How Much Reach is Too Much Reach?

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11/18/2017 1:18 AM

It's no secret that bikes have been going "longer, lower and slacker" for some time now, but let's step back and put things into perspective when it comes to reach. Traditionally, each jump between frame sizes would represent an increase of about 15-20mm in reach. When Mondraker popularized their original Forward Geometry concept, they added 50mm to the reach and paired it with a 0mm stem, effectively putting the handlebar in the same place as before but growing the reach and wheelbase by a whopping 2.5 sizes. That's right, if 20mm is one size, then 50mm is 2.5 sizes up. In other words, if you were previously riding a medium, Mondraker would now have you riding an XL (we simplify here, because an ACTUAL XL would also be much taller, which might make it impossible for a shorter rider to use it, but it's to make a point). Mondraker mellowed down their original concept by moving to 30mm stems after a couple of years, but the long reach numbers remained. Many other brands have since followed suit, even though they may or may not have come up with a fancy term for doing so.

Having ridden plenty of bikes with longer reach, it's clear to us that the general evolution of bike geometry is headed in the right direction. There are many benefits to longer reach, and when you couple that with better angles and better suspension, you really end up with a very capable bike. Where exactly to stop, is another question altogether. How much reach is too much reach? Should you really be riding a bike that's 2 sizes longer than before? And if so, what WERE you riding before this one? We'd like to hear about your experiences and opinions, so vote in the poll and discuss in the comments!

Vital MTB Poll

Have You Increased Your Reach, and If So, How Much?





11/18/2017 1:49 AM

Didn't publish "reach" in 2007 from what I can tell. But I did move from 23.5" top tube on a large Blur LT to an Nomad XL with a 25.71" top tube. So 2.2" longer and of course a much shorter stem. I'm loving it. Feel much better going down anything steep.

11/18/2017 2:12 AM

My Nicolai G13 has added 60 mm reach to my previous bikes. Combined with a 32 mm stem...it feels amazing. Have gotten so used to it that I've swapped my XC/Marathon bike from a large to an X-Large to try and replicate the longer reach measurement.

11/18/2017 3:02 AM

until you start to hate your new CG, you realize you cannot do mini-manuals on blind trails where you cannot prepare your body position that fast... I guess that on a bike that you can pedal, reach is limited by the STA... there has to be a limit there 74-77 may be ? That Pole bike starts to look weird to ride...

11/18/2017 3:50 AM

There is no such thing as too much firepower

11/18/2017 5:18 AM

Hill is 5'10ish on a 430mm. rude 5'11 when he was totally rude a year ago on a 424mm. how hard is it to go fast in a straight line? Forward geo is rad for that. Turns turn me on. people on a bike way too big all streched out going into a turn where they can't move themselves or the bike around is too much tuna. Oh and pvd is a jackass

11/18/2017 7:17 AM

I’m 5’6” and traditionally speaking should be on a small but have ridden mediums around 435mm reach for the last 5 or so years. Lately I’ve downsized a tad in both reach and wheelbase and very happy. I reached the limit now my personal pendulum is swinging back the other way. With the way most bikes (and my fave Scout) are going I’ll be on a small next but it won’t be any shorter, I’ll just have more stand over which is nice. I like and have fully appreciated longer bikes but I think that they’re like cars with traction control - I think they help everyone go fast and ride well but more skilled riders (NOT necessarily myself) will want to turn the traction control off and rely more on their experience and skill. Still trying to figure out a way of saying that without sounding like a dick who thinks he’s a better rider than you. Which I’m definitely not. I just observe that most pros don’t seem to go for super long bikes. But that doesn’t mean they’re wrong, far from it - they’re pretty awesome!

11/18/2017 8:16 AM

Getting on a super long reach bike feels stable in a straight line, but starts to feel unwieldy when I've gotta make the bike do something other than fly straight. Not to mention the longer front end tends to make my back hurt on longer pedals.

I'd rather have a moderate reach (430-ish for my 5'9" frame), and gain a bit of extra stability via longer chainstays. Splayleg mentioned the short reach on Rude's SB6, but that thing has a longer wheelbase than plenty of bikes with substantially longer reach measurements (partly due to the long stays). And for any bike that I'm gonna pedal uphill for a long time, I shy away from the super short stems. For climbs, and descents that aren't consistently steep, a short stem just makes it harder to keep the front wheel weighted. I stick to a 50mm on most bikes.

So in terms of where I've settled, my older bikes (depending on how far you go back) probably had reach numbers that were 30 or 40mm shorter than what I'm running now, but the effective top tubes were more like 15-20mm shorter since seat angles tended to be slacker.

11/18/2017 8:39 AM

440mm and 40mm on the AM.

430mm and 50mm on the Trail.

174cm.

Would probably like 10mm more on both but would rather have that 10mm on the rear centre on the AM.

11/18/2017 8:46 AM

@ 6’4” I still want more reach/wheelbase current spec reach 471mm & a 40mm stem(manufacturer specs bike with a 50mm stem I like the way it feels with the 40) & 1231mm wheelbase. I’d really like to have a extra 40mm of both.

11/18/2017 9:51 AM

I have an unproven theory that the proper reach for a person on a given category and style of bike can be found by an arm measurement and some math. This theory is based loosely on snowboard sizing, where you Measure to a certain points on your body to find the lengths of board that will fit you. This method is similar, and takes into account changes in the head angle.

Measure from inside the armpit to the tip of the longest finger. For me this is about 720mm. Then take the average head angle for the category of bike you want to ride, i.e., 67 or 66 for a trail bike, and divide that by 100. I Then multiply the arm measurement by one hundredth of the head angle, which for me looks like 720X0.66=475.2. If I want a more stable bike I add one percent of the arm measurement to the reach, in my case that is about 7mm, I would take that 7mm off the reach for a more agile or climb oriented bike. This process will also work for XC, Enduro, Park, and DH bikes. It struggles with DJ bikes, unless you take 10 degrees off the standard head angle before dividing by one hundred, i.e., (69-10)/100=0.59, this gets me much closer to reach numbers seen on DJ and Slopestyle bikes, especially if they have multiple sizes for the given model.

Anyway, I have not yet tested it by riding bikes on the trails with reach numbers close to what this method tells me I should ride, to see if i really like it better than the 430-440 reach numbers my current bikes have. But it does get me close to the reach numbers many manufactures are recommending to people of my height with their latest bikes, or in Kona's case, what they have become red to me for a few years now, so it may have some merit.

11/18/2017 11:02 AM

For those that are lost on this whole concept of "reach," this article is helpful: Modern Mountain Bike Geometry Defined - Transition Explains Effective Top Tube Versus Reach



Having had the opportunity to ride several bikes back-to-back in different sizes but with the same trim, I feel like I can weigh in on this pretty well.

I'm 5'10" (178cm) tall and have been testing bikes in the 425-455mm reach range for a while now. After loads of experimentation, I've found bikes around 440mm paired with a 50mm stem to be the sweet spot for my preferred riding style. Most days I enjoy a more "playful" approach to riding.

When riding longer bikes my take-off points change and overall speed increases. Instead of popping off every little root or rock, I plough through them and bigger undulations in the trail become my takeoff points.

When I go too long (over 455mm), however, I have to drastically readjust my riding style to prevent the bike from "see-sawing" down the rowdiest steppy bits of trail, which can feel sketchy and uncontrolled at times.

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11/18/2017 12:13 PM

Bent seat tubes are the issue if you ask me. An actual seat tube angle of (over) 75° will give you insane reach and will keep the CG the same as with a much shorter, steeper HA bike. Manuals will always be a problem, since the bike is longer, you have a longer lever to lift (front wheel).

11/18/2017 12:22 PM

Primoz wrote:

Bent seat tubes are the issue if you ask me. An actual seat tube angle of (over) 75° will give you insane reach and will keep the CG the same as with a much shorter, steeper HA bike. Manuals will always be a problem, since the bike is longer, you have a longer lever to lift (front wheel).

Reach is the horizontal distance between the BB and the top of the head tube, so as a number it is not affected by the seat tube angle. You are referring to "seated reach" (not a real term) - aka "effective top tube length".

11/18/2017 12:36 PM

Primoz wrote:

Bent seat tubes are the issue if you ask me. An actual seat tube angle of (over) 75° will give you insane reach and will keep the CG the same as with a much shorter, steeper HA bike. Manuals will always be a problem, since the bike is longer, you have a longer lever to lift (front wheel).

iceman2058 wrote:

Reach is the horizontal distance between the BB and the top of the head tube, so as a number it is not affected by the seat tube angle. You are referring to "seated reach" (not a real term) - aka "effective top tube length".

I think what Primoz means is that for a given effective top tube, a steeper seat angle will yield a longer reach.
I.e if you keep the ETT the same and steepen the seat angle the down tube grows longer and therefore so does reach.
Or have I misunderstood?
Either way I don’t like bent seat tubes either.

11/18/2017 1:28 PM
Edited Date/Time: 11/18/2017 2:43 PM

Us tall guys never had bikes that fit until recently. Big thumbs up to longer reach numbers from this proud Team Tall Guy rep, although I think there is a "too long" for every person. I'm 6'3" and wouldn't want to ride anything over 500mm, though I recognize there's a market for 500-530mm reach for people taller than me. As I've been sizing up, wheelbase is a concern, as 1300mm feels waaaaay too long to me.

Some other random, unconnected thoughts:
1. This might be a tall guy thing, but short stems feel like doodoo. I'd rather run a 60mm than a 40mm any day. Interesting that BTurman also settled on 50mm stems.
2. I prefer shorter wheelbases for slower applications. 1280-1300 for DH, 1240-1280 for heavy trail stuff, and 1200-1240 for XC-type stuff. Like Brandon said, too long and it feels like a teeter totter down chunky stuff.
3. This means that I actually like my reach number a little shorter on my downhill bike, because otherwise the wheelbase gets too long with a slack head angle. I also think you get a little further behind the bars on a DH bike. Anyone else like a slightly shorter reach on a DH bike?

And I see what you're doing here with your clickbait forum questions. I hate myself for falling in every time, but I do it anyway. Well done.

11/18/2017 2:41 PM

bturman wrote:

For those that are lost on this whole concept of "reach," this article is helpful: Modern Mountain Bike Geometry Defined - Transition Explains Effective Top Tube Versus Reach



Having had the opportunity to ride several bikes back-to-back in different sizes but with the same trim, I feel like I can weigh in on this pretty well.

I'm 5'10" (178cm) tall and have been testing bikes in the 425-455mm reach range for a while now. After loads of experimentation, I've found bikes around 440mm paired with a 50mm stem to be the sweet spot for my preferred riding style. Most days I enjoy a more "playful" approach to riding.

When riding longer bikes my take-off points change and overall speed increases. Instead of popping off every little root or rock, I plough through them and bigger undulations in the trail become my takeoff points.

When I go too long (over 455mm), however, I have to drastically readjust my riding style to prevent the bike from "see-sawing" down the rowdiest steppy bits of trail, which can feel sketchy and uncontrolled at times.

Brandon, so I'm 5' 10" and saving for a modern rig. When hardtails were DH rigs, I was always told to ride 19", but hated way long trail bikes. I usually ride 17" and medium frames. I like my medium DHR....alot.
The trail bikes I've ridden recently and liked were a medium Mona Process 153, Yeti Sb6...which was good, but felt kinda big for a medium and a Devinci Troy and Zerode. Only one I thought didn't seem right was the Zerode. My thing, and I've never got to figure out it out, is what kind of body type bikes are modeled around. I have stumpy legs and a REALLY long torso. 30" inseam. Wife is 5'2" & has the same inseam.

11/18/2017 2:49 PM

ThomDawson wrote:

I think what Primoz means is that for a given effective top tube, a steeper seat angle will yield a longer reach.
I.e if you keep the ETT the same and steepen the seat angle the down tube grows longer and therefore so does reach.
Or have I misunderstood?
Either way I don’t like bent seat tubes either.

Exactly. Yeah, reach is usefull for the 'bike handling' number, but i still maintain that the cockpit length is MUCH more important on any bike, that gets pedalled. Like i always say, for every 10 minutes of descending you do an hour or even more of spinning pedals seated down. Of course any sane person will prioritise the fit of the bike for the much longer part of riding (time wise) which also has a much higher power output at that.

That's why i still maintain reach is a completely useless number, just because, like it has been said, the same reach number will mean two completely different cockpit lengths (ETT) with different seat tube angles. Heck, it can even mean that at 'the same seat tube angles' with these stupid bent seat tubes. Many bikes are now sold with '75° seat tube angles' with an actual post angle of closer to 60°. Extend that to ~800 mm over the BB and see what the effective angle is then.

And i've been ranting about this for way too long. About damn time i put my money where my mouth is and buy a Bird!

11/18/2017 6:38 PM

@primoz totally disagree. I can adjust and figure out the pedaling and climbing, but want to optimize for descending. For both fun and safety. Maybe you were just trolling knowing the Vital crowd.

@turman and Robot, curious why you prefer 50mm over a 40mm? I just finally got a bike that fits me (I'm 6'2) and got a Process 134 XL. It came specced with a 40mm and I've been so stoked on a bike that fits that I haven't messed with stems.

11/18/2017 6:46 PM

TEAMROBOT wrote:

Us tall guys never had bikes that fit until recently. Big thumbs up to longer reach numbers from this proud Team Tall Guy rep, although I think there is a "too long" for every person. I'm 6'3" and wouldn't want to ride anything over 500mm, though I recognize there's a market for 500-530mm reach for people taller than me. As I've been sizing up, wheelbase is a concern, as 1300mm feels waaaaay too long to me.

Some other random, unconnected thoughts:
1. This might be a tall guy thing, but short stems feel like doodoo. I'd rather run a 60mm than a 40mm any day. Interesting that BTurman also settled on 50mm stems.
2. I prefer shorter wheelbases for slower applications. 1280-1300 for DH, 1240-1280 for heavy trail stuff, and 1200-1240 for XC-type stuff. Like Brandon said, too long and it feels like a teeter totter down chunky stuff.
3. This means that I actually like my reach number a little shorter on my downhill bike, because otherwise the wheelbase gets too long with a slack head angle. I also think you get a little further behind the bars on a DH bike. Anyone else like a slightly shorter reach on a DH bike?

And I see what you're doing here with your clickbait forum questions. I hate myself for falling in every time, but I do it anyway. Well done.

Agree with this, except I haven't went over 50mm on my stem since getting back into riding. Nightmares of endos in the late 90's with long stems I suppose.

I'm 6'1 ish, riding a large Patrol at 157mm reach. I would like maybe 10mm more, but I ride rocky techy trails (Grand Junction, Fruita). Anything more would increase the wheelbase too much.

11/18/2017 6:56 PM

My new Bronson is longer than my old bike and hurts my back on the climbs. Feels great going downhill.

11/18/2017 9:32 PM
Edited Date/Time: 11/18/2017 9:34 PM

I'm 185cm with long arms. I like riding grade 4-5 stuff with occasional DH track - enduro type bikes suit my very well - I don't race and I'm not particularly styley but I can ride fairly quick, get air etc.Up until 6 months ago I was riding a Large Reign X (410cm reach) - thought it fitted like a glove - loved it. Then I took a mates new (2017) Trek Slash 9.8 (the new 29er one) - large size (445cm reach in low setting) for a ride and from then on had trouble sleeping - couldn't believe the 'easy speed' as I like to call it. Long story short - decided to buy one. Got my LBS to look at me on a large telling them that I was thinking of an XL, ended up buying the XL (475cm reach in low setting).
I love it, it's so stable and rolls like made. Now I think that has a lot to do with angles and very much wheel size BUT... when I corner at speed and it's rough this bike has a huge 'sweet spot'. What I mean is, when I was on my old bike (the Reign) it cornered really well but I had to have my weight in just the right spot (not too much over the back or front) to get it to feel right. All that has gone with the new bike, it still helps to be in the middle of the bike - but I always am! My jumping has gone to next level and my speed also has gone to next level, without me actually improving any technique. Every trail has become funner as I'm going faster, getting more air and cornering like a hero (at least it feels like it in my mind). Manuals are a bit more effort perhaps (my profile pick is me manualling my XL slash btw) and going up tight switchback takes more focus (definitely feel the length there).
Longer definitely suits me & my riding style.
Happy trails boys and girls!

11/18/2017 11:56 PM

It is too much reach when you have to use a stem that is shorter than 40mm and that is just like my opinion man.

11/19/2017 3:13 AM
Edited Date/Time: 11/19/2017 4:22 AM

Is a longer reach addressed to all levels of riders? I certainly don't think so.
I believe that a longer reach suits a taller rider (or one with a longer tosro than inseam) or a physically stronger person than average (stronger back/core).
As bikes get better, and riders get stronger and more aggressive, it is unavoidable to match the geometry to their needs.

11/19/2017 6:08 AM

490 reach on my GG Smash. 35mm stem. 1" rise handlebar. 6'3" tall. I am happy.

11/19/2017 8:07 AM

I have some vague recollection of Greg Minnaar talking about how matching the stem length to the fork's offset makes everything ride better.

This sort of makes sense to me, although I can't put my finger on why it should make sense. But just from my personal trial and error with stems, I've landed on lengths that most closely correlate with the fork offset.

11/19/2017 8:39 AM

From XL SC Blur LT to XL Ibis Mojo HD to L first gen E29 (L because the XL simply felt massive at the time going from 26-29” wheels) to L Yeti 5.5 (60mm stem). Yesterday was my first ride on my new 2018 XL Yeti 5.5. I’m 6’2. Decided to size up as I am on the edge for L vs XL. Reach from the L to XL 5.5 went from 442mm to
463mm. Stem on the XL is a 50, so probably a about a 10mm increase in reach with the grip to ground height unchanged.

Bike felt long but I’m sure I’ll get used to it and never look back. Maybe try a 40 stem also and a 44mm offset fork, we’ll see. I did notice I had to keep it leaned over a bit longer at corner exit or I’d run off the outside. I guess the extra wheelbase takes a millisecond longer to finish its turn.

I’ve been racing DH, slalom, and now Enduro for 25 years. Top end modern Enduro/trail bikes astound me with their capabilities. This 5.5 is insanely fast, a true racing machine. The E29 was really fast too but not quite the speed demon that the 5.5 is. I have to be flying before I even feel like the bike is really starting to work right and the faster I go the better it feels. It is no longer a question of bike capability, it is now information processing speed on the part of the pilot that it the limiting factor. Increased reach, up to a point, is part of this recipe.

11/19/2017 8:50 AM

I like this thread, and actually reinforces a bit of my thinking. I want a playful bike and not as concerned about straight line speed if a bike is agile. I’m 5’7” on a good day with “t-Rex” arms. I’m currently on a medium gen 1 Bronson with around 400mm reach, and have settled on a ibis hd4 as the next bike. But their size chart had me questioning reach measurements saying I should be a medium which is a 35mm jump in reach. I concluded that the wheelbase is way too long for what I want at 1192 (I think), and have decided on a small w 50mm stem because I like the shorter wheelbase at 1162 for the switchbacks and in town mellower riding we have. I’m still growing about 15mm in reach and 20ish mm in wheelbase from the bronson, but first and foremost it felt right to me when I rode it, still real playful but massively capable. I was questioning based on ibis chart but whatever, it’s what I want.

11/19/2017 12:03 PM

I am 5'10 current on a medium 2015 Jekyll which has 434 reach, I recently tried L size new nomad and L size new jekyll. The reach on these two bike is 460 and 470. The thing is I didnt feel the bike was too big for me until I smash the corner. The long descent and some jump feels good and stable however I just cant cornering like I used to do. I definitely feel higher on position because the head tube is longer as well as the wheelbase. and I dont really like the forward pedeling position. I think my sweet spot for reach is 445-450, I tired 2016 giant reign last year, I think that bike has the best number on size meduim for me. It is little longer than my jekyll, however they made new reign too long right now.

What I think is every one seens to make their frame longer than before, so stick with the size you usually ride

11/19/2017 12:04 PM
Edited Date/Time: 11/19/2017 12:07 PM

I wonder how many people, after buying into the real long reach bikes, would buy another one? IMO once you’ve been there, done that, gained a boat load of confidence and bought the t shirt you’re gonna want to remember what it’s like to pop a manual at the drop of a hat, hop every feature in sight, rail nasty tight ruts and maybe be able to hit a dj line or two.

Like I said earlier I think longer bikes are great for improving skills but once they’re improved a lot of riders will want to turn that traction control off and take control themselves. Even if that means they may not be going as fast.

Having said that though - I’m talking more about the likes of Geometron, Pole, etc. A general shift towards a more measured increase in reach as we have seen on average across most mainstream brands is a good thing for everyone I think.