Know-How Workshop

Epic Fails – When Bike Setup Goes Wrong

When it comes to bike setup, some of us agonise over the details, making sure everything is ‘just so’. However, there are some whose bikes are so badly setup, we can only imagine they were built in the dark – whilst drunk! Some horrors are down to a healthy lack of OCD attention to detail, while others are true epic fails. Here is our rundown of the top setup faux pas. How many have you been guilty of?

Wow, that’s a cool looking bike. Hold on! Wait just a minute, why’s that there? And why….ah nope….

The apple core effect – No end caps in the bars

The cardinal sin, nothing says “I’m too lazy to worry about punching holes in myself” than un-bunged bars”. While it may be a small and cheap part of plastic, it’s often the only thing that stops your bike taking a souvenir out of your body in a crash. You may as well mount a samurai sword to the end of each bar. If you value your body parts and don’t want to leak while you take a drink, make sure those end caps are fitted.

The cardinal sin, hungrier than a grouchy Great White Shark an uncapped bar end will happily remove a lump of your body.

Misaligned Bars

Even pro riders are guilty of this. We will be the first to admit that aligning bars perfectly is 50% luck and 50% witchcraft, but some are downright outrageous. Hop on your buddies bike and take a look! Chances are the bars will be about as straight as a butchers hook. Unless every turn on your trail is a left, spend a bit of time on the hex keys and get that bar aligned properly.

It’s a fact, if you show this photo to someone with OCD, they will no longer be able to sleep at night until you send a photo of a properly aligned bar.

Long cables

Long cables proudly scream “my owner doesn’t care about me”. Instead of a neat and tidy arrangement, the big tangle of cables at the front of your bike looks more like the wiring mess you hide under your office desk. Long cables are like playthings for trees and branches, tempting to grab as you race past at speed. But remember, overly short cables are equally as bad, they look super neat until you have to turn your bars and everything snaps!

Long cables have the uncanny ability to lasso trail features. Hello ground, meet rider….

Wonky headset caps

This will only be one that bothers the OCD crew. For most, a wonky headset cap is nothing more than tardy show of workmanship, for others it renders the bike physiologically unrideable. While it not be a big problem, we have to wonder, if the builder couldn’t find 5 seconds to align a logo then how careful were they clamping up the stem bolts?

If you want to annoy your mates, a quick twist will enrage their inner detail freak.

Loose headset

It’s amazing how you can make a great bike feel like a bag of hammers with half a turn of a hex key. If your headset is not properly tensioned your fork will flop around inside the frame like a salmon on the river bank, clunking and clanking away. Turn your bars, 90 degrees in either direction and hold the front brake on, now rock the bike forwards and backwards, if it knocks like the postman at Christmas then your headset needs some attention.

Is this what your biking tool kit looks like? If so you should probably not build bikes for anyone but yourself.

Frayed cable ends

This is a classic from the ‘it’ll be alright’ crew. Granted, cable end caps have the Houdini like skill of escaping from your tool box, but a frayed cable stands out like a boil on the face of a supermodel. Not only does it make future cable length adjustments impossible, but it also has the potential to leave some wire souvenirs in your leg, stick a cap on it.

Tools of the trade! Nothing says “I know what I am f’#king doing, than a big hammer”

Front brake cable outside the fork

Another classic, OK, it’s not the end of the world but it is a big no-no. Running the front brake cable around the outside of the fork leg not only looks a bit slapdash but can also result in an impromptu flying lesson as you snag it on a sniper branch. Get that cable on the inside for maximum protection and minimal embarrassment.

There is so much wrong in this picture that the outside brake hose is perhaps the least of your worries!

Fork wrong way around – super fail!

This is the mother of all epic setup fails. But – it does happen! We have seen many reverse crown Manitou forks fitted backwards, and vice-versa, many standard forks too. Designers have spent many years perfecting the fork offset, and running it backwards will make the fork dive faster than a Scotsman who sees a pound coin on the floor. If you see someone with their fork on backwards it’s OK to laugh and point, but when suitable punishment has been administered guide them to the error of their ways.

Tire on backwards

Always a good giggle. Tyre manufacturers spend gazillions of euros on tread performance to ensure you are riding the pinnacle of mud shedding perfection. Then what do we sometimes do? We proudly flip the bird to all that research by running the tire back-to-front! We all know how annoying it is to claw a tubeless tyre onto the rim, only to find out it’s on the wrong way, crushing right? Even so, there’s simply no excuse for a backwards tire, you will be deservedly mocked.

Ah the old tyre backward trick, maximum braking traction, minimum care given.

Tire logos misaligned

The reason pro-mechanics line up the tire logos with the valve stems is so road racers can quickly find the valve if punctured in the heat of battle, but really it just shows you take pride in your bike. Not only will having the tire logos in the wrong place send a good mechanic into cardiac arrest, but it also shows that you do not care about the details. It marks you out as the sort of person who has never checked the oil in the car and has probably never washed the bed sheets.

OK, so it’s probably not an offence punishable by death, but if you’re going to pop the tyres on, you may as well align them properly – it shows you care.

Too short a chain – the drivetrain assassin

If your chain is too short, you are entering the realm of the silent drivetrain killer, it hunts at the bottom of big jumps and drops. Having a chain that is too short presents few problems, unless, that is, you hit a drop with the chain on the biggest cassette sprocket. As the bike hits full compression the chain line gets longer and the chain is stretched, the derailleur spring valiantly tries to give out more slack before giving up and exploding in a pop of expensive springs and pulley wheels.

Lying in wait, the short chain dreams of the moment where it can happily rip your mech clean off the bike.

Of course, we could go on and on here, but we want to hear your most epic setup fails. Post a picture in the comments below.

That’s better, ready to shred. No bikes were injured in the making of this story.

Words & Photos: Trev Worsey