Rodfather's Rants: Reach for the Stars

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Reach! It’s a thing. And it’s more pertinent to your bike-buying decisions now than ever before. It wasn’t that long ago that you couldn’t even find out the reach of any given bike. Now some bike brands are putting it at the top of their geometry chart. What the hell is going on?

What is reach? Take a side view picture of your bike. Draw a vertical line up from your bottom bracket centre, then draw a horizontal line back from the top of your head tube centre to where it meets your bottom bracket line. That measurement is your reach. It essentially determines how long your bike is, no matter what angle your seat tube is. A short reach has you riding with your hands closer to your hips and finds you in a more upright position, where a long reach has your hands way out front and your torso starting to lean towards a more horizontal position.

Does it matter? Hell yes. There are many variables that can skew a reach measurement. A lazy head angle and spacers under your stem will bring your bar closer, which may mean said bike will benefit from a longer reach.

But why would one want a longer reach? I’ll keep it simple. The longer your bike is, the more stable it feels at speed and on steep terrain, as the further apart your wheels are, the less likely they are to flip you off the bike. Well, what a coincidence—those are the two things that scare us shitless and make us ride like pussies. Add one and two together and you get why I want a longer bike. When I ride it, I feel safer, therefore I can go faster without crashing. Because really, it’s fear that makes me bin it.

So, how long do you go? This is the million dollar question. What we’re trying to do is fit our torso in between the wheels, not over them. The shortest reach on my large frames I’ve had in the reach-happy generation is 432mm. Current trends are hovering around 465mm. Trendy feckers like Mondraker and Transition are 475–500mm. So the range is 50–60mm from super short to super long. My torso is about 540mm, so that’s about 10% of something I have no concept of. Dammit!

Are there problems with going too long? Oh yeah. It makes it hard to get the front wheel up (manuals), hands, wrists and shoulders all get fatigued from riding in the superman position, it’s trickier to manoeuvre in tight tech, trickier to shift weight over your wheels, and the bike won’t fit in the car/van/shuttle trailer.

In a nutshell: short = playful; long = stable.

So what’s the solution?

1. If you’re a shit/great rider and get scared/bored easily, want to ride faster and don’t like tight tech trails, then you’re the perfect long reach convert.

2. If you can ride a bike well and you don’t feel the need to follow trends, put your wallet back in your pocket and go ride your bike.

3. Go and talk/listen to someone smart who knows a thing or two about geometry… like my mate Steve from Vorsprung Suspension.

4. No matter how long your bike is, you’ll still eat shit if you put your front wheel where you shouldn’t.