Your bicycle is the machine your body will power in an effort to meet your Leadville Trail 100 MTB goal—whether that goal is simply to finish or to earn the biggest possible buckle. Your body needs to be fit for the challenge, but you can also optimize your bike setup to ensure the best balance of power, comfort and speed, come race day.
In Part 2 of this article, we’re looking at bike fit, shoes, pedals, bars, grips & saddles.
Now that you’ve decided on the basic foundation of bike, gearing, tires and tubes, it’s time to address the rest of your setup. Specifically, you need to dial in the bike fit and focus on the points of contact between your bike and body—elements that will significantly impact your comfort, power and speed over 100 miles.
If you haven’t already, get a professional mountain bike fit, stat. This is arguably the single most important thing you can invest in before the race, and it will help inform your selection and position of saddle, stem, handlebars, pedals, shoes and cleats. Find a reputable, experienced mountain bike fitter. A guru road bike fitter won’t know the nuances of setting up your mountain bike.
THE SHOE, CLEAT & PEDAL TRIFECTA
These three elements work together—and in a well-fit rider, provide an opportunity to push your max power while remaining injury-free.
Shoes need to be comfortable, and many riders opt to add custom footbeds, orthotics or shims. Imbalances are common in our bodies (ankles, knees and hips), and the smallest misalignment can cause pain, injury and a loss of power to the pedals. Inserts help correct these imbalances and align your feet. Look for a very stiff sole to provide support and strength across your entire foot, plus a comfortable toe box. Your feet will swell in a 100-miler, so allow for this when shoe shopping.
Cleat position is critical: they should be consistent with one another and properly placed, not only fore and aft but also directionally. Shoddy cleat placement has contributed to countless injuries and low efficiency in cyclists. Your professional fitter can make pedal recommendations, find your ideal cleat position, and advise on any modifications to your shoes.
BARS & GRIPS
Handlebars and grips also work in tandem, and comfort is critical in preventing numb hands and enhancing climbing power and prowess.
The trend is toward wider handlebars, and a nice wide bar (700mm) allows you to open up your chest, relax your upper body and breathe—an obvious challenge in Leadville’s altitude. A wide bar also offers better handling, steering and overall control. Bar ends can enhance efficiency and relaxation when climbing—factors you’re sure to appreciate on the way up Columbine and Powerline.
Grip choice determines comfort and control. Standard round grips place undue stress on the ulnar nerve, causing numbness and tingling—and a lack of dexterity—for many riders. Grips are relatively inexpensive and easy to install, so try out different models until you find what works for you, with the right combination of padding and support.
The wrong saddle can be agonizing. It can damage nerves and cause saddle sores, both of which are wise to avoid. In addition to the saddle itself, saddle height and position (fore, aft and tilt) are important, and another area where a professional fitter will focus.
In a counter-intuitive twist, cushioning is not a crucial component in saddle comfort. Rather, proper fit is key. Get the width of your sitz bones measured at a good bike shop and use that as a starting point. The saddle should line up with the bones, or else you’ll sit on soft tissue and risk a great deal of pain. Try before you buy with a saddle demo program. And, just like finding the right mate, when you find the right saddle, you’ll know.
Want more details on dialing in your ride?
Tweaking Your Bike Setup: Optimizing Your Ride For Leadville
Dispatches from Columbine: Choosing the Right Tire Setup for Leadville
Dispatches from Columbine: Don’t Overlook the Little Things – Choosing Gear Beyond Your Bike