Clive Forth's Opposite Pedal: V for Versus - Bike Magic

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Clive Forth’s Opposite Pedal: V for Versus

Words: Clive Forth
Photos: Frazer Waller

Welcome to The Opposite Pedal, the ramblings of a man who’s spent too many hours alone on the trail. A-Z mumblings on mountain biking life and language. Having been tied up in text for my next book while keeping busy with trail build projects and skills tuition it’s been a few weeks since I mumbled on about mountain biking on The Opposite Pedal. With my fourth manuscript pretty much complete it’s back to business as usual here at BikeMagic as we delve into what makes mountain biking mountain biking.

versus |ˈvərsəs, -səz|(abbr.: v. or vs. )
against (esp. in sports and legal use): Penn versus Princeton.
• as opposed to; in contrast to: weighing the pros and cons of organic versus inorganic produce.
ORIGIN late Middle English: from a medieval Latin use of Latin versus ‘toward.’

Mountain biking is full of options and compromises – shall we ride this trail or that trail? Should I use this tyre or that tyre? I want my setup to be fast but handle well! Compromises and trade-offs are all a part of the sport, deciding to take one option over another is a consistent theme throughout mountain biking, sometimes you choose the sweet trails sometimes you choose the boring ones, we all have our own opinions and views on things and that’s a good thing, right? I mean, how bland would the world be if we all rode the same bike and enjoyed exactly the same type of riding?


This tyre or that tyre? Grip or speed? If only we could have both…

So how do we narrow down the margins of error? How do we eliminate the bad trails and poor bike setups? Do we even want to do that, surely experiential learning through experimentation is a key thing to anyone’s progression and understanding of what they like from both bike and ride?

Reading, watching, talking, and listening can help guide you but what works for one person may not work for another, making simple and small adjustments to your bike’s setup can have a dramatic effect on how it feels and performs. When was the last time you changed your bar angle or stem height?

Bar and stem combos. I must admit I’ve got a leaning towards wide-bar-short-stem theory, but whatever works for you goes… as long as you know what works and what doesn’t.

My advice is to ride other people’s bikes, try other forms of cycling. When it comes to your chosen MTB, then take a piece of trail you ride frequently, something that’s not too challenging as you want to focus on how the changes feel rather than making it out of the section alive, and ride the section again and again to get a good impression of how the setup changes feel.

Make small adjustments at a time and make note of your ‘original’ setup in case you don’t like the new setup. If you’re looking at the Vs. for the overall ride then consider the percentages of what you’re riding and tailor your setup and equipment to suit the larger percentage of the ride. Inevitably you will ‘suffer’ somewhere!

Setting bikes up according to the trail you’re riding is another overlooked gem. Adjust tyre pressure and suspension settings accordingly. In this case, the renowned rocky Welsh trail centre, Afan.

So don’t be shy and follow the trends, try different things and weigh up the pros and cons for yourself. Like what you know and know what you like!

Next week I’ll be back with some skills pointers and an interview with a true legend in the sport. Stay tuned for the latest news and keep it rubber side down.

Clive Forth. MTBSkills, Transition Bikes.
Follow Clive on twitter –
Images courtesy of


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