Mtb reach vs road bike

so i was gifted a mtb for father’s day (just a gt aggressor, nothing fancy, just something to dabble on light trail stuff). anyhow, do folks keep their saddle to bar reach similar between road bike and MTB (XC I guess)? I’ve got similar reach going, not sure if it’s preferable to go any shorter for control/stability purposes. again, just tooling around and not doing anything nuts or racing lol

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Generally shorter because you want to be more upright for weight balance and control. My reach on the road bike is considerably longer than MTB


Depends… (had to say it) :stuck_out_tongue:

Considering the different use, I tend to have a shorter saddle to bar reach in a general sense. You often want a more upright position compared to road, since control and stability take precedence over aero.

Keep in mind that the simple “Saddle Nose to Center of Handlebar” is only one aspect here. Consider the actual hand position in use on each bike. So, you can use the above, but also add in a “Saddle Nose to Road Hood Reach” and “Saddle Nose to Flat Bar Grip” measurement. Some people use the widest part of the flat handlebar, I tend to use the middle of the grip, while others use the inner edge of the grip. Just pick a method and stick with it.

The wider placement of the hands on flat MTB bars (along with typical back sweep), and the desire to be more upright leads to a shorter saddle to bar center measurement. That makes the angular measurement to the actual hand position more valuable for at least initial setup and comparison.


thanks guys, I actually bought a shorter stem, since it seems these ‘big box’ bikes get upgraded with shorter stems right away, so I may just throw it on and just see how it goes

These two links shows Lee (Lee Likes Bikes) from the podcast’s thoughts on mountainbike setup!
Pretty good information!

Congrats! Have fun.

Nope. I’m more upright. I don’t even consider reach like that. For one, the reach for narrow bars vs 800mm wide bars is very different. I would tend to position more closely to my head/sternum relative, than to reach. Arms are shorter on a MTB.

The big thing is when I get into the attack position, where are my arms. That aside, I don’t futz with the stem. For me 50mm or less. That’s it. Bars can move up and down with risers and sweep, but generally don’t futz too much.

:point_up_2: I came here to say this: Lee Likes Bikes RAD.

Here is their Youtube channel. There is a lot of info. Including the correct bar sweep, bar length and RAD set-up. I wish I knew this stuff years ago.

Score! Not bad for a fathers day gift.
My brother bought one of those bikes. It’s not too bad for a big box budget bike.

Just ride it and adjust to suit until you’re comfy most of the time. You might find a longer reach more comfortable during climbs for example.
Mountains have a habit of being quite steep and I know I spend a lot more time going up instead of down. YMMV.
Personally, I’ve got a collection of different stems, bars, seats and forks that I’ve played around with and all three bikes have ended up different. As long as I’m comfortable over multiple hours I’m happy.

Have fun MTBing.

(The GT is a fair bit better than this Huffy).

I also tend to set the saddle a bit lower for CX and XC compared to my road bike (take cleat position into account too). And have my saddle slightly further back. Shorter reach too. For offroad, you dont want too much weight on the front end, as it will side out faster compared to a roadbike with road tires on sticky roadsurface. Having everything more compact on your XC bike means you can move your body around more.
XC pro’s also slam that stem, not for us “krabbelaars”.

I keep my seat height constant across all bikes (MTB Road CX) and reach too - actually use the same seat for all bikes so I have almost the same feel. When I use MTB cleats, I do subtly lower the seat relative to road to account for the small difference in cleat (road protrudes, MTB is within the bottom of the shoe).

You might consider shortening the reach if your totally green to MTB. As others mentioned, you will be more upright and able to have a bit better control. As you get better, you will find that MTB requires getting out of the saddle (almost always) unless on relatively flat areas or sustained climbing.

It was recommended to me to have the seat a bit lower for CX and MTB, but that just never made much sense. I guess youd want to think about your flexibility, etc and make the best choice for you. Dismounting is a skill (that matters alot in CX - somewhat in MTB depending on course/obstacles like fallen trees).

I just set up my new MTB and opted for a similar, but slightly less reach to bar tops and saddle height as my road bikes. Did 1.5 hours on it this morning riding all single track and was comfortable.

Overall setup is going to be about what works for you and your riding. Make a minor change, test it, see how it feels where you like to ride, repeat.

I have an XC bike for racing and a pretty burly enduro bike, neither are setup nearly the same way at all.

@mcneese.chad Would you have an idea of how much difference there would be between the road hood setup to the MTB bars, considering XC racing and both bikes having the same saddles.

What I’m asking is…do you see a typical range difference. Like most XC race bikes are about 30mm shorter on the reach than on the road setup…


Great question, but I don’t have more than a gut feel. Other than my own setups, I haven’t done that many fits on people with road and MTB.

I’d say your 30mm is likely in the ballpark. I think it may well rage from no difference and up to that 30mm. So much depends on the fit and handling people want, especially on the MTB side.

Saddle to handlebar drop also plays into this with road usually having more drop from maybe 15mm up to 50mm lower than MTB.