Does adjustable geometry matter?
Modern day mountain bikes often incorporate some sort of “chip” that can “flip” (their words, not mine) to adjust a bike’s geometry. And once in a while, we’ll see various mechanical options on the frame to change the bike’s suspension characteristics- making it easier to bottom out (regressive) or much more difficult to bottom out (progressive). I thought it’d be fun to do a true back-to-back test of a few various settings, and to vlog my reactions to the way the bike’s “feel” changes.
This Rocky Mountain Altitude has 9 different shock mounting points- 3 different geometry settings and within each of those, 3 different suspension linkage ratios. In plain language, this means the bike can be set up slack, neutral, or steep, and within those, the suspension can be fine tuned to be more progressive, neutral, or more linear. I’m curious just how much this will actually matter on the trail, so spent a few hours trying each and every one of these 9 settings- along with a control run before the test, and a final “review” run at the end.
Today’s test loop is simple- a steep run in, a tight turn, a small drop off, a fast straightaway, a couple little jumps, then a return climb that’s quite steep and challenging. That said, the most important aspect of the test loop is that it is easily repeatable- as I was to do 10 laps on it!
Of course, there are special use scenarios where one setting should be expected to be ideal- for example, slack and progressive for high speed bike park riding; or steep and linear for tight and techy goat trails. But how do we define those general terms? And can different riding styles speak better to differing geometries?
Do you have a bike with adjustable suspension? What’s been your experience- have you ever tried the various settings, or have you never touched it once? Let know in the comments below!
Going into this, I’m admittedly a big fan of adjustability. We don’t all ride the same frame size, handlebar widths, or suspension pressures and settings. Why should we all be stuck to the same suspension traits and geometry? My initial bias is that this is pretty cool. But I don’t know just how different the settings will feel on the trail, or if all settings will indeed be viable.
Now, adjustability does have plenty of drawbacks. Perhaps the biggest is that end users who buy these bikes don’t take the time to learn about what setting might be best for them, resulting in them riding a bike that doesn’t feel anywhere near as good as it could or should. How many folks get a completely new SD card for their GoPro every time it gets full? Which means they aren’t nearly getting full potential out of it. There are PLENTY of examples of end users who aren’t fully educated on what they purchase, and hey, I’ve been guilty of this too. We have a Jeep that has never once been rock crawled…
Adjustability also invites the potential for problems- more complexity means more things to lose or break, potential for creaks, it drives up cost, and perhaps the most difficult, is that testing each setting to be sure it’s got no weird side effects is quite a chore.
To hear my thoughts on the differences between the settings, it’s best to watch the video. That’s the raw, candid reaction of how the bike changed. And remember, your own style combined with your own trails might result in a totally different, and equally valid, outcome. However, in the case of the Rocky here, I can say that each position felt like it could be viable in a particular scenario. I ended up sticking with the neutral geometry setting, but learned that the more progressive suspension better suited my style. Now I send with a smile!
I don’t think I’d avoid a bike entirely because it doesn’t have adjustable geometry and/or suspension, but depending on a riders usage case, it’s definitely something to consider. Would I pay extra for the adjustability? Ya, I probably would. That said, I’m super in deep in the MTB game. I’ve raced world cup downhills (albeit poorly) and various stops of the Enduro World Series (though without results worthy of mentioning), meaning I have a lifetime of dialing in bikes very specifically. For me, it’s an awesome feature. But for the average consumer, it might not be a big deal at all, as long as folks report that the stock configuration of a bike rides well.
Perhaps I should do a feature on how to adjust your geometry WITHOUT an adjustable frame? I do have a slew of tricks up my sleeve there…
Once again, big thanks to Jenson for sponsoring this video AND for arranging for this loaner bike. I have a link here to this Rocky Mountain Altitude Rally Edition over at Jenson USA, and anything you purchase from that link will directly help my channel. Thanks for your time!