Dropper Seatposts: Remote Lever Position

MTB Dropper Seatposts are here to stay. If you’ve been paying attention to improvements in bikes and equipment over the past few years, then you’re probably aware of what dropper seatposts, or adjustable-height-seatposts, are. If you ‘re unaware, check out the RockShox Reverb or the KS Suspension Lev, two of the leaders in the dropper post game…

While there are still a few folks out there that will tell you that dropper posts are unnecessary, are gimmicks, etc., most riders are realizing that getting the seat out of the way on difficult terrain is mandatory if you want to ride well in those conditions (while still being able effortlessly to raise the seat for optimal height when climbing and pedaling). There’s always somebody out there that will say, “Well, my friend doesn’t have one of those things and he can ride anything…” or, “The pro XC racers don’t use those,” (they will, soon…). And all the ol’ classics: ” I don’t think I need one of those, I hear they break /I’m just a beginner/I don’t live in the mountains/they weight too much…”

Trust me, I’ve heard all the reasons why riders believe that they don’t need a dropper seatpost. Without getting into it too deep, I’ll say that if you don’t currently have one, than this is probably the best product that you can buy (when used properly and with even relatively proper riding technique) to improve your riding in nasty terrain. And that means being safer, way more in control, more comfortable, more confident, and definitely faster. There is plenty of info out there on these things, so check into them if you’re still a bit fuzzy.

Just a little more for the Doubters:

1) Downhill bikes, 4X bikes, BMX bikes…any bike where control is paramount will have the seat down and out of the way (You have to get the seat out of the way in order to maximize your ability to ride the bike in nasty trail conditions. We get into why this is so important, extensively, in the Instruction Clinics).

2) RockShox, KS Suspension, Thompson, Specialized, Fox, Crank Brothers, and more (all big players in MTB, obviously) manufacturer their own dropper posts, and have now done so for a few years (they wouldn’t continue do this if there wasn’t a market…$$$).

3) Currently, any company that makes high-end “trail bikes” will spec their bikes (or offer the option to upgrade) with  dropper seatposts (if they plan on selling them and staying in business).

4) ALL top Enduro racers (“Enduro”, not endurance…) have dropper seatposts on their bikes.

5) We’re now starting to see light weight, short travel posts (65 mm and instead of the usual 120 or 100 mm) specifically designed for XC racing (which is the area of MTB that is probably the biggest hold out because of the fear of the slight weight penalty).

Bottom line: if you want to be able to ride your MTB in the tough stuff to the best of your ability, you have to get the seat out of the way to do it. On super easy trail, equivalent to a dirt road, in a straight line? It doesn’t really matter…but any bit of steepness, rough trail surface, fast corners where the bike will need to be leaned over…you need to get the seat out of the way to do this well and still be able to get the seat up to pedal effectively and climb.


Within the last couple years, many students have been showing up at clinics with dropper posts on their bikes. This is Great!!! However, one place where I pretty consistently see problems is with the placement of the remote lever, or switch, that mounts on the handlebar and activates the post (allowing it to be raised and lowered). Riders, even though they have this awesome tool in a dropper seatpost on their bikes, often mount it in the wrong place and simply can’t reach the lever while their hands are in the riding position, thus, they have to remove their hand from said position in order to activate the post, and this isn’t always an option when things are getting serious on the trail.

It is crucial that the rider can get to this remote lever and activate the post while the rider’s hands are on the grips, in their preferred riding position, and while also activating the brakes of the bike.

This is important, not only in order to control the bike for speed and efficiency, but also for reasons of safety: if a section of trail catches you off guard, and all of a sudden you’re getting in a little over your head (we’ve all been there), trying to slow down and/or maintain control…and you can’t get the seat out of the way because you can’t take your hand out of braking position… Well, things are about to go real bad. Now you’re out of control, and out of riding position because the seat is still in the way…because you can’t get to the remote…because your controls are set-up improperly…

This poor set-up is often the result of the dropper seatpost remote being installed inboard of the brakes the shifters. If this is the case, the rider will almost certainly not be able to reach the remote with out removing his hand from the riding position (taking it off of the grip, and, thus, brake). It’ll simply be too far away from the rider’s hand (unless the rider has huge hands).

The photos below shows an example of this.

The photos above and below demonstrate how the rider is unable to reach the remote lever if it is mounted in-board of the brake and shifter.

The photos above and below demonstrate how the rider is unable to reach the remote lever if it is mounted in-board of the brake and shifter.

cant reach 2


The remote will also often be mounted on the right side of the handlebar (such as in the photos above). This means that it pretty much has to be in-board of both the brake and the rear shifter because the right hand will be very active on the rear shifter and brake lever and, thus, needs to easily reach those. This means the remote is a bad location for all the reasons mentioned above. Solution? Mount the remote on the left side.

These two photos show the rider being able to easily reach the Remote Lever , (no front shifter because of the 1x drive train set-up).

These two photos show the rider being able to easily reach the Remote Lever (no front shifter because of the 1x drive train set-up).

good 2


If the rider is using a 1x drive train (one chain-ring in front: no front derailleur or shifter—as in the photos above), then mounting the remote on the left side clearly makes more sense because there is more room there due to the lack of the front shifter. But another huge advantage to this is that once a rider gets comfortable using the dropper post (which doesn’t take very long) they will start using the dropper post (with the left hand) at the same time that they are shifting the rear derailleur (right hand). This would not be possible with both the remote and rear shifter mounted on the same side. Example: the rider crests a hill spinning a relatively easy climbing gear; the rider should be looking ahead on the trail, gauging the approaching downhill with proper vision techniques and anticipating that the next time that they will pedal, they’ll be going quite a bit faster; thus, they’ll drop multiple gears anticipating the increase in speed. These last few cranks to drop the gears, while cresting the hill, will often be happen at the same time that the rider is dropping the seat, getting ready for the descent.

Not a big deal is you aren’t concerned with going fast, but every little bit counts if you are (and that includes racing, trying to keep up with your buddies, or just pushing yourself…”death by paper cuts!!!”).

But lots of riders do still run front shifters (left side of bars), so does that make it impractical or defeat the purpose of running the post remote on the left side of the handle bars? Not at all, in this case, you should set-up the front shifter in-board of the post remote. Why? Because you seldom shift with the front derailleur anyway (unlike the rear, which gets lots of use), and once you get comfortable with the dropper, you’ll be using it way more then you will the front shifter.

These photos show the remote lever mounted on the left side and under the bar. The top photo shows the lever actually mounted right next to the grip (sometimes necessary for small hands). The bottom photo shows the lever mounted between the brake and shifter. The rider will not be able to reach the front shifter in either case, but that's OK (reasons in text)... Notice the two different styles of lever.

These photos show the remote lever mounted on the left side and under the bar. The top photo shows the lever actually mounted right next to the grip (sometimes necessary for small hands). The bottom photo shows the lever mounted between the brake and shifter. The rider will not be able to reach the front shifter in either case, but that’s OK (reasons in text)… Notice the two different styles of lever.

THompson, Below W: shifter


Another thing that I frequently see that isn’t so great (and this pertains mainly to the RockShox Reverb post, which is probably the most popular dropper post out there so it’s worth mentioning) is when the remote is mounted on top of the bar instead of underneath it. This isn’t so good because A) it’s more difficult to reach then if it were below the bar. B) You stand way more of chance of slipping your hand off of the grip and losing control if your thumb needs to go above the bar to activate the remote rather then stay below it. C) It ‘s much more vulnerable to damage in a crash if it’s mounted above the bar. (The trick here is to run the remote that is intended (by RockShox) to be mounted on top of the bar on the right side, upside down on the left side below, the bar.)

Pretty good, but could be better... The lever will be easier to reach, safer to activate, and more protected if mounted under the bar.

Pretty good, but could be better… The lever will be easier to reach, safer to activate, and more protected if mounted under the bar.


There are many people out there—myself included—that believe that dropper seatposts are the all-time greatest equipment innovation in mountain biking. I incessantly use this piece of equipment on the trail: any trail feature that requires even the least bit of bike handling prowess warrants some manipulation in seat height. When the dropper seatpost is set-up properly, then this literally becomes second nature. However, if it isn’t, you simply can’t maximize the benefits of this awesome piece of equipment.

MTB Body Position: Descending and Balance

MTB Body Position. While riding mountain bikes in technically demanding conditions is by no means easy, if we take the movements of the rider’s body on the bike, along with the mechanics of the bicycle itself, and strip everything down to the most basic elements, the task (or tasks) of riding can usually be seen as quite simple.

Likewise, when riding, if we simply allow our bodies to work the way that they function best, allow our bikes to work the way that they are designed to work, and effectively manage our momentum down the trail instead of forcing things and fighting the laws of physics … Well, most of us would be riding very well!!!

Riding works like many things in life that at first seem complicated and overwhelming: once we break down the complications and see something at its basic bits and pieces, things start to make sense.

Unfortunately, a lot of riders complicate things with misinformation and subsequent bad technique. Often, learning to ride the bike properly is as much about UN-learning bad habits and “getting out of your own way” as it is about acquiring new skills.

This is kind of one of those times: by understanding the way things work (balance) and simply allowing them to do so (with good position on the bike), we’ll be able to use one of our most important tools to its fullest potential.

In this article we’ll get into how body position on the bike affects our sense of balance and how when we’re in proper position, we can allow this very important sense of balance to shine like a diamond. Also, we’ll see how when our position on the bike is incorrect, it can make our sense of balance quite ineffective.


The first thing that I’d like to address is how our sense of balance actually works. Of course, my intent is to relate this information to mountain biking, not to reach the deepest depths and specifics and intricacies of human anatomy and physiology. So, if that’s an argument that you’d like to have, please save it for another time. (Preferably a time when you and I are sat behind a couple of cold beers that you purchased)

The first element of our balance system is made up of motor and sensory receptors known as proprioceptors. There are many types of proprioceptors, but basically, the receptors that are afferent (going to the brain) are transmitters within our muscles, joint cavities, tendon/muscle junctures, etc, that sense where our bodies are at in space. Some sense the angle of extension or flexation within our joints, some sense the amount of force or the rate of force being applied in a stretching muscle. The messages that these receptors send, when combined, and “computed”, with the other elements of our balance system by our brain and “reflex centers”, then send out messages to muscles in the body to make adjustments, counter-act, readjust, etc, to make sure that the movements of the body are actually effective and controlling the movement of the body in the manner desired. This is obviously an extremely important chunk of riding the bicycle.

The next part of our balance system is the vestibular system that resides in our inner ears. This system senses movements in the forms of acceleration, deceleration, rotational movement, the force of gravity, etc, via the movement (or non-movement) of fluid and gunk in various cavities.

And the third part of balance is our vision. This makes sense because so much of effective balance depends upon determining where our bodies are at in space, and so much of vision is about determining what and where “space” actually is. The vestibular system also monitors head movement to ensure proper vision.

So, what about body position? There are many, many reasons why we need to maintain proper body position on the bike and maintaining proper balance is only one of them. We can’t go into all of them here. I like to say that body position is the “foundation” of riding. Nothing else can be built until the foundation is laid down. And just like building an actual structure, if this foundation is not built properly, you WILL run into problems later on.

Now here’s where things get really… simple? Yes, simple. When we break things down, the human body, from a motion standpoint, really only performs combinations of a few basic movements. All of these movements originate at our core (trunk of your body…the thing that your arms and legs connect to). In recent years, much of training for athletics has moved from throwing around super heavy weights and getting as “strong” as possible to, first and foremost, focusing on the ability to stabilize the core and effectively use strength, power, fitness. This makes a ton of sense: without a strong and balanced core from which all body movement originates, you’re dead in the water. (If Lou Ferrigno has crappy balance, he’s going to stink up the local MTB trails because even though he has incredible-hulk-power, he won’t be able to effectively apply it to handling the bike.)

So we need to maintain a position on the bike that allows our body to maintain balance of the core. (I say, “allow” because we can’t voluntarily control our sense of balance). And this position is what I call the “athletic position of the human body” and it can be seen in the accompanying photo (you will also see this in pretty much all other sports: a tennis player waiting to return a serve, a baseball shortstop, a football linebacker…). 


21 OCT 2011:  Mountain biking the trails of Deer Creek in Littleton,CO.


Notice that the appendages of the rider are roughly halfway through their range of motion: halfway through a squat with the legs; halfway through a push-up with the arms; the back is flat and almost parallel with the trail surface; the rider’s butt is sticking out and so is his chest; and the chin is up with the head level. What this position does (among many other things) is effectively create suspension for the core and allow it to maintain a SMOOTH MOMENTUM PATH down the trail by not being subjected to the harsh forces and abrupt movements of the bike. And this gives the balance system a great platform from which to do its job. It should be obvious that the rider’s limbs are in a position to absorb shock, or forces that move the bike toward the body, but equally as important (because the rider’s limbs are approximately halfway through there range of motion), the rider also has the ability to allow the bike to drop away from him or allow the bike to slide, bounce, or lean from side to side (move in any direction), without upsetting the smooth momentum path or upsetting the BALANCE of the core. This is absolutely essential. There IS NOT a top bike handler on the planet that doesn’t do an excellent job of this. Look to any photograph, video, whatever, that features top bike handlers and you will see that this is the neutral position for all of these athletes when dealing with technical riding. Riders will need to allow their limbs to extend or bend FROM this initial position, but everything needs to start here.


In the above position, the rider is able to allow his sense of balance, proprioception, etc, to instantly make the adjustments necessary to generate and apply the necessary forces to his bike. The rider has range of motion in any direction with all four limbs and the core is balanced. If the core is bouncing around abruptly, and continually being knocked out of balance, the body has to first balance the core before adequate forces can be generated. Getting knocked out of balance occurs when riders ride with straight arms and/or legs: in this case, there is only one direction that the bike can move without upsetting the balance and trajectory of their core and that is straight into them. Movement of the bike in ANY other direction will alter the momentum path of the core, and upset the balance of the rider. Unfortunately, most riders do ride with straight arms and legs, way too high on the bike. Most are often in a perpetual state of being knocked around and out of balance, never able to pro-act or react to the situation, but instead, along for the ride (for better or worse), hanging on with a white-knuckle death grip, out of control, and hoping for the best until the trail, hopefully, smoothes out.


Let’s take things further and talk about the rider’s head. It’s safe to say that some pretty important things happen in the head when riding a bike. With very little exception, whatever motion occurs at the core of the body will also be felt in the head. Take a second and do this: jerk your head in a certain direction and then abruptly stop it. Notice how it takes a second for you to get your bearings back? That is because it takes the vestibular system in your ears some time to figure things out and then reset. Really, this system only works if it can compare movement to static inertia (or, necessary future movement vs. current movement in a constant direction.). If you can’t keep your head still, then you can’t provide this system with a basis from which to work and you’ve given up one of your most necessary tools in riding the bike. Proper position suspends the core, which supports the head, which allows the vestibular system to work effectively. Again, watch some video of the top gravity riders; their heads are incredible calm.


And how about the vision aspect? Ever get what I call “eyeball jiggle”? This occurs when your head is getting jostled around so erratically and forcefully that it seems almost as if your eyeballs are going to jiggle right out of your skull.  Your vestibular system, which sends messages to your eyes to compensate for some head movement (much like image-stabilization in a camera) is being overloaded by excessive motion. Needless to say, your vision, which has a huge affect on your sense of balance, is pretty much useless at this point, and again, you’ll find yourself “just along for the ride” with very little control, hanging on for dear life, and just hoping to survive.



So to wrap all of this up, our sense of balance is a very powerful tool, and, though it may seem complicated in its entirety, it’s a combination of various, fairly easy to understand systems within the human body. Though we can’t control our sense of balance the way we can voluntarily move an arm or leg or pedal harder (we can’t really “balance harder”), we can use proper body position on the bike to assure that this system is working most efficiently and effectively while riding.


Though we did not thoroughly cover body position in this article, for now, use what we did learn about proper body position to “suspend the core” and allow that balance system do its thing!


Off-Season MTB Training

Off season MTB Training… Its winter time and usually around this time of the year is when many riders start freaking out about training and trying to figure out what they should be doing now so that they’ll be able to ride the bike better next season. But too often, riders over think their off-season MTB training and spend way too much time and energy doing things that aren’t relevant to improving their bike riding.

I have good news! For most riders (of course, there’re always exceptions), this stuff is a lot simpler then most people think! Working in gym and on the road bike during the off-season is great, but nothing will give you the gains that putting in the work on the bike and improving your bike skills will do (and it’s way more fun then going to the gym!).

I stumbled across this interview with Jared Graves recently:


In it, Jared talks about how he trains for Enduro Racing and how it differs from the training that he used to do for gravity oriented racing (DH and 4X) and BMX.

This is pretty relevant to most, if not all, MTB riders who want to excel on their bikes and want to have the fitness element, the bike skills…all the pieces of the puzzle in place as much as possible.


But, first, who is Jared Graves and why should we care what he thinks?

If you had to pick the greatest all-around MTB racer of all time, Jared Graves would be a pretty good first choice. He’s had success (including a couple world championship titles) in all MTB disciplines: DH, 4X, XC, and, most recently the rather new discipline of Enduro Racing (He was also an Olympian in BMX).

Now, just because a racer is super fast, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are also a great teacher, or coach, or even that they know what the heck they are actually doing that makes them so good at what they do!!! There are all kinds of examples of athletes that are phenomenal at their chosen sport, but couldn’t coach their way out of a wet paper bag!

However, I have spent a little time around Jared, and from what I’ve seen first hand, heard from others, read, etc., I’ll say that Jared is one of those athletes who does know his stuff. He’s a smart guy and very critical about every aspect of his riding (and extremely talented and fast).

Also, he’s currently focusing on Enduro Racing*** (if you’re unaware of what MTB Enduro Racing entails, read the description at the bottom of this post) which in my mind, and in the minds of many others, is back to what True MTB Riding/Racing is all about.

Downhill Racing (awesome fun that it is) went in the direction of motocross bikes without the motor; a true DH bike is useless without a chairlift or a shuttle to the top of the run; and if you’re serious about DH, it’s not a matter of If—it’s When—you’ll end up in the hospital. XC racing? Spend hours upon hours upon hours on your road bike getting in phenomenal shape so you can race on dirt-roads on your mountain bike on the weekends…I’d rather puke blood (just kidding!!!)

Neither one of the above MTB racing disciplines (admittedly oversimplified explanations) are very similar to what most of us really ride as everyday mountain bikers which is getting out on fun, challenging, accessible (or not) trails on very capable, modern mountain bikes. Pedal to the top, pin it to the bottom!!! Have FUN!!!!

And this is why Enduro Racing is so borderline nauseatingly popular right now. It’s racing your fun bike on fun trails…the same type of riding most of us do on a regular basis: Mountain Biking!!!!


So, now we have Jared Graves, an extremely successful and knowledgeable racer/rider who is excelling at a racing discipline that is very similar to what we, as regular mountain bikers, do and want to excel at…and what’s he do for training to be the best in the world at mountain biking? He rides his bike!!!! A lot!!!

Is he in the gym doing a ton of top-secret cutting edge workouts? Is he putting in super-human miles on the road bike with some crazy road-training-tweaked-to-enduro-racing-program by some road guru/coach? Not according to him and not as far as I can tell (this is also consistent with a lot of other very successful enduro racers).

Here’s a guy that is paid to be in the best shape possible. He has all the time in the world to be in the gym/on the road bike/stationary trainer… and while he does spend some time doing these things (for muscle imbalances, aerobic base…just to switch things up and not burn out, etc.) his time with these is, relative to many MTB Racers, seems minimal. When it comes down to it, he’s riding his bike, working on SKILLS, looking for speed.

I couldn’t agree with this more!!! Students ask me questions all the time about training for MTB riding and what they should be doing, and I always emphasize that riding your bike is going to be the most important thing you can do for your bike riding!!! For some riders, gym work and building strength—for speed and/or for injury prevention, etc.—will be pretty important. For others—if, say, lack of fitness is their weakness—some road bike/trainer time may be the best way to deal with this limiter. But, either way, we’re all mountain bikers, and spending time on that mountain bike and doing things right while riding is a crucial part of riding well–and, I believe should be top priority–no matter what your fitness level is and no matter what your goals are.


I’m definitely not saying that off-the-bike training is a waste of time. It has its place. Working hard in the gym, putting in time on the road bike as well as other common off-season MTB training techniques can offer large benefits. Resistance training to retain lean muscle mass, stretching and massage, yoga…all these things are great and perhaps should be worked into your program. But, if your goal is to be a better Mountain Bike Rider in difficult terrain, then focusing on improving your bike skills—with very, very, very rare exception—will do you the most good in all areas of riding: safety, fitness, speed…you name it! Most of us have limited resources when it comes to time and energy, so we need to put our effort in where it will do the most good. What do you really want to focus on?

(If you do have weaknesses, imbalances, injuries…dealing with those may trump bike time for safety/health reasons, and if you have concerns over these, see a doctor and/or relevant professional and get checked out)


Some beginner or recreational riders may say, “Dude, that’s Jared Graves you’re talking about. The guy already has killer fitness. I need to get in shape, first, so that I can do these things…” There is a point there. However, as long as your fitness is at a level that allows you participate safely in riding, then bike skills (and the very important on-the-bike specific fitness, that will come when working on bike skills) need to be priority. Being efficient, smooth, and effective on the bike; understanding how to read a trail, where you need to be making decisions and finding lines, seeing solutions to trail sections with adequate time to be able to be proactive and put the bike in the right place; understanding the how and why of proper riding position and weight placement; understanding how your body works optimally in an athletic manner and allowing it to do this while working in accord with the design of the bicycle; understanding how to properly manipulate the bicycle…these things are all crucial to riding the bike well and you’re simply not going to learn them in the gym.

These bike skills are crucial to a beginner and novice rider just for safety purposes. And, when these skills come together, the rider’s efficiency will go through the roof and this is huge in riding the bike successfully: even great fitness won’t do you much good if you’re wasting a ton of energy because you’re doing things wrong on the bike, or worse, crashing a bunch.

Too often I find that riders are looking for fitness and training programs that they can do off of the bike—and commit a substantial amount of time to—when they really should be focusing on what they’re doing on the bike in order to get the biggest gains in their riding. For a professional rider who can afford to put all of their time into their training—a gym program, road riding, etc.—when done properly, can be a huge asset. But for most riders, if you’re putting that much time into “training”, then you’re not working on your bike skills. Bike skills are what will make you smooth and efficient, safer, more under control, more confident…and faster, when it comes to riding in technically challenging terrain. There is so much going on when riding an MTB on the trail that it is crucial to get the proper movements, proper positions, proper techniques, down to default and ”muscle memory”. You’re not going to be able to analyze and contemplate and figure it all out when it’s really” go time” so you have to put the time in first so that the skills are there when you need them.

This is true not only for a multi-time World Champ like Graves, but also for a recreational or beginner rider.

Of course, there will be exceptions to this in the wide world of MTB: if you’re goal is to do well at a 100 mile dirt road race, then sitting on a trainer for hours at a time will probably do you more good then understanding what proper descending position is, why it’s so important, and where it should be applied on the trail. But, again, we’re focusing on riding technically difficult terrain (Mountain Biking!!!), here, and 100 miles of dirt road isn’t very technically demanding. If we flip it around, however, you can ride on that trainer and build yourself some awesome cardio fitness, but that won’t keep you from going over the bars on a steep drop-off because you don’t have any technical skills. Another example: if you don’t understand proper climbing position and technique, you’ll be fighting your own mass, the bike, and the trail as soon as the climb gets steep, loose, and nasty, and you’ll be wasting so much energy that even if you do have a high level of fitness, you’ll still be cooked after struggling all the way to the top.


OK, I understand that it’s winter right now and riding bikes is simply out of the question for some riders. I know that many people will be in the gym, on the road, at a spin class… And, yes, all of these can have huge benefits when done properly and for the right reasons. It’s impossible for me to say what the right program is for you if you’re going to do off the bike training, but I will say relax a little in the off-season. Much of off-season training, such as building an aerobic base, should be done at lower levels of exertion and stress. Get outside: Ski, snowboard… If you need to be indoors, play basketball, racket ball, whatever. Be active and have fun. And, of course, if you are a high-level athlete and need to put some hard work in to fix some problem areas, or you have some definite weaknesses that you need to attend to, then by all means, do what you have to do…

But, your priority still needs to be bike skills if you’re interested in becoming a decent mountain bike rider.

Save some for the spring, because on the bike is where the work will really pay off…

If you burn yourself out over the winter, and you show up in the spring as a totally ripped gym-rat, but without riding skills and no energy or motivation to go out to get them…you didn’t do yourself much good as far as your riding is concerned.


And here comes the MTB Skills Coaching plug: if you have a proper understanding of what needs to be done, skill-wise, on the bike, then good!! Go for it! Work on it! However, most riders don’t, or at least they have a bunch of questions, and this is where formal instruction and coaching comes into play. Take some instruction and learn what and why correct riding technique is what it is. Learn how to practice and improve upon these skills and techniques so you can move your riding to the next level, whatever that may be. Work on making correct technique your default instead of drilling bad habits into your game.


**** An Enduro MTB race is essentially a race timed over what are called “test stages” and these will be primarily downhill sections of trail. These test stages will usually be anywhere from 5ish to 20ish minutes in duration. The test stages are connected by “transition stages” that usually involve climbing the elevation required to get to the top of the test stages (these may be hours in duration). Sometimes these are timed, but usually can be ridden at a fairly leisurely pace. There may be 2 -5ish test stages per day, often with hours of riding required on the transition stages in between the test stages. Usually, Enduro races are multiday events. The test stage times are cumulative and that’s what determines the winner. And, for all intents and purposes, the racers have to be self supported with no outside help, and can only use the parts and tools that they choose to carry with them.

 So, picture three to five of your favorite rides. Do all of them in one day; you’re timed on the downhills (which is cumulative over the entire race) and you can’t have any outside support (with repairs, etc.). And do that for a few days in row. That’s basically Enduro racing.

This type of racing is huge right now and for good reason: it’s pretty much true mountain biking! Ride super fun trails all day, pin it on the downhills, pedal to the top, be in good enough shape to do it all, fix your own bike, make good selections with gear, food, hydration, etc…sounds like mountain biking to me!)

Achieving Your MTB Goals

Ahh, it’s a New Year!!! And, of course, with it comes all kinds of resolutions, promises…and new (or old) GOALS! Keeping in the spirit of this New-Year-Thing, I’m going to address a great strategy for achieving your mtb goals with some examples of how riders of any ability can use this strategy and benefit from it.

Most of us, as mountain bike riders, probably have some goals that we’d like to achieve: some things we’d like to do better on the bike in the coming year and beyond. But when it comes to achieving goals, like most things, there are good ways and not so good ways to go about them. Put together a solid plan, put some work into it, go into action…and there’s a real good chance that you’re going to achieve what you set out to do. Go about it haphazardly, be lazy about it…and you’ll be sitting in the same spot next year with that same list of unmet goals in your head.

I’m going to introduce the S.M.A.R.T. acronym. I first heard this applied in fitness training but it could be applied effectively in pretty much any goal-achieving scenario and definitely applies in mountain biking.

You’ve probably heard, Write Your Goals Down, etc… This takes things a bit further and deals with the steps you need to take to achieve your goals in a much more thorough manner.

So we’ll get right into it, starting with ”S”

“S” stands for Specific

In other words, WHAT is your goal? Perhaps you want to ride more? Perhaps you want to race? Maybe you want to do well in you age division at the races? All of these can work as specific goals at this point, and this is kind of your Big Picture goal or “Macro” goal.

But, What Are Your Goals?

“M” is for Measurable

Next, we have “M”… “M” is for Measurable.

This is where we put to a number on things. You want to ride more? Well, how much more? For instance, if you really only get out on the weekends and you’d like to get two rides in during the week in addition to your weekend ride, there you go! Three rides per week… That’s a measurable goal.

If doing some racing is your goal, then how many races do you want to do? Trying out racing at one local race is much different then competing in the whole series. And for the rider that wants to do well in their racing class, what is your Measurable Goal? Are you aiming for one podium? Do you want to be top five overall in points at the end of the year? Or do you want to win the whole thing? Maybe, you know that you’re not going to race, but you have plenty of things you’d like to make happen in your riding in the future. What are these and how can you measure them?

Obviously, identifying the Measurable part starts to get pretty important because different goals will require different preparation.

“A” is for Achievable

Goals need to be achievable.

They definitely can be slightly out of reach from where you’re currently at; they definitely may require some hard work and planning to achieve; but they still have to be REALISTICALLY achievable.

Let’s say you just had twins…not a good time to try and fit two more rides per week into your schedule (my guess is riding will probably be on the back burner for a bit…). But, if you do have enough flex in your schedule, you can move things around to make the time, your family gets it and supports you…then riding three times per week is definitely an achievable goal.

For the rider wanting to do some racing, it’s not too difficult for most people to find one day and go sign up for one race (logistically, at least). However, if you plan on doing the whole series, that’s probably going to take some time, some traveling, some expenses… Is that possible for you to do considering all other things in your life? Are you willing to commit to something like that? Is it realistically an achievable goal? Likewise, for the racer that wants to “do well”, a goal of winning the Pro-Open Class Overall is probably a bit out of reach if you just started riding, are still forty pounds overweight, and still smoke a pack a day. But for a serious and committed racer that is willing to put in the work with training and make the sacrifices…that next level (or more) is achievable.

“R” stands for Relevant

Now, we’re down to our “Micro” goals.

These are pretty much our daily goals that we need to accomplish in order to get us to that Macro goal. These have to be relevant to the Macro goal to keep us on course.

For example, the rider that wants to ride three days per week instead of one: you have a real job, and you’ll be riding early in the mornings and possibly at night during the week. Do you have proper gear for the cold mornings and decent lights for night riding? (If not, one of your goals is to get these things). How’s your diet? Three rides per week instead of one will definitely be an adjustment on your system and require some decent fuel, and your time will now be crunched a bit; consistently grabbing fast food on the way to work because you didn’t have enough time to get some decent recovery food into your system is bad news for your plan. Getting dehydrated, getting sick…all things to be avoided with simply education and planning.

These are things that need to be done off of the bike, but they’re still very relevant to achieving your goal. At this point, it’s probably more about adjusting your lifestyle so you can spend time on the bike. But, these are still micro-goals that need to be achieved in order to move forward.

For the more serious rider or racer, “R” will probably start to be about training properly, maybe getting some formal instruction or a riding coach (shameless plug); but, ultimately, doing things that will make you better at what you need to do to achieve your mtb goals. I often see serious racers putting hard work into areas that just aren’t relevant to what they’re trying to achieve. Too often I see racers just adopt some training plan because that’s what X-Top-Pro Dude does. You should ask yourself what are YOUR weaknesses and how can YOU improve in these areas? If you don’t know, can you hire someone to help you out? These are relevant goals…

“T” is for time

And, finally, we have “T” for time …  As in, “When you gonna start?”

Set a date. “After the Holidays” doesn’t really cut it. Next Week? How about What Day next week? For the rider that needs the cold weather gear before they can start their morning rides, plan on WHEN you’re going to buy that stuff. For the racer that needs some help with technique, WHEN will you start with a coach. For the racer that needs a trainer, WHEN will you start looking for a trainer and WHEN will you start your training? This needs to be down to the day, in my opinion.

I really like the S.M.A.R.T. acronym. Obviously, the examples I used are pretty simple; we could go way more into detail in all areas, there will always be a bit of overlap and adjustment in goal setting… But, overall, I like this system because it makes the person actually think about what they want to do and how they need to do it. And, perhaps most important, when they are going to start…

MTB Pedals: Clipless Pedals vs Flats (part 2)

Previously, I’ve explained some of the technical points of Flat (or Platform) pedals and shoes, and how to get the most out of this type of set-up. I’ve also gone over some of the not-so-obvious advantages and disadvantages of each type of pedal and shoe combination: flat or platform pedals vs. clipless pedals . Now I’ll cover the technical side of CLIPLESS pedals, a few different types of pedal and shoe combinations, and a couple tricks to get the best performance out of your clip-less shoe/pedal interface.

Again, and as I stated previously, there is no “better” choice when it comes to clipless pedals vs. flat pedals or platform pedals. Both have advantages and disadvantages with more overlap then most riders are aware of (especially if that rider has never taken the time to learn to ride the other system). If you learn to ride both types of pedal systems, it will benefit you greatly! (Look to previous posts for further explanations of this.)

So, we have MAINLY two different types of clip-less pedals. The first has spring-loaded bars that spread apart when under pressure from the cleat on the bottom of the shoe, and then the cleat snaps in between these bars. The bars then hold the cleat in place, and we’re “clipped-in”. Some pedal companies that use this system are Time and Crank Brothers. Some benefits of this system over the other is that its great for clearing mud and debris, therefore it functions well even in nasty weather conditions. It also takes up a bit less space (then the other system that we’ll get to in a second) and, thus, provides more ground clearance from obstacles on the trail. I believe this system also holds the title as the lightest system available. Some of the disadvantages of this system (depending on who you talk to) is that the bars can bend fairly easily when they come into contact with rocks, etc, on the trail. When this happens, its difficult to get into and out of the pedal, and chances are, it’s time for some new pedals. Another disadvantage is these pedals is that they are either non-adjustable as far as spring tension is concerned, or have limited adjustability (I’m almost positive on this point – I may be wrong). Most riders that ride this system don’t mind the limited adjustability, saying that it feels just right anyway, and swear by it. As always, try them out before you by a pair. I’ve ridden this set-up in the past, and really enjoyed it.

The other type of system is essentially a Shimano SPD system (there are some other systems such as the ones that Look Or Speedplay use) In my experience, I feel that they have more adjustability in spring tension and a different “feel” in terms of “float” (how far you can twist your foot before the cleat disengages with the pedal) and entry. Shimano also has different cleats: single release and multi-release as well as at least one wild-card cleat that was designed for a very limited type of pedal and is nearly impossible to use with any of their other pedals. I’m not exactly positive what Shimano’s story is on their cleat/pedal recommendations, so all I’ll say on the subject is do your research and try before you buy. Obviously, they’re a great set-up when you get it right. The Shimanlp SPD’s can get finicky in a hurry in bad weather conditions. Any little bit of mud or debris can ball up the system pretty quickly and make it nearly impossible to get into and out of the pedals. To help alleviate this, start out with a clean pedal. Pay special attention to cleaning them thoroughly when you wash your bike.

At one end of the spectrum of clip-less pedals, we have a pedal that has very little material and is extremely light in weight, such as the Crank Brothers Eggbeater. When this type of pedal is used with an extremely stiff and light – nearly XC specific – shoe, it makes for an extremely light and efficient shoe/pedal combination. If I were to race an XC race that wasn’t technically difficult; where power, lightweight, and efficiency were way more important then bike handling skills (say, Leadville 100), I would prefer this type of set-up.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have what is essentially a Downhiling set-up, such as the Shimano DX or Crankbrother’s Mallet. I ride with this DH-type clip-less set-up. The difference in the pedals is that the DH set-up has a platform that surrounds the pedal, and the DH oriented shoe – though, quite a bit heavier (and more protective) – flexes substantially more then the XC set-up. This allows the shoe to flex enough to come into contact with the platform – while still being clipped-in – allowing for added pedal pressure and leverage to control the bicycle. PEDAL PRESSURE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING WHEN IT COMES TO APPLYING POWER, BALANCE, AND CONTROL TO THE BIKE. I actually wear-out the soles of my shoes on the inside and outside of the cleat where my shoe flexes and the sole contacts the pedal platform.

Another great thing about the DH set-up is the large amount of rubber on the sole of the shoe compared to the XC version’s hard plastic. This is great because things don’t always go as planned when riding in technically challenging conditions and every once in a while, we have to clip out, put a foot down, and then still have to ride the bike–maybe, down a steep, rocky drop–without having the time to clip back in. With the flexible DH shoe and its rubber-y sole, combined with the large plastic platform of the pedal, you still can have pretty decent control with your foot on the pedal even if you’re not clipped-in. Try this with the hard plastic-on-metal of the XC set-up, and you may as well be on a skating rink! Also, we may have to suddenly clip-out and put a foot down on whatever is immediately available, say, a rock or a log – and, often, we only have one chance and not much time to do this right! If we miss our footing – say our shoe can’t get traction because its sole is made of hard plastic – which doesn’t stick very well to slick rocks or wood – we may end up tumbling down the mountain! That’s one more good reason to have some rubber on the bottom of your shoe!   And, sometimes riding mountain bikes requires not only riding the bike, but pushing and/or carrying the bike…sometimes up rocky cliffs…for hundreds of feet, or through dense forests … or rivers … in the dark! Having a good rubber sole on your MTB shoes on “rides” like that is also nice.

So if your priority is power and efficiency, go with a light stiff shoe and a light, and minimal, pedal. If you’re riding in gnarlier conditions, you may want something that gives you as much control and peace of mind as possible – even when your not clipped in – such as the DH-type set-up.

As far as you cleats are concerned, the angle that you mount you cleat on your shoe at determines how much you have to twist your foot to get it to disengage from the pedal. Play around with different angles and see what works for you. I prefer an angle that gets me out pretty quick, with a minimal twist. The fore and aft of the cleat on the shoe is also adjustable. There’s a standard formula for this if you’re riding on the road or maybe long XC rides or endurance races. This may become very important in these type of events in order to prevent injury because of the extended time in the saddle and high amounts of pedal reps. With more technical riding this becomes less of an issue because riders are moving around a lot more on their bicycles (not remaining in the same position and pedaling over extended periods of time). I’ve known some of the top DH’ers in the world to actually cut sections out of their shoes so they can move the cleat farther back (toward the heal) in order to be able to absorb the larger impacts with more of a squat (weight-lifting squat) and larger muscles of the leg and lower body as opposed to having to use more ankle and calf. I was a little skeptical of this, however, when I jacked up my ankle pretty bad not too long ago, this cleat placement (way back) was the only way I could ride the bike (and teach clinics!)

Once you find your preferred cleat position, LOCK-TITE your cleat bolts (use BLUE lock-tite, medium strength. DON’T use red, high strength, or you’ll never get the bolt off again!). As you can imagine, a loose and twisting cleat – making it impossible to disengage from the pedal – at the wrong time could spell disaster! Also, keep an extra cleat bolt in your Camelback … you never know… A couple more things: trimming the rubber or plastic on the bottom of your shoe with a carpenters knife (or whatever) is a great way to get more clearance for the cleat and easier entry and exit from the clip. This will also minimize the chances of debris collecting next to the cleat and the sole of the shoe. And, stay away from the “clipless on one side and flat on the other side” pedals unless they live on your commuter or bar-bike. Fumbling around on the trail for the correct side of the pedal to clip into is inefficient and dangerous … so is riding the clip side with regular (non-clip) shoes. You won’t see any tops riders riding these pedals!!!


Hopefully this article was helpful, and keep in mind, a few words on the inter-web are by no means intended to substitute for real-time MTB instruction.  Check back soon!!!!!