The Soapbox: The First Things I Do To All My New Bikes

Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!  You just got a new bike! Sweet, I just got a new bike too!  (It’s true; I just got a 29er Trance).

Chances are you are stoked and ready to hit the trail… but… just how ready is that bike when you wheel it out of the shop? The truth is, not all that ready if you ask me.

I’ve been pretty lucky to get fresh bikes on a fairly consistent basis over the last decade, but before I hit the trail, I generally spend a minimum of three hours working on it before I deem it ready to go.

The modern mountain bike is an insanely adjustable, technical piece of equipment and any suspension bike you buy has the ability to adapt to riders of vastly different sizes, weights and riding styles. Chances are that if you get the set up wrong, that fresh new whip you’ve been drooling over for the last 6 months is going to feel like the proverbial bucket of shit- despite what all the glowing reviews say.

There’s also the personal aspect of setting up a bike to suit your riding style and preferences. So, with my background as a pro DH racer, here’s the minimum of what I do to all my bikes before they even leave the workshop on that maiden voyage-

1-     Grease the BB threads, headset and hubs.

Most pre built bikes come with minimal grease in these areas. Add some grease and you won’t have to do it later. With Shimano BB’s I generally space the drive side cup in closer to give a better chain-line if it’s possible. I also cut down the steerer tube to get rid of any excess spacers.

Lube it up as they may not have in the factory.

2-     Shorter stem, wider (riser) bars and grips of choice.

This is a personal choice but you won’t find me running a stem any longer than 80mm or bars narrower than 740mm on any of my bikes. For me, carbon bars are out- too much flex and I’m happy to carry the extra weight.

Riding position is key, so work out what you like and make those changes to all our bikes.

3-     Tubeless tyres.

With the exception of my downhill and jump bikes, if it isn’t tubeless, I make it tubeless.  I’m a huge fan of the “ghetto” tubeless setup which involves a 20” tube, some electrical tape and sealant. I have a bit of a history with this, and I’ve tried other options but I keep going back to this if I don’t have tubeless wheels.

You would have to be insane to still be using tubes.

4-     Suspension setup.

I always set up my suspension before I set my saddle position. I could write a book (or at least a really thick pamphlet) about suspension setup so all I’m going to say here is that if you know nothing about suspension, find someone who does. If the shop you are buying your bike from can’t help you, find another shop!

It’s complicated but important and worth getting right.

5-     Saddle position, lever position, bar height, bar roll, tyre pressure.

I spend a good amount of time making these final touches and I’m probably overly pedantic about it. That said, fit is everything and a professional bike fit is the best option for rookies at this stage. I also check my tyre pressures every time before I ride.

A few more minor adjustments and I’m ready for the trail.

Now, I’m sure that for most people reading this, all these steps might seem pretty logical but all it takes is a quick look around the local trail head and it amazes me just how many riders don’t take the time to set up their bikes properly or to suit their riding styles.

In an ideal world, any bike shop you drop a few grand at should do all this, and more, without kicking up too much of a fuss. I think it’s crazy that people would rather save $100 and overlook these crucial aspects of bike setup and with this in mind, sometimes the best deal isn’t the cheapest.

As human beings we are all unique and individual and I believe our bikes should reflect this. After all, chances are you’d hate how my bike is set up!

Any other tips or ideas? Post below!

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