A Road Cyclist’s Guide to Group Ride Etiquette

As your cycling fitness and skills improve, you might consider joining a local cycling club or going for rides with a  group of other cyclists. There are many great things about group rides, including being with like-minded individuals, honing your riding skills and developing your fitness further by observing more experienced riders.

Group rides offer something for cyclists of all abilities, fitness and skills.  Once you find a cycling group or club to join, you should be aware that there is a set of group ride do’s and don’t’s, that serve as the general etiquette for riding a bike in a group.

What makes a good group rider?

There are two key elements that make for good group riding. The first is being observant to and aware of your surroundings while on the bike, and communicating any hazards clearly to other riders in your group. The second is being considerate to other riders and become aware of how your actions may affect them while out on the group ride.

Know what to expect before you join a group ride

Not all group rides are the same. Knowing what to expect on any group ride you intend to join is very important. Joining a ride without knowing what the planned route/distance/average pace/difficulty is can often be a recipe for frustration and may not be conducive to having an enjoyable time on your bike.

Ride leaders will often communicate the group ride details on whatever platform the club/group uses to announce ride plans. Seek this information out and if in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask.

Many cycling clubs will have a regular “no-drop ride” . No-drop rides are rides where no rider will be left behind regardless of whether or not they are able to maintain the average pace of the riders at the front of the group, and can always rely on a more experienced member of the group for assistance in case they have mechanical issues with their bike.

This type of rides is a great way to get into group riding because they are less intimidating than faster rides with a more competitive spirit in which more experienced riders will not always slow down or stop to assist riders lagging behind.

Decide the type of ride that would be most suitable to your current fitness and cycling goals, and the extent to which you’d be willing to physically push yourself.

How to signal pace changes in a group ride

Social and no-drop rides have a slower average space and sudden surges in speed are usually discouraged, because it disrupts the pace in a way unsuited to this type of group ride.

If you must accelerate, it is important to clearly signal any changes in pace. If you get out of the saddles, call out “Up!” to notify those behind you. On the other hand, if you join faster rides where friendly competition is encouraged, pace changes and surges are part of the fun and completely acceptable.

If you are unable to maintain the pace of other riders when it’s your turn to be the lead rider, also known as “pulling”, it is OK to signal that you’re dropping back to ride at a slower pace.

Group ride safety

Riding in a group tends to cause distractions that may cause momentary lapses in concentration – e.g. a chat with a fellow rider or looking at picturesque scenery. The shortest of drops in concentration can result in some undesirable, and often dangerous, consequences.

Riding in a large group of riders also carries a larger responsibility when it comes to being observant to your surroundings and obeying the rules of the road. Familiarize yourself with local traffic laws, especially those applicable to riding a bicycle on public roads, so that you can ride in a way that ensures not only your own personal safety, but also that of others in your group.

Minimize the risk of other riders hitting road debris or potholes by pointing out those hazards on the road in way that allows those behind you to avoid them. You can use hand signals and shout out verbal warnings to others behind you. Ensure that whatever signals you use they are visible or loud enough to reach the way to riders at the very rear.  The riders at the back of the group are often responsible for calling out incoming vehicles so that the group can get into single file and make room for other road users to pass safely.

Don’t like unpredictably. Nobody likes an erratic rider. Frequently drifting from your line without a proper signal can make everyone around you uneasy and will earn you a reputation for being an unsafe rider. Hold your line and don’t make sudden changes to your direction or pace unless necessary, and after signaling your intentions.

Leave enough emergency braking space, and don’t overlap wheels

Drafting (or riding in the low-pressure area behind another cyclist) is fun, but be attentive to leaving adequate space to react in case there is an emergency braking situation.

Half-wheeling, or overlapping your front wheel overlap the rear of the rider in front of you, is a risky practice and is also annoying to riders to your side or immediately ahead of you. If riding side by side, ride handlebar to handlebar with your partner.

Punctuality and preparedness

Showing up late to a group ride is a big faux pas. Similarly, coming ill-equipped or without your spares ,repair kit, adequate nutrition or hydration. We’ve all forgotten our spare tube or pump once or twice, but it shouldn’t happen frequently lest you want to earn the reputation of being the unreliable member of the group. It is important to be both punctual as well as self-sufficient. Keeping some of your kit on your bike (such as in a saddle bag) can be a good way to ensure not forgetting your ride essentials.

Ask before joining a group ride

It is sometimes tempting to jump into a group ride you meet on the road, but doing so uninvited it is not the best way to make cycling friends. Introduce yourself, have a little chat (if the pace and riding environment allows) and ask politely if you can join. If they decline, it’s OK. Some groups have a more formalized membership system, others can be more casual.


Getting to know the guidelines of group ides you intend to join will allow you to act in a manner appropriate to the group and enjoy your time on the bike with other members. Group ride etiquette isn’t complicated. Seek information on the ride plan ahead of time, show up on time, be prepared, respect the rules of the road and look out for your fellow riders by riding responsibly and being aware of your surroundings.  Group rides allow us to have fun with like-minded individuals, and the aside from the fun factor the priorities should be to ride safely, learn from more experienced riders or – if you are a seasoned rider yourself – lead by example and offer advice and assistance as needed by other members of the group. 

Tubeless vs Tubed And How To Choose The Best Tires For Gravel Riding

It could be argued that tires are among the most critical bicycle components, and their setup significantly affects the ride quality and the overall reliability of any type of bicycle. Things like tire rubber compound, volume, air pressure and tread pattern directly affect traction, braking, stability and rolling resistance. When tires fail, they’re often one of the more frustrating mechanical issues to deal with on the road or trail. If you break a chain or a derailleur, you can often limp your way home (or to the bike shop) with a quick temporary fix. On the other hand if you suffer, say, a rather large tire sidewall cut, your likelihood of staying on the bike is greatly.

I am a longtime tubeless convert. Years on the mountain bike on rocky and technical trails have convinced me that the benefits of tubeless tires for off-road riding are unquestionable, including:

  • Smaller punctures are sealed quickly by tubeless sealant, often without you even noticing them.
  • Traction and ride comfort are greatly improved.
  • You are able to run lower tire pressures which really allows the tires to stick better to the contours of the terrain.
  • Pinch flats become a thing of the past (although there is a risk of rim strikes with lower pressures).

While all these advantages are recognizable for the high-volume tires of mountain bikes, I’ve always been rather doubtful about whether or not the same benefits are apply to the much narrower and lower volume road tires. Gravel bikes bring an several in-between sizes that combine elements of road and mountain bike tires, with some gravel tire sizes now often approaching mountain bike-like territory in terms of volume. With this in mind, there is no doubt that gravel bikes would also be able to reap the rewards of tubeless setups.

The tubeless world is not without its problems, though. All the benefits without any drawbacks would be too good to be true. Some of the frustrating things about tubeless are:

  • Some tire/rim combinations can be troublesome to and setup reliably.
  • If you break a spoke you have to remove the tape for repair, then replace with new tape and reseat the tire and replenish sealant.
  • For obsessive tire changers: if you’re not careful with how you use your tire levers, you can easily pinch or cut your rim tape, requiring replacement.
  • Sealant dries up and needs topping up and frequent replenishment.
  • You still have to carry a tube! Sidewall tears do happen to tubeless tires and sealant can’t seal those.
  • When your tubeless setup fails and you have to put in an inner tube, it’s a rather messy process with all the sealant inside.

That being said, tubeless tire and rim technologies are getting much better in terms of ease of setup and reliability. You do need to pay attention to wheel and tire choice in order to have a fairly trouble-free tubeless experience. Even if you have the best frame, latest and greatest gravel wheels and put lots of cash into making sure you have what you believe is the best components for your bike, the wrong tire choice can result in a lot of frustration on your rides, so it is best to choose an appropriate tire width and rubber compound for the type pf terrain you ride. Keep in mind that, if your riding conditions or terrain changes, tire choice might need reconsideration to keep your setup as reliable as possible.

One of the things you should consider doing is matching your rim width to tire widths. Additionally, pick high-quality rim tape, tubeless valves and sealant. Two of the most popular sealant brands are Stan’s and Orange Seal. Both companies now offer several variations of their original formulas with properties to match different riding needs and conditions, and products from both companies work very effectively. In my experience, Orange Seal seems to be very good at coating the inside of tires with porous sidewalls, resulting in a better overall seal that reduces the need for frequent air pressure top-ups, while Stan’s Latex-based formula seems to seal larger holes with slightly more effectiveness. Note that if you have a latex allergy you might want to avoid latex-based sealant formulas.

Buying the right gravel tire

As previously mentioned, the main consideration when shopping for new gravel tires should to be the type of terrain you will be riding. Are your gravel roads smooth and lack potholes and loose surfaces? If yes, then you probably don’t want a tire with aggressive tread that will add rolling resistance. Conversely, if your usual routes have loose gravel, sharp rocks and lots of potholes then choosing a tire with more robust sidewalls and a more pronounced tread will allow you to ride with more confidence on this type of road surface.

Your frame tire clearance is a very important factor in determining your optimal tire size. Not only does the tire needs to fit when inflated to riding pressure, but also also leave some room in the event of your tire picking up mud or debris that could rub againt the frame and cause damage especially on carbon fiber frames. Optimal tire widths for mixed terrain rides are 32-35mm. If your rides are mostly on loose gravel surfaces, you may benefit from larger volume tires in the 25-43mm and up range.

The rougher and looser the road surfaces, the more aggressive your tire’s tread pattern should be. Some tire manufactures offer various tread versions of the same tire model to suit different road surfaces, like the Panaracer GravelKing range of tires.

Always Ready: What To Pack On Different Types Of Mountain Bike Rides

One of the many great things about mountain biking is often the ability to go farther into nature quicker than you can on foot. A mountain bike can take you on some amazing adventures into the wilderness. As with any outdoor pursuit that takes place in the backcountry, it is always important to be prepared for emergencies, mechanical or otherwise. While having the bare essentials will enable you to be prepared to tackle simple mechanical issues, it would be wise to pay closer attention to the kit you carry on your rides, and think about how you can refine your mountain bike ride kit in order to be prepared for the most common emergency situations that you may encounter.

What you should carry depends on how/where/with whom you ride

It is important to note that this isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list of all the items you should carry on all the rides. What we advise is to plan your gear load out based on the type of your ride (e.g. are you going on a one-hour after work loop vs two day epic backcountry mega ride), your level of experience (are you a beginner yet comfortable with the basics or a mechanical wizard who can do complex trailside repairs?), the type of terrain you ride e.g. (e.g. in the mountains there are sudden weather changes. Take an additional clothing layer regardless of ride distance!), and whether you are going to be riding solo or in a group.

Another thing to remember is that there is no point in carrying everything you think you’ll need if you do not have the knowledge necessary to effectively put your gear to good use. Make sure you acquaint yourself with the features of all the items you carry and look up user manuals or video guides, if necessary, on how to use them on the trail.

Better have it and not need it, than need it and not have it…

 Below we make three suggested ride kits based on the type of planned ride:

1.The one-hour lunch/after work ride:

Those of us with busy schedules often have to squeeze in rides whenever we are afforded a slice of free time amidst obligations of work and family, that might be lunch hour on a weekday (if your work situation allows easy access to your bike and trails to ride) or the quick pre-dinner trail spin. For this type of ride, for which the assumption is that given the time constraints your riding location would be close enough to civilization anyway, I find that the critical items are:

  • One water bottle
  • One spare tube
  • Tire levers
  • Tubeless plug repair kit
  • Pump or a CO2 cartridge
  • Chain master link
  • Small multi-tool with chain breaker
  • Any necessary small personal items (phone, wallet, keys, etc.)

On these quick trail rides I keep it simple and light with the bare essentials. I don’t need a pack to carry the items above as all can go into jersey pockets and/or on the bike. I’ve gotten into the habit of keeping most of this kit in a small saddle or top tube bag to make sure can make the best use of the time available to ride without worrying about forgetting anything I ened. I just fill up the bottle, grab the bike and helmet and go.

2.The weekend group ride:

I have a closely knit group of ride buddies with whom I spend my weekend riding time on our favorite local trails. Being one of the more experienced riders in the group, I always carry a few more things to make sure I can assist the less experienced riders in our group should they not be prepared (with either tools or skills, or both!). My weekend ride kit looks something like this:

  • Two spare tubes
  • Tubeless plug kit + tire levers
  • High-volume pump (no point in wasting CO2 cartridges if you’re not pressed for time)
  • Some energy gels or snack bars
  • Two chain master-links
  • Multi-tool with chain breaker
  • Zip ties
  • Wallet, keys, etc.
  • …and it all fits in a medium size hydration pack

3.The epic backcountry long-distance ride:

These types of rides add distance and a little bit more risk of mechanical issues or injury, and it is critical to be properly equipped. On these rides, I carry everything listed under “The weekend group ride” above plus:

  • Additional nutrition in portions suitable for the actual ride distance/time planned
  • Packable waterproof shell jacket
  • Spare derailleur hanger
  • Mini first aid kit
  • A small roll of duct tape
  • Mini-pliers
  • A small bottle of chain lube
  • Suspension/shock pump
  • Spare brake pads
  • Spare SPD cleat bolts
  • Spare tubeless valves
  • Sunscreen
  • Small folding knife

For those rides, you’re going to need a bigger pack with a higher capacity hydration bladder. I recommend 16-liter packs or higher. Brands like EVOC, Ergon and Camelbak offer a wide selection of mountain bike packs among which you will certainly find something with the features that you need.

Another item which I’ve recently added to my long/remote ride gear arsenal is the personal satellite communicator. I personally use a Garmin inReach Mini (but there are many options on the market from brands like Spot and Zoleo, and some people also use various Personal Locator Beacons), and having the ability to communicate with family and friends in case of emergency has been very reassuring on rides that take place on remote backcountry trails.

Final words

Mountain biking is a sport with a big fun factor, but it also comes with a risk factor that should be acknowledged and prepared for. Planning your ride kit according to the type of ride you will be doing helps mitigate some of that risk and enables you to be equipped for emergencies that you or your ride buddies may encounter. The suggested kit lists we offered in this article are a good starting point. 

Four Key Elements You Should Know About Modern Mountain Bike Geometry

Mountain bike reviews often seem to focus on the latest and greatest in drivetrain technologies, fancy suspension components, frame linkage designs and carbon fiber wheels, but often gloss over what is arguably the single most important factor in understanding how a bike will actually handle on the trails: frame geometry. This article is meant to offer a short and concise guide to understanding modern mountain bike geometry charts, and how to read and understand geometry tables when shopping for a new bike.

What is frame geometry?

Simply defined, the geometry of a bicycle is the distances and angles between the various tubes and other elements of a bike’s frame. These measurements, when tabulated precisely, helps make sense of how a bike will ride, the terrain it can be used to tackle and the essential handling characteristics it will have, at least theoretically, without actually riding the bike.


Why understanding frame geometry matters?

Frame geometry determines the main handling characteristics of the bike. With how diverse modern mountain bike disciplines are (cross country, downhill, enduro, freeride, etc.), it is important to be able to tell at a glance if the bike you are considering buying is suitable for your intended riding type. One of the quickest ways to tell how a bike will handle on the trail is to look at the geometry table. It also helps you understand the nuances of bike fit and accordingly make an informed decision about the frame size you would need. Nothing beats real world experience, of course, and the best way to make decisions on  a potential bike purchases is to go for a demo ride, but that is not always possible and this is one way having a good understanding of mountain bike geometry can be immensely helpful.

Bike geometry is a rather complex topic, and we encourage you to pursue a deeper dive into it once you have a basic understanding of the essentials. That said, the intention of this article is to highlight some of the most important elements of modern mountain bike geometry that we deem essential knowledge for all mountain bikers.


Head Angle:

What is it? The head angle is the angle of the steer tube of the bike, measured from horizontal.

What does it tell us? The head angle determines how well a bike climbs or descends. Slacker head angles (lower numbers) place the front wheel further away from the rider, and as such enable the rider to have a rearward weight bias that enables descending steep trails with more confidence. Conversely, a steeper head angle allows the rider to put more weight on the front wheel while climbing steep trails, and accordingly decrease the tendency of the front end of the bike to wander, wobble or otherwise lift on steep or technical climbs.

 What to look for: For XC bikes, you want head angles between 67-69, for trail bikes 65-67, enduro bikes 63-64 and DH bikes <63.


Seat Tube Angle:

What is it? The angle of the line from the center of the bottom bracket to the top of the seatpost when set at pedaling height.

What does it tell us? The seat tube angle determines where the weight of the rider is placed relative to the front and rear axles, and as such how weight distribution will be affected with changes in the grade of the trail.

What to look for: Modern full suspension bikes have steep seat tube angles (72-73 degrees) to place the rider’s center of mass closer to the suspension pivot point, which minimizes saddle vertical movement with suspension compression, resulting in a more comfortable ride and better weight distribution with grade changes.


What is it: The horizontal distance measured from the center of the bottom bracket to the center of the top of the upper opening of the head tube.

What does it tell us? Reach is a critical measurement to understanding modern mountain bike geometry. It is a proportional measurement (i.e. it changes with frame sizes) and is the single most useful number to understand how a bike will fit. The reach number also gives you a good impression as to how much seated/standing room you have between the saddle and the handlebar. On modern mountain bikes, the reach numbers have been getting longer along with shorter stems, which makes for roomier cockpits and better handling on technical terrain.

What to look for: As mentioned, reach numbers are proportional to frame size. The trend in modern mountain bike design is towards roomier front ends, and to get a sense of this you can compare reach numbers of various bikes (you can use an online geometry comparison tool like


What is it: The vertical measurement from the center of the bottom bracket to the center of the top opening of the head tube.

What does it tell us? Stack essentially determines the minimum bar height. If you prefer a more upright position on the bike, you are going to want a longer stack. If you are an XC racer with preference for a more aggressive position, you would probably want a lower stack.

What to look for: Stack numbers are proportional to frame size. Expect to see longer stack figures on bikes oriented for gravity riding, like downhill racing and enduro bikes than on XC/trail bikes designed for all-around riding.


Final words:

The current mantra in mountain bike geometry seems to be “long, slack and low”, which  holds true if you look at contemporary mountain bikes in various categories. Bikes are getting lower centers of gravity and longer wheelbases and reach numbers, which make them highly capable in high-speed and technical riding situations. That said, it is important to first consider your local terrain and your own riding preferences. If you prefer long endurance rides with a lot of  climbing, a bike with an XC-oriented geometry would probably be your best bet. Are you a gravity fiend? Then a super-slack enduro sled should be your weapon of choice. Getting better acquainted with deciphering geometry tables will help you pick your next bike to suit your local trails and style of riding.

Road, Mountain, or Gravel. Which bike do I need?

Whether you’re a seasoned cyclist or new to the sport, if you’re in the market for a new bike sometimes the range of options currently offered can be overwhelming. The wide spectrum of bike categories to choose from is certainly not a bad thing, but with so many types of bikes built for different cycling disciplines, things can get a bit confusing. In this post we have a look at three broad categories of bikes: road, mountain and gravel, explaining the main differences between them and how to decide on one versus the others for the type of riding you intend to do.

Before we dive into the details of each type of bike, it is worth noting that there is a significant degree of overlap between those categories. For example, many modern road bikes can pull double duty on smooth gravel roads. A good starting point would be to think about the type of riding you do or intend to do most often, and the kind of terrain your local area has to offer. This will help you narrow down your choice to a particular category and accordingly focus on the offerings within it.

Road bikes:

As the name implies, road bikes are designed to go fast on smooth paved road surfaces. Generally speaking, road bike design prioritizes low weight, aerodynamic efficiency and have narrower wheels and tires with low rolling resistance. Road bikes come with drop handlebars which allow for multiple riding positions (often called the hoods, the tops and the drops) which is important on long road rides and to lessen arm fatigue minimize aerodynamic drag, which results in a better average speed.

On the whole, road bikes come in two varieties: endurance bikes and race bikes. Endurance bike have a more upright (i.e. more comfortable) geometry for riding long distances, have a longer wheelbase for better stability and many even come with accessory mounts, like rack and fender attachment points. Race bikes are lighter, have a more aggressive geometry and frames that prioritize efficient aerodynamics. Most casual riders would find endurance road bikes better suited to their style of riding due to the more relaxed riding position and tamer handling characteristics. Modern road bikes will accommodate tires between 25mm up to 32mm (check the actual frame spec of your bike of interest before purchasing!)

Pick a road bike if:

  • You live in a place where it is generally safe to ride on the roads
  • You prefer riding on smoother, well-paved road surfaces

Gravel bikes:

In recent years, gravel cycling has garnered increasing attention. While the term “gravel bike” is seemingly self-explanatory, there is often much confusion around what gravel riding actually means because unpaved roads look different in various parts of the world. Additionally,  gravel bikes look confusingly similar to their older siblings: road bikes. So, what exactly are the main differences between gravel bikes and road bikes?

The most conspicuous difference between gravel bikes and road bikes are the wheels and tires. Gravel bike frames are designed to accommodate larger tires, with some approaching mountain bike tire sizes. Most gravel bikes will accommodate tires between 32mm up to 51mm, or will even be compatible with 650b (27.5in) wheels which allow for even larger tire clearance.

Gravel bike geometry is similar to endurance mountain bikes, focused on comfort and stability. Many come with a plethora of accessory mounts for riders with bikepacking and adventure ride plans. Recently, subcategories of gravel bikes have emerged to cater to the increasing interest in this type of cycling. Many companies offer bikes designed specifically for gravel racing, which come with racing-optimized geometry and lightweight componentry, others focus on bikes built for long-distance adventure riding, which feature a more relaxed geometry and mounts for bags, fenders and racks.

Pick a gravel bike if:

  • You want to do mixed-terrain rides without worrying about road conditions
  • You are interested in adventure riding and bikepacking

Mountain bikes:

If your riding is strictly on the off-road side of things, then you will certainly be best served with a mountain bike. Modern mountain bikes come in many flavors, from the light and sprightly XC racers to the burley freeride and downhill sleds that are designed for gravity-assisted fun. Despite the significant variations among the various categories of mountain bikes, they generally share a few common characteristics: high-volume tires with aggressive, terrain-biting tread, suspension (either front-only on hardtails, or front and rear on full-suspension bikes), powerful disc brakes and wide-range single or double chainring drivetrains.

If your local trails are mainly groomed singletrack without much technical challenge, a hardtail mountain bike will probably be the optimal choice. Hardtails are reliable, easy to maintain and – due to the lack of rear suspension – help you work on deficiencies in your off-road handling skills like picking cleaner lines on the trail and maneuvering by shifting your weight over the bike.

Pick a mountain bike if:

  • You live in a place with a good mountain biking trail network
  • You enjoy riding singletrack and off-road trails with technical features


Now that we have presented the case for buying a road, gravel or mountain bike, the next question might be: Why not all three? While many of us cycling enthusiasts would certainly like to own a bike for each type of riding, issues of budget and storage space may not always be permissive. This article is meant to be a guide on the type of bike to buy if you were to only pick one. Keep in mind that, as we have discussed, there are often variations within each category and that as riding styles and disciplines continue to evolve, there will be further segmentation within each category of bikes. To recap: road bikes will be faster and lighter on smooth roads, mountain bikes will allow you to tackle aggressive terrain with confidence and gravel bikes are super versatile for going on routes with varied terrain and long-distance adventures. Unless you are specifically focused on a single category of cycling, we say don’t dwell on choices too much! Pick the bike that most suits your local terrain, make sure you’re kitted up with the right gear for your local weather, and go have fun cycling!

The top five upgrades for your mountain bike

Modern mountain bikes have become immensely capable. These days, most mountain bikes will come with very decent specs out of the box, and for the majority of riders, all they need to do is put air in their tires, adjust suspension settings to their liking and head to the trails. This is true for bikes at various price points, but especially relevant to entry-level to mid-range mountain bikes, where their relative affordability sometimes mean that manufacturers spec cheaper parts, or omit components that have become a staple of modern mountain biking (like dropper posts or tubeless tires) in the interest of keeping costs low.

For the devoted mountain biking enthusiast, sometimes the lure of shiny new parts is just too strong regardless of the actual benefit to their riding. For instance, some people like to color-match their components, going to great lengths to find just the ride shade of matching anodized hubs, stem and pedals, often by different manufacturers, so that their ride gets just the right look. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this kind of upgrade, and I we have all seen some stunning mountain bikes with impressive attention to detail, but it adds little beyond pleasing aesthetics. For the performance-oriented rider, there are many upgrades that would actually improve the capabilities of their mountain bike and boost the fun factor on the trails. This article looks at what we believe are the best performance-oriented upgrades that should be on every mountain bikers wish-list.

1.Dropper posts:

Many mountain bikers, including us, consider the dropper post one of the best inventions in the world of modern mountain bikers. Executing technical riding maneuvers such as descending steep trails or clearing big drops often depend on well-timed weight shifts which often cannot be performed as quickly as needed with the seatpost at full height. Dropper posts make it easy to get your weight low and back and allow you to make the most out of the progressive geometry of modern mountain bikes.

Most mid-tier and above bikes now come factory equipped with droppers, but many still don’t, including XC-oriented bikes which often prioritize low weight over descending prowess. If your bike doesn’t have a dropper post and you like the challenge of riding steep and rowdy trails, consider making this your first upgrade.

 2. Tubeless tires:

Yes, we hear you: tubeless tires take a bit more patience with set-up and maintenance than regular old butyl inner tubes. They’re totally worth it though. Personally, I haven’t run a tube in any of my mountain bikes in over 12 years (unless in the event of a flat, of course, and those are rare with tubeless tires). The performance benefits are many! 1) you can run lower pressures which make your tires stick better to the terrain and thus enhance your traction, 2) pinch flats (where the inner tube gets pinched between the rim and a hard object) become a thing of the past, and you can run tire inserts for additional protection in really gnarly terrain, 3) ride quality and comfort are greatly improved (see the point about lower pressures). Modern wide rims and tubeless-ready tires make running tubeless full-time easy. Just make sure you top up your air pressure as needed and check your sealant levels every now and then.

3. Wide handlebars:

Have you ever watched a DH race from the 1990s? If not, here is one. See how narrow those handlebars were?! Nowadays, it is rare to see a sub-700mm handlebar on even the lightest of XC bikes. The standard for trail bikes seem to hover between 740-780mm depending on frame size. We are aware that handlebar width should be chosen according to shoulder width, but we are talking in relative terms here of course. Wider bars enable the rider to have better leverage and charge technical trails with more confidence, and they slow down the steering which makes the bike less twitchy on tight and twisty trails (assuming it is paired with a shorter stem, of course). If your current handlebar feels too narrow, perhaps it’s time to consider a cockpit upgrade. Our recommendation is to buy a handlebar wider than you think you’ll need and to trim it down in increments of 5mm until you find the sweet spot.

4. Saddles:

Say you’re lucky enough to own the Best Mountain Bike in the World and it came with an uncomfortable saddle. The inescapable truth is that you will have trouble having any actual fun riding the Best Mountain Bike in the World because your butt will hurt every time you want to ride it for any meaningful distance or length of time. Time to find a saddle that will not make your nether regions scream with agony. Step one: measure your sit bones (there are several YouTube guides on how to do that). Step two: find a saddle that is 1-2cm wider than your sit bone measurement, and this should be easy enough as most saddle manufacturers now offer various widths of their saddles. Keep in mind that saddles made for off-road riding are often designed to accommodate the more upright and rearward riding position of mountain bikes, so don’t put a road saddle on your trail steed. It is also worth noting that even with the right width, the shape of the saddle is just as important. You may have to experiment with a few saddles until you find the holy grail saddle for your own butt (hot tip: many companies and bike shops now offer saddle demo programs!)

5. Wheels:

I’ve been accused of being a weight weenie, chasing gram savings, and lusting after carbon this and carbon that. Guilty as charged. However, if you’re going to spend your hard earned cash on making your bike lighter you should know where exactly on the bike do weight savings translate to the most significant real-world performance benefits: your wheels. Rotational weight is one area on the bike where weight savings can be really felt on the trail. Lighter wheels accelerate faster and result in less fatigue on long rides. You probably heard the saying “Light, strong, cheap: pick any two”, which means that lightweight AND strong wheels will not come cheap. The good news is that with advances in composites technology, carbon fiber wheels that combine both characteristics are becoming more and more affordable.

6.Final thoughts

It is easy to lust after all the latest and greatest mountain bike parts, and to be fair the industry is comping up with some incredible things (electronically adjusted suspension, wireless drivetrains, etc). However, you don’t always need big ticket items to make significant improvements to your bike’s performance. Think about the type of riding you do the most and the nature of your local trails, and see which of the upgrades we listed can give you the best bang for your buck.


27.5 vs. 29er Mountain Bike Wheel Size Explained

It wasn’t very long ago when mountain bikers only had a single option of wheel size. If you wanted a mountain bike, 26 inches was your only choice. You can pick and choose other components of the bike: suspension travel, handlebar width, stem length, type of saddle, etc., yet the venerable 26in wheel size was just taken for granted as the dominant standard.

Approximately 20 years ago, 29er wheels and tires were introduced to the market, and the in-between size, 27.5inm (also known as 650B) soon followed. The ensuing debate of which wheel size is best? is one that is still aflame to this day. Eventually, the 26in wheels and tires went the way of the dinosaurs, becoming almost completely supplanted by the newfangled 29in and 27.5in sizes. It is important to emphasize that, as is the case with everything in cycling, 27in and 29in wheels come with benefits and drawbacks, but isn’t it great to have options? Alas, options can be confusing, and with the dizzying array of bikes on the market nowadays it can be hard making an informed choice when shopping for a new bike. If you’re in the market for a new mountain bike, or just want to understand more about wheel sizes in the mountain bike world, read on for an explanation of the key differences between 29- and 27.5-inch wheels, the unique characteristics and riding applications of each as well as the main considerations in choosing one over the other.

29in wheels: stability, rolling momentum prowess and confidence over rough terrain:

When first introduced, 29ers wheels were controversial, and had many misconceptions that have been gradually cleared up as mountain bike technology advanced. It was generally thought that 29ers were reserved for taller riders and that those of shorter stature cannot reap the benefits of the large diameter wheels. The main reasoning behind this was that early 29er frames were not really designed around the larger wheel size, but have been adapted from the designs based on existing bikes which had 26in wheels. Once 29er geometry was refined and purpose-built around 29ers, the myth that shorter riders should not be on bigger wheels was largely dispelled.

Another myth surrounding 29-in wheels is that they’re only suited for cross country riding. Early 29-in bikes were mostly cross-country bikes with very short travel and aging geometry, suited for smoother trails. For this reason, riders who prefer more rowdy terrain shunned 29ers, favouring 27.5in or even the now almost extinct 26in bikes. Today, the bike market landscape is very different one from what it was 15 to 20 years ago. 29in wheels are, by far, the dominant wheel size in almost all categories of bikes, especially mountain bikes.

What’s great about 29in wheels?

29in wheels have a low angle of attack. That is to say, they can roll over large obstacles with ease compared to the smaller diameter brethren. On mountain bike trails, this means that it takes less effort to pilot the bike through rocky, rooty or sandy sections. When the trail points downhill, 29er bikes feel a lot more stable at high speeds which makes for a more confidence-inspiring ride. 29er wheels also have a larger contact patch with the ground, which translates to a significant improvement in traction as those large knobs on mountain bike tires are able to have a better bite into the terrain, especially in loose or muddy conditions.

What’s not so great about 29in wheels?

29in wheels are heavier than their smaller counterparts. They take more energy to accelerate. The larger diameter can also feel more difficult to maneuver on tight, switchback-ridden trails. The myth about 29ers not being suitable to shorter riders also does have some truth in it, as riders below 160cm (approx. 5’ 2”) can often struggle to find a 29in bike with a geometry that fits them well (to which some bike manufacturers, like the German company Liteville, have responded by making frames with adjustable wheel size).

27in wheels: maneuverability, playfulness and fast acceleration:

27in wheels came from being an obscure wheel size in the cycling world to a strong contender for wheel size dominance in the mountain bike world. The appeal of the 27in diameter lies in occupying the middle ground between the aging 26in size and the exciting yet myth-ridden 29er size. Riders on the proverbial fence found a good spot with the 27in wheels. Bike manufacturers marketed 27in wheels as being the best of both worlds: playful, flickable and fast-accelerating like 26ers, yet having the improved rolling resistance of larger diameter wheels. While some of that is true, being a tweener doesn’t mean they make for the Goldilocks of mountain bike wheel sizes.

What’s great about 27.5in wheels?

The smaller diameter of 27.5ers makes them more easily maneuverable, especially if your local trails are the tight and twisty kind. Rider input feels easier and more immediate, which is especially important for beginner riders. 27.5in wheels are also generally lighter (comparing like-for-like wheels) and accordingly they take less energy to accelerate, so the bike will fill nimbler and more playful (assuming we’re comparing to a an identically-geared 29in bike). Things like manuals, hops and jumps feel a bit easier on 27.5in bikes.

What’s not so great about 27.5in wheels?

27.5in wheels don’t have the same rolling prowess of 29ers. On rough trails, they can feel hampered by large rocks, roots or other trail obstacles, especially at higher speeds. While they accelerate faster than 29ers, they don’t have the same momentum-holding properties of the larger wheel size, which means that they can also decelerate faster if coasting through a rough section of trail.

Conclusion: Which wheel size should you choose?

Firstly, bike fit and geometry are generally more important considerations than wheel size. While wheel size will have a significant impact on how the bike feels and rides, geometry will have a much more palpable effect on handling. All other factors being equal, if you are a taller rider, and/or ride technical trails where high-speed descents are the norm, or even a cross country racer then you’ll certainly benefit from a 29er. On the other hand, if you are a shorter rider, and/or enjoy more laidback and playful kind of riding, and/or your local trails are the tight and twisty kind, then 27in bikes might be better suited for you. Mountain bikers are spoilt for choice now, and it is hard to go wrong with a bike with either wheel size.

Aluminum vs Carbon Fiber Wheels

In recent years carbon fiber construction technologies have gained much ground in the bicycle industry. The material has an exceptional stiffness to weight ratio, enabling manufacturers to make bikes as well as components that are simultaneously very light and super strong, and able to withstand the demands of both road and off-road riding. Moreover, manufacturers are able to use different carbon layups, or the direction in which each layer of carbon fibers are placed in relation to the layer below it, to manipulate the characteristics of the final component.

Though there is still much room for improvement and refinement in carbon construction technologies, contemporary carbon fiber road and mountain bike wheels are more reliable than they have ever been. Many bike manufacturers are introducing carbon wheels as standard on their top end offering. Additionally, many carbon wheel manufacturer have introduced generously long warranties as well as crash replacement programmes on their carbon hoops. It is then no surprise that carbon fiber wheels are now a common sight at the trailhead and on the road.

While carbon components certainly have clear advantages and a certain allure, metal alloys have been around for much longer than composites, and as such the construction techniques are better established and easier to automate compared to the labor-intensive nature of carbon wheel manufacturing. Alloy rims are formed and welded very quickly. In comparison,  it takes a multi-step process to make one carbon fiber rim. Due to this, and even with the decrease in the manufacturing costs of carbon fiber, aluminum alloy wheels are still cheaper by a significant margin.

When it comes to comparing bike component construction materials, things can get a little tricky and often polarizing. There are no clear-cut choices or recommendations here. Cycling is a diverse discipline and different materials can have their place in disparate riding applications. In this article, our intention is to look at the general characteristics of carbon and aluminum wheels and the factors that may encourage a rider to choose one over the other.

Aluminum wheels:

What’s great about aluminium wheels?

  • Cost: Due to the aforementioned reasons, even the highest quality aluminium alloy wheels are almost always cheaper than their carbon counterparts.
  • Ease of wheel-building and finding replacements: If your rides take you to locations where finding a well-stocked bike shop can be tricky, your chances of finding a replacement alloy rim are much higher than finding a carbon one. This is especially important if you intend to do, say, off-road or long-distance bikepacking.
  • Better ride quality: Due to the material flex inherent in metal alloy, aluminium rims give a more compliant and comfortable ride than the often super stiff carbon rims.
  • Easier to spot damage: Alloy has tell-tale signs before failure. Generally speaking you will be able to spot a dent in an alloy rim and be able to replace it before a more catastrophic failure happens. This is trickier to do with carbon.

What’s not so great about aluminum wheels?

  • Weight: comparing like-for-like (wheel diameter, hub type, number of spokes, riding application, etc), aluminium wheels are heavier than their carbon equivalents.
  • Flex: Alloy wheels tend to have more significant flex and they deform on impact. Compared to carbon wheels, alloy wheels tend to go out of true quicker.
  • Corrosion: while rather rare with modern alloy rims, it can happen with wheels which see a lot of usage and infrequent maintenance and cleaning. Carbon does not corrode.

Carbon wheels:

What’s great about carbon wheels?

  • Strength-to-weight ratio: on the bike, rotating weight matters more than other type of weight. Additionally, weight at the rim has a more significant effect than weight that is in a more central location, like the hub. Therefore, the weight savings between comparable aluminium and carbon wheels can be felt on the bike more than any other component swap. With lighter carbon fiber wheels, acceleration and power transfer is more immediate, and the bike just generally feels snappier.
  • Stiffness: Carbon wheels are much stiffer than alloy ones at the same weight. This can be good or bad, depending on your own riding needs, but generally speaking stiffer wheels are always appreciated and sought after by performance-oriented riders, like racers. A stiffer wheel will make for sharper steering, a bike that is more responsive under acceleration and pedalling forces, better tracking when pushing the bike harder in corners and helps the rider maintain speed while expending less energy due to less of it being lost to material flex.
  • Stays true for longer: carbon doesn’t bend as much as alloy, and as such (well-built) carbon wheels are less susceptible to going out of true quickly when used frequently on aggressive terrain.
  • Looks: this is subjective of course, but the various surface finish techniques of carbon fiber construction can make for some really cool looking wheels.

What’s not so great about carbon wheels?

  • Cost: Carbon wheels are still much more expensive than comparable alloy wheels.
  • More difficult to spot impending failure: Carbon fiber is more susceptible to catastrophic failure because it does not exhibit signs of material fatigue as alloy does.
  • Less comfortable: Due to the higher stiffness, carbon wheels offer a less comfortable ride than aluminium due to the lack of the flex inherent in alloy rims.

Conclusion: Should you go with carbon or aluminium wheels?

As with most comparisons: there is no absolute answer here. Many factors come into play including the riding application (casual riding vs performance cycling and racing), budget, longevity, etc. Racers will appreciate the weight savings and higher stiffness of carbon wheels, while casual riders, those on a budget and comfort chasers might want to go for aluminum alloy rims. One thing to keep in mind is that the rim material choice is only one component of many when it comes to bike wheels. A well-built wheel using cheaper material is usually better than a shoddily built one with fancier materials. Carbon construction technologies continue to improve and composite wheels are becoming more and more accessible, but alloy wheels are here to stay.  

Flat pedals vs Clipless pedals

Pedals make two out of the five main contact points on your bike (the other three being the handlebar grips and saddle). When it comes to choosing a set of pedals for your bike, your options fall within two main categories: flat (also known as “platform”) pedals, or clipless (also known as “clip-in”) pedals. Nearly all beginner cyclists begin their journey in the world of cycling on flat pedals. They’re safe, easy to use and require to prior practice. Many cyclists eventually switch to one of the several varieties of clipless pedals (more on that below). The topic of flat vs clipless pedals has also turned into something of a polarizing debate in certain circles, especially among mountain bikers.

In this article we look at the main differences between flat and clipless pedals, and discuss the pros and cons of each type with emphasis on which would be more appropriate to specific discipline of cycling.

Flat pedals:

What’s great about flat pedals?

Flat pedals are super easy to use. Once fitted to any bike, you just need to hop on, put your feet on the pedal and on you go! No special shoes are required. That does not mean that all flat pedals are equal. Mountain bike flat pedals have pins in them that greatly improve the grip at the interface between the shoes and the pedals, which decreases the likelihood of your foot coming off especially on rough off-road terrain.

Using flat pedals also encourages you to hone your fundamental riding skills. If you move to clipless pedals too early, it becomes hard to master those essential skills because they become either too easy (you can easily “cheat” by lifting your rear wheel while clipped in) or too difficult to do when your foot is mechanically attached to the pedals. Learning on flats forces you to master riding skills without the risk, or the additional assistance, of having your feet clipped in.

Finally, any shoe will do! While mountain-bike specific shoes with a special type of sticky rubber sole will significantly enhance the stability of your footing on the pedals, there are no cleats or cleat positions to fiddle with. If you have not invested in a pair of flat pedals shoes yet, your old pair of running shoes will do for now!

What’s not so great about flat pedals?

Remember those pins we that keep your feet stuck to the pedals?  They are often made out of sharp metal and, if you haven’t quite mastered your off-road riding skills yet and your foot does come off and the pedal comes in contact with your shin it can be quite a painful experience!

Unless you have a perfect pedal stroke, flat pedals will not offer the optimum pedalling efficiency because the ‘dead zone” in your pedal stroke will be further amplified. Then again, a clean pedal stroke is one of those skills best practiced on flat pedals, because they expose the flaw in your technique and allow you to work on it further.

Clipless pedals:

What’s great about clipless pedals?

Clipless pedals mechanically attach your shoes to the pedals by means of a cleat on the sole of your shoe and a spring mechanism on the pedal body. This makes for a very secure attachment, and the benefits are many: it becomes easier to maintain a higher pedalling cadence, you have a more secure footing over rough terrain with reduced risk of pedal slip, and – assuming that your cleat position is done right and you have the correct bike fit – your feet are always in the right position. You don’t need to wiggle your feet for optimum positioning every time you remove a foot from the pedal or remount the bike.

What’s not so great about clipless pedals?

Clipless pedals have a steep learning curve compared to flats. There is no getting around this fact. You have to take your time practicing clipping in and out before you start going on big rides clipped-in. Even when you eventually master using clipless pedals systems, there will always be the odd where you don’t manage to unclip in time. Get to know the mechanism on your pedals and the angle at which your foot unclips, and you will significantly reduce the risk of clipless-related injuries.

Clipless pedals are only one side of the clipless system equation. You need to invest in clipless shoes to start using them. Mountain bike clipless shoes have two bolts in the sole with a recessed cleat position which makes them easier to walk in, while road bike clipless shoes have a larger exposed cleat often but not always attached with three bolts, which makes slightly more efficient for long distance pedalling, but more awkward to use off the bike.

Conclusion: Which type of pedal should you choose?

There is no straightforward answer here. It all depends on the type of cycling you do and the pedal/shoe system most appropriate for your own type of riding. As with most things, both types of pedals come with their own sets of benefits, trade-offs and compromises. Flat pedals will let you sharpen your riding skills and will boost your confidence in situations where you thing having a foot down might be necessary. Flat pedal shoes will also offer a more casual look in situations when you don’t want your attire to scream “cyclist!”, like in certain cycle commuting set-ups. Clipless pedals will offer a more secure attachment and you will feel one with your bike. If you are anything like me, spending almost equal time on road/gravel and mountain bikes, you will come to appreciate both types of pedals for what they are and what they offer.

At Cycle Limited we will make the process of getting started with your pedal type of choice easy: with every bike purchase from Cycle Limited, you will get your choice of pedal at checkout for free! More information at 

Full Suspension vs. Hardtail

When you are shopping for a new mountain bike, there are a few things to consider. One of the inevitable things is the debate of full suspension vs. hardtail. Both types of mountain bikes have their benefits and drawbacks. But, which one you choose will depend on the factors that matter the most to you.

Full Suspension vs. Hardtail? Which MTB is right for me?

 When you are shopping for a new mountain bike, there are a few things to consider. One of the inevitable things is the debate of full suspension vs. hardtail. Both types of mountain bikes have their benefits and draw backs. But, which one you choose will depend on the factors that matter the most to you. This post will highlight all the differences to help you decide which type of mountain bike to choose.


A full-suspension mountain bike has a suspension fork at the front and a rear shock. Whereas a hardtail only features a suspension fork. The amount of suspension a mountain bike has dictates how much control, traction, comfort, and amount of fun you have. This all depends on what terrain you like to ride on.


Mountain bike design and technology has come a long way in recent years, making them very capable. But to make sure you buy the right mountain bike for you, you need to think about the terrain you ride. Here are the main points to consider:


The design of a hardtail mountain bike makes climbing more efficient than a full suspension bike. Full suspension mountain bikes bob up and down as you pedal. The result of this bobbing wastes the energy you put into the pedals. However, some full-suspension mountain bikes allow you to stiffen or lock out the suspension, to reduce or eliminate the movement.

Another factor that affects climbing ability is the bike’s weight. Full suspension mountain bikes weigh more than Hardtails in most cases. The reason for the extra weight is the additional components and frame design. This extra weight means you have to put in extra effort on steep climbs. Many bike manufacturers use lightweight aluminum or carbon fiber frames to reduce the weight as much as possible.


When it comes to riding downhill, a full-suspension bike excels. The extra squish on the rear wheel gives you lots of control when riding fast. This is because the rear shock keeps the rear wheel in contact with the ground more when riding bumpy terrain.

A hardtail mountain bike skips around when the terrain gets challenging. The result of this is a less forgiving feeling, and a lot of shocks is transferred into your body.

Comfort and Capability

As great as modern hardtails are, sometimes only a full-suspension mountain bike will do. Full suspension bikes give you confidence, as they are incredibly competent. This capability makes riding a lot more fun, as you can tackle terrain that you previously wouldn’t have even considered on a hardtail. The extra capability on rough ground from a full-suspension mountain bike is astonishing. There will be occasions when you wonder how you managed to ride certain trails unscathed.

When you ride a full-suspension bike, you will also notice how much more comfortable it is over a hardtail. Vibrations and bumps are absorbed, making the ride more pleasant.

The other benefit of a full-suspension mountain bike is that you can ride for longer. The reduction in vibrations and shock transferred into your body is massive. Therefore, you fatigue at a slower rate, allowing you to keep powering along the trails all day.

Developing Your Skills

If you are new to mountain biking, you will benefit from starting with a hardtail over a full suspension bike. This is because the margin for error is much smaller, which is excellent for developing fundamental skills.

Hardtails are more difficult to ride, and they are less comfortable. But, they force you to ride at a speed that is more suited to your ability. Without the assistance of rear suspension, you need to absorb the bumps with your legs. This is a transferable skill for when you graduate to a full suspension bike. Another transferable skill hardtails teach you is line choice. You will soon learn that choosing the wrong line makes life more difficult. Also, riding the wrong line can really hurt.

The rougher ride of a hardtail teaches you how to be sympathetic to your bike. When you ride rough terrain, you are smashing your wheels into rocks and roots. You can feel these impacts more on a hardtail, allowing you to gauge when you should be holding back.

It is often said that when someone starts on a full-suspension mountain bike, they are robbing themselves of these skills. Riding a hardtail as a beginner will benefit your riding in the long term. You will appreciate your full-suspension bike more when the time comes.

This does not mean that a hardtail is inferior to a full-suspension bike. Modern hardtails are extremely capable, especially if you choose one with aggressive geometry. A rider on a hardtail bike with low and slack geometry will often reach their limits before the bike does.


Mountain bikes go through lots of punishment, so they will inevitably go wrong at some point. However, a hardtail mountain bike requires a lot less maintenance. This is because Hardtails have fewer moving parts than a full-suspension mountain bike. They have fewer pivots and bearings. These cost hundreds to replace, especially if you get a shop to do it for you.

If you have a full-suspension mountain bike, you will need to get both the forks and shock serviced. There are different levels of servicing, but you should at least get a basic service on them every year.

Full suspension mountain bikes have a rear suspension linkage. This will get plastered in mud that needs to be cleaned off to protect the bearings. This can be awkward to clean off, which is not a problem you get on a hardtail.

During the winter months, it is becoming common for full suspension riders to put their bike away. When the weather is bad, they breakout their hardtails to spend more time riding than cleaning. A hardtail just requires a quick hose down and some chain lube at the end of a ride. In contrast, a full-suspension bike requires a little more work.


If you mostly ride smooth trails, you should buy a hardtail mountain bike. You will be able to ride fast and have lots of fun. The suspension fork will soak up the majority of bumps and vibrations on smooth trails. You will also benefit from a hardtail if your local terrain includes lots of climbing. Additionally, if you plan to ride long distances, the lightness and simplicity of a hardtail will suit you best.

Hardtails are great for people that don’t see themselves as practical. Their low maintenance requirement will mean you can keep your hands clean more often.


If your local terrain is pretty technical, you will benefit from buying a full-suspension mountain bike. Their ability to take you over rocks and roots while being more forgiving on jumps surpasses their extra weight.

Full suspension bikes are also built for riders that like comfort, speed, and to ride all day. The suspension prevents the jarring effect you get with a hardtail. You don’t get as tired as quickly on a full-suspension bike, thanks to the reduction of vibrations and shock. You can also carry much more speed on trails and over features.

Full Suspension vs. Hardtail

With all this information, you should have a good idea of which type of bike you should buy. A good starting point is to look out for the different variations of mountain bike models. Some manufactures blur the lines by offering full-suspension and hardtail versions of their bikes.

A great example is the Specialized Epic. The bikes in this range have similar features and characteristics, but they are biased in different ways to suit different riders. You can choose a hardtail bike designed to be as efficient as possible for long rides. But, you can also choose a version that incorporates a rear shock that may suit the rougher terrain local to you.

Check out our online shop to see our high-end full-suspension and hardtail mountain bikes.