MTB Design and Preferences

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I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not at the forefront on knowledge of all the “new designs” of MTB’s.  I only race them a few times a year and most of the races that I do you could get by on a MTB from the 1990’s.  The longer, not mountainous races in the midwest don’t need a big movement full-suspension bike normally.

I saw a few comments on a few posts about how “ancient” my dual suspension bike looks.  “My stem is too long.” “My bars are too narrow.”  “Bar-ends.”  Etc.

There is a real difference between bikes you want to race and bikes that you ride around.  Jimmy Mac told me a long time ago that he thought one of the reasons that MTB racing, at a National Level, was suffering was because the bikes that are fun/great to ride aren’t the same bikes that you would want to race.  I didn’t know enough about it to understand back then, but do now.

The bar width thing is a preference.  I can’t, and don’t want to, ride super wide bars because some, or many of the races that I might go to around Kansas, super wide bars just don’t fit. Plus, I don’t need them.

I was at Ned and Todd’s (Overend and Wells) Grand Fondo last year in Durango and I saw John Tomac.  I hadn’t seen John in a long time and he was telling me about his son and motorcycle racing.  Anyway, he looked at my bike and said, bar-ends, I need to get some of those.

I climb on bar-ends.  I don’t understand how riders get power while standing up without them. I do understand that wider bars give more leverage, but you aren’t using the same muscle group.  I tell you that a road sprinter could not go nearly as fast without the hands and arms being in the position they are.  Flat bars hinder off the seat climbing and accelerating.

I could go on and on.  I love my Eriksen  and might mess around with position a little, but it is never going to look like a enduro bike with a $400 dropper seatpost and a super short stem.  I might get a bike like that, I’ll just never race x-country on it.

On a side note, Vincent is shipping his fork and shock off to DirtLabs in Longmont to get tuned. These are off his tandem.  He’s sending my rear shock too.  I hear those guys are pretty much best in the business.  Guys that focus on one thing usually end up being that way.

From Kent Eriksen website.



23 thoughts on “MTB Design and Preferences

  1. david

    Nice post Steve. It does all come down to preference. If bikes didnt change from year to year then sales would not be as big as they are and when it comes right down to it many guys focus way too much on the equipment and NOT enough on going out and riding. The retail end of it needs those guys that like the latest greatest, etc. How many riders do we all know that spend thousands of dollars every year on equipment only to ride maybe 1000 miles or less a year.

  2. Eric

    I raced the Austin Rattler last year, a 62 mile mtb race. I raced with bar ends and couldn’t imagine doing that distance without​ them. Of the 600 ish racers, I would bet 20 or less used bar ends.

    Late in the race i was following a guy that didn’t have them and probably wished he did…He changed his grip several times to try and get comfortable but you can only do that so many ways with out bar ends. A must have in my opinion.

  3. James

    Your position is pretty stretched out for aggressive/technical downhill riding (like what you encountered at Moab or Saint George). It obviously works for the majority of your riding and it’s what you are used to, but don’t be surprised when you crash when the going gets fast and technical.

  4. Bill K

    Since I don’t race MTB’s anymore, I just keep my ol’ early 2000’s Stumpjumper hardtail with V brakes, bar ends and 26″ wheels. It works just fine.

  5. DR

    It’s as simple as having two stems. For Moab bring the bars up and closer to you for more control.

  6. AK_Ben

    I put a dropper post on my Giant Anthem 29er and immediately was faster and more confident on technical downhills. I am in agreement with most of what you wrote, but maybe give someone’s rig a try that has a dropper post installed. You might be surprised at what you find.

  7. fergie

    I do hear ya on this Steve. I raced more Mtb than Rd in the 90’s,then no Mtb at all probably ’08ish on.
    Recently got a 29 Hardtail to get back to enjoyin it again and my set-up is kinda mesh New School/OS: 105mm Stem Flat bars cut to 690ish with stubie barends.
    Get heckled for the barends but my argument is the exact same.
    With the 29 it seems you have to carve it more than being able to corner it, so I can see the wider bar lends itself to that style. I would say the Mtb here in the Mid Atlantic is fairly similar to KS and those bars are abit close at times.
    Two wks ago I pedal/clipped a rock that allowed me just enough for the bar to hook a branch to catapult me into a broken right Fibula and Broken left clavicle..ugh..never have I broken a bone in my close to 40 years of bike racing.
    Crap happens and I’m not saying the bars are to blame..but man..I wonder if those extra mm played a roll.Had 100’s of these incidents of clipping through the years as you would know, with ole’ 600-620 bars.
    I’m not sure, those sec by sec nano decisions that you make riding singletrack..I hope this doesn’t affect me on the other side when I finally get back.
    bummin’ in jersey-Fergie

  8. Dan

    I used to love bar ends and still have them on 1 bike. However, I find that with the really wide bars, there is no need for them, even on long rides and steep climbs.

  9. Marvellettes

    Jimmy oh Jimmy oh Jimmy Mac you better hurry back! Word up Tilly we written a song for you too!

  10. Mike Connair

    Heal up Fergie. Stuff happens. Worst crash for me was hooked barends on a tree in Fair Hill that threw me down on rock on my back so bad that my sternum was bruised. I had to sleep in a chair for two weeks. Abdomen swelled up so much I had to wear pajamas to work .

    Steve, your bike is not obsolete. a shorter stem and longer bars is equivalent to longer stem and shorter bars. Try it out.

  11. mv

    Because of the “modern” long top tubes , out of the saddle climbing with flat bars is as neutral (or more) than on my road bikes. Cross bikes suck in this for some reason.
    Also , I ride barends, but been thrown off by overhanging brush , hooking the barends hard a few times.

  12. Barb

    The mechanic who built my hard tail cut the bars too short. As a result, the steering, especially when climbing is really twitchy and oversensitive. Then he cut the brakes lines as short as they would go. So to put a longer bar on there, I’d have to buy and install a new rear brake line, because the one that’s on there won’t move out even an inch without crimping now. I’ve put off putting a new bar on there and a new brake line, just never got around to it, but I can say for descending it’s fine. For climbing it sucks. Probably remedy that problem before the summer season this year for sure.

  13. Wildcat

    That moment when you realize it’s 11:30, Tilford hasn’t posted yet, and you’ve been hitting refresh on the browser for an hour and a half.

  14. Davey

    I’m waiting for the post on the Volta a Catalunya TTT. I can’t believe they gave the win to BMC because of those “pushes”. Ridiculous. And hypocritical given GvA’s much more flagrant violation of the “pavement rules” at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

  15. Tman

    Seriously, try a shorter more upright position. I started riding in 83 and gave up the XCentric positioning in the early 90s. Made for more funnlier riding and lest carashing

  16. Calvin Jones

    When folks say, “…it’s all personal preference…” there is a limit. Many times people ride their set up because that is all they have tried or owned.
    But on flat bars, I follow along the “cut ’em down” tribe. Bars are absurdly wide now as a trend. Small shoulders, wide, tall, short, etc etc, they all get bars you cannot get out a door frame. On the local NICA team, we trim them down a bit. A child 12 years old is sold a bike with bars nearly 80cm wide? But “it’s all personal preference”, especially if the 240 pound, 78″ tall dad rides the same?


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