Tag Archives: featured

OPINION: Importance of the headtube angle

The world of mountain bikes is constantly changing.  Suspension can be tuned better than a piano, seat position can change faster than the stock market, and there are more tire choices than beer choices at Pick N Save.  So you walk into your local bike shop (ah-hem…we happen to recommend ours), looking for a new do-everything and go-anywhere mountain bike.  Where do you even begin?

Well, it can be easy, if you want it to:

“Hey man, I need a new mountain bike.  I have 79 minutes before I need to be on the trail, help!” You cry.

“Where’s your favorite spot to ride?” I ask.

“Greenbush and Hartman Creek.” You respond.

“Hardtail or full suspension?” I quickly ask, as I notice you checking your watch.

“I really don’t need rear suspension for the riding I’m looking to do, plus I want ‘jkldfjdsajklfj‘ for my drivetrain, and the wallet won’t open wide enough to get that on a full suspension rig” You bellow.

“Perfect, check out the Salsa Timberjack or the Specialized Fuse, they both are great options for your specific needs”

Simple.  You head to the trail with the Salsa because you like the color.  You even get to the trailhead early, just enough time to take a selfie with your new bike.

But, but what if you want to talk about which bike is best for your riding today? Best for your riding next year? Or maybe best for riding you didn’t even knew existed at this current point in our discussion, standing in front of a couple bikes at the shop? This is where the decision can get as in depth as you want, because the world of mountain bikes contains a lot.  Components.  Shock rates.  Suspension travel.  Wheel and tire size.  And, more looked over than your neighbors one yard decoration for Christmas, the geometry.

This, in my opinion, is the most crucial aspect of a mountain bike.  It, for the most part, will determine how the bike climbs, how it jumps, and how much confidence it will unknowingly give you, the guy or gal who is hoping to not launch over those pretty new handlebars.  Specifically, let’s chat about the head tube angle of a bike.  This one makes the big difference.  This one determines if your bike climbs like your pushing a shopping cart up a dirt hill or descends like your bike is a voodoo doll and the evil person controlling it locks your front brake up randomly, especially when your going down hill at a fast clip.  So with this in mind, let’s revisit our discussion and let’s say instead of 79 minutes, you have 91 minutes to get to the trail head.

“Hey man, I have just under two hours to get a new bike and get out to the trail, can you help me out?!” You exclaim.

“For sure, where are you headed today?”

“Greenbush, it’s one of my favorite spots to ride.  I really enjoy the rocks and roots.  I’m looking for a versatile bike to ride there and maybe some new spots in the future.” You calmly describe.

“Oh great! Greenbush is a blast, good place to keep a smooth pace and let the bike work for you a bit.  Where else are you thinking of riding? Have you checked anything out outside of Wisconsin trails?”

“Hmmmmm…no I haven’t, I’ve heard great things about some trails in Minnesota and the UP though, have you ridden there at all? I want to get into some technical riding, I like going downhill fast!” You admit.

“Ya, I’ve ridden quite a few miles up in Marquette and Copper Harbor.  I’m a huge fan of the Specialized Stumpjumper for those trails.  Plus it can handle everything in Wisconsin fine too.  A bit overkill, but it’s one bike to do it all.  Would you like to give one a spin?”

“Sure, I have a little time.” You mention.

So, you take the bike out into the parking lot, roll off a curb or two and notice the bike handles great.  You begin to picture yourself riding some gnar and get even more pumped.  Congrats, you just decided that your wallet is big enough, because instead of buying new seat covers for your gas guzzler, you want to drop it all on this perfect-for-you bike.

Ya, but where did we even talk about the head tube angle as being the most important part of the bike? Ah-ha! We really didn’t, except right here:

It’s so important to the ride of your mountain bike, that you literally just bought the perfecter bike for you because of it.

TIL #3: Drivetrain ‘Trim’

Bikes are simple.  They have two wheels and a chain, a derailleur that moves said chain from gear to gear, allowing you, the rider, an easy (or easier) time when riding your favorite routes.  As technology continues to evolve in the industry, improvements such as expansion of the drivetrain has occurred.  With this in mind, chainline, or the angle in which the chain is at from a cog on the cassette to a chainring on the crankset, has begun to experience some changes.  While some gear combinations are not the best for the bike, namely, the large chainring and largest cog on the back, or the dreaded small and small combo, the rider may need to put the bike into these combinations during times of peril.  In addition to a speedier means of wearing out the drivetrain, these combinations and others showing a similar chain angle, tend to make some noise…the solution, mostly found on ‘road bikes’ is the ability to ‘trim’ the front derailleur, these half-shifts allow the front derailleur to be best placed in relation to where the chain is lined up on the cassette.

Below, we can see an example of a drivetrain in a ‘big chainring and big cog’.  The chain is angled in a manner that it is rubbing the inner plate of the front derailleur, causing noise and also vibration that will both bother the bike and the rider.

Wow, that chain is rubbing the inner plate of that front derailleur to the point that you’re going to go crazy.

This has an easy fix, the front shifter on this particular bike has more than two positions, the ability to ‘trim’ the front derailleur to better accommodate the narrow tolerances of this drivetrain, allow both precision and drivetrain flexibility.  Next is an image of a half-shift of the front derailleur.  This allows the derailleur to be repositioned over the large chainring and offer a mostly noise free gear combination.

The result in this half-shift is the repositioning of the front derailleur, depicted below:

When properly setup, your bike can comfortably utilize every gear combination.   Wondering if your bike has this feature? Play around with the shifter, or stop down, we’re happy to help show you a few hidden tricks that you may not have known about!


A Run or Ride in Every County

Keith Uhlig, journalist from USA Today Network – Wisconsin, has set out on a great project to check off every Wisconsin county with either a 3 mile run or 15 mile ride.  He’s nearing the end of his list and we were fortunate enough to get to spend part of an afternoon with him recently, riding from the shop to Bare Bones Brewery and back (DISCLAIMER: we took a longer way out to get him to his 15 mile minimum).  Here is his write-up:


Trail Highlight – Levis Mounds

Traveling back in time to the edge of a glacier? Nah, just an ice shove on Lake Winnebago, circa 2017.

The last glacial maximum brought rich farmland to our great state, gave us our thousands of lakes scattered throughout the northern half of the state, and altered the landscape in more ways than any other natural event in our areas history.  Ice is an extremely powerful landscaper, slowly inching its way further and further, until finally, after retreating, the land is left with many amazing features that Wisconsin can lay claim to.

This is the most important map of Wisconsin. It is the reason our mountain bike trails are the best around. Please, study.

On the fringe of the ‘Driftless Area’ of the state lies a landscape that takes you out of Wisconsin and transplants you in what feels like the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.  Levis Mounds was not decimated by glaciers, it was sculpted, altered, and graced by their presence.   Being at the edge of glaciation, Levis underwent a unique transformation.  It’s sandstone bluffs, or monadnocks, were cut out of the earth to provide us with a remarkable terrain for mountain biking today.  Other trail networks can thank glaciers for their work over 10,000 years ago, notably, the Greenbush trail network in the northern Kettle Moraine State Forest, however very few have been implemented in this transition-zone that Levis has.  This terrain leads to radical changes in trail type, you begin riding on what feels like a flatland type of trail that was wiped flat by a massive bulldozer, then suddenly you are climbing and gaining elevation as you pedal upon bluffs that arise out of thin air, bluffs that were just strong enough to withstand the push from the  edge of an immense ice sheet that nearly toppled them millennium in the past.  In addition to  geological processes, good old fashion human power is what puts the trail in as the landscape is but a canvas and we, the artist.

Levis Mounds Trail Center is located in Clark County, just south of Niellsville.  Approximately a 2 hour drive from Oshkosh, Levis is a perfect trail to either take a full day to go and ride at, or plan on camping in the nearby campground to extend the stay and explore the area further.

Regional location.

Local location.

Right where it is.

The trail network consists of 19 miles of singletrack, much of which is part of the ‘IMBA Epic’ loop on the grounds.  The trail has a consitancy of sandy soil, which allows the area to drain quickly and not experience long periods of standing moisture.  (Turns out Levis is usually one of the first trail networks in the state to open for the season due to this as well.)

Sections of sandy soil, and a feather.

As you get further into the trail, you begin to climb and quickly get out of any moisture.  While there is definitely periods of climbing here, the trail is designed to keep you motivated to keep going, throwing in quick periods of downhill and/or flat sections.  Once up in elevation, the trail begins to narrow and tightly hug the clifside.  Some sections require wood bridges to keep you from a tumble while other sections require sure bike handling and confidence.  These trails are marked and if you’re riding with a novice or young rider, be mindful of what’s coming up on the trail.

Trails that need to be checked out when you make your visit are Sidewinder, the Hermosa trilogy, Clifhanger, Clarence (for the vista), and find Plubmer’s Crack.  At the trail head, they also have installed a fun feature loop, letting you hone your skills before venturing out into the wilderness of Levis Mounds.

View off of the trail, ‘Clarence’


At the end of ‘Cliffhanger’