We are now just over a month away from the KAP sani2c, so hopefully you will be getting the miles in to prepare the legs for what is to come! As you spend more time on your bike, you will become more familiar with what feels good and comfortable while riding, and what doesn’t. A basic bike setup, which is easy enough for you to do at home, is something that can be of great benefit to you and enhance your riding experience. With long days on the bike up ahead, it is all the more worthwhile for you take a moment to setup your bike properly! Even if you have been riding the same bike for years and you’re essentially one unit, they may be a thing or two for you to learn here. Be sure to share this with your friends so that they can benefit from it as well!
Either watch the videos below or read the post for tips on how to get your bike fitting you just right.
The key points that we will look at in this post are the cockpit, the saddle, tire pressure, and suspension.
If any of those things sounds like they may be too complex for you, we are going to try and make it as simple as possible for you to understand!
We have done a couple of in depth videos on setting up the cockpit, saddle position, and suspension before. You can find links to those just below here, otherwise read on below to get the information in written form.
Kicking off with the cockpit. Making adjustments to your current handlebars and stem can help you to make you feel comfortable and adjust your natural body position on the bike. When riding for several hours a day at en event such as KAP sani2c, as well as in your preparation, being comfortable on the bike is quite desirable.
Important factors to consider with cockpit setup are height and width. The higher up the handlebars / grips are raised, the less weight you will have on your arms, the more upright you will sit and the more comfortable you may find yourself on longer descents. The advantages of the lower cockpit are a more aggressive riding position, as your body becomes less upright. This is good for climbing and crushing road miles but can be taxing on the descents. Each person will need to find their perfect balance that suits their body and riding style.
In order to raise up the cockpit height you can either add spacers underneath the stem on your steerer tube, or swap out your handlebars for a set with a higher rise.
The length of the stem (connecting your handlebars to the steerer tube) can also affect the weight load on your arms but also your steering and reach (think cramped or stretched out on the bike). A short stem (40-55mm) is great for descending, bringing your weight backwards and making the steering nice and fast. This will reduce the reach of the bike though, which could be an issue if you don’t have a lot of room to work with. Most marathon bikes have stems in the 80-100mm range but these are becoming shorter as the bikes are designed with longer reach numbers. Long stems are better for climbing and get you into that aggressive riding position mentioned earlier.
We certainly recommend considering the grips you have on your bike. Finding a comfortable grip that suits your hand size with the right diameter and length that are easy to hold onto will be ideal for long days in the saddle with long descents. A decent set of grips is well worth the money. Larger diameters can help reduce arm pump on descents and there are even some grips with a small wing to support your wrist if you struggle with wrist pain. Find the grip that works best for you and you will not regret it.
When it comes to finding a good saddle and getting it into the correct position, this is a no brainer that you want to get right. Your saddle need not be uncomfortable to sit on. If this is the case, see what your local bike shop has on offer in terms of a saddle fitting or advice to find a saddle that suits your body with the correct width and padding. Getting stuck with an uncomfortable saddle is the stuff of nightmares! It doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg and it should fit your body right.
Once you have yourself a comfortable saddle you want to make sure that it is set at the right height and in the correct position on top of the seat post. To get in the right ballpark with saddle height, sit on the saddle with you heel on the pedal at the bottom of its stroke. You should have a straight leg in this position and that means when your foot is clipped in, there will be a slight bend in your knee. Too high and your hips will rock from side to side when pedalling, too low and your knees can take unnecessary strain
Moving the saddle forward on its rails can put you in a good position over the pedals fro climbing though further back may be more comfortable for you on the flatter sections and long hours as you have a bit more room between your seat and the handlebars. You can make small adjustments here and find what works for you.
AT the rails you can also tilt the saddle angle. The baseline you want to start from is level with the ground. From there, if you desire, slightly dropping the nose of the saddle can make for a more aggressive seating position particularly for climbing. Try to avoid making big adjustments here. A flat saddle angle is usually ideal. Sloping back is a no go.
Suspension adjustments can often be intimidating and overlooked as a result. Proper suspension setup allows your bike to pedal efficiently as well as absorb the terrain you’re riding over. These are very important to get right! If you have too much air in your suspension, you are likely to be bouncing around on a pogo stick. Too little and the bike will wallow and be difficult to climb hills on. Getting the right pressure is not too complicated though and shouldn’t take too long.
All you will need is shock pump (small high-pressure pump) and possibly a tape measure, depending on your bike.
If your suspension or frame does not have any recommended settings for air pressures relative to your weight, start with your kilogram weight in psi for the fork and 2X your kilogram weight in the rear shock.
Sitting on the bike gently without bouncing should compress the suspension to 20% at the fork and 25/30% at the rear shock with you full riding weight. Use the O rings on your suspension and the tape measure to calculate this if there aren’t any markings on your suspension. Add air if the susopension compresses too much (5psi increments), reduce air (5psi increments) if the suspension isn’t compressing enough.
Finally let’s have look at tire pressure and tire choice.
Some fresh tubeless tires, if your rims are compatible, will be a worthwhile investment for your KAP sani2c ride (or other riding you have planned). For a marathon such as the Sani, you will naturally want fast rolling tires on your bike which should be easy enough to come by at your local bike shop. Don’t shy away from a front tire with a more aggressive tread pattern. Something like a Kenda Regolith or Maxxis Ardent could offer increased traction and confidence to trust your front wheel in corners and technical terrain that could be a game changer!
2.25-2.3 inch tires should allow you to run lower tire pressures which are ideal for traction and rolling efficiently. Lower pressure allow the tire to conform to the terrain and not bounce off of obstacles which both enhance the rolling efficiency and traction, to a point.
When considering tire pressures, you want to those be low enough to allow the tire to conform to the ground and not bounce off all the obstacles but high enough to prevent puncture and offer the support to your weight. A 70-80kg rider might be around 22-23 psi front and back (1.5 bar) on the marathon bike. If you are heavier or tend to ride hard on your bike, you will need more pressure and the converse will be true for lighter and more gentle riders. Try these out and see what feels better for you!
Do your best to check your tire pressures before every ride. Consistence is key to having them work well for you and feeling familiar each ride. A portable pressure gauge can be a helpful tool for keeping track of tire pressures!
It is totally worthwhile to make sure your bike is setup right for you before you dive into your stage race adventure! Give yourself the time now while you have it to get familiar with the changes and figuring out what will work best for you!
Drop any questions in the comments and enjoy the ride of your life!