When your bike is totally dialed in, it is so much easier to be confident. When your bike needs some work, it’s easy to lose your confidence.
My bike has been seriously neglected for a while. People I ride with would probably tell you that is always the case but it’s even worse than normal now.
I haven’t been doing much technical riding so the state of my bike has been annoying but not critical. Here in Moab, I need my bike to be working good on the rocky trails. I brought some parts and tools so I’ll get things tuned up before I head out today.
I got thinking about what things on your bike can kill your confidence. Here are 7 of them. All but a couple of them need attention on my bike.
Bike That Doesn’t Fit
If your bike doesn’t fit correctly, you won’t be able to control it as well. The way your weight is distributed on the bike affects handling. You might have to slide forward on the seat to brake effectively. Having a bike that fits allows you to focus on getting it to go were you want it to go.
Incorrectly Tuned Suspension
Running low pressure in your fork will make it more comfortable on little bumps. The downside is it can affect how your bike handles when you go over big drops. Low pressure will cause it to compress more and increase the chance of doing an endo. Too fast of rebound on the rear suspension can cause you to get launched after a drop.
Incorrect Tire Pressure
Lower tire pressure increases traction but increases the chance you’ll pinch flat if you’re not using tubeless tires. Tires with low pressure can also roll over in corners on hardpacked trails. Too high of pressure reduces your traction and causes you to bounce around on rocky sections.
Brakes Needing Adjusting
Precise braking makes a big difference when riding technical trails. If the cables are too loose, it can take a bit to brake. Even worse the brake levers can hit the handlebars before the brakes grab enough. If the angle of the brake pad isn’t correct, the brakes can squeal and also not be as effective.
Short power bursts are necessary to get over rocks or up ledges. If your derailleur isn’t adjusted correctly, the chain can skip and you won’t make it. You can also get injured if it causes you to pop out of your pedals and slam your knee into the stem. Another cause of chain skip can be a bent derailleur hanger.
When the headset is loose the fork will rock back and forth slightly. This does affect handling although I think it’s affect on confidence is probably bigger. Riding with a loose headset can end up damaging it too.
In a lot of cases creaking sounds may not mean anything is wrong. Maybe a little bit of dust has worked it’s way into some place. It still can leave you wondering if something is about to break and you shouldn’t push too hard.
Update: A commenter asked about how to fix these confidence killers. I had thought of adding some links when I first wrote this but Moab trails were calling my name.
Although you can have your local bike shop fix your bike, I strongly believe you’re better off learning how to do it yourself so you know what to do if something goes wrong on the trail. Many bike shops teach basic bike maintenance classes. I took one that lasted several weeks when I was a teenager and it was well worth it.
For bike fit, the best way to get a good fit is if your local bike shop has someone trained in bike fit. Unfortunately some bike shops fit experts don’t know any more about bike fit than your average rider. Peter White Cycles has a detailed page on bike fit to educate yourself so you’ll know if you’re getting a good fit.