Tech Tuesday: How to Set Up Your Mountain Bike's Cockpit

Nov 11, 2022 at 10:42
by Travis Engel  
When does your new bike really become your bike? Is it the moment you buy it? The moment you get it dirty? The moment it gets its first scratch? Nope. It’s the moment that you’ve finally dialed each of its adjustable touchpoints (handlebars, brake levers, shifters and saddle) to feel like home.

We’re not going to launch into a fit tutorial here. Frame size, seat height, saddle width and even bar width are often based primarily on your personal measurements. We’re talking about dimensions that are based more on preference. For the most part, there are no wrong answers here, and that’s why it’s so frequently overlooked.

Off the shelf, hopefully your new bike will be set up with its touchpoints in completely reasonable positions. If they feel strange, it’s common to think that’s simply because it’s a new bike. But that’s not necessarily true. With some deliberate trial and error, and some knowledge of the pros and cons of each approach, you can find your happy place.

Handlebar backsweep and upsweep

This is a good place to start because your lever and shifter adjustments will depend on getting this right. Bars have four main dimensions. Height and width, which are simple enough, but also upsweep and backsweep. There are bars with more or less sweep, which is a matter of preference. Bars with more sweep tend to be more comfortable but not as well suited for aggressive riding. Most traditional bars have about five degrees of upsweep and about eight degrees of backsweep.

But you are able to shift the balance between the two slightly by rocking the bars forward and back. These are measured from the bar’s neutral position, which you can derive from the marks that are hopefully present (and visible) where the bar is clamped into the stem. To find the starting point, keep in mind these marks are meant to relate to the ground, not the stem because the stem is angled in line with the fork. This is an often overlooked adjustment because it can be hard to detect a bar that is rocked too far forward or back.

Looking lengthwise along the bar is a good way to get an exaggerated view of its sweep. Angled too far back, it will lead to poor weight distribution across the palms. Angled too far forward and it will cause wrist pain. Finding your sweet spot may be as simple as some trial and error. If the difference between right and wrong is subtle to the eye, it will not be subtle to the touch. Starting from the bar’s neutral position, try slight adjustments forward and backward. No particular style of riding is better suited for either. When it feels right, it will feel right.

Hand position

Now that disc brakes have evolved to be powerful enough to stop by using only our index fingers, brake levers have gotten shorter. For the most part, they are shaped to optimize one-finger braking, with room for two if the need arises. But that means there’s a narrow window for how inboard or outboard they ought to be in relation to our hands. We’re doing this immediately after bar position because, to contradict what I said about “no wrong answer,” it is not optimal to need to stretch your finger in to reach the lever, or for it to crowd the rest of your fingers when you brake.

Where this does become a matter of preference is where you want your hand to be on your grip. Some people like to have a few millimeters of grip outside of their palm. This maximizes the real estate of grip that you’re holding onto, and nestles your palm into a hammock in grips that taper out slightly at the tips. The other option, pictured above, is actually hanging your palm a few millimeters outside of your grip. This requires a uniformly shaped grip, but some riders claim it offers a more intimate relationship with the side-to-side forces between hand and bar. It also allows you to widen your stance without lengthening the bar. Whichever hand position feels more natural will determine where, side to side, your brake lever should sit.

Shifter and dropper lever position

With your hand and brake lever’s lateral location settled, a similar question is to be answered for the shifter and dropper lever. In some cases, they are bolted independently to the bar, and this process is relatively simple. Other times, they are each bolted to the brake lever, but can be adjusted independently, both in their angle and how far inboard or outboard they are. Exactly how this is done differs between brands. Sometimes there are individual threaded holes to relocate the shifter (SRAM) or it can be slid in small increments (Shimano).

There is a good chance that your bike’s initial setup will crowd your hand with the thumb lever. Just know that your knuckle should not be rubbing your shifter when your thumb is wrapped under the bar. Don’t necessarily assume that the thumb lever needs to rest 100% under your thumb. For some riders, it is preferred to slide the shifter or dropper lever inboard slightly to offer more clearance to get your thumb to and from the lever. If you don’t feel there’s a direct, unobstructed line to get quickly on it, then try sliding it a few millimeters from your hand.

The angle of the shifter relates to this as well. It also is independently adjustable of brake lever angle. Similar to the above options, tilting it down and away will give you quicker access but a less solid connection once you get there, and tilting it up towards you will give you more positive contact, but it’ll be harder to get there.

Brake lever angle

There are two competing schools of thought here. One is that the brake levers should be angled to rest just under your extended index fingers while you are standing up in the pedals and your arms, with elbows out, are making an otherwise straight line from your shoulders to your grips. This feels natural for most riders, and will result in your brake levers pointing down somewhere around 45 degrees or, for taller riders, even lower.

But the other school of thought teaches that our elbows should not just be bent, but dropped slightly. Part of this is, when abiding by the best-practices of keeping weight on the front wheel for better traction, allows you to lean forward without extreme lateral bend on your wrists. Also, especially on steep trails, it transfers the load from your thumbs to the palms of your hands. Both of these combine to lessen “arm-pump” (the painful forearm fatigue of long rough descents) but also to keep you more securely attached to your bars in an unexpected impact while descending. The answer for you is likely somewhere in between. Experiment with lower levers and a more relaxed riding position, and with higher levers and a more aggressive position, and try and combine both with a wide variety of trails to find what is right for you.

Brake lever reach

“Reach” is how far out your lever is from your bar when it is at rest. That’s different from what some call “free stroke,” which is how far from that point you have to pull it before the pads hit the rotor. Adjusting deadstroke is a whole other story. Some brakes, like top-level SRAM options, have a way to adjust this. Most do not, and if it feels too far, you may need pads, a bleed, or both. But if it feels just right, there still may be work to be done.

What matters most here is where the lever ends up when the pads bite. The ideal position is largely based on your hand size, but it is worth experimenting with. You just want to stay within an optimal range. Too close to the bar, the lever might bottom out on the grip. Even if isn’t happening in the parking lot, it may happen on the mountain. But too far from the bar, and you don’t hit the optimal powerband in your finger. If it’s extended too far, you are literally using fewer of your forearm muscles to pull it. As it gets further in, you activate more muscles and it takes less effort to get more force, to a certain extent.

Where the personal preference enters into it is where you want that power to peak. If you find yourself doing a lot of forceful braking, you’ll be flexing the levers further and further in, and for that peak mechanical advantage to meet peek bio-mechanical advantage, the reach will need to be further out. But if you don’t often find yourself at the edge of your brakes’ capability, a little shorter reach will allow you to have better wrap between finger and grip.

Stem height

Different sizes of bikes will have different-length head tubes (the frame tube that the fork passes through). And different types of bikes will have different stack heights (the net vertical difference between the center of your cranks and the top of your head tube). Longer-travel bikes tend to have higher stack and shorter-travel bikes have lower stack. Assuming that you are on the right size and right travel of bike for your body and your trails, there still are choices to be made. Adjustments are done by swapping spacers back and forth between above and below the stem. This requires the knowledge of how to adjust a threadless headset. And ideally, it requires various sizes of spacers. Some bikes will come out of the box with only 10mm spacers, but 10mm is often too big of a change. When experimenting with bar height, make sure there are one or two 5mm spacers in there.

This is one of the more intuitive adjustments you’ll have to make. If, on the descents, you find yourself with too much weight over the front end, you may need to raise your bars. If you feel like you’re not getting power to the pedals on the climbs, you may need to lower them. But a factor here, as mentioned above in brake-lever angle, is where you position your body over the front wheel. How far you are leaning over the front wheel should be based on choice, not where you’ve set your bars. Before you drop your bars, try leaning over more in sections that are not too steep. It may be worth the compromise on the climbs.

Saddle position

We’re finally done with the front half of the cockpit. Thankfully, this part should be quicker. Our saddle clamps offer the ability to slide our bodies forward or backward in relation to the rest of the bike. Most saddles have markings on their rails which will indicate the neutral position, which is always a good place to start. While finding your optimal setting, an important metric is your bike’s effective seat tube angle. That dimension is technically what you are adjusting when moving your saddle. Seat tube angles have been trending steeper lately because it puts your body weight further over the pedals, giving you a greater mechanical advantage when climbing. And on full-suspension bikes (more severely so on longer-travel bikes), it lessens the force your body weight has on the rear shock.

Lately, seat tube angles have been getting steeper. A couple years ago, 72 degrees was acceptable. Today, there are bikes with 79-degree seat tube angles. If that doesn’t sound like much, consider that, at an average saddle height, a change of two degrees will move the saddle position by over an inch, which is more adjustment than we have to work with here. So, knowing that we’ll only be able to change your effective seat tube angle by about a degree and a half, consider what your topography is like.

If you spend the overwhelming majority of your in-saddle time climbing, and if you have a full-suspension bike, you will have an easier time on those climbs with your saddle nudged forward. Just know that you may need to raise your seatpost by a fraction of the distance you have just slid it forward to keep the distance to the pedals optimal. If you are on undulating or flatter terrain, you may be better off in the saddle’s neutral position. If you find yourself wanting the saddle to be further rearward than the neutral position, there is a chance you are on too small of a bike.

Before you get too comfortable with your saddle slid all the way back, consider whether, when out of the sadde, if you feel cramped between pedals and bars. Keep in mind that saddle rails are not designed to be clamped right against their bend, as it can compromise the strength. Stay within the “max” and “min” marks on the rails.

Saddle angle

This decision, like saddle position, should be based partly on the topography of your local trails. If you are rarely in the saddle on flat ground, it may be worth abandoning the conventional wisdom that your saddle should be flat. And that is the conventional wisdom. Saddles are designed to be flat. But if you take a long-travel full-suspension bike, point it uphill and put a human on it, their weight is now biased heavily towards the rear, and that saddle will no longer be flat.

Angling your saddle nose down slightly will fix that, but it will have some consequences. On flat ground, it puts excess weight on your hands and can lead to numbness and pain in the fingers and fatigue in the arms. If you do pedal a fair amount on flat ground, you should probably have a flat saddle. But saddles are tricky. In either of the scenarios, it may not feel perfect. Part of that can be helped with high quality shorts and simply more saddle time, but there is a reason there are thousands of different saddle options out there. Just like everything else we’ve covered, it may require some trial and error.

And that is the most important takeaway from this. Be conscious of how your bike is fitting you. If something doesn’t feel right, try something different. It may take some time at first, but the more experimenting you do, the more you’ll learn about what you like. It will make you more informed when upgrading parts and analyzing new trends. And when it comes time to get your next new bike, you’ll have a head start at knowing what you want.


  • 198 3
 I like a cockpit that is integrated to the point that nothing is adjustable and I have no control. Then I don't have to worry about anything except occasionally being very uncomfortable.
  • 58 5
 Stem too low? Your mechanic is going to hate having to strip and rebleed the brakes again after rerunning through that sleek integrated headset.
  • 14 1
 @ROOTminus1: Why? Isn't he/ she paid by the hour or can just charge more for the job?
  • 29 0
 @tidnes Sounds like you're the perfect Scott customer.
  • 7 1
 @ROOTminus1: Yes, but didn't you see the conclusive poll?

-"All practically aside, don't you think it looks kinda cool?"
-"Do you routinely remove your stem for trailside repairs?"
-"Would you rather have cables routed straight up in the air like an 80's road bike?"
-"Do you wash your cycling socks?"
-"Do you hate progress?"

"Then, super, you love having your cables run though your stem!"
  • 3 1
 @ROOTminus1: Well, Scott spacer is from from 2 pieces to make adjustments...possible Big Grin
  • 18 2
 @SunsPSD: Amazing how the same rich a$$h0les who buy 10k bikes will lose their minds over paying market rate for shop work.
  • 53 2
 I just ride my bike the way it came from Goodwill, sometime I add air to the tires. What’s a stem?
  • 17 1
 You add air to your tires? Pfft, must have fallen for the scam of selling you a pump along with your bike. Bet you even bought "chain oil".
  • 7 0
 I filled my tires with expanding foam so I never have to put air in them. It's super convenient.
  • 3 1
 @50percentsure: Nah, good old 3-in-1 oil! If it can't be used on a baseball glove and a bike, it's a scam!
  • 3 1
 @aquanut: Rules to live by.

I carry a baseball glove with me everywhere as a tester.
  • 3 0
 @aquanut: My bike is 25% WD40, as it should be.
  • 3 0
 @50percentsure: First they have you checking a battery just so you can shift gears and now you need to check the air in the tires. What’s next?
  • 50 0
 You should end up with a cabinet full of spare stems/bars/grips that you decided weren't quite right.
  • 16 1
 I do have a box full of grips I've decided weren't quite right...
  • 10 0
 And don't forget to go back to them a few times a year and try all of them out again to make sure they weren't quite right...
  • 4 1
 @stiingya: I did actually do that, and decided to take the deathgrips off and put the ergons back on...
  • 4 0
 There is a direct relationship between the cockpit components you finally decide to toss and the cockpit components you end up looking for later.
  • 5 0
 Those usually end up on my wife's bike
  • 2 0
 @stiingya: or while waiting for some crash replacement and give those bars another go and they are just like, no.
  • 20 2
 Whatever you do, experiment.....drop what you thought you knew and just spend an afternoon with an open mind and try a few different things that seem contrary to what you'd think. People get stuck defending the position or setup they've used and don't try different things. If it feels comfortable in the garage or whilst riding down the street it's probably not optimized for riding down steep trails, tech terrain and jumps.
  • 6 2
 Very much this!

I was convinced that I needed a new frame because the reach numbers of my 2018 bike made it unrideable. I had a 50mm riser, 50mm stem and a bunch of spacers to make it feel bigger. Every ride home from the trails I would be looking down imagining more reach and how much more comfortable I would feel.

So I test ride a few new bikes in the "correct" size; can't manual, can't bunny hop, something isn't right. I get back on my old bike and I feel so much better, so I put it down to all the hours I've spent getting the setup exactly right; something you can't do on a demo.

In the meantime whilst browsing geo numbers, I learn about the "RAD" measurement and decide to see how stupidly tiny my current bike is so I can totally justify that new frame. Oddly, according to the RAD scale it's 70mm too big? I check and check and re-measure and for a laugh, I drop back to a 30mm stem, flat bar and remove all the spacers to get it close to this (clearly stupid and wrong) RAD measurement.

Riding along the paths to the trails I felt like a roadie, but as soon as I started climbing on the trails I was blown away by the difference it had made. I could do everything better and all my back pain had gone away, totally contradicting what I thought I needed.
  • 1 0
 @realize: red pill vs blue pill Smile

Same experience with me, I dropped down into the RAD sizing a year or so ago and really fell in love with it and kinda made me like bikes again like I remembered, being able to throw them around and jump vs plow....
  • 28 11
 Step 1: get T25 L wrench. Step 2: Remove SRAM
  • 6 0
 You act like having brakes is important, you know the only reason for brake levers at all is so you can put oil slick hardware on it Wink
  • 2 0
  • 1 0
 hülyeségeket beszélsz...
  • 1 0
 @1aTom: Stop that! I just sprained my tongue trying to use phonics to pronounce what you wrote!! lol
  • 1 0
 @font style="vertical-align: inherit;">font style="vertical-align: inherit;">GT-CORRADO/font>/font>: Smile )) universal language
  • 10 2
 No real discussion of bar rise, which is critical to downhill weight distribution. Recently went from a 15mm to a 35mm and the feel on the front of the bike is pretty significant. Also, I got the One Up bar, which I thought was going to be more snake oil than actually beneficial, but was pretty surprised by the additional damping provided and the difference in hand and wrist fatigue after a day of riding.
  • 3 1
 You're right, bar rise is crucial. And what about the differences between alloy and composite, 31.8 and 35mm diameters and grips in term of control, confidence and confort?... Vast subject...
  • 2 0
 Or ESL (effective stem length) which affects how your steering feels.
  • 3 1
 @danstonQ: The here really is no difference between 31.8 and 35mm in general. The differences in feel still would come down to how each individual bar is manufactured, no matter the size. Same for alloy vs carbon. Even made of the same materials, some bars can feel very different than others.
  • 1 0
 @sino428: My 35mm Bontrager alloy bar was stiff and brutal to ride, the One Up carbon riser feels significantly different. On the alloy bar I would have numbness and fatigue pretty early on in the ride. With the One Up bar I rode for and entire day and never noticed any hand fatigue (the rest of my body was plenty fatigued however) Like I said, I figured it would be more snake oil that actual benefit, but there is a real difference.
  • 1 0
 @BikesBoatsNJeeps: isn't carbon stiffer by definition? It sounds like you fell for marketing claims and just imagining those stuff to justify 200 bucks bar
  • 1 1
 @valrock: stiffer by definition? What does that even mean?

Both aluminum and carbon can be manufactured to a wide range of stiffness.
  • 2 0
 @valrock: I only paid $100, and carbon can be engineered to be compliant (as can aluminum). It's crazy what those wacky engineers can do with technology, modeling and a deep understanding of material properties.
  • 11 0
 Note: If you're 6'1" and find a killer deal on a extra-small frame, a 140mm stem can make it work.
  • 7 0
 Those were the days. Long quill stem, no dropper, super short bars, tight reach, steep head angles, low stack height, 26 inch wheels, clipped pedals, no suspension, crappy tires, cantilever rim brakes, etc, etc. I could not ride those bikes now if I tried to. Modern bikes are so awesome.
  • 5 0
 @tacklingdummy: It's a great time to be into bikes and beers; so many varieties, something to fulfill each and every niche!

Need a 18% ABV 8,000 IBU quintuple-hopped Sour Mash Fruity IPA aged in pine needles? You got it.

Need a mullet triple-pivot, 18-bar Horst-Ellsworth Hybrid link with hydraulic bottom bracket? Coming right up.
  • 1 1
 @singletrackslayer: Yeah, for sure, bikes and beer are light years ahead.

18% IPA....Whoa. Not a fan of IPA (just too sour/bitter for me), but definitely would try that one. Lol. I'm a German Dunkel Lager guy and like the easy drinking lagers are good too.
  • 1 0
 @singletrackslayer: I get the bikes part... but beers? It tastes like piss and I know you all only pretending liking it
  • 8 1
 I've run the "French-style" (low angle, maybe 15-25° below horizontal) brake position by a few physical therapist friends with kinesiology degrees, and they all seem to think it makes sense that it would put you in a stronger, more ergonomic position when riding downhill. I've been riding that way for almost three seasons now and can't go back, highly recommend giving it at least a two-week try if you haven't before.
  • 4 0
 Same. It eliminated a majority of my arm pump
  • 2 0
 So when you're out of the saddle and your finger is extended over the lever, it's more or less in a straight line with your arm, right? I've run that way for a few years now and I'm always surprised when I see experienced riders who have brake levers that are nearly parallel with the ground.
  • 1 0
 Agreed! I can't go back either. Personally I run around 1-5 degrees below horizontal and it is just awesome. I never feel like I am strongarming the bars/grips and have a relaxed control over steering and braking.
  • 1 0
 @gnarlysipes: opposite, what I'm referring to as "French style" (due to me learning about it from a Downtime podcast with Fabien Barel and videos with Yoann Barelli) is closer to parallel with the ground. My intuition is that it puts your forearms into more of a pushup position than a bench press position.
  • 1 0
 @jwestenhoff: Wild. I may have to give that a try. It seems like it would hurt my hands or wrists but I can see how it might put your arms in more of a power position.
  • 1 1
 @font style="vertical-align: inherit;">font style="vertical-align: inherit;">jonathanreid9/font>/font>: magyarorszagon is sokan alkalmazzák...ezt a "stilust"
  • 9 2
 Couple things with brake levers I always notice from teaching:

1) Brake levers are usually too far out, and usually setup like this from the bike shop. Move the brake levers inboard, even to the point of being on the other side of the shifter, in order to get your index finger in the crook of the lever. I find its the #1 reason why people use two fingers on their brakes.

2) Brake lever adjustment up/down starting point should be drawing a straight line between your wrist and the middle of the grip. Too many people run the "conventional" way of drawing a straight line between your wrist and your knuckles, which makes the brake lever too far down. If the top of your forearm is getting sore, they are too low. If the bottom of your forearm gets sore, they are too high. Find the happy medium to avoid arm fatigue.

3) Brake reach is usually wayyyyyy too far out, almost maxxed out in most cases. The closer you run your reach to the bars, the more the brake lever will act as a grip which in turn also reduces arm pump. I tend to run my reach all the way in, then back off 1/4 to 1/2 a turn... just enough not to hit my knuckles when fully engaged.
  • 11 1
 Agree on 1 and 2 but I've changed my mind on 3. I felt the same way as you but what I realized was that when braking hard with the reach all the way in I was having a hard time releasing in a controlled way. My arm and finger were so clenched that I lost a lot of the modulation 'strength' in my muscles if that makes sense. I'm running as far out as possible now...instant bite and its wild how much my braking has improved...I lose traction and skid on a steep section or roll and I'm able to regain control immediately as the musculature needed to make that change is so minor. This is really hard to explain in writing but I hope that makes sense...encourage you to try it.
  • 3 1
 This. I always adjust lever up/down with my arms extended and ass an inch above the back tire to simulate the steeps. If you set them up for comfort in an upright seated position they will be too low when you need them most.
  • 1 0
 @wolftwenty1: I prefer having my first finger joint closest to my finger nail be on my levers crook or bend and have my second knuckle down from my nail be the pulling action. I think my levers are something like 42mm from the bar at the farthest point of the lever. Honestly everyone has different hands and fingers so experimentation is key.
  • 3 0
 @wolftwenty1: I'm with you on this, lever engagement is highly personal but engagement further out seems to give quite a bit more control....
  • 2 0
 @slabba53: I tried out Yoann Barelli's brake position, aka parallel to the ground, at the end of the 2020 riding season and while it felt very odd at first, I now feel like it is the only way I can ride. I rarely get arm pump and feel much more comfortable riding most types of terrain from moderate to really steep. More of my hand has contact with the grips and my wrists feel very relaxed and neutral. I should note that I usually now have them between 1-5 degrees below parallel. Any lower and the position to me feels VERY odd and uncomfortable.
  • 8 2
 100% agree that high sweep bars are not for aggressive riding. Tried some of the SQLab ones and they were super-comfortable until I hit some downhill, where the aggressive sweep caused damage to my outside-edge wrist cartilage.
  • 14 1
 16 degree backsweep is quite extreme but I find 12 deg. perfect for all round riding, including jumps and dh. Personal preference.
  • 9 0
 Probably that everyone's different, I once got pain on the outside of my wrists with a DH bars with not enough backsweep. It felt like my arms where pushing my wrists outward. 12° may be the sweet spot for me as well.
  • 5 1
 @tremeer023: always rode 11/12 deg on bmx so it's just natural feeling to want that on the dh bike too
  • 5 6
 7-degree sweep is perfect
  • 2 0
 Tell me more. I was thinking of getting one of their bars.
  • 5 0
 @gnarlysipes: I have the 16 degree bars. For me, the backsweep is definitely noticeable when switching between bars, but I would say I can ride 98% as aggressively once you've gotten used to it. It's definitely a huge leap up in comfort though, it keeps the wrists in a much more neutral position. I do notice the effective decrease in reach, which can make a cramped cockpit even less roomy. I want to try the 12 degree bars to see if they're a decent compromise.
  • 1 0
 @gnarlysipes: Their regular sweep is quite flat, much more so than Race Face, Deity, etc.
  • 4 1
 @gnarlysipes: It depends on so many factors...Ergonomics are not a one-size-fits-all situation. In cases where you expect to take a big hit and your elbows are going to flex out to absorb the impact, if your hands already angled back a good amount, then that's more angle put into the outside edge of your wrist. It just didn't work for me.
  • 3 0
 I have the 12 degree SQ lab bars but you have to dial in your stem length to make it feel good steering. I have settled on the PNW 31.8 10 degree backsweep bars. They feel like a good middle ground between most bars and the SQ lab ones. Plus SQ labs are insanely expensive.
  • 2 0
 @Will-narayan: Try the 10 degree backsweep PNW bars. That is what I used for DH and they feel great.
  • 3 0
 @pcjones: I went from a 40mm stem to 50mm switching from 9 deg. to 12 deg. It feels about the same difference to me (I'm sure it isn't exact). The extra backsweep feels more natural and way more comfortable to me too.
  • 4 0
 @gnarlysipes: I have bad wrists and have been running the 16 deg SQLab bars for about 3yrs. They take a while to get used to but I'd say I ride just as aggressively as I used to (although I'm not a rock star by any means!). I highly recommend them if you are having comfort issues.
  • 3 0
 I think the claim about backsweep is personal preference, not biomechanical gospel. I've switched to 20deg bars (Protaper 20/20) to deal with a shredded wrist, and it has been a huge benefit to both my healthy and unhealthy arms. Once I got a few rides in to acclimate the 20deg bend, it has done nothing to slow me down and cause issues during aggressive riding. If anything, I'm riding faster than ever on them thanks to less arm pump and fatigue.
  • 4 0
 I'm a big fan of SQ 16 degree bars and find them fine for agressive riding. Horses for courses I guess - I'm sure they're not for everyone but wish there were more brands doing them. I've been on 12 and 16 degree bars for a few years now and wouldn't go back.
  • 5 0
 @pcjones: also they have an effect in ESL (effective stem length - grip centre to steerer centre). Typically I need a 10mm longer stem with a 16 over a 12.
  • 7 0
 Hi @Explodo
Basti from German SQlab HQs here.
Sorry to hear your experience. Feel free to drop us a PM & we can go into details, would be gerat to get more insights, because we never heard of a case like this, before.

As the other comments point out, the majority of the feedback for our bars is very positive.

Still, based on our experience, for agressive riding, lot of technical & rough, alpine stuff, we do recommend the 12° backsweep bars, not the 16° ones.
But ist is always a combination of personal preferences and if you have bigger issues with your hands/wrist/numb fingers & co.
In general: more backsweep helps more, especially the bigger the existing issues.

If you want to balance out reach / grips position to innital setting, when switching to a "more backsweep" bar, you normally need to add 10mm stem length for 12° and 20mm for the 16° .
But TBH, only a few riders do so, bikes getting "longer & longer", most try the original stem, first, before adding spends for a new stem.

Yes, our carbon bars are bloody expensive, we can't deny that, but we have solid Alu versions around 100bucks (e.G. the 3OX, in Llow, mid & high rise, for each 12 & 16° versions, each), as well.

BTW our carbon bars are known to be super solid,
In a lab test by german BIKE magazine, 21 bars were tested for "end of life" forces, and only 2 bars survided, ours and a Synatce one. Sorry, didn't find it online, only a video teaser:
  • 2 0
 @pcjones: I was thinking about getting the 12° bars. Maybe that’s a good compromise. Good to hear that you can adjust to even the 16° bars.
  • 3 0
 @SQlab: Hi Basti. With stack heights staying relatively similar on L and XL bikes and steep seat tube angles, there is a need for tall risers for taller folks. I'd love to buy a pair of 16deg bars with a 75mm rise... I'm all out of headset spacers and currently have your 45mm rise bars. Just throwing it out there! Cheers
  • 4 0
 @derekr: Basti, writing from private account, because late evening & using my mobile.

Thanks for the input, always very welcome (doesn’t matter if positive or negative, always appreciated).

Forwarded to the product team, but whenever SQlab is mentioned at pb, I am sharing the link & they are following the threads.
And they are all avid pb readers, anyway, so in case I miss anything, they share it in our groupWink
  • 2 0
 @kokofosho: for sure. I love the 10° sweep on the PNW bars. I only wish they combine them with a OneUp style carbon. Perfect bend + perfect compliance.
  • 2 0
 @derekr: @SQlab I would also love a higher rise 16 bar - 75mm would be great. I'm running the 45mm rise 16 with 20mm spacers.
  • 3 0
 @gnarlysipes: Do it.

Ergotec do a 50mm and 70mm rise 12 degree bar which are a lot cheaper than SQ.

While the Ergotec are good they not as supple as the SQ Labs bars (which are my preference).
  • 1 0
 @fartymarty: The PNW bar may be the quickest test for me. I won’t have to change my stem and it’s cheaper.
  • 1 0
 @gnarlysipes: let us know how it goes. Rode yesterday on my 16 and love it. It’s definitely fine for agrressive riding.
  • 8 1
 This article could also be taken: "How NOT to setup your cockpit if you have 3 balls"
  • 3 0
 3-ball brake lever position is the best brake lever position.
  • 4 0
 Please be more elaborate on how to hold the bar.
When I first got on a mountain bike, I got 11 degree backsweep bar and the bar align from front of my thumb to the outside of my hand in the middle (where there are intersections of many hand muscles) and it doesn't feel good.
Then I thought I need more backsweep. I bought bar with 16 degree backsweep. Now the bar span from front of my thumb to the outside of my hand at the base, near the wrist (palmaris brevis muscle). This feels much better as there's no more pinching sensation on my hands. But then when I look at how most other people hold their bar. My grip seems different. Everyone else seems to like their bar to span from front of the thumb to outside of the hand near the base of pinky finger (abductor digiti minimi muscle?). To achieve that position I may need something like 7 degree sweep bar. Less sweep instead of more...

So... how to hold the bar?
  • 1 0
 Look for my youtube link comment and watch the last half and he goes very in depth on bar positioning.
  • 1 0
 the thumb to the outside of the hand is a bit more 'old school' IMO and many people did it cause I think their levers were too low. Move your lever in...and do the last hand position you'll be happier.
  • 4 1
 This is a great article for beginners. Honestly, this info in its entirety took me years to discover (especially snippits like SRAMs freestroke adjustment - why don't all brakes have this...). Travis and Seb with the deep dives!
  • 1 0
 I still don't understand the reason for freestroke adjustment. Why not just go with least freestroke and adjust the lever reach such that the bite point is where you want it? My current brakes (Magura Louise 2006 front, Marta 2009 rear, both with Louise 2007 calipers) don't have bit point adjustment. But I've also ridden with the Louise 2007 and 2008 masters which do have this (called BAT, bite adjustment technology) and I always just found myself winding it all the way out.
  • 1 0
 @vinay: I am using mine to match throw while using a 2mm rotor with new pads on one brake and 1.8mm rotor with half life pads on the other.

That's the first time I've ever moved it away from the shortest throw setting.
  • 1 0
 @AndrewHornor: I always feel there is some difference in lever throw between front and rear brake and I always thought that it was due to the flexibility in the standard hose. When I use a stiffer rear brake hose (steel braided or Jagwire) it usually levels out.
  • 1 0
 @vinay: oh yes, usually a rear brake has a little more squish from hose expansion. In my case, I put the thicker rotor with new pads on the rear, resulting in no free throw at all. I could let out some fluid but opted for the quick and easy solution to keep both brakes feeling similar. When the new pad+rotor thickness wears down to less than my bleed block, operation will be restored to normal.
  • 1 0
 @vinay: Yea, just to have the pads as close to the rotors as possible without rubbing. And if they are, to be able to back them off. But I wouldn’t know for sure as I’ve never had brakes with the adjustment
  • 1 0
 @iduckett: free stroke adjustment changes how far the lever has to swing before the pads start to move. To your finger, this does feels like the pads are being adjusted, but they don't change position
  • 1 0
 Personally I also prefer my bite point to be as soon as possible but I don't quite see how freestroke adjustment would help there. All it can do is delay the bite point. A lever without freestroke adjustment is like having the freestroke dialed all the way out (to the earliest bite point).

Pad wear adjustment is in the caliper though I can understand that if you indeed use new pads in combination with a rotor that's thicker than what the brake is designed for, the pads will touch the rotor well before the slave pistons start to slide and adjust for pad and rotor wear. From there onwards, the bite point will gradually shift until indeed operation is to normal. You're aware of this so accept that you have to learn to cope with this shifting bite point. That's ok, but it is good for other readers (of this thread) to be aware of too.

I see a lot of attempts here and there of people trying to (temporarily) get an earlier bite point than stock. I wonder whether more people should opt for a closed system like BFO (Brake Force One). They're becoming rare (and undesirable) for mtb use if used with DOT as the oil tends to expand as it heats up, locking up your brake. But the water used in BFO doesn't quite have this property as severly, from what I understand. You'll only need to adjust for pad wear yourself but I can only see this being an issue on very long descends (and/or maybe very a very abrasive environment).

Personally I don't need to have both levers to feel exactly the same. As you could read, I'm already using different brake masters front and rear. I do like them to have an equal amount of sponginess though, hence the stiffer rear brake hose. Not sure whether getting a stiffer front brake hose too would put me off again, haven't tried that.
  • 1 0
 @vinay @AndrewHornor : Thanks for clearing that up. I'm definitely a set and forget guy when it comes to brakes. Unless the pads are gone or the lever is closer to the bars from advancing pistons, I don't mess with 'em. I have MT7s with BAT option, but Magura shipped them with plugs. While I don't have the adjustment kit, after replacing a broken lever I can see how it works, a separate pressure point adjustment (sort of like preload) of the master cylinder, as opposed to the external lever reach adjustment that is on the lever itself (doesn't press on master cylinder). To your point, as the Maguras default to pads already being pretty tight against the rotor, I don't know why one would want to advance the pistons even closer, at least for trail riding. Maybe downhill you could run the pads tighter to the rotor if you don't care about noise. Probably why Magura doesn't provide the adjuster anymore.
  • 1 0
 @iduckett: Yeah, but I don't think the bite point adjustment allows you to create an even earlier bite point. If you don't have the adjustment, you're getting the bite point as early as possible. The adjustment (for those who have it) only allows them to delay the bite point.
  • 1 0
 @vinay: Ah yes, I had it wrong. According to Magura the bite point is set based on caliper design. So never mind then. The BAT-adjuster adjusts the free travel of the lever. With the HC3 lever you can change the mechanical leverage ratio, giving you the ability to adjust your power and bite point "firmness".
  • 1 0
 @iduckett: Ah yeah, the HC3 lever gives you a lot of options indeed and I understand the confusion. Do you understand how a brake caliper works? In most modern hydraulic brake calipers (so no Gustav and not the first generation Louise) you've got one or more pairs of opposing pistons (two pairs in your case). When you apply brake pressure, the piston deforms and pushes the pads towards the rotor. Only when pads and/or rotor have worn so much that the pads still don't properly press the rotor, do the pistons slide in their bores. When you then release pressure, the pistons deform back and the pads move along. In case of Magura because the pistons are magnetic, in case of most other brands because there is a spring between the pads pushing them towards the pistons. But the pistons obviously won't slide back in the bores. So the gap you then have between rotor and pads is your free stroke. It is defined by how much the pistons can deform. Some people go to lengths to reduce this free stroke. One "solution" I often read about is overfilling the system, which only implies overfilling the reservoir as the rest of the system is already full of oil. The reservoir is so full that there needs to be an excess in the rest of the system, always pushing the pads out a little. You basically turn it into a closed brake system, just without the dial to actually adjjust the pads. This isn't without risks as overheating the brake causes the pads to move even closer to the rotor or even locking up the brake. And it isn't durable either, as once pads and rotor wear the piston gets to deform the way it normally would. The approach @AndrewHornor uses is less risky. By using a thicker rotor he makes sure there is so little room for pads and rotor that when you apply brake force the pads already touch the rotor before the pistons are completely deformed. Obviously with wear, the pistons will deform more and more to reach the pads until they'll extend fully and you're back to how the brakes are designed to work. With more pad/rotor wear, the pistons will slide but only so far that the pads press the rotor when the pistons are fully deformed. So your bite point will be consistent with wear, just not as super early as you got it with the tweak.

It may be another TL;DR again but if you made it through, I hope you got a better understanding of how the automatic pad wear adjustment works and why the bite point is where it is.
  • 5 0
 Studio lighting and backdrop makes for a polished article that highlights the talking points. I like!
  • 5 0
 This is an old Beta article....the content and presentation was very good.
  • 1 0
 It does look polished but all the black doesn't necessarily help with clarity. Depending on what gear they had available, they could have made different choices. Brands do make colored stems, brake masters and handlebars. Especially the image trying to explain the orientation of the brake master could have been clearer. If I were to pick an example, I'd take the instructions as given by Park Tool. They may be a different style and I understand some would prefer all the polishing. But if you need to look at a screen in the workshop or if you bring these instructions in print, the Park Tool approach would be better.
  • 2 0
 So basically every section ends with 'its personal choice'. Would have been useful to have a section on the right handbar width as this is a common error out on the trails.

Many of us (especially gravity riders) get relief from arm pump by running levers almost flat.

However having suffered badly from arm pump in the past I would say that there is more benefit from focusing on body position and riding to alleviate the need to brake so much thus reducing arm pump.
  • 2 0
 "it can be hard to detect a bar that is rocked too far forward or back... Angled too far back, it will lead to poor weight distribution across the palms. Angled too far forward and it will cause wrist pain."

Palm and wrist pain are hard to detect? So many contradictions right in the first few paragraphs.
  • 3 2
 So I constantly see pro riders, bike testers on pinkbike, running saddles slammed all the way forwards. The saddle manufacturers have these things printed on the rails that say "DANGER do not clamp past this point". And we're always past it, even the picture in this article is past the safety markers.
What's the real danger? Any horror stories?
  • 3 1
 Problem is slammed back, not forward. All the way back first good case on a proper descent all your weight can violently push the nose up, goosing you or worse. All the way froward, as long as it's clamped to the level rails and not on a bend, you'll never have a problem. It's just mild pedalling forces. Of course on flat or mellow rolling stuff it probably doesn't matter.
  • 4 0
 @DirkMcClerkin: I like your answer. It appears the community answer is “we don’t know and we don’t want to find out”
  • 2 0
 @Mtmw: Haha, so true. Bon voyage seat rails
  • 1 0
 "There are bars with more or less sweep, which is a matter of preference. Bars with more sweep tend to be more comfortable but not as well suited for aggressive riding."

It's a preference, but if your preference is for more sweep then your preference is not suited for aggressive riding... STFU.
  • 1 0
 elbows in for the win
  • 2 0
 You missed what I consider the biggest benefit of keeping your hands fully on the grips (i.e., not having some hand hanging off the end of the bar): it minimizes the chance of hurting your hand if you clip a tree.
  • 1 0
 I have gone to more backsweep the last couple times I've changed bars and it definitely more comfortable for my destroyed wrists. I feel no negative consequences for more aggressive riding. If my wrists feel like shit with less backsweep I can't ride aggressively anyway.
  • 1 0
 "Seat tube angles have been trending steeper lately because it puts your body weight further over the pedals, giving you a greater mechanical advantage when climbing"

Can you explain how a steeper seat tube angle gives a rider greater mechanical advantage?
  • 8 9 want a good talk on geometry, setup and have the specialized geo chart ripped to shreds here is your gold. Pinkbike doesn't even actually measure any bikes they just copy and paste from the manufacture. If i'm wrong on this @mikekazimer @mikelevy @Danielsapp please make me a fool, but all I see are press releases for geo and not real numbers. It's disappointing that you guys come to so many conclusions based on geo when the numbers of the majority of bikes, especially seat tube angles and effective top tube are just pie in the sky numbers.
  • 8 0
 Effective stack and reach (measured from the end of your grips) are the most important factors in determining bike fit.m yet they are never discussed. I’m not convinced that Peter’s PVD Rad numbers are right for my riding but at least he has a well designed system for fitting.
  • 7 0
 Content aside, that YouTube guy's presentation needs some work to be watchable.

Agree with your second point 100%. Honestly marketing must have written in the geo charts on some of these bikes.

Our riding group did a seat angle comparison, it was crazy. Between two riders with identical seat heights, one with a "73.5°" seat angle was steeper than a "77°" degree bike.

Every review uses that number as gospel. Though I've seen Bike Radar occasionally publish measurements.
  • 3 1
 @50percentsure: I absolutely agree Peter is a longgggg winded guy but 1.5x speed and a little coffee goes a long way.
  • 10 1
 @tprojosh - It's disappointing that you come to so many conclusions based on...?

We often don't even look at geometry numbers while testing a bike until we need to write or record the review, so I'm not sure why you're saying that we base our riding impressions on what the charts say. I don't care what the charts say, and we've said that many times in reviews and podcasts. We do sometimes measure the bikes and find differences but, just like you pointed out, it's more about how they feel on the trail than what the chart or company says.
  • 3 16
flag pvd666 (Nov 15, 2022 at 14:14) (Below Threshold)
 "@mikelevy: We don't even look at geometry numbers."

I fixed that for you.

Seriously. Your statements describe such a very low level of testing that, in the real world, means that you are doing marketing...which you are. I'm sorry bro, your marketing outlet continually demonstrates no understanding of bike geometry or actual bike setup. I know that you can't do that as it might effect your advertising and cost you a lot more in payroll but just call it as it is, a shill.
  • 12 3
 @pvd666: Nice, Peter. I've looked at some of the stuff you've made and read a few of your opinions, and while I might not agree with everything you say, it's pretty cool that you're taking matters into your own hands and building the bikes that you want to ride. Some of them make me believe that you have no understanding of bike geometry or actual bike setup, but kudos to anyone out there designing and building their own anything.

Let me know when you need a marketing guy! How about a nifty catchphrase like, "Our bikes are ver-diculously good!" Or maybe, "You won't OTB on a PVD!"
  • 3 14
flag pvd666 (Nov 15, 2022 at 16:17) (Below Threshold)
 @mikelevy: I do a lot of work to back up everything that I discuss and make, then I ride it on real trail. That I show proper setup prints is far more than #pinkbike has ever done. I have seen ZERO actual setup prints in any article on your channel. Seriously, most of the tech articles are flat out wrong, misleading, or ad copy. That's not a difference of opinion or theory, that's a whole different universe.

You might believe that I don't understand bike geometry or setup, but you're not basing that on proven knowledge. I'm in a different position.

Example, in almost every article your folks write, you refer to the location of the upper head bearings as a parameter of value. Can you explain that? Why is the upper head bearing so important on a mountain bike? What does that do for a rider when climbing or descending on a trail?

Here's the game; show us. Include an actual setup print of the bikes that you are 'testing'.
  • 12 3
 @pvd666: You are definitely in a different position, I won't argue that one. The content on Pinkbike isn't made for someone with as much knowledge and experience as you have, obviously. And the time you've invested in setup sheets alone speaks for itself, everyone knows that. I'm reading this in the shower and I can literally feel my parameter of value lowering.

Okay, what about "STD with PVD" for a catchphrase? The std obviously stands for Stable Trail Dynamics, your new patented geometry.
  • 2 0
 @50percentsure: yup. just look at it..... if the actual is whack you know it's gonna be slack. ahem. Santa Cruz.

I'm a tall dude, who always slammed my saddles forward. My current bike has an effective angle, at my ridiculous seat height, of around 78. Now I am happy not running my saddle slammed all the way forward. long chainstays also help. wish more brands would get on the size-specific rear center train.
  • 2 3
 @mikelevy: "We often don't even look at geometry numbers" But you talk about them like they are the truth. I absolutely understand that you say what you get paid to say; like those god awful reviews that have the Beta ads all over it. I would just like more transparent and honest reviews when "geo" is the big thing nowadays. I was brought up with a father in the press industry and he taught me integrity was everything, if you haven't proven it yourself don't publish it, but im sure your boss tells you what to say. The reality is that I know how this works, the company sends you a cute little packet of info to go off of and send you guys a bike to test sometimes but the reality is if anyone but @mattbeer is testing it you boys don't put out the watts for an honest comparison. @henryquinney This is why we don't hear from this angel on any of the videos anymore because he is so knowledgable the sponsors for the site move him to the shadows. Am I wrong?
  • 5 1
 @tprojosh: Yes, you're 100% correct in all your assumptions, especially the part about our boss telling us what to say, sponsors not letting Henry be in more videos, and the earth being flat. But at least you're in the comments fighting for truth, justice, and a better tomorrow!

Thank god your father taught you those important life lessons about integrity and how you're the special one who can see reality through the smokescreen that is life.
  • 2 0
 @mikelevy: You wish it was flat, you'd never have to attempt the impossible climb. Less smokescreen, more gold tooth, never trust a wanna be Lil Wayne Wink Levy, its not about justice its just about some commenters making sure I can be in the shower with you. In all seriousness though Why is this link not in the AD banner, since she wrote about in on gofundme its public information and could be shared without foreword. Alicia riding again is a better tomorrow Levy.
  • 4 3
 I tried telling the credit card company it was *my* bike because I set up the cockpit correctly.

They had a different opinion.
  • 6 3
 Don’t tell me how to live my life.
  • 2 3
 As a taller rider I would only point my brakes levers more downward if I was riding park paths. I generally run mine somewhere between about 45' down and horizontal so that I can still reach them comfortably when way off the back riding steeps. For the rest of it, listen to your body. If you think your setup needs work bump one adjustment up by a 2-3 notches and go for a couple of rides then settle for a new setting. Then do the same for another adjustment. Then you have to consider the effect both changes have made and experiment again. This is my why I love and also hate getting new bikes.
  • 3 1
 If only there was a way to represent what is considered a "neutral position" of the handlebar. Like a picture perhaps.
  • 1 0
 With the bike level, bar should be rotated until (grips) level-ish. That’s always my starting point, anyway.
  • 3 1
 This article is useless.
I don’t know where to mount my dropper
post leaver on my drop bars.
  • 1 0
 This reads like a haiku.
  • 2 0
 no word about bar width...?? did I miss it or is this a key detail which got lost?
  • 2 0
 I know right. How many people honestly know their bar width sweet spot. I've seen too many riders who are smaller (almost always women, logic dictates) than me using bars that are way too wide for me, let alone for them. 5
A small difference can have a huge impact on control and comfort. Basically, spend time finding your sweet spot for width. You'll know it when you hit it.
  • 1 0
 check with your medical insurance, bike fit can be done with a physiotherapist of your choice and be fully covered. Just let the pro do the work Big Grin
  • 7 5
 Just here for the comments really.
  • 3 0
 How do you guys come up with C. Top Tube Horizontal numbers and J. the seat tube angle? Also what is the seatpost offset of the seatpost on the Ransom and the new Genius?
  • 2 0
 but its not a cockpit is it
  • 2 0
 Why is there no autoplay video so we can complain about it!?!?
  • 2 0
 it is 2022, it should "how to set up eMTB"
  • 1 0
 How about: (1) stem length, (2) bar rise, (3) bar width, (4) seat height, and (5) dropper travel?
  • 1 0
 This whole article could be swapped out with the words, "however you like?"
  • 3 3
 Travis Engel!!!! Very nice!
And I’m guessing you’ve only got two reproductive organs?
  • 3 2
 Just buy a Scott and you've got your mountain bike Co*k already set up
  • 1 1
 But I don't own an axs dropper...guess my seat position and angle is all wack yo
  • 1 0
 The top picture's cables are still too long for my tastes.
  • 1 0
 do you even steer bro
  • 1 0
 @valrock: No turning. Just straight down.
  • 2 2
 Raise the nose of your saddle for long rides… numb dink is awesome!
  • 1 0
 How to put your cock.
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