What makes a bike balanced ?

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  • What makes a bike balanced ?
  • Premier Icon roverpig

    I recently built up a new bike, which feels really good. So much so that my existing bike feels “wrong”. Initially I just put this down to a honeymoon effect. New bikes are always great. But it doesn’t seem to be going away, so I’ve started to try and work out what it is that feels right about the new bike.

    The best I can do so far is to say that it feels really balanced, but even I’m not really sure what I mean by that. It’s just this feeling I get when I’m clattering down the trail, the bike is bouncing all over the shop but somehow I seem to be this oasis of calm in the middle. The other bike can be ridden down all the same trails at the same speed, but it always feels as though I’m fighting the bike.

    So, is that what is meant by balance and if so what causes it? I was thinking last night (as I fought the other bike around the trail) that maybe it has something to do with where the centre of gravity of the bike lies in relation to the bottom bracket.

    I guess what I’d really like to know is whether I can make the existing bike feel as balanced as the new one. If, for example, I carefully try and get the contact points (bars, saddle and bottom bracket) to be the ame relative to each other, will that do the trick?


    balanced = feeling of a neutral position over the bike; neither too steep or too slack.

    Many factors contribute to the feeling of a ‘balanced’ bike, as we all have different body sizes and riding styles…

    So, is that what is meant by balance and if so what causes it? I was thinking last night (as I fought the other bike around the trail) that maybe it has something to do with where the centre of gravity of the bike lies in relation to the bottom bracket.

    I’d say it’s where your centre of mass lies and how it imparts force through the BB and conversely how the contact patches transfer force back to the BB via the wheels/suspension/frame. Changing contact points will only make a difference to one side of the puzzle.

    Premier Icon jameso

    Interesting Q. There’s a lot of complicated dynamics going on that I don’t really understand and everyone has different preferences, c of g, etc. If one bike feels really balance to you, you can replicate the contact point positions and that will help but since the geometry and other parts are different it won’t get you all the way there.

    A good bike aims to get these points in the right range for as many people as poss, for the intended use (or the use it works well for – not always the same). ie, not needing a 110mm stem on an MTB to get your weight balanced.

    where the centre of gravity of the bike lies in relation to the bottom bracket.

    It’ll be a part of it, but part of a mix of things that all add up or fight against each other. Your c of g on the bike being in the right place is more influencial. The closer you are to a comfy, neutrally-weighted, efficient position the better – and if that position has you ready to make moves such as a bunny hop or well set up for good cornering with less effort or adjustment from your neutral position, then you’re onto a winner, it’ll all come naturally with less counter-correction adjustment or effect. eg that’s why I don’t like long, low front ends on MTBs.

    Premier Icon ddmonkey

    It will the bike fit / sizing along with Geometry, along with the suspension travel / set up and stem / bar – in short everything 🙂

    Premier Icon Nobby

    All sorts of variables but the one I’ve noticed the most is geometry. I’ve had an ASR SL for a few years & always loved it but recently started looking at a bit more travel. Long story short, I tried an ASR5 with 140mm forks which was too slack & felt vague but the same bike with 120mm on it was bang on.

    It felt better than the old one, making it seem very ‘busy’ when the going got lumpy or steeply down. All 3 had very similar specs & almost identical cockpits/VTT with the major differences being geometry:

    ASR SL: Head 70/Seat 73
    ASR5 120: Head 68/Seat 72.2
    ASR5 140: Head 67/Seat 71.2

    Not understanding the physics of it all, I get the feeling that the sense of ‘balance’ comes from how the angles interact with the wheelbase & travel – it is very noticable.

    Premier Icon roverpig

    Thanks folks. I get the distinct impression that:

    But we all agree that it is a genuine concept and some bikes do just feel more balanced than others, which is encouraging. At least it’s not all in my head this time.


    Wheelbase, BB height, head angle and how your suspension ramps up will all be combining factors.

    I stepped off a Santa Cruz BLT from 2007 onto a 2011 Zesty, chalk and cheese, the Zesty felt so neutral and confidence inspiring. My riding / confidence has come on alot.

    It’s one of those complicated things, like tyres, where the perception of ‘balance’ or with tyres, grip, depends so much on how you position and move your centre of mass relative to the bike and thus how you lean the bike and how your weight distribution varies between front and back tyre as you ride. The tyre example is easier to understand because it relates to how you work the side knobs and how much of your turning force comes from front vs rear tyres.


    more bb drop makes a bike feel stable.
    more trail & wheelbase makes a bike feel stable. does stable = balanced?

    when does too stable become unweildy?

    the right (personal preference) of front weight distribution makes a more balanced feel.

    suspension that is unmatched (in performance or sag etc) can feel unbalanced.

    Premier Icon roverpig

    Although I’ve already confessed to not really knowing what I mean by balanced I think it is different to stability. The bike that now feels wrong is possibly more stable than the one that feels right, in the sense that it wants to trundle along in a straight line (horizontally and vertically). The more balanced bike, on the other hand, is much more willing to move, but that movement seems to have less of an effect on me.


    have you checked the wheel size? 🙂

    Premier Icon roverpig

    Yes, but my tape measure only goes up to 24″. They are all bigger than that if it’s any help 🙂

    Premier Icon molgrips

    Balanced = good weight distribution.

    Adjust stem length, stem height, bar rotation (if using risers), saddle fore/aft, front sag and rear sag if applicable.

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