Asking The Pros | What Is the Most Important Component On Your Bike and Why?

by | Apr 11, 2023 | Bike Setup, Bike, Cycling Athlete Profiles, Skills & Setup, Sports

We’re doing a series of articles taking a look at the preferences and habits of South Africa’s top cyclists. In this instalment, we find out which components they pay most attention to!

Maybe it’s your gears, or your brakes? Do you get very particular about your suspension, or tire pressures? Maybe you’re just a get-on-the-bike-and-ride kind of person? For me, it’s my brakes that I think about the most. If they aren’t delivering lots of power early in the stroke, I just don’t feel confident to go full gas on the trails.

Brakes Are A Very Important Bike Component To Have Set Right
I am super particular about my brakes. Speed is nothing without control they say!

We reached out to a bunch of SA’s best road and MTB riders to hear what component they are most particular about on their bike. The answer was almost unanimous!

Find our bike setup articles here if you want to dig into more on the topic!

Asking The Pros: “What component on your bike are you most particular about and why?”

Marco Joubert (Imbuko type{DEV} powered by Giant) – 2022 ABSA Cape Epic Queen Stage Winner)

Saddle height and setback are the number one priority but in a very close second it is suspension setup. The further back the saddle set-back the more you will use glutes and hamstrings. I prefer to sit right back and engage those big muscles for flats/long climbs where the effort is more of a steady zone 3/4 burner to save my quads for the out-the-saddle type efforts or efforts where I would be on the nose of the saddle – steep climbs and mainly high end zone 4  + efforts.

Mariske Strauss (Rola / Liv / Garmin) – 2022 African XCO Champion

Mmm, I would have to say my saddle and then suspension is a close second. The saddle is crucial, it’s one of the three contact points you have with your bike and all those who have had the unfortunate experience of a bad saddle will understand how much of a difference that comfort makes to your life.

Tristan Nortje (Toyota Specialized) – 2 X u/23 National XCO Champion

Definitely suspension! There are a few but definitely suspension and then my setup on the bike; the angle of the saddle, the reach and the height of the saddle must all be correct otherwise I don’t feel one with the bike.

Also my brakes must be completely 100% be on the same angle and the reach of the levers.

Haha, I’m quite hectic with my bike but as I say, I need it to work to do my job just like any other job needs the tools to do the job. My bike must be 100% sorted before every ride.

Amy Wakefield (Efficient Infiniti Insure) – 2022 National Marathon Champion

I’m very particular about my suspension. I do a sag test for baseline pressure and put the rebound in the centre. I will then go for a ride with a shock pump and play around with rebound clicks and pressure until I’m happy. From there it’s minor adjustments for different courses.

Suspension Is A Very Influential Component Of The Bike
Keeping your suspension dialled is key to a consistent ride. It is well worth taking the time to get right.

Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (Denver Disruptors) – 2022 Elite Road National Champion

All of it from pedals, cleat set up to handlebar width and stem lengths are important to get right, but perhaps the most crucial part is the saddle. There are a plethora of brands and hundreds of different designs to pick from and it can be overwhelming. I think it’s best to test a range of different saddles during a professional bike-fit and try to get a saddle pressure mapping done whilst you ride. The right saddle will improve power output, help you to keep an aero position for longer, reduce fatigue and, allow you to be able to ride for many hours more than a poorly fitted saddle would.

Gert Heyns (Valley Electrical Titan Racing) – 1st at Wines2Whales and sani2c 2021

I am very particular about my suspension feel on the bike. Especially how efficient my rear suspension feels under pedalling conditions, having both front and rear suspension that is set up correctly makes riding a lot more fun. I am actually quite particular about every component on the bike but as a pro rider I have learned to not overthink it too much as component choice is often out of your control.

Kim Le Court (Efficient Infiniti Insure) – 2023 Absa Cape Epic Winner

Most riders would probably say suspension. But for me it’s the saddle & handle bar positioning. As I am a bike fitter myself, those two are super super important for me. If they are not in the right spot I believe you cannot perform at your best potential and be comfortable while riding your bike. More comfort, more power, more riding, right? 

Travis Stedman (Q36.5 Pro Cycling Team) – 2022 Elite Road National Champion

Definitely my saddle and bar width. Doing quite long hours I always make sure to have my same brand saddle every year and if I have to change brands I try to find models that are as close in design as possible. I also really enjoy my narrow handlebars 380-400mm.

Matt Beers (Toyota Specialized) – 2021 and 2023 ABSA Cape Epic Winner

Saddle height and angle need to be 100% correct or I get lower-back issues.

Sarah Hill – 2023 Attakwas Extreme Winner

Most important thing for me to be dialled is the saddle height and reach. I ride so many different bicycles and if things are not right I can feel it immediately! 

Phil Buys (Pyga EuroSteel) – 2022 South African Marathon and XCO Champion

I’m quite particular on my saddle height and setback. I switch a lot between normal seatpost and my AXS dropper and would do the setup myself.

Asking The Pros | What Is The Most Important Component On Your Bike And Why?
Phil Buys charging hard at Absa Cape Epic 2023! Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic.

Frances Janse Van Rensberg (Stade Rochelais Charente-Maritime) – 2022 / 2023 Elite Road National Champion

Gears and saddle for sure. Needs to be set perfectly. Otherwise I won’t enjoy a ride, haha!

Cherise Williet (Sandton City) – 2nd at 2022 National Road Champs

Saddle for sure, and very particular about my brakes not rubbing as I have a fear of suffering more than I need too.

What can we deduce?

Well I think it is fair to say that the saddle takes the cake here! If you’ve ever ridden with a saddle that doesn’t fit your body you will appreciate the value of having the right support for your body on the bike.

When It Comes To Bike Components, The Right Saddle Is Key
When it comes to bike components, the right saddle is key!

Getting a proper bike fit done, as Reinardt suggested, could go a long way to making sure you’re comfortable and happy on the bike! You might have no idea what you are missing out on. Finding the ideal saddle design and positioning on the seatpost for you is not a simple feat!

Suspension setup also came up quite a lot amongst this group. It is one of the lesser understood parts of bike setup. We did our best to break it down here for you if the whole process is a bit intimidating. If you’re not up to sorting out your suspension setup yourself, we recommend popping into the local bike shop every couple of months to make sure your pressures are appropriate as well as the compression and rebound settings.

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