Do I really need my local bike shop? Why is getting rid of chainrings so complicated? Which tires will tame the
Wild West? Which of these rigid
forks is less rigid?
We love answering these ques-
tions and many more every month.
Got a question of your own? All
you need to do is visit our website
( www.mba ction.com) and click
the “Ask MBA” tab. Scroll to the
bottom of the page and hit the
link to ask your question.
SPIN TO WIN
Q: I am an ultra distance runner
who has recently taken up mountain
biking, but I am really struggling
with overall strength on a mountain
bike, even on short, 15-mile rides.
Can you recommend exercises/drills
to improve my fitness on the mountain bike?
—Fiona, who is ahead of the
FAREWELL TO THE MIDDLE RING?
game in fitness
A: First, 15 miles is not a “short”
ride. That is a good distance on a
mountain bike. Due to undulating ter-
rain and steep, technical climbs, moun-
tain biking often requires more brute
power than road cycling (or running).
Q: Ride a 2012 Giant XTC 1 29er
and thinking of going to a 2x10 drivetrain. I’m a newbie and still
building my strength and
endurance on climbs. Is this a good
—Matt, who is not sure about
giving up the lil’ guy
A: If the bike had 26-inch wheels,
we’d say definitely go for the 2x10.
The smaller wheels make the gears
easier to turn over than the big
wheels. Since your wheels are 29ers,
the answer is not so cut and dry. The
2x10 will work, but if you find your-
self using the granny gear on climbs,
we would not “upgrade” to a 2x10. A
lot of riders find the lowest gear of a
2x10 too tall for 29er wheels and lose
the ability to spin a high cadence
without the little ring.
If you are using the middle ring
most of the time, we’d say go for the
2x10. You’re only going to get
stronger on the bike from here, right?
The 2x10 shifts better. The gearing
feels more natural, and the lack of a
third ring takes a lot of the guesswork
out of riding.
We often find ourselves clearing
tricky sections on a 2x10 setup that
we consistently had trouble with on a
3x10. Whether this is a mental
thing—knowing that we have to pedal
harder because we don’t have the
safety net of the little ring—or an
actual physical result of the gear
ratios and smoother shifting, the reality is that we are riding better.
GO AIRBORNE OR STAY GROUNDED
Q: I’m a 14-year-old beginner and
ride a Giant Boulder. I need a bike
that is easier to crank out climbs
and is more confident on technical
descents. The Airborne Skyhawk
seems to be a solid bike. Should I
stick to my current bike or get the
—Thomas, who may be ready to
open a bike shop in his garage
A: Airborne bikes are solid perform-
ers, but the one downside is that they are
sold directly to riders rather than
through a local bike shop. We don’t rec-
ommend this route unless you are a good
mechanic or know someone who is.
Additionally, it can be hard to know
the correct size to order, as you can’t sit
on the bike in the showroom or spin it
around the parking lot first.
The Boulder may be a bit heavy, but at
your age, you are going to grow out of
your bike before you can wear it out. If
you don’t have a capable mechanic in the
family or close by, it is a better idea to
ride the wheels off that Boulder, grow a
bit more and get a Giant Talon when you
can scrape together the dough.
To combat this, try using an easier
gear and spinning the pedals at a higher
cadence. A guideline is to keep your
cadence between 80 and 90 revolutions
per minute. By spinning the pedals
rather than mashing a hard gear, you will
rely less on sheer muscle strength and
tap into the cardiovascular fitness you
have built up by running. If you are pedaling slower than this, you may be pushing too hard of a gear and that may be
why you feel short on power.
There is no secret workout. More time
in the saddle will result in better performance. One trick is to pick easier rides
without steep climbs or ultra-technical
terrain so you get used to getting those
fat tires rolling.
We all go through what you are feeling. Even if we are off the bike for a
week, it feels like starting over. Luckily,
it is not often we are off the bike that
long. Remember to have fun and try
not to think of it solely as a workout.