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  1. #1
    Formerly of Kent
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    A big thanks to LMN, A. Craig, and the locals.

    I bought my first MTB last September, and with a half dozen singletrack rides under my belt, started racing this April. I upgraded immediately to Cat1, and was promptly shown that good legs are only half the battle. Since then, I've trolled the internet, bike shops, and group rides, looking for advice from people in the know. I've asked people I've been riding with what they think would make a significant change. How I can improve my bike handling ability to match the amount of power I'm able to put into the pedals.

    I've PMed LMN incessantly, and he's been incredibly helpful and patient. The man himself, Adam Craig, came into town over Memorial Day weekend, and we (just he and I) met up for a ride at the local stomping ground. He gave me a lot of good pointers, which for some reason I failed to implement immediately. I rode with the local DH/FR/AM crowd every Thursday night, drank beers with them, and soaked up what I could.

    Well, three weeks ago, all of that came to fruition. Several days after my last MTB race of the year, of course. I finally took the advice that probably a dozen people had given me, and purchased myself a set of proper handlebars. My old Ritchey WCS 550mm bars are in the parts bin, and my new 660mm bars are on the bike.

    The difference between the old and new bars is breathtaking. I'm going downhill faster than I thought was possible on an XC bike. On a big group ride in south-central Washington two weekends ago, I was able to keep up some of the best DH/Super D racers I know, on long, rooty, drops-a-plenty downhill runs on my 4" FS XC bike, while they rode their 6" bikes. I'm faster with less effort, and ride with far more confidence. All because of a simple, relatively cheap, equipment change.

    So, I thought I'd take the time to thank them for the advice they've all given me, and share what I've learned.
    Last edited by Le Duke; 10-08-2009 at 10:56 PM.

  2. #2
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    if you want to know another secret to being a better rider, ride lots of different terrain. people that ride loam all the time get freaked out on DG, people that are skilled on DG are blown away by the traction on slickrock. new trails challenge your mind to adapt quickly and develop cognitive tools for "reading" the trail.

    which AG do you race in?

  3. #3
    ganginwood
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    Quote Originally Posted by Le Duke
    I bought my first MTB last September
    and you have almost 700 posts?
    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Aswell
    the 5th poster, ganginwoods, is correct

  4. #4
    Formerly of Kent
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    Quote Originally Posted by whybotherme
    if you want to know another secret to being a better rider, ride lots of different terrain. people that ride loam all the time get freaked out on DG, people that are skilled on DG are blown away by the traction on slickrock. new trails challenge your mind to adapt quickly and develop cognitive tools for "reading" the trail.

    which AG do you race in?
    19-34. I'm 24, been racing on the road for a few years now. I'll be upgrading to the Pro class at some point next season, though, at which point age is irrelevant.

    And living where I live, I'm faced with three very unique types of terrain/soil, all the time. Riding them has definitely helped me out.

  5. #5
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    Just out of curiosity, how tall are you? I've been running 660 bars for the past year (and loving them), but I just tried some 550's (with a lot of sweep, so it probably is not a fair comparison) and I feel way more comfortable.

    I think the 660 bars were too wide for my 5' 8" wingspan, but I've never really read anything about the relationship of mountain bike bar width and rider height
    read KNOBBY MEATS or be sadly ignorant of the mediocrity that is allowed to exist in the interwebs

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by the munts

    I think the 660 bars were too wide for my 5' 8" wingspan, but I've never really read anything about the relationship of mountain bike bar width and rider height
    When I got fit early this year it was suggested I ride with like 580's due to my shoulder width. I was running really wide Salsa bars (660), and he said some of my back pain may be due to that.

    I ran the Noir flat bars in the early season. I love them for climbing, but think that I lost some descending confidence. Went back to the stock bars, which are 640mm. Back issues came back earlier this spring, but they do help descending IMO.

    I've been meaning to try 600's, but never got around to it. Guess if I wind up on the bike I'm lusting after currently I'll get to

    FWIW, also 5'8.


    To OP - congrats on such a great season!!

  7. #7
    Giant Anthem
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    risers?

    Sorry if this is a stupid question but are the bars you are talking about flat or risers??
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  8. #8
    Formerly of Kent
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    Best of both worlds:

    Salsa Pro Moto Carbon 11deg sweep flat bar, tilted forward 45 degrees.

    They put my hands in the same position and angle as a low-rise bar, while still having the inherent strength and lower weight of a straight bar.

    I'll post a picture when I get home this evening.

  9. #9
    Giant Anthem
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    alrighty

    Quote Originally Posted by Le Duke
    Best of both worlds:

    Salsa Pro Moto Carbon 11deg sweep flat bar, tilted forward 45 degrees.

    They put my hands in the same position and angle as a low-rise bar, while still having the inherent strength and lower weight of a straight bar.

    I'll post a picture when I get home this evening.
    Cool; just measured my flat bars they are 560ish. They came on my giant anthem which is set up for XC racing. They are a lot more narrow than what I ran last year and as you know have their strengths and weaknesses. I love em for no elevation twisty corners, flats and seated climbs. The downside for me is when standing up to grind up a hill and descending on steeps. They have done well but maybe if they were a bit bigger it would help my overall performance. I'll have to experiment and thanks for passing the info and for giving a shout out to those who've helped you out-this kind of stuff is good and will ome back to you.
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  10. #10
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    You rode w/ Adam Craig!? How cool is that!?
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  11. #11
    Formerly of Kent
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    Quote Originally Posted by XCFred
    You rode w/ Adam Craig!? How cool is that!?
    It was very cool.

    The shop that has very graciously decided to sponsor me is the Giant dealer in town, and he's been in twice since I've lived here (~6 months).

    The first time he came into town was the time I rode with him; he was renting a bike for his girlfriend (a Trance X...imagine that) and I was rolling up to clean and lube my chain before heading out for a ride. He said "Nice bike" and I said thanks, did a double take, and said, "Wow. You're Adam Craig.". He laughed, and asked if I was heading out for a ride. I told him I was, and we agreed to meet up out at the local trails. I headed out on my planned road ride, then came back through town to meet up with them out after their small group finished their ride. Then, we went back up the mountain, and came back down again. About 2hrs of face time with one of the best in the business.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by miss rides a lot
    When I got fit early this year it was suggested I ride with like 580's due to my shoulder width. I was running really wide Salsa bars (660), and he said some of my back pain may be due to that.

    I ran the Noir flat bars in the early season. I love them for climbing, but think that I lost some descending confidence. Went back to the stock bars, which are 640mm. Back issues came back earlier this spring, but they do help descending IMO.

    I've been meaning to try 600's, but never got around to it. Guess if I wind up on the bike I'm lusting after currently I'll get to

    FWIW, also 5'8.


    To OP - congrats on such a great season!!

    Did you change stems? A wider bar generally stretches you forward more, so maybe try a 10-20 mm shorter stem.

  13. #13
    CB2
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    I use that bar too. Cut mine to 24.5" (622mm); any wider and I hit too many trees!

    Congrats on being able to upgrade to pro after only 1 year racing mtb; I have friends who won their Expert class age group who were denied (just as well they can still race the Pro/ Cat1 Open, but their license is $90 less).

  14. #14
    LMN
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    It is amazing on how such a simple change can make such a substanital difference to your riding. I don't think there is anything else you can change that makes such a significant difference (all right suspension might me close).

    What will blow you away is if you go back to your straight narrow bars after a couple of months you will find that most of your speed gains are still there.

  15. #15
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    What?????

    Quote Originally Posted by ganginwood
    and you have almost 700 posts?
    That's what I thought. I always held back to comment on your repeated references to road racing, crits etc....... And it turns out........ You didn't know jack about Mt. biking, and yet you constantly posted like some sort of know-all Xc racing pro. The fact you are 24, is your only defense. Your young.... and, I guess we have all been there.......Why so much to say about something you had no experience with.... Never mind..... Good luck, and have fun!

  16. #16
    Formerly of Kent
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtcowen
    That's what I thought. I always held back to comment on your repeated references to road racing, crits etc....... And it turns out........ You didn't know jack about Mt. biking, and yet you constantly posted like some sort of know-all Xc racing pro. The fact you are 24, is your only defense. Your young.... and, I guess we have all been there.......Why so much to say about something you had no experience with.... Never mind..... Good luck, and have fun!
    If you re-read my posts, there isn't anything critiquing people about anything specific to MTB racing. I never claimed to have a vast wealth of MTB knowledge or experience, or play it off like that.

    However, I know a good amount about how the body works, and riding a bike really fast. When people ask questions or make idiotic statements in the XC Racing and Training forum, and I think I can provide an answer that makes sense or set someone straight, I'm pretty capable of providing good, sound responses. I don't have to be a pro cross country racer to do that.

    And, I plan on upgrading to the pro class next year.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Le Duke
    Best of both worlds:

    Salsa Pro Moto Carbon 11deg sweep flat bar, tilted forward 45 degrees.

    They put my hands in the same position and angle as a low-rise bar, while still having the inherent strength and lower weight of a straight bar.

    I'll post a picture when I get home this evening.
    Do you have pics?

  18. #18
    Team Awesome
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    It's funny how "small" changes can make HUGE difference - I swapped my -10 degree stem for a 0 degree, same length, and felt the bike come alive under me in the rough stuff. I could corner better, descend WAY better, and just keep the bike moving better.

    I rotated my brake levers up a bit, and could stop better all of a sudden. Whadya know.

    I was shocked. I thought my position was as "fast" as possible, but it wasn't worth crap because I was having such a tough time on the technical stuff.

    It's always awesome to ride with really fast guys - there is a group ride in town that is led by the local hammers, and just trying to hang on has improved my skills immensely.

    Good luck in the PRO class next year. Them folks is fast.

  19. #19
    mtbr member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Le Duke
    If you re-read my posts, there isn't anything critiquing people about anything specific to MTB racing. I never claimed to have a vast wealth of MTB knowledge or experience, or play it off like that.

    However, I know a good amount about how the body works, and riding a bike really fast. When people ask questions or make idiotic statements in the XC Racing and Training forum, and I think I can provide an answer that makes sense or set someone straight, I'm pretty capable of providing good, sound responses. I don't have to be a pro cross country racer to do that.

    And, I plan on upgrading to the pro class next year.
    No, you don't have to be a pro to give advice; but, you should have more than a coupl'a months experience, before offering advice on mtb skills.

    " Also, what is a relatively non-technical trail at 10mph becomes a different creature entirely at 15mph+.

    And, more often than not, the people complaining about "roadies" and how "non-technical" a course is are the self-described awesome bike handlers who, of course, couldn't ride their way out of a paper bag. "


    Exactly the opposite!! Momentum / speed is what makes the technical sections easier and more doable; and, not "an entirely different creature ". A non technical trail at 10 mph is still a non technical trail at 15 mph! your just going thru it faster. The slower you ride the more technically challenging the terrain is. This is basic common knowledge that almost anyone with mtb experience will tell you. You too have probably discovered this by now. You are clearly talking out of yer ass on this one, and many other posts relating to xc mtb racing.
    You obviously have solid fitness and years of coaching on the road. You have all the numbers and clinical answers by formula etc. But, you are 24. When you're 30 you will laugh at how much you thought you knew about the body. And when you're 40 you'll laugh again. I'm not interested in continuing a debate about your mtb experience, or lack of. Maybe in a few years you'll be the best of the best; and, I hope you are. I was just shocked that someone who has had so much to say on a mtb race forum, has so little mtb. experience. It makes total sense now why so many of your posts referred back to road riding. Now take your lashings and just smile it off.

    best of luck

  20. #20
    LMN
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtcowen
    That's what I thought. I always held back to comment on your repeated references to road racing, crits etc....... And it turns out........ You didn't know jack about Mt. biking, and yet you constantly posted like some sort of know-all Xc racing pro. The fact you are 24, is your only defense. Your young.... and, I guess we have all been there.......Why so much to say about something you had no experience with.... Never mind..... Good luck, and have fun!
    To be fair to Duke, he just about always referred to his road racing experience in his post.

    Opinionated new blood is a good thing. People who have been in the sport for a long time (like you and I) may have ideas that are based on tradition rather than fact.

    Now that you know about his experience level just smack him on the hand every time his opinion starts to exceed his experience.

  21. #21
    Formerly of Kent
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    Quote Originally Posted by CB2
    I use that bar too. Cut mine to 24.5" (622mm); any wider and I hit too many trees!

    Congrats on being able to upgrade to pro after only 1 year racing mtb; I have friends who won their Expert class age group who were denied (just as well they can still race the Pro/ Cat1 Open, but their license is $90 less).
    I'll be upgrading mid-season next year. Want to get some more (MTB) racing experience and more results under my belt before I jump off the deep end.

    Here are a couple of pictures of the "new" front end of my bike:
    Attached Images Attached Images

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