I actually am not a big fan of the ever-icreasing reach on modern bikes, for technical riding. I'm just under 5'8" and a few t\years ago i was riding mediums with a 390 mm reach and a 50-60 mm stem, bike shop said that was perfect and it felt great to me and still does. If i ride longer bikes, i feel sketchy on slow tech like my weight is too far forward and i like having my elbows bent when in neutral position so if the front wheel drops into a hole i still have room to straighten my arms and get my weight back nicely. (im also more top-heavy than the average rider so maybe thats why). Also the longer bikes make my lower back and neck hurt, i guess i just like a more upright position. 415 mm reach with a 30 mm stem is about my limit, and new bikes smalls are starting to get longer than that and mediums are getting to 440, 450...Im still riding a 2014 rm altitude, small, with a 393 mm reach/45 mm stem and a 2012 transition blindside (converted to 650b) medium with a 395 reach and 40 mm stem, when these bikes are done i guess ill have no choice. Although the new rm altitude in small would fit.
  • + 2
 I must say I like how the bikes look today. I mean the mainstream bikes. My former bike Blur TRc for example was fkng stupid. 615 ETT and 490 seat tube... there are DJ bikes with reach longer than that.
  • + 1
 same boat, 400mm reach with a 30 to 50 stem is where I am too..
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: Funny, I'm only 5'2" and I loooved how the TRc handled specifically because of the short reach.
  • + 2
 @the-lorax: I'm speaking of reach to seat tube length ratio. Ih ave nothing against the short reach as long as I can drop the seat. The timing of the bike release to the state of rear shock technology has been terrible, I had CTD on it and it totally sucked, then PUSHed it and it just sucked. I heard Monarchs were better but the only people who dialled it were those who bought Vorsprung corsets. The only good thing about the bike was how strong it was despite the weight. Still it died because of a rock strike on a climb. The low hanging swingarm bollocks they fixed in 2014 with the whole line.
  • + 5
 Seat Tube angle is sort of missing here, and I think it is important. If you push that upright, you are extending reach with proportionally little effect on top tube length. Also may allow an "in-the bike feel" that low bbs are loved for, with a slightly higher bb, which I appreciate east coast, west coast, anywhere. Not a big fan of the super lows. I like what guerrilla gravity is doing- Long but not unreasonable (465 for most riders at 5'9'-5'11"), with a very steep seat angle pushing the rider forward, but then keeping a reasonable 67 HA. Short-ish chain stays, but not out of control. they've put together some neat ideas in a clean way without making a straight-line rocket.
  • + 0
 @rosylea No, it isn't - I genuinely don't understand why anybody would make or buy a bike with a shallow seat angle, I can see nothing but negatives for them.
  • + 5
 I like the hip angle theory you have going. It could be a useful point of reference when helping get people fit on a mountain bike. As always, personal preference trumps any rules about bike fit.
  • + 1
 Yes for sure, I've never taken note of where I sit there but I will now.
  • + 4
 Maybe I'm wrong but it seems to me that people with a long torso have dramatically different body positioning on the bike than people with a short torso. There are only so many variables here if you're riding steep and gnarly. For us long torso people you have to choose between stem length, overall wheelbase, or chainstay length if you want to maintain a certain head angle. One of those three will have to be not ideal if you want a perfect bike fit.
  • + 3
 And maybe more importantly, this article assumes what ideal body positioning is regardless of torso length. Seems to me people with a shorter torso are more comfortable riding a bit more upright.
  • + 4
 A tip for estimating bike size and stem length to "new geo": take the reach, stack and stem measurements for your current bike that you feel well balanced on. The effective cockpit length is reach + stem (with some minor adjustments for angles, bar width and bar sweep, but go with me here).

Example: So if you go from a bike with a 430 mm reach and 100 mm stem, this gives you a total of 530 mm cockpit length (there might be a better term). If your new geo bike candidate has a 470 mm reach, you'd roughly end up with a 60 mm stem to get the same cockpit length (using the same bars). This way of estimating the reach/stem length has worked very well for me.
  • + 2
 Centre of crank to tip of handlebar is a good measurement to take from bike to bike for comfortable descending position. Should work for seated riding so long as the frame designer has put a decently steep seat angle in there so no Evil or Trek for example unless you have small legs....
  • + 3
 Great write up! I've recently been struggling with choosing a large (460mm reach) or medium (440mm reach) for my next bike and at basically exactly the same size as you, 5'9" with a 30" inseam, it's been a difficult choice, even after riding both sizes.
  • + 2
 That it is, as I was in the same position as you. I ended up choosing a bike that was approximately 440, as I wanted a more playful bike, and I am 1/2 inch shorter than you.
  • + 5
 I hope that seattube length defining size goes completely away. Its getting better, but still a factor for some bikes. Now that we nave 150+ droppers, theres no reason for a long seattube. I would usually ride mediums, but a 17.5 or longer seattube is too long. Strongly agree that we should be able to pick sizes based on reach.
  • + 3
 It's interesting to note that when it came out, my Wreckoning in XL was a huge bike. With a 471mm reach. It's now considered average size. But at 6'5" I cannot wait to get my hands on something in the 500mm range to see if I legitimately should be on something longer. The Wreck still feels big compared to the bikes I've owned before but I think getting onto a 500mm bike will be a revelation.
  • + 1
 At 6'3", but super long torso, I went back and forth between my DH bike with a 470 reach, and my trail bike with a 510 reach. I was much more comfortable on the trail bike and ended up getting rid of my DH. I suspect you will find the same, but we are all built a little different. Too bad that Wreck isn't longer! Sweet bike
  • + 0
 I’ll never go back to a bike with a reach less than 490mm along with a suitable stack of 630-650mm. I feel properly balanced on my bikes and I can actually run a 50mm stem on my HTLT.

The only downside is that the twisty Shore trails are a bit tougher to deal with when swinging that long wheelbase around.
  • + 1
 @Rhymer: Hey I'm also 6'3" and am trying to figure out how much reach I'll be needing. How long is your inseam? I'm thinking about getting the 2019 giant 29er XL and it has a reach of 480.
  • + 3
 Horses for courses. If you think of bikes likes skis (if you are a skier) then you bring the correct tool for the job. Groomed out frozen east coast crud does not require reverse camber with 120 under foot. A traditional camber with 85 under foot will work much better in those conditions.
  • + 2
 @mattwragg You say "bike companies need to move past "better" and talk about performance criteria for their bikes". No argument, but what performance criteria would you suggest? It's not like a car where you can run a bike through a series of standardized tests...
  • + 1
 You mean other than the bit where I say "I believe that fit should be at the forefront of that list."
  • + 1
 @mattwragg: At least we are not constrained by silly rules like road bikes and can design and build the most efficient bike for riding off road. I would love to see where road bikes could go if they weren't constrained.
  • + 1
 @fartymarty: I too would love to see what road bikes would look like if the UCI didn't restrict their geometry and sizing. I take issue with @mattwragg saying roadies have their sizing down to a T. Tall riders have to run longer stems and slacker seat angles in order to fit their roadbikes which is ridiculous!
  • + 2
 Fantastic article. I've been sizing down a size based on recommendations (aka current trends) and I've been a lot happier. I'm 5'6" and riggt between a small and medium on most brands. I've opted to go smaller, and I ride a lot better in all conditions.
  • + 2
 We always talk about reach numbers, but for upper body position stack numbers should have some importance to? At least the real stack height including stem height and bar rise. I have 50 mm more reach on my new DH bike compared to my old, but since the stack is higher I have basically the same upper body position.
  • + 1
 For me it's bar height off the ground but similar to stack
  • + 1
 correct, how big a bike is comes down to reach and stack , comparing bikes by reach is a simplification to make it understandable for the masses
  • + 2
 It seems that the obsession with Longer, Lower, Slacker is coming from racing. The idea is done to make a bike more stable at high speeds, have a lower centre of gravity to try to provide more grip thus allowing you go to faster, and to handle better in steep terrain so that you can try to go faster. Are people forgetting to have fun? Sure going fast and racing can be your form of fun but don't take it too seriously. I like the idea of slacker, I like the change it makes to a bike, but length needs to be moderated and too low just becomes an inconvenience. Stability mostly comes from the riders own control of their own body, and control of the machine they are operating. It comes from skill, confidence, and practice. Don't rely on engineering to make your bike more stable at high speed, rely on yourself.
  • + 2
 Great article!

I'm 6'6" tall with legs and arms, so the 500+ reach works well for me! But you need to be very fit in the upper corpse and arms to handle a Pole or Nicolai on twisty trails and need a wide bar!

Contrary to the known advantage, that you don't have any flashover feeling with the super long geometry, you have this feeling again with the super low 62,5 head angle, when you are hanging very much up front on your forearms and you are not super fit.

So maybe a bike around 500mm reach with higher stack is better in this case!
  • + 2
 Used to ride a fairly long bike in xl. Just sold it and bought a slightly shorter bike in L. Never going back to those long barges. I am suddenly back to popping odd stuff and taking weird lines. With the long bike it was oh so stable but always kinda boring and numb feeling.
  • + 2
 I thin that there is something to be said about bike length in relation to reach (as is discussed in the article) but also in relation to the chain stay, I feel that a good chain stay length is 460mm with a 470mm reach at 181cm tall, very long bike but not like a pole where you have excessively long reach and good chain stay. I believe that this is the best geometry. Also this combined with a 593mm stack height is good
  • + 1
 do you even manual, bro ?
  • + 3
 Are you including the stem length in your reach value in the conclusion (450 to 475mm) or not? Because you talk of the stem in the introduction (473 + 30mm and 409 + 50 mm)...
  • + 2
 Of course this is all personal preference. My first 2 bikes were way too short. My stance was like the first picture. I then swapped over to longer frames. I am 5'5" and find a 420 to 430mm reach is perfect for my Enduro and DH bikes. On the other hand, I have friends who are a lot taller than me and ride the same size bikes and are comfortable on them.
  • + 3
 I'm 5'9" and just built a Pipedream Moxie with 470mm of reach and a 75.5° seat tube angle. I won't go under 450mm in the future, I love the fit and handling of a longer bike.
  • + 3
 Raise up them bars, chest needs to be up, ass down, they're mount bikes not road bikes, quit trying to take a nap on your bars. Get in more of a BMX position. Then you'll like them long
  • + 3
 Simplified estimates don't work. The relative and absolute positioning of all components is key. Plus you can't have one without the other. Geometron and Transition seem to be close...
  • + 1
 One other thing that also deserves to be mentioned is the position of your feet on the pedals. My current frame (a DMR Switchback hardtail) has a 375mm reach and running a 50mm stem, which is relatively short for an almost 6' tall guy like me. It was always twitchy but I could just handle it. When James Wilson came with his Catalyst pedals I got a couple of these right away. I like the way you can stomp on them. But it also meant that I went from having the ball of my foot over the axle (on very concave pedals) to having my midfoot over the axle. So effectively I reduced my reach by a couple of cm and increased chainstay length by the same amount. I just keep crashing and it got really hard to keep the rear wheel from washing out in slippery corners. I'm definitely in the figure 2 situation now. So I ordered a longer frame with a slightly shorter rear end to bring the balance back. Should drop in the next couple of weeks.

So yeah don't ignore the effect of where you put your feet. BB position doesn't tell the whole story. And don't forget about stack either. Higher grips give you more leverage to offset the longer front end and actually bring them closer to you again. On the rider end, it isn't just about body dimensions either. Flexibility matters too as well as how long you can hold a crouched position (which obviously also matters on whether you're riding a marathon or a 4X race). Straighter arms and legs may be more comfortable on smooth terrain (and/or smooth suspension) but the crouched position makes it easier to really follow the terrain. So that choice has an effect on the stack height you need and I'd say it may be better to find the reach after that. Though of course it will always be iterative.
  • + 1
 Good point on feet position. Your weight does go thru the BB but you COG moves which moves more weight to bars and less to feet. The reach on my bike is a little short but I have long CS and ride on my toes a lot when riding DH. I guess this moves weight back a little. I guess you learn to ride what you have.
  • + 1
 Vinay, another thing I have been playing around with is bar height and how it affects front wheel weight. I have a set of 10mm and 38mm Renthals and 3 spacers under the stem. As such I can change the bar height by 43mm which makes a big difference to how the bike rides. I think getting your weight balanced right between front and rear wheels has a bigger effect than a slightly longer reach.
  • + 1
 I went from the first generation Spectral in medium (415mm reach) to large Mondraker Foxy (500mm reach). Huge step in numbers, but In reality Foxy just felt great. More confidence inspiring, calm and stanle both down hill and uphill, but not really lazy in turning. I went to bike fitting with Foxy after my first season and the guy said this is it, we would not change anything, it is pretty rare. I would recommend everyone to try longer reach and make their decision then.

I am planning to get a 29 but would go to about 455mm - 460mm to try a happy medium. I am about 5’9 (178cm).
  • + 1
 I am 6'7" or so (is that 2 meters?).

I have never ridden a bike that was really long and slack. My longest bike has a 1280mm wheelbase and just feels OK, Stack 670, reach 485. When descending for more than 2 minutes my muscles around hip and knee are in pain, because of the weird angles I am squatting in the bike.
For a more stretched out position I would need a XXlongest Geometron - but neithertheless I would have to bring my body in a way more lower position in the bike than comfortable.

What I want to say: physics don't change with the size of the rider. There is an ideal size (and weight) of a rider more than such of a bike.
  • + 1
 Interesting read and concept. Im most cases we might look at numbers and reviews but don't always have a chance to test ride. Its good to be able to tweak stem length and seat position etc. For me Its all about buying a bike you can have the most fun on and i dont think you need to pay the earth to get it.....
  • + 1
 interesting article and personally relevant because i am 5'9" (176cm) too and have a 2017 bronson medium which i bought a year ago. i immediately went for a size M more out of habit than anything else, with fine tuning stem length etc in mind. ever since the first day though i have always had in the back of my mind the doubt that i could have gone bigger and still have it be "the right bike".

a few weeks ago i triend a friend size L kona and it felt great! so ever since then i have been seriously thinking of swapping it for a size L (plus money!!). i've been on the fence about the reach difference between the two (425mm vs 445mm), but to read that someone else has come to the same conclusion as me is comforting, although it means that i now have no excuse to NOT spend the extra cash!!!!
  • + 1
 This article resonates with me. I bought a Bird Aeris 145 last Summer and, somewhat impulsively, went with the ML - which has a reach of 481mm and a 1230mm wheelbase. I'm 5'8" and similar to @mattwragg in that my torso is long wrt shorter legs. The bike rides really well overall but I can't get the manoeuvrability I would like in the tight stuff. In hindsight the M would have been perfect I think (reach 45Cool . I knew what I was getting into, but definitely should have tried before buying!

Definitely going to do the hip position experiment next time out, see if that stacks up too!
  • + 1
 I am taking the diagrams with a pinch of salt. They maybe intentionally exaggerated, but the short to long bike is nearly 100% more reach. To get my head that far behind the steerer with a flat back would require about 700mm of reach!
  • + 2
 Has anyone come across an instance where you are riding a long bike through a slow steep tech section where your turning radius is limited because your arm is fully extended? I have, it's a pretty awful feeling.
  • + 0
 Nope never. Just use your front brake, lift up the back end and pivot end of problem.
  • + 1
 Even as you said you are far from being academic on your approach I really see it like a very helpful point of view for riders that just hesitate on sizes because going a size down would mean a "too short" bike or going a size up would mean "too long". Good point!
  • + 1
 Too long is better than too short. You can always run a shorter stem on a longer frame. A longer stem on a short frame just makes the handling worst!
  • + 1
 @SintraFreeride: totally agree! In fact that's what I'll do as soon as my new bike arrives. I'm riding a M size and really should be riding a S. Even when I think S would be the perfect fit in my case I knew it only after reading @mattwragg article. So that's my alternative.
  • + 1
 @trackmtb: I'll bet you will adjust pretty quick to that M if you try a 10-35mm stem Wink
  • + 1
 Does physique play a part?

For example two guys, both 6' tall, but one is built like Chris Hoy and the other is built like Chris Froome.
Does upper body strength become a factor for how long the reach of a frame would be?
Or would the same size frame be recommended to both?
  • + 2
 @Royston Probably, if nothing else build often affects mobility, which definitely does have a big impact on this. As I said in the piece, for this to really be a useful idea someone needs to pick it up and develop it - I just don't have the time or money to be the one to do that.
  • + 1
 I am almost identical in stature to you, Matt.

I haven't experienced many different bikes, but when i bought my size L E29 i fell in love with the more planted, "inside" feeling when pointed downhill. I had a really oldshool 26" hardtail before that.

The E29 has 445 mm reach and a fairly long stem (~ 70 mm?) and i am quite sure my next bike is going to have more reach with a shorter stem.. Wich will put me somewhere around 470 - 490 mm of reach, maybe even 500?

So i guess i agree with you Smile

Oh, and i want a shorter seat tube, and maybe shorter crank arms
  • + 1
 Okay, im actually 5 foot 12"...

but the inseam was correct
  • + 1
 Could it be using XC or Road as comparison is much less relevant due to the consistency of the bike relative to the terrain, the consistency of the terrain and the consistency of the rider in relation to the bike over a proportional ride, than say gravity racing or riding? Everyone jumps different really?
  • + 1
 6-3 shorter legs longer torso. Ride a Guerilla Gravity Trail Pistol in XL. A little tall on standover but sooooo worth it once on the saddle. 515 reach + 65mm stem is perfect! GG even gives me a huge HT so the stack is 673mm which on paper seems enormous but just translates to better ergos for the tall guy. Never fit a bike so well. Absolute Monster trucks everything. Now I do not go nuts with lots of switchbacks, but the ones I do ride it handles as well or better than my old Turner Burner v.3.1.
  • + 1
 100% sgree. My old size L Reign from 2013 was tiring both standing and seated. Reach was more like an M and a short one at that. The change to a 500mm or so reach bike (with stem) was a massive fatigue reducer. That and a steeper seat angle. Now on a slightly longer bike with shorter stem. Works like a charm. But then so does my much shorter hardtail
  • + 1
 Great article, this argument was needed to counter the Geometron conquers all put forward a couple of years ago, that has been copied by every brand since. I.e. Lets keep getting longer, stability is all.
The problem for me is bike manufacturers focus on on the longer,lower,slacker aspects, then assemble a bike with other variables such as bar with, tyre choice, crank arm length and acknowledge that customers will swap these out for their own prefered choices.

At 6ft, with a in seam of 32" I guess I should be on a large or Xl but with the supplied stem of 40mm or 50mm I often over reaching so a whole bike package might not be the best option. Which is why I buy a frame and build up.

The main point of the article is spot on the longer, lower, slacker argument has become overblown and distracting.
  • + 2
 Someone had to push the limits and find the boundaries and I am glad Chris Porter did this. I think we still have a way to go with head angles and fork offsets but at least we have figured out reach.
  • + 2
 @fartymarty: Nicolai and Pole have found the limits of reach and head angles which is why they sell the bikes they do and not +1400mm WB, 600mm reach or 59º head angles. Anything beyond their geometry is either for the very very tall or for a very specific purpose eg settig the land speed record.
  • + 2
 @SintraFreeride: I completely agree with you. The rest are now catching up.
  • + 2
 @fartymarty: They are but unfortunately not as well. Still sticking with short chainstays and slack seat angles.
  • + 1
 Stoked you wrote this, I am the same size as you. Last season I rode SC Hightower in Medium reach 430mm, killed my back and always felt a bit short when descending tight switchbacks. Now on SC Hightower LT in large reach 443mm. Bike feels so much better on my back. I have been riding a bike to small for years.
  • + 1
 Right on. You just reminded me that my back always ached after a long ride, but these days I can ride far longer and harder without feeling like a need a massage. And I used to be paranoid about hitting my knees on the stem, and haven't done that for some time.
  • + 6
 You think 13mm of increased reach helped your back pain and is somehow a revelation?

Have you checked other measurements to see what the actual change is? - Seat tube angle, stem length, bar height etc could all easily add up to 10mm reach or more, you may even have a shorter reach if your bar / fork is taller and it's the extra height that has cured your back issues.

Around 10mm change in reach is tiny and I can't imagine alone has made the difference to your riding. Think about it realistically.
  • + 3
 @Racer951: from a kinesiology stand point. As little at 2mm can mean a world of difference depending on the body... However, I totally agree there are likely more factors than just reach when it comes to the bike. Having a bike fit done professionally will make something like back ache a thing of the past. There are just so many factors beyond what this article covers if we get into aches and pains as well.
  • + 3
 @RBalicious: I completely agree that having a bike fit will help but mtb riding is much more dynamic than road, we move around on the bike so much more and have many variables that can alter geometry that road bikes don't to the same extent like tyre size, suspension fork length and sag, bar roll etc and then all of the usual that do like stem length, saddle height and angle, bar height etc etc

We need to be realistic here though, if you feel your bike fit is off try to adjust your setup before buying a frame with 4% longer reach (I'm not saying the op did this as he moved to a different frame) - add / remove some stem spacers, move the saddle around etc - many people don't understand the relationship between bar height and reach.
  • + 1
 I know I am many months late in the game, but I would like to see a follow up to this article. I am about an inch shorter than you are but with similar measurements. I struggle to find comfortable positions on my bike both seated and standing. I am on a medium Rip 9 which (for my current budget) seems to be pretty close to what I need. However, I find that I am NEVER comfortable. I have played with saddle position and height and various stem lengths and heights. I have found when my knees are happy my shoulders and hands and neck aren't and vis versa. I think this is one of the most helpful writeups for real world riding fit and I would love to see more.
  • + 1
 I think is actually the opposite I often read in the coments. The shorter the reach, your center of mass tends to go forwards, because your legs get pumped faster and you need to rest them using your arms. As you are almost standing in your bike, your head is beyond the bars to be in a stable position. In longer reachs is easier to arch your back in the downhills in a much more stable position, where the weight is distributed between arms and legs equally, so your legs are fresher and you can lean back a little bit more. Longer is always better. And shorter chainstay with the lowest possible pivot point.
  • + 1
 @mattwragg

great article. definitely worth taking into consideration, but how does it apply your position in the saddle? i am 5'9" too (176cm) and i find a 445mm reach just about the limit on a bike like a Bronson size L, in the sense that in a out of the saddle position, i'm sure body position benefits from the more ample reach and relative wheelbase, but i find myself a little stretched out while seated. assuming i could shorten the stem or move the saddle forward, wouldn't that put me in a less than optimal position while pedalling?
  • + 2
 That sounds like it should come down to either bar height and/or flexibility - can you touch your toes with your legs straight? If not, how far away are you? I notice on your profile that you're 47, have you done much in the way of flexibility/mobility work in the last few years? I'm a little more than 10 years younger than you, but if I don't keep up with my yoga, I quickly feel the loss of mobility.

You also don't say what stem length you run. At your height on a bike that size I am surprised that you are finding that as the seatangle shouldn't be too slack on that bike (which could be a cause of that feeling on some bikes).

If you start looking at the combined reaches of TT and stem on road bikes and XC race bikes, you start to realise that the total reach value for many of these new school bikes is hardly extreme in that respect. For instance, my road bike is 387mm reach with a 90mm stem, and that is before you factor in riding position, as being on the STIs adds even more to this total length for a seated riding position. So your bike is probably relatively conventional in those terms, so I would recommend trying to raise the bar height (stem spacers are less of investment than a new bar, but are detrimental to the overall reach, maybe also have a look at how much pressure is in your fork and the fore-aft balance of the bike) and maybe doing some yoga.
  • + 1
 @mattwragg: right now i have a medium 2017 bronson with a 50mm stem and bars with a 20mm rise. it feels ok. i love the bike, but i struggle to find a somewhat comfortable in-control position out of the saddle, which could be a matter of reach, wheelbase, maybe even shock/fork setup, or just simply technique.

that's what i'm trying to figure out really.

either way, what you mentioned about flexibility resonates with me because, other than my age, i've never been too flexible (with my legs perfectly straight i can only reach down to about 15cm from my toes) and i'm sure being able to hinge correctly, apply correct arm and elbow position and stay correctly centered on the bike make all he difference.

the bronson size L i sat on (not demoed) could definitely work i'm sure but i think i would have to go with a 35mm stem and like you said a couple of spacers. it's just that trial and error comes at a price since there a virtually never any demos for these bikes around here. so i have to figure out if i want to "take the plunge" or not.
  • + 1
 @oneimaginaryboy: You're in Rome, right? I think your best bet would be to visit Bagnoli Bike in Castiglione della Pescaia - they're a couple of hours north from you, but they're a Santa Cruz test centre (and friends of mine, as it goes), I'm sure they would be able to help you get the right bike and setup.
  • + 1
 @mattwragg: thank you for the heads up!!
  • + 1
 I love my longer reach "new" geometry bike.
I also love my "Old" geometry bike.
Depends on what terrain I'm riding, I feel more comfortable on my newer bike on descents, and vice versa.
There's plusses and minuses to anything.
Personally, I am not a fan of "low".
  • + 5
 Now if we could get over this shorter chainstays are always better bs...
  • + 1
 How about the obsession with short chainstays? I like mine a bit longer 435mm is great. It gives me stability and helps climbing. Same for a reasonable bottom bracket height, since I am not good enough to time every rock. Then of course I still run a bike with a pathetically long 60mm stem, so what do I know.
  • + 1
 I think 435mm is pretty good in most cases, but it always depends on the front/center length. I have a 450 reach and 65deg. headangle and my 430 mm chainstays feel a bit short, resulting in too much weigth being on the rearwheel. with bigger reachnumbers/ slacker HA you will need longer chainstays -yet with chainstays over 440 mm a casually thrown in manual is athing of the past. -nothing is free
  • + 1
 Many people argue that bikes we're to short, high and steep. What does Specialized not showing to their cards to Trek have to do with geometry? Why dies mountain biking's road-based roots start a paragraph about cruisers? The superlatives of longer, lower and slacker are longest, lowest, and slackest.

I understand the pressure for fresh content and how awkward it can be to take a red pen to a friend's work, but there is no excuse for publishing a piece that is so poorly edited.
  • + 1
 Where's @paulaston on this? Would love to hear his take.

Also, why do we always reference the road frame when talking about the origins of MTB frame geo, but never mention BMX? I remember not so long ago when frame makers (and riders) were heavily influenced by BMX and 4X, and riders were sizing down for 'flickability'. I think a lot of what we are seeing today with trail bike geometry progression may be a recovery / rebound from that influence.
  • + 1
 Reach is a bad measurement because it doesn't take into account the stem length. the distance from pedals to grips is what matters. For example a bike with a long reach and short stem may have the same grip distance as a bike with a short reach and long stem but the will handle much different. A long reach and short stem gives you a longer wheelbase and more neutral steering.
  • + 1
 Yes and no. You are not wrong, but for a modern mountain bike for riding fun stuff the stem length should be in the 32-50mm range (some prefer up to 60mm) as it defines the steering characteristic, so although there is some variance it shouldn’t be huge. For example on my 473mm Mondraker I ran a 32mm stem, on my 460mm Scott I run 40mm. If you’re riding enduro with a 90mm stem, you’re about 15 years behind modern thinking
  • + 5
 That's what she said.
  • + 2
 is that why she loves you?
  • + 0
 @mattwragg First off great article! I'd like to add that Stabiility on the bike rather than the stability of the bike is an added bonus of longer reach bikes. Like you mentioned added reach will allow you to have your arms further out rather than under you, this makes it harder to go over the bars as well.
Also stem size plays a part on frame size. At 180cm (5'11") I am on a 520mm reach frame with a 10mm stem but I could have chosen a 480mm reach and run a 50mm stem.
I would like to see seat tubes remaining short on most sizes and thus compensated with longer dropper posts. This would allow people to chose their reach rather than be stuck on a smaller size because the seat post is too high on a larger frame.
  • + 2
 well done Matt! new school geo is overated lately. it has its benefits but only to a certain point . for me 450 reach is in perfect ballance to agility vs stability
  • + 1
 I completely agree. After going through the same testing and flexibility and mobility changes. 6 ft tall 35" inseam. 453mm reach and 50mm stem ismy current bike. and 465mm and 35mm stem feel even better on tight switchbacks.
  • + 4
 sam hills bike has a 435 mm reach...
  • + 1
 so what...are you a) sam's height? b) ride like him? If not then I fail to see how that is relevant?
  • + 3
 @SintraFreeride: sam hill is about 5.10 and its obviously not about me. if this superlong nonsense would make any sense the pros -who try a lot and earn their money beeing fastest- would all be on such limos. personal preference aside, there is a length where you pretty much become a passenger. If the bike is too long it is very hard to get all your weight on one wheel -which not only a thing doing a manual. Sure with the weight in the middle of a very long wheelbase you get away with a lot, but it actually prevents very good riding. I think the sizing of brands like Transition is very good and you have to give geometron stuff credit for bringing sizing in the right direction but every 6 footer( which is a pretty average number in Germany btw.) nowerdays thinks he needs a bike with 500 mm reach -which is as stupid as getting one with 400 mm. Thats what i was saying - but some obviously need more than one sentence to start thinking.
  • + 0
 @optimumnotmaximum:
1. The pros specially the DH pros are a conservative bunch. Not as conservative as roadies but conservative nontheless. If they really did test everything like most people believe then they would have figured out that longer bikes were better years ago! Greg Minnaar is a great example of this. He has been in the sport for ages and only now is admitting to finally having a bike that fits him! THIS IS GREG F...KING MINNAAR!!! DH was the last discipline after XC and Enduro to adopt bigger wheels is another example. This is why I find it hilarious when DH is considered the pinnacle of MTB!
2. A long bike makes you ride in the middle and allows you to weight both the front and the back evenly. I am 180cm and have a bike with 520mm of reach. It fits me like a glove. If I need to slide the back end I just shift my weight forwards a tad. A long bike allows you to get away with more stuff no doubt but so does full suspension or long travel or strong brakes or grippy tires. Ñone of those things prevent very good riding they just allow you to ride fast and/or harder terrain.
3. Is there such a thing as too long? Ofcourse there is! A 555mm reach XXL Nicolai would be too long for me just as my bike would be too long for someone shorter.
4. Some people prefer short bikes, just like some people prefer short chainstays. It makes the ride feel more sketchy, allows you to throw the bike around more, manual more easily. This new era of long bikes doesn't prevent you or anyone from riding a short bike all you need to do is size down.

My opinion is the following: If you like what you have great, stick with it. If you have tried a long bike and don't like it that is find too. However, if you have never ridden a long bike and chose your ride based on what Pro X or Y rides then just keep your mouth shut because you have no idea what you are talking about.
  • + 3
 @SintraFreeride: a rude man you are. first of all I do not think that I ride "short" bikes. my bike has a wheelbase of 1240mm which is actually pretty long. Also a couple of posts above i mentioned that my previous bike was even longer and I did not like it. First I thought that I just have to adjust but after a year it still felt akward (the bike had a geo like a baby geometron 470 reach 64.5 headangle an 447 cs.). Do not get me wrong, getting away with things is a good thing and with this bike i did but in difficult situations where you cant just roll through the limitations were very obvious: In flat fast corners I had to hunch forward to get enough grip on the front wheel,doing so the rearwheel lost grip very fast. On wet roots where you have to hit the loampatches between the roots I failed miserably, I just could not get a propper weight/unweight timing. As mentioned in my previous posts and also shown in mattwraggs drawings a too long bike pulls you out of position. Furthermore it is also dictated by physics that the more distance there is between your center of gravity and the contact patch of the wheel the harder it is to get your weight on it. But that is a major part of good riding -weighting and unweighting of your bike and single wheels. Big bikes are good for big and powerfull riders though. Greg Minnaar is around 1.9 m (6.3) and he surely has power -also I think the reach of his bike does not exceed 520.
  • - 1
 @optimumnotmaximum:
Rude? How so? Unless you consider calling roadies and DH conservative. If you felt I was rude to you personally then that wasn't my intention.
I understand your point of view and like I said before if you prefer a shorter bike (length is relative) then that is great. What I take issue is when you seem to indicate that 500mm reach bikes dumb down things or that pros don't run such bikes. Yes Mr. Minnaar's XXL V-10 has a reach of 480mm but again me point wasn't to say he was on a geometron like bike it was to say that you can't go on what the pros run seeing as they are less likely to go into wild experimentation.
I had the same problem as you initiatially with flat corners then I added an angleset to bring the head angle up to 63º and it made the bike much better.
  • + 2
 @SintraFreeride: telling someone to keep his mouth shut is considered rude in most parts of the world, but nevermind
  • + 0
 @optimumnotmaximum: Perhaps I wasn't clear, I did not tell you to keep your mouth shut I said that people who open their mouths and say stuff without EVER having anything to back it up should keep their mouths shut. Eg the 26 for life person who claims big wheels are crap but has never ridden one doesn't know what he/she is on about. I this subject the claim that big bikes handle like crap, only work in a straight line or can't go around tight turns is utter garbage and it is often shouted out by people who have never tried one.
  • + 0
 Great article! I love the modern long bikes. Even my large 2012 socom feels like a DJ compared to the M16. Modern long feels more accommodating to proper riding positions. Short feels like your just swinging off the back, long you can moce your weight around between the rear balance point to the front.
  • + 0
 So . . . science is great for engineers and manufacturing, but what about "it just feels right"? At 6' tall w/33in inseam, I had been riding a variety of large frame, rigid and full suspension bikes for some 25 years. My transition to 29in wheels occurred when a giant (as in TALL) friend of mine suggested I try his XXL 29er - I rode that horse on a technical downhill section of trail and was an instant convert to 29 in wheels, but selected (again) a large frame bike. 5 years later, I finally risked the experiment to an XL frame w/short stem and have found Nirvana (no, not the 90's band, that happened earlier). I now ride an XL 29er full suspension, an XL 27.5 full suspension wheeled and a 84cm endurance road bike and feel absolutely comfortable and in control (external observers might argue the control part). Feel, comfort and control are really the metrics needed to choose a frame size, so trying before buying is an essential factor in the choosing . . . or you might go 30 years before you find out what you really like.
  • + 0
 Recently gone to bike that's a few mm shorter up front but about half inch shorter chain stay. Still got the long, stable feel but, the SLAMMED rear feels super nimble. Especially for pumping terrain, getting the front end up for manuals and jumping I like it I've noticed that.... A new concept will be introduced, pushed to far, an then settle some where sensible. Be it geo, travel, rims tyres etc etc
  • + 1
 It depends; dj - short and low and steep; for bike - low, slack and moderately long to keep back flat and in comfort position; to long is ok for competition, however not always for fun
  • + 1
 @mattwragg I have to disagree the "best" flattorso positions are those performed by sik mik and remi thirion, thanks for the article
  • + 1
 @mattwragg are you saying your sweet spot is 450-475mm before stem? If so what stem length (&total reach #'s) are you assuming? Thanks, great info!
  • + 2
 Yes, I am. It varies, but usually 32-40mm, depending on the bike.
  • + 1
 @mattwragg: Shorter stem is better?
  • + 1
 @marzocchi170: I don't personally believe you should run a stem longer than 50mm on a modern AM/trail/enduro bike, maybe if the HA is really slack you could go a little longer, but to keep the bar behind the front axle, I would take 40mm or shorter.
  • + 3
 I've written about this...

www.peterverdone.com/forward-geometry
  • + 1
 Very interesting stuff! I particularly like the forward geometry roadbike!
  • + 1
 Hi guys I need little help. I am 5'11" and I want to buy new YT Capra but I´m not sure if L or XL. L has 460, XL 480 mm reach. Thanks
  • + 1
 I am your heigth and I would get the L -still long enough in my opinion and you will be able to get more weight on a single wheel -which helps hoping skipping manualing cornering doing cutties etc.. My previous bike was 470 -my current is 455, i like the fit of the current one much more.
  • + 1
 @Matej24

I am about your height (5’11 1/2” -6’). My current bike has a reach of 431 mm ( Ibis HD3) and it rides really well. My old bike had a reach of 405mm ( HD) and it rode pretty well too. My dh bike has a reach of 470 mm (NS Fuzz) and it rides really nice, but I would not want the reach any longer than 470mm.

So I would steer you towards the size large YT Capra at 460mm versus the XL at 480 mm.

P.s. I have also ridden the Ibis Ripley mentioned in the article and had no problems riding that either.
  • + 1
 @mattwragg are you sure you measured your inseam correctly? Not many people will have 30 inches (76 cm) at 5'9". Makes a difference when trying to compare numbers.
  • + 2
 Well I just bought a set of 32W 30L jeans and had to turn them up.
  • + 1
 @mattwragg: oh man, i always wondered what my inseam was ,but was too lazy to measure. I guess its someting around 32 then.
  • + 3
 Pick a reach number and be a dick about it.
  • + 3
 26 is still not dead! There was nothing wrong with it!
  • + 3
 As a 6'4 dude I've gotta say I'm OK with this longer trend
  • + 0
 Great article, Airdrop bikes wrote a very similar piece on their blog a couple of days ago, its worth a read too.

www.airdropbikes.com/blogs/news/longer-lower-slacker
  • + 2
 Hmm...so if your 5'10" you don't need a 500mm+ reach ?!?!
  • + 1
 It depends. I'm 5'11" and my bike has 520mm reach and it is by far the best bike I have EVER had.
  • + 1
 No.i want to be able to get my weight over the front wheel without sticking my neck out like a tortoise thanks.
  • + 3
 Nerds
  • + 3
 Mostly tall nerds.
  • + 1
 @mattwragg do you ride flats or clips? I mean with flats your position is bit more forward right?
  • + 2
 It’s short but at least it’s thin
  • + 1
 Just switched from a 448mm reach Bronson to a 500mm Patrol, guess we'll see what all this "long, low, slack" hubub is about.
  • + 3
 How tall are you? that seems drastic
  • + 1
 keep us posted ..
  • + 0
 50mm is only about 2"
  • + 4
 @endlessblockades: Which is like going from a medium to an XL.
  • - 1
 That's nor going to be a fair comparis because the bronson is already more playful than a patrol
  • + 2
 @chadchandler7: 6'2" but I carry more of my height in my torso. The Bronson 1 was an XL so those numbers were the biggest available at the time.
  • + 3
 @trauty: Will do, weather has been bad and I'm waiting on a few parts. Reverb is awesome but the hydraulic remote sucks/doesn't work in freezing temps.
  • + 1
 @vikb: im 5'10 and went from a Stumpjumper with a 414 reach and switched to a Whyte t130 with a 467 reach. The fit is so much better! Its a change in riding style for sure, but in a good way. No longer do riders need to hang off the back in the steeps, you can actually stay loose and centered and in good attack position. I feel its a legit game changer for most riders that will make you faster and more confident.
  • + 3
 @chadchandler7: i switch from a bike with a 414 reach, 60mm stem and the lack seat angle.
Now i have a 467 reach, 40mm stem and a much steeper seat tube. The distance from seat to the grips is nearly identical, but i have much more bike out in front of me. No need to get way back when it gets steep, you stay more centered and in control.
  • + 2
 i just want a bike that works...
  • + 1
 Shorter, higher, steeper www.pinkbike.com/news/test.html
  • + 1
 Donkey doddle, look it up!
  • + 1
 TURNER 5-SPOT 390mm reach Wink
  • + 1
 3......2.........1.............CLEAR! And the PB comments explode...
  • + 0
 Reach is BB center to Head tube center. Wheelbase is hub to hub. i get the idea, but hose diagrams are way off.
  • + 1
 Great!
  • + 1
 It's tires dammit.
  • + 1
 Yes!

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