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  1. #1
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    Does BB height matter to you?

    It seems that BB height trends dictate that a lower bottom bracket is ideal. But my 5.5"-travel trailbike's 13.2 inches BB height seems to be too low for me because I keep on hitting my pedals. But I'm building another bike (old 6"-travel frame) which has 14.5 inches of BB height. I'm anticipating that there is quite a huge difference. Will it be drastic? How would it feel? Or is it just a matter of getting used to?

    Whadya say? What could be an ideal BB height for the current AM bikes that are supposed to be the best balance of various compromises?

  2. #2
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    bb height is so user and terrain specific that it's hard to take one person's experiences and apply that to yourself. Sure, a low bb height is really nice when you coast through the rough and there isn't much rough to slog through, but if you're a pedaller, run flats, and have rough trails, a higher bb is going to serve you better.

    For my part, my long travel hardtail has an 11.5 inch bb height before sag, which is super super super fkn low, and it's awesome 80% of the time. When it sucks it's super obvious,and whether you're willing to tolerate it depends on you and your trails.

    A small change in bb height is pretty obvious to the rider, but what works out to be the best compromise is a pretty user-specific deal. Sorry i don't have a number that is the best, but this is totally a riding-style speciic number.
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  3. #3
    on my 3rd wind...
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    It does to me but depends on bike travel.
    I prefer 13.0"-13.5" for 4" FS bike. Inch lower on HT.
    For 13.5-13.75" for 5"-5.5" FS bike.
    And 13.75"-14.0" for 6" FS bike.

    13.2" to 14.5" BB height will be a huge difference. Less pedal smash on rocks but you won't corner as well and will feel little tipsy during slow technical moves.
    sth

  4. #4
    TNC
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    BB height is always an interesting discussion. scott is so correct about some of this being preferential. I absolutely hate serious pedal smack, and some bikes have it in spades...others don't. There are so many factors. On the handling issue with some tall bikes and many riders, there is often a problem with a decently tall BB. I had an '03 Bullit with a very tall BB...forget the number at this point...but I had installed a longer shock and fork. Though it didn't quite carve like my Nomad, I had no problem with fast cornering. I've ridden some other tall BB bikes and didn't have much cornering issue with them either.

    I got to thinking that perhaps it was because I was used to riding very tall long travel dirt motors. While not a 100% comparison, you have to be very conscious of where the CG of the dirt motor is when you lean it into a corner aggressively. The height of the bike is less of an issue when you have the CG planted directly over the tires and into the bike's footprint...if you get my drift. I basically do the same thing with my mountainbikes, right or wrong. I think lots of people are more into steering and remaining as upright as possible. Of course you have to lean to some degree regardless of skill or fear factor, but leaning into the corner right at the point of the bike's CG and tire contact point being in line diminishes the impact of the BB height. It's a little bit of balancing act, and it can bite you once in awhile, but you can get used to it.

    Funny thing...that Bullit didn't pedal all that efficiently, but you could pedal that sucker through some pretty nasty rock gardens without pedal smack. On the last trip to Moab with a riding buddy, his frame broke on his Spec Enduro the second day out on a 10-day trip. I bring the Bullit as a backup bike, and even with a 170mm single crown fork and the OEM sized 8.5 X 2.5 shock, the Bullit is known for a tall BB. My buddy rode that bike the rest of the trip, noticed the serious lack of pedal smack in many of the technical, rocky trails there, and absolutely loved it. As already stated...people are different.

  5. #5
    wuss
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    Quote Originally Posted by titaniumgearsolid
    It seems that BB height trends dictate that a lower bottom bracket is ideal. But my 5.5"-travel trailbike's 13.2 inches BB height seems to be too low for me because I keep on hitting my pedals. But I'm building another bike (old 6"-travel frame) which has 14.5 inches of BB height. I'm anticipating that there is quite a huge difference. Will it be drastic? How would it feel? Or is it just a matter of getting used to?

    Whadya say? What could be an ideal BB height for the current AM bikes that are supposed to be the best balance of various compromises?
    Don't take anyones word regarding BB height too seriously unless you know they are riding similar trails. The lower ones will feel better when carving along, but if your trails are very rocky you'll just end up banging your pedals all the time and losing your flow.

    My trails are very rocky, and low bikes just don't work very well here. Luckily I have adjustable drop outs (which I generally have to keep on their highest setting for most trails around here). However I've been riding some places where the trails are smooth enough that banging pedals would never be an issue, there the lower BB would work great.

    You can learn to smack pedals less, but it's not just about skill.

    Also, when you look at the listed BB heights remember that it's an unsagged value. My previous bike had a higher BB on paper, but the increased travel and the way the suspension is set up results in the new one having a lower BB when sagged and with compressed suspension. I don't think the different drop out settings on my bike make more then a 3-5mm differnce in BB height, but it feels like a huge difference on the trail.

  6. #6
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    Thanks for the responses so far.

    I did some back-reading on my old MTB magazines, and I noticed that my 2005 6"-travel frame's "batchmates" had pretty much the same lofty BBs. Mine is a 2005 Giant Reign and the others from the same magazine article were a Cannondale Prophet, Gary Fisher Cake, Kona Dawg and Marin Quad TARA. All their BB heights hovered at around 14 inches, considering most of them were 5"-travel trailbikes. I guess that was the trend during that time, to have that much ground clearance on their BBs.

    So, now I'm thinking that if ever the Reign's BB feels a tad too high, I could just try compensating by dialling more suspension sag. Which leads me to this question: how much sag is too much? (Just for a point of reference, I've always found 28-29% of sag on my 5.5"-travel DW-Link bike to be its sweet spot.)

  7. #7
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    Suspension design can affect how much sag you should have (and usually does). Also the shock you have can make a difference on what works. If you have something that blows through it's travel easily (RP23 with too low compression tune or high volume casing for example) increasing sag could result in quite compromised suspension performance.

    But it's definitely something worth trying. I used to have an air cartridge in my fork and switched to coil. It travels far higher in travel resulting in a higher BB. This will probably allow me to use one step slacker setting my my drop outs keeping the BB at the same height as before (it's winter now so hard to judge, snow evens out all the rocks). On the opposite note I tested having a softer spring on my shock last autumn and it caused me to bash my pedals quite a bit more.

  8. #8
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    i look a tt length, ha, and sa before i check bb height. to me it is not a huge deal, i assume, maybe naively, that the bike manufactor will get it right. it has never detered me from buying a bike.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by titaniumgearsolid
    It seems that BB height trends dictate that a lower bottom bracket is ideal. But my 5.5"-travel trailbike's 13.2 inches BB height seems to be too low for me because I keep on hitting my pedals. But I'm building another bike (old 6"-travel frame) which has 14.5 inches of BB height. I'm anticipating that there is quite a huge difference. Will it be drastic? How would it feel? Or is it just a matter of getting used to?

    Whadya say? What could be an ideal BB height for the current AM bikes that are supposed to be the best balance of various compromises?
    Going to a 1.3 inch higher BB before sag with hardly any more travel is a huge difference. Some of the change in handling and balance can be reduced by using much deeper sag, softer springs, and tune a little firmer damping to prevent too much wallow from the higher weight center and softer suspension.

    There is no ideal BB height. Rock crawlers like higher BB for pedaling clearance to avoid dangerous pedal strikes. Downhill riders with mostly smooth climbing prefer lower BB where pedal clearance is a rare problem. Longer travel bikes with softer suspension need higher BB to maintain some pedal clearance when sagged and compressed further in turns and while pedaling through bumps.

  10. #10
    TNC
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    I don't think I'd put a lot of sag into the Reign to achieve a lower BB. Most bikes get mushy and harder to handle in many types of terrain. Even with carefully tuned compression and rebound, excessive sag usually has more negatives than positives in the resulting ride. Some examples are where the sagged bike tries to stop in slower, technical terrain...the geometry and feel of the bike changes in hard cornering at just the wrong point...and pedaling efficiency is almost always affected negatively. It's not a good bandaid. As dropadrop suggested, strictly going by BB numbers is not the whole picture.

  11. #11
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    If your pedals hit the ground or rocks, then some work on your technique is required. If your BB hits the ground or rocks, then a higher BB is the solution.
    Check out my SportTracks plugins for some training aid software.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by PissedOffCil
    If your pedals hit the ground or rocks, then some work on your technique is required. If your BB hits the ground or rocks, then a higher BB is the solution.
    I don't know about that statement. I don't think there's one blanket that can be thrown over this whole issue. There's some truth there in many situations, but it's not absolute depending on terrain and the bike...even a bike in perfect setup. The myriad of bike designs and suspension designs alone just about make that impossible.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by TNC
    I don't know about that statement. I don't think there's one blanket that can be thrown over this whole issue. There's some truth there in many situations, but it's not absolute depending on terrain and the bike...even a bike in perfect setup. The myriad of bike designs and suspension designs alone just about make that impossible.
    Yes, it's to be taken lightly. My point was that everybody talks about pedals hitting the ground, yet you have control over that in many cases. It can be annoying, I agree, but it's something to keep in mind.
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  14. #14
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    Ratcheting won't get you there all the time. A lot of times you just can't get enough power to get over some big rocks without at least full revolution. It's also dependent to some degree on your rear hub engagement. There's one super rocky trail I hit my pedals at least 5-6 times per ride. The more I focus on avoiding pedal strikes, the more problems I have with not cleaning sections I've cleaned successfully before.
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  15. #15
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    High BB in Michigan for that rocky/rooty crap.

  16. #16
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    As people have said, it's a ton of personal preference. I ride a ton of rocky stuff and yet prefer a low BB for handling traits. I don't mind having an occasional pedal strike and have gotten quite good at timing pedaling to avoid them.

    FWIW the two bikes I ride the most are a 5/6" FS AM bike with a 13" static BB height and an 8" FS DH bike with a 12.9" static BB.

  17. #17
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    adjustible seatpostto lower CG

    Don't worry too much about the BB height as per these posts!
    Put an adjustible seatpost on your bike and lower your CG by alot when needed.
    I'm rocking a 14.65 in. BB with a 4in drop seatpost! No problem what so ever!

  18. #18
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    I have ridden FS bikes anywhere from 13" to 15". As mentioned very terrain specific. Some of my worst pedal smackers were 5" trail bikes equipped w/ air shocks - they just ate travel making the pedals magnetize to the ground. Anytime I went into rocks I felt like I was driving a lowered car approaching a speed bump.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hardtails Are Better
    8" FS DH bike with a 12.9" static BB.
    Holy cripes!! You probably can't even pedal that thing out of turns
    On my 7" bike with a 14.1" BB and 36% sag i reeeally have to be careful.

    I can now see the future of DH. Bike parks with tracks that require no pedaling.. hence bikes with no drivetrain and uber low BB's.
    Last edited by PsyCro; 01-26-2011 at 02:29 AM.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by PsyCro
    Holy cripes!! You probably can't even pedal that thing out of turns
    On my 7" bike with 36% sag i reeeally have to be careful.

    I can now see the future of DH. Bike parks with tracks that require no pedaling.. hence bikes with no drivetrain and uber low BB's.
    You'd be surprised. I've learned to ride it, and it works pretty damn well. Is it too low? Honestly, yes. Is it a lot to low? Nope.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by PissedOffCil
    If your pedals hit the ground or rocks, then some work on your technique is required. If your BB hits the ground or rocks, then a higher BB is the solution.
    So basically you are saying that pedals can never be too low. I have to assume we are riding very different trails.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by dropadrop
    So basically you are saying that pedals can never be too low. I have to assume we are riding very different trails.
    I'm saying that a higher BB is the easy solution. Working on timing your pedals is also a solution until the BB hits the ground or rocks.

    East coast root & rocks are as bad as it gets to smash your pedals. But we learn to deal with it here. Not to mention that riding trials has improved my handling a lot.
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  23. #23
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    Shouldnt BB height be dictated by your terrain and style. Having ridden several places in the east coast and now living in texas, for smoother faster and/or twisty trails I can see a low bb height being a good thing. I have also ridden some place where the number of logs, tombstone rocks and other crap requires where you ride slower a higher bb is the way to go..

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by titaniumgearsolid
    Thanks for the responses so far.

    I did some back-reading on my old MTB magazines, and I noticed that my 2005 6"-travel frame's "batchmates" had pretty much the same lofty BBs. Mine is a 2005 Giant Reign and the others from the same magazine article were a Cannondale Prophet, Gary Fisher Cake, Kona Dawg and Marin Quad TARA. All their BB heights hovered at around 14 inches, considering most of them were 5"-travel trailbikes. I guess that was the trend during that time, to have that much ground clearance on their BBs.

    So, now I'm thinking that if ever the Reign's BB feels a tad too high, I could just try compensating by dialling more suspension sag. Which leads me to this question: how much sag is too much? (Just for a point of reference, I've always found 28-29% of sag on my 5.5"-travel DW-Link bike to be its sweet spot.)
    If you have an air shock, try more sag and see how it rides.
    I had a Reign X1 with too stiff a spring (15-20% sag), then I swapped to too soft a spring (30-35% sag) and it rode better in some ways, and felt really smooth pedaling, but I banged my pedals more.

  25. #25
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    I don't think it's a good idea to play with sag to get the ideal BB height IMHO. Getting the correct sag, hence getting the best shock absorption is the main idea, and getting the BB low as a result.

    The pedal smacks only occurs on gnarly stuffs and by running too high a pressure to raise the otherwise low BB, the bike will be bouncing all over the place. And to run a lower pressure to bring an overly high BB down, you'll risk bottoming out and bike wallowing too.

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kaizer
    I don't think it's a good idea to play with sag to get the ideal BB height IMHO. Getting the correct sag, hence getting the best shock absorption is the main idea, and getting the BB low as a result.
    i concure. you may get your bb to the perfect height but if your shock works like poo who cares?

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by PissedOffCil
    If your pedals hit the ground or rocks, then some work on your technique is required. If your BB hits the ground or rocks, then a higher BB is the solution.
    I am a trail rider that rides for fun - I don't care to increase my skills by focusing on an absolute pedal position technique.

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by keen
    I am a trail rider that rides for fun - I don't care to increase my skills by focusing on an absolute pedal position technique.
    Getting better is kind of fun! Try it.

    Let me recount this story that occured at the start of last season. I was with a bunch of folks of a local club. We we're probably around 15 riders of all levels with a bunch of different bikes. We were in Bromont. I had my XC hardtail, 11.5 inch BB height. Since it's the start of the season, not all trails we're all cleaned up so we stumble upon a fallen tree. The tree was about 1.5 foot high so of course everybody stops, dismounts, passes the bike and resumes on the other side. Well I had been riding the trials bike for a little while and was confident I could pass the tree. So I stopped 10-15 feet away from the tree, trackstand and wait for those in front of me to pass the tree. Once they cleared the way I take a couple of pedal strokes to gain speed, quickly rose my front wheel as I reached the tree, bunny hoped about 1 feet high. I didn't clear the tree with the hop, but had just enough height for my big ring to dig in the trunk. With proper pedal placement I gave it a good stroke, passed the tree and landed on the other side, without ever putting my feet on the ground.

    It was fun and no amount of "bike" would have helped me pass that tree. I believe the same applies for rock gardens, you can do it the easy way and blame the equipment/trail or you can try the hard way and improve, pushing your limits.

    It's your choice, my mind is made.

    Bye bye.
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  29. #29
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    Lower is better for CG and balance, however in rocky CT i always look for a bike that has at least 13.75" of clearance, and go double ring/bash setup. I have a blur that i do not like because of the low bb, and i run 170mm cranks on it.
    All the skill in the world, may help, but doesn't change the fact a higher bb is a better idea for certain riding locations.

  30. #30
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    When I went from the old style 575 frame (pre '08) to a newer style '08 model the very very first thing I noticed when I got it out to a familiar trail was that I was hitting my pedals much more than on my old bike. I knew they lowered the BB a bit but I didn't expect it to make that much difference. I quickly put a longer travel fork on it to help out a bit, and sent the shock to PUSH as it wallowed too much exasperating the problem.

    Sure, I have adapted as much as possible but I'll take a high BB any day for chunky Phoenix riding thanks. +14'' would be great but I think I'm at 13.75 or so now.

  31. #31
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    I've measured about 3mm bb height difference between the steepest and middle drop out setting on my uzzi. The middle setting causes way more pedal strikes which seems surprising. I tried the slacker setting for about 2 months but had to go back. Now I changed to a coil cartridge in my fork and will try the middle setting again.

  32. #32
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    I agree, the height matters. On my Fat Possium I had almost no pedal hits, on my Anthem X3 I clip them at least 2 to 3 times a ride. Like both bikes for different reasons though.

  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by titaniumgearsolid
    It seems that BB height trends dictate that a lower bottom bracket is ideal. But my 5.5"-travel trailbike's 13.2 inches BB height seems to be too low for me because I keep on hitting my pedals. But I'm building another bike (old 6"-travel frame) which has 14.5 inches of BB height. I'm anticipating that there is quite a huge difference. Will it be drastic? How would it feel? Or is it just a matter of getting used to?

    Whadya say? What could be an ideal BB height for the current AM bikes that are supposed to be the best balance of various compromises?
    I have found that pedals hitting the ground and other stuff is something I can learn to avoid doing once I get used to the bike, though it will take a number of pedal strikes for that to happen. My last bike had a pretty high bb, and even though I did not care for it, it still took me a little while to get used to the lower bb of my current ride (by get use to I mean learn to not smack the pedals). However, I did adjust, and I do prefer it.

    I have yet to ride terrain that makes me want a high-ish bb. I have always preferred the lower bb's. Yes, certain challenging rock gardens that I've never done before will take a little more care, but for just about every other situation (steep climbs, steep descents, cornering, most rough sections at speed, most slow technical maneuvers, and anything with an OTB risk) I prefer a lower bb. The balance and control over the bike feels better to me. So even on terrain that have had places that favor a higher bb, with that also comes more features that (for me) favor a lower one.

    Of course everything is relative, I would not want a 5" bike with a 12" bb. But within the range that frame designers have settled into, I find the lower ones work best for me.

    As someone else mentioned, as you increase travel, you also nee to increase the bb height to account for the extra compression. This is one reason I have gravitated back to 5" bikes from 6" ones.
    15mm is a second-best solution to a problem that was already solved.

  34. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by kapusta
    Of course everything is relative, I would not want a 5" bike with a 12" bb.
    I actually tried something close to that, it was about 12.2" with 4.6" of travel or something. It was on my old Bottle Rocket with a shortened shock and lowered fork. It had -1.5 degree headset cups in it too, so it had a HTA in the 65 degree range. It was stupid fun on smoother, flowy bermed stuff, and jumped very well, but was damn near unrideable in a lot of other situations.

  35. #35
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    While we're talking about extremes- my 5" hardtail has a 11.5" static bb height, just for laughs. It works pretty well, you have to take chunk/logovers/etc with speed, but it feels more stable when you do it. Too low, for sure, but a lot of the time i like it.
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  36. #36
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    My enduro (6" bike) has a 13.7 BB height and my Rize has a 13.0 (5" bike). I bang the crap out of my rize in colorado rocks. Still hit the enduro but not as much. As far as on way down they are two total different bikes that i do not think has much to do with BB height. But for climbing that little bit makes a big difference. I say to each there own.

  37. #37
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    My Ibis Mojo SL has a 13.2" bottom bracket. I bang pedals much more often than on my 2002 Ellsworth Truth and more than on my hardtail Voodoo Bizango with a 12" bottom bracket height; however, I am more likely to pedal through technical stuff with the Mojo than with the Voodoo because you can just sit and pedal the Mojo and it goes.

    I'll take the pedal hits and wouldn't change a thing about the Mojo. As I get used to the bike, I'm banging the pedals less. And the pedal hits gave me a really good excuse as to why I 'NEED' new wheels with hubs that have almost instant engagement! I had wanted to upgrade the wheels anyway, but having a really good rationale is bonus!

  38. #38
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    13.2 is pretty hight! My FS right now is at 12.5"... Wanting to raise it up to about that...

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    oooold thread resurrection....

    I'll play, I do notice lower BB heights. I can adjust my technique to accommodate for it, I enjoy that part of it. I'm always trying to be a better rider, the first ride out on my new bike that got pedal strikes I just took the mindset "oh, ok, gotta figure out my pedal strokes better"
    Deflated - buy parts to sell parts to buy more parts.. bikes are my drug of choice

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  40. #40
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    BB height matters a ton to me, as all I do is seek rocks to play in.

    luckily, I got a new AM bike with a nice tall BB, so...no worries

    13.3 inches/338mm

    338 is actually the -average- height of 2016 production 27.5 FS 'trail' bikes

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  41. #41
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    13.3 is high?! My last bike was 14.6. 13.3 is pedal banging low.

  42. #42
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    Just went to 165mm cranks. No more BB issues.

  43. #43
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    Only to the extent that I have pedal strikes that aren't my fault.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr Evil View Post
    Just went to 165mm cranks. No more BB issues.
    what is your inseam measurement? not pointing fingers, i just have the preconceived notion that shorter crank arms work better for riders with relatively shorter legs but I could be wrong.

  45. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheBaldBlur View Post
    what is your inseam measurement? not pointing fingers, i just have the preconceived notion that shorter crank arms work better for riders with relatively shorter legs but I could be wrong.
    36" and they work fine for me. I need a slightly lower gear, like one, two cog difference to feel right at home.

    I'm not currently running any, but i would if i already had them.
    "Things that are complex are not useful, Things that are useful are simple."
    Mikhail Kalashnikov

  46. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheBaldBlur View Post
    what is your inseam measurement? not pointing fingers, i just have the preconceived notion that shorter crank arms work better for riders with relatively shorter legs but I could be wrong.
    29".

  47. #47
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr Evil View Post
    29".
    is twentynine still gay
    or is that old false word
    oops I wasn't clipped in

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    Quote Originally Posted by scottzg View Post
    36" and they work fine for me. I need a slightly lower gear, like one, two cog difference to feel right at home.

    I'm not currently running any, but i would if i already had them.
    ah, same here - so my notion is wrong, good to know! I suppose you have to insert the seat post a little to compensate, but that's no biggie. Thanks!

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    I think raising or lowering the five-pass height has little effect on the stability of the bike.

  50. #50
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    BB height absolutely matters to me. Coming from a bike with roughly a 12.75" bottom bracket height to an Intense Recluse with a 13.5 and its a HUGE difference in clearance. Ill take the slightly "higher" BB any day of the week in the Midwest. Or anywhere that you have to pedal.

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    Higher BB is going to be one of the priorities on my next bike. I'm recovering from another tumble resulting from a pedal strike. Apparently the geo specs (at least from Specialized) do not include suspension sag. Although my hard tail Fuse is supposed to be lower than my SJ I have much better clearance riding the Fuse. The higher BB doesn't hurt my handling or stability, so I don't know the point of the low BB. Since I have had my SJ I stay worried about pedaling because I've had so many strikes, and it takes away from the fun and makes me slower. I keep the shock pumped up to max pressure to hold me higher, so the travel doesn't even get utilized.
    2018 Guerrilla Gravity Trail Pistol XXL
    2017 Stumpjumper Comp 29
    2016 Fuse Pro (29er)

  52. #52
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    Quote Originally Posted by TNTall View Post
    Higher BB is going to be one of the priorities on my next bike. I'm recovering from another tumble resulting from a pedal strike. Apparently the geo specs (at least from Specialized) do not include suspension sag. Although my hard tail Fuse is supposed to be lower than my SJ I have much better clearance riding the Fuse. The higher BB doesn't hurt my handling or stability, so I don't know the point of the low BB. Since I have had my SJ I stay worried about pedaling because I've had so many strikes, and it takes away from the fun and makes me slower. I keep the shock pumped up to max pressure to hold me higher, so the travel doesn't even get utilized.
    All FS bikes are measured static for future reference. None of them account for sag percentage when giving a BB height.

    Sent from my LG-H931 using Tapatalk

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