Asking The Pros | What Are You Most Particular About On Cockpit Setup?

by | Apr 4, 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 quiz them on their cockpit setup preferences.

There are few things when it comes to bike setup that one can be so particular about as one’s cockpit setup. The stack height of the bars, stem length, bar width, brake angles, bar roll, grips, shifter positions, the adjustability is endless! We all have our own little nuances in setup, even if we are unaware of it.

How Pro Riders Like Their Bike'S Cockpit Setup
How do pro riders like their bike’s cockpit setup?

Small adjustments to your bike’s cockpit can have significant impacts on your comfort and control and thus are worth a moment to ponder and experiment with some changes! Have a read through what South Africa’s best racers are most particular about when it comes to cockpit setup, then have a look through our guide here for some tips to make yours feel like home!

Asking The Pros: “What are you most particular about when it comes to your cockpit setup?”

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

I think stack height is probably the most important for me, especially since I am a road cyclist. If you imagine your body as a 2 dimensional stick-object from the side, Stack height and saddle height are the two points that most influence the angles of the ¨sticks¨. Getting your stack height right is going to help reduce pain and prevent injury in your lower back, and will allow you to maintain a position that is more aero, but also more stable and will increase power output.

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

For me it’s the saddle & handle bar positioning. Being a bike fitter, these are quite specific for me and super important. You need to be able to feel your bike and be with your bike as one and not just on top of your bike. So yes, every little minor detail is super important to me. Brake angle in my opinion is quite personal to each rider – bar roll to me is something I do look at because this could be something so small that causes you to have numb hands without really noticing it. 

Cape Epic Results And Recap Stage 5 2023
Kim Le Court (in front) won the 2023 Absa case Epic with Vera Looser. Photo Sam Clark/Cape Epic
Gert Heyns (Valley Electrical Titan Racing) – 1st at Wines2Whales and sani2c 2021

I like to have my bars at a specific height and sweep in relation to my saddle. I position my brake levers tilted higher up than many others as I believe it helps with preventing arm pump. I once watched a video of downhiller Fabien Barel explaining why it’s better and I have been convinced ever since. I also like my brakes to have some play so that they only start braking when they are pulled close to the bar because I feel it puts less strain on my fingers and hands.

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

Angle of the hoods, angle of the handlebar. I like my hoods turned in and the handlebar must be set so that the drops curl upwards a bit. 

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

The angle of my brakes. If they are not right and I have to brake it doesn’t feel like I’m doing it right. I quite like my brakes very upright. Also my wahoo mount and stem must all be in one perfect line with my front wheel. I can’t handle it if it’s not straight, haha!

Thank Able Of Your Brake Lever Is Crucial In Bike Cockpit Setup
The angle of your brake levers is crucial in your mountain bike cockpit setup.
Mariske Strauss (Rola / Liv / Garmin) – 2022 African XCO Champion

EVERYTHING, I swear if something is a millimetre out I know. I think it’s because I’ve been racing my bike for so long that my bike and I fit like a well worn pair of jeans. You know the one, your go to pair that just sits perfectly. So please do not tamper, I’ll know 😉

Sarah Hill – 2023 Attakwas Extreme Winner

I like to run my brakes pretty steep to avoid any wrist pain on rocky terrain. I prefer flat handlebars and currently slam my stem as low as it can go (it makes me feel more secure on the climbs!). I absolutely hate gloves, so my most particular item is a good set of grips, ESI Chunky Grips to be exact!

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

Aligning my stem with the front wheel is quite important and also my left vs right brake angles and setup need to be the same.

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

I’m fussy about the placement of my lockout lever and dropper lever, they must be placed perfectly so that I can access them quickly and easily without compromising control of the handlebars. Same goes for my shifter but that’s easier to get right.

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

Brake angles, bar roll, stack height, grips etc. All of the above! When you’ve done a couple of Cape Epics you get to appreciate a well-thought-out setup. I like a longer stem setup (110mm) because it allows me to stay in an aero position longer when needed. I have quite a long torso so I need that space up front.

Marco Joubert During The Imbuku Big Five Mountain Bike Challenge
Marco Joubert keeps it pinned on the descents!
Travis Stedman (Q36.5 Pro Cycling Team) – 2022 Elite Road National Champion

I like my hoods to be angled slightly inwards and rolled slightly down so that I can get my body quite low down.

Matt Beers (Toyota Specialized) – 2023 ABSA Cape Epic Winner and man of many words.

Bar roll and brake lever angle I like to be correct but it has changed year to year.

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

Not too phased, as I travel with my bike often that means packing and unpacking the bike a lot and sometimes my bike build happens when I am over tired so the handlebars might be a bit skew 🙂  or brakes points up a bit too much but I roll with it – as long as the brakes don’t rub I am happy.

What can we deduce?

Stack height (and notably in relation to saddle height) seems to be quite key to a lot of the pro riders we spoke with and it makes sense! Bikes can be uncomfortable if not set up correctly and it is very difficult to put down power when you’re not in a comfortable position to do so. We would highly recommend a professional bike fit assessment if you’ve never done one, particularly if you struggle with discomfort on your bike.

Grips weren’t mentioned as much as I thought they might be but brake angles were certainly a common response. Tilting your levers up or down affects the angle of your wrist and how easy it is to rest on the bars. Bringing them further up (towards parallel with the ground) can help you relax onto the handlebars and makes braking easier on steep descents!
A little bit of experimenting with your cockpit setup can unlock major changes in comfort on the bike. Here is our guide to the basics of cockpit setup. If you’ve heard anything interesting here, give it a go and see how it feels!

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