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  1. #1
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    What makes a bike a good climber?

    Lets say same rider and bikes A, B, and C. What parts of a bike's geometry makes bike A and better climbing bike than B or C, if everything else is equal. I'm trying to understand bike geometry a little better since all these years I've basically ignored it. Now I'm looking at maybe getting a new frame this year and I want something that will climb well.

  2. #2
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    Having short chainstays helps with keeping traction when it gets steep. Also a very stiff BB to rear axle area helps make the bike use every ounce of power to the pedals. Also if it's a SS, you'll want less twisting in the frame in general for those moments you have to pull up strongly on the bars.

    My 2c.
    I see hills.

    I want to climb them.

  3. #3
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    So what is considered a short chain stay? Also, other than reviews, how do you know is a BB is going to be stiff? Sorry about these newb questions, it's about time I start learning about this stuff I guess. And yeah, it will be a SS bike.

  4. #4
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    What makes a bike a good climber?

    The guy turning the pedals

  5. #5
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    Right, I understand that, but same rider different bikes, some climb better, some decend better, some do other things better. It's about geometry and I'm trying to learn what makes a frame a better climbing bike.

  6. #6
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    What makes a bike a good climber?

    Well I'm not a frame builder so my answers are a suggestion only, based on the frames I've ridden. Chainstay length depends on wheel size, but for an idea, anything less than 440mm is considered short for a 29er. I've also preferred steeper head angles when climbing.

    Back to the bb/cs area, I'd think a flat horizontal brace between the stays would resist the torsional forces better. I'd imagine chainstays that have been ovalised would transfer power more efficiently.

    Maybe it wouldn't hurt to search the frame builders sub-forum here, and if that turns up negative, start a thread there. Some builders might be hesitant to give up their secrets though.

    Like I said earlier, my 2c only. Good luck with your decisions.
    I see hills.

    I want to climb them.

  7. #7
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    I have a hard time imagining how a frame can do all that much for climbing, seems that mostly belongs to the drive-train. I'm a noob myself though so maybe I'm not considering the right things. Perhaps if you are sitting during the climb, a seat placed further back to put the gravity more squarely on the rear wheel would assist. I wonder if, while standing on the frame, if the frame makes any difference at all on climb.

  8. #8
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    Drive train makes hardly any difference, as long as you have the right gears for climbing, it shifts smoothly under load and it's light then it's good for climbing.

    My ideal climbing MTB would be as light as possible as long as it's strong and stiff enough to transfer power and not break, it would have no suspension (the cons outweigh the pros for climbing), 71 degree front end angle for agility, 73 degree seat tube angle (because that's what suits me for producing power), a long and low reach so that I can get my upper body low whilst seated and not feel restricted whilst standing, short chainstays (415mm or thereabouts) and an oxygen tank for when I reach the top.

  9. #9
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    I like the O2 tank idea. I just read about how this bike or that bike climbs like a mountain goat, so that makes me wonder what it is about those bikes that make it that way. I've also read the opposite about bikes. I like climbing but I suck at it so I figured if I'm going to have a frame built custom, I might as well design it to be a frame that might help me climb a little better. Any little bit of help I can get on a climb is much needed.

  10. #10
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    Weight is a big one. You definitely notice a lighter bike when climbing.

    A more stretched out, low, more forward body position helps. 90s era xc race-type bikes climbed great because they were light and tended to run long stems that put you in a more stretched out forward position. Steeper head tube and seat tube angles also. Running your seat high enough to get full leg extension helps too. Bars were typically lower than the seats, sometimes by several inches.

    However, the geometry characteristics that make a bike climb well, do the opposite when the bike is pointed downhill. As riding got more aggressive in the last 10 or 15 years, bikes got slacker angles and more upright riding positions.

    But climbing varies by terrain. There are some climbs I fly up on my rigid bike, and others where full suspension helps me if I need to charge over roots/rock/ruts. There is no perfect bike.

    I think I climb better because I learned back in the early 90s on those types of bikes. Since I knew what the body position felt like climbing on those bikes, I can somewhat duplicate that on newer bikes. Though I do tend to still run my stems longer than most newer riders.
    Warning: may contain sarcasm and/or crap made up in an attempt to feel important.

  11. #11
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    What I was trying to quantify was the feeling of acceleration you get when you put the power down. Some frames are sluggish in this respect. I had a steel El Mariachi which was smooth riding, but felt like it sapped my energy when climbing. I then bought an aluminium Carve and the difference was night and day, keeping in mind that all the parts were swapped from one bike to the other (except the rigid forks). Insignificant differences in geo between the two bikes (both XC frames). Also the El Mar dropped chains frequently whereas the Carve is yet to do so, even after 12 months.
    I see hills.

    I want to climb them.

  12. #12
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    For me its not about transmitting power but holding a desired line or path while going slow uphill steering around obstacles. Thats what mostly causes me to put a foot down. I would say geo is most important but two equivalent bikes might climb or feel differently. I don't think all the variables have been quantified enough to tell exactly how a bike might feel just by looking at the spec's.
    lean forward

  13. #13
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    I think it's the bike or frame as a package. Steep HA, long TT may work for some but busted on others. Weight has some to do with it, as well as travel but not always. The best climber in my stable is a 6.5" travel. It's definitely my go to bike regardless of how many other newer bikes I have.

    Personal preference is definitely trumps all. I climb better with more compact cockpit than the one that's more stretch out racing style.

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