Cadence & MTB position

Hi All
Just looking to get a little advice.
I have always set my MTB bike up so knee bend and position over the pedal axle is similar and this was fine last year. However this year I have only really trained and ridden on my road bike. The other weekend I went out on my MTB (2nd time this year) and felt that I wanted to push the cleats forward on my shoes, raise the saddle and adjust gearing so I could spin faster (85+ on the climbs). The whole ride felt awful and pretty dead despite gaining power and losing weight since my last MTB outing.
How do you all set your bikes up? Any thoughts would be much appreciated.

Over the past few months, I have mainly been training and riding on my road bike. In the past, I have set this up so knee position and knee bend is similar on both bikes

  1. That setup being with your front of your knee directly over the the pedal spindle when the cranks are level?
  1. What about the possible changes leads you to thinking they will achieve a quicker cadence?
    • Curios about your thoughts and expectations, but I do think you are potentially on the right track.
  1. yes correct, have in the past had knee issues and feel i am possibly sensitive to this?
  2. cleat position no idea really but it just all felt a bit slow and like riding through thick mud.
    I know there is a difference in inertia etc… I do all my ERG training on little ring but it all just felt awful and like I was bogged down the whole time.

I think your idea basically makes sense and is totally worth a test. Make the change to the cleat position (which will also alter/reduce loading on your calves) and potentially get you more “on top” of the pedals. that body shift is pretty common and natural for MTB, especially on climbs.

Give it a shot and report back.

I’ve just ordered a part so I can put my MTB on one of my trainers so I can have an experiment with some power numbers, although this does raise another question.

I have two Elite trainers that read power practically identically. I have a slight left side imbalance so my 4iii reads a touch high on my winter bike. My stages on summer bike reads even higher it has been checked and passes the “stages test” so stuck with it. In my training I use power match and the 4iii scale feature so either bike is effectively the same. If I put my MTB on the trainer workouts will be impossible with my current setup what should I do?

Update for anyone who is interested.
Having looked at my rides on local trails they follow a very obvious pattern. Climb up for around 8 to 30 minutes, possibly a little riding along the top of a ridge (not too much power required), coast down technical descents. See profile of local ride I do.

I have been experimenting with my position on the trainer and then a little out on the trail, ended up lifting the saddle, moving it forward and adjusting the cleats so in relation to my foot they are slightly in front of my road position. The position feels too extreme on the flat trainer but when on a 10% grade makes sense.
The next job is to change the gearing. When doing Lamarck or something along those lines my cadence generally sits at around 91-94rpm when climbing on my MTB its in the 70’s and can go lower still so hoping a gearing tweak will allow me to put out more power over the full length of the climbs.

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Just curious if you ever got around to making any changes in gearing. I primarily ride MTB outside and use a CX bike for training. With me being over 200lbs I almost feel like I HAVE to use eagle gearing or a 2x setup. My 1x11 gets me up there but I am spinning… no, more like stomping, at an extremely low cadence and my knees do not approve.

Hi @RipVanWinkle
I made the change and now have a 24 on the front (also got a 26 which not tried) with the 42 outback. There is no question that I have the gears to spin up the climbs but still not totally managing to do it at the same pace as on the road.
That said last time out I did go faster than ever before up a local climb with a cadence higher than my previous best.
I have further room to spin even faster but cant just work out why not yet?

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Wow a 24! Which crank are you using? I was considering trying a 26T since that would give me a ratio of .65 for climbs but I am concerned about the rest of the time when I am not climbing. Are you spinning out often with this set up?

In theory at 90 rpm I can do 18mph, not spun out yet but I am fortunate I dont have to ride roads to get to trails and once on them the downs are more about holding on for dear life than peddling down.
It does look very small up there but at the moment I dont feel the need to put a 26 on. If I rode on fire roads and more on the road to get to trails I would probably need 12 speed to get a faster gear.
I have a RaceFace turnbine crank.

Oh nice, I am running that same crank. I think I will grab a couple of the cheaper steel rings in various sizes and try them all out and eventually buy the nicer one in the size I like the best.

I would love to get the turbine axle power meter but I dont ride the bike often enough to justify it

Oh yeah, that would be pretty cool. Certainly a want more than a need though. I don’t use my MTB to train indoors but it would still be neat, possibly useful information to have.

Well you are using a 24 or 26 on the front and are experiencing enforced low cadence? You could try a 30 or 32 like the rest of us / majority.

FWIW regardless of position I get my power/effort ratio maxed at 91rpm.

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I learned to climb in a big gear, I’m glad for that because it feels natural and I always have the legs for it. That said, after long blocks of rode and trainer riding it takes me a few rides to get that off-road snap back. If you’re riding off-road simply to mix it up I think chasing this is ok, otherwise if looking to spend more time off-road definitely consider running a 32. There’s on road benefits for this as well.

I’m running a cinch crank as well. About a year, love being able to push my TR work outside when appropriate.

This really depends on the rest of your set up. If you are running 10-50 cassette in the rear then you’d be fine with a 30 or 32t up front. To get the same granny gear ratio with a 10-42 cassette you have to go with a smaller chainring in front.

Are you grinding up long steep climbs where you ride?

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I put my mtb on the trainer, almost by accident since it was just what I had close at the time. I’d recommend it to everyone, my setup had been so lazy and become normal over the years that I didn’t recognise it outdoors. Soon as I spent some time on the trainer it was clearly awkward and inefficient, and after a couple of trainer sessions I’d adjusted my position, then back outdoors it was climbing PR’s galore. A real lightbulb moment as I thought I had my position dialed before.


Hard to argue with PR’s!

Yes. I have climbs up to two hours here, and plenty of them require hiking, no gear small enough. I usually opt for trails that are rideable though.

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