RideLogic™ bike setup : on-bike check

(This is a non-membership version of this page for customers of RideLogic bike setup consultations.)

In working with more than 7,000 riders of all levels, Lee McCormack has thought a lot about how bikes and bodies can best work together. After working on this problem for years, he was asleep in a Tucson, AZ hotel with the flu, and this idea came to him in a dream.

We use this method with lots of clients. It’s simple, it’s easy and it automatically accounts for every aspect of your bike (cranks, pedals, frame, stem, bars) and all of your body proportions. After you’ve used the RideLogic™ Rider and Bike Calculator (membership is required) to get your setup close, dial it in with the ol’ ladder method.

What you need:

  • Your bike.
  • A pair of tables as shown here, a pair of ladders or similar platforms.
  • Tools and parts for adjustments.
  • An open mind!

Password for all of these videos is


Rider area perfect

Rider area too long


Here’s the same info, but in words and pictures:

Bike setup should enable:

1. Maximum range of motion.

Essential for bumps, corners, braking and pumping.

This comes from having the bars close to the shoulders in the low attack position, while maintaining the optimal distance between hands and feet.

In order to turn, descend, pump, manual, etc., the rider must create angles using the upper body:

2. Maximum torque.

The key to sprinting, hopping, manualing, jumping and other power moves. This comes from having the correct distance between the feet and the hands.

What you need:

  • A pair of picnic tables placed end to end or a pair of stepladders as shown.
  • A bike.
  • Tools to make adjustments.
  • A secret spot so no one sees you!

Distance between your hands and feet

The most important measurement is the “rider area distance” or RAD.

Rider area is the distance between your bottom bracket and your grips. This distance is the most important factor determining how your bike handles.

A BMX bike is shown here for simplicity, but the principle also applies to all kinds of mountain bikes.


1. Arrange the tables/ladders so you can place the pedals on the platforms and let the bike rotate around the bottom bracket. Like this:


2. Stand on your feet. Balls of the feet should be on the pedals. Heels can rest on the platform (let your feet do what feels natural).


Wear your normal riding shoes, not running shoes like me.

3. Put your hands on the grips, as if you’re riding.

3. Stand as tall as you can. Pack your shoulders. Let your hands hang down with straight arms. Pretend you’re holding a heavy weight. Where are the grips in relation to your hands?

Rider area perfect

When you stand upright with your hands on the bars:

  • your hips and back are straight.
  • your arms are straight.
  • the grips are at the same height as your knuckles.

This gives you maximum torque for starts, manuals, hops and other power moves. It also gives you great range of motion for braking, turning, etc.


Imagine carrying a heavy box of books: Would you carry it with a bent back or bent arms? I hope not!

Nicholi Rogatkin finds a radder way to check his RAD:

Rider area too short

When you are standing upright, the bars are below your knuckles.

In order to grab the bars, you have to reach down and bend your back. This creates tension in your back, which makes you slow and weak, plus your back hurts.


Rider area too long

When you stand upright with your hands on your bars, your arms are bent.

In order to prevent injury to your arms, your brain cuts off the signals to your hips and legs. This means you can’t sprint with full power. It also limits the power you have for climbing, pumping, hopping, manualing and jumping.

THIS IS VERY COMMON AMONG MOUNTAIN BIKES. As a matter of fact, more than 90 percent of the clients Lee sees (yes, even riders who paid for professional “fits”) have RADS that are too long for optimal control and power. 


Again, would you carry a heavy object like this? I hope not!

How to adjust your rider area

1. Reach

This is easy and relatively inexpensive.

If your rider area is too long, try a shorter stem.

Another option is a handlebar with more setback (horizontal distance from the stem clamp to the grip). In general, the more rise your bar has, the greater the setback.

If your rider area is too short (this is rare), try a longer stem.

NOTE: As stems get longer, bike handling gets compromised. If you need a stem that’s longer than 70-90mm, it might be time for a longer frame.

If you have the correct size frame for your body, it’ll will probably ride best with a short (35-50mm) stem.

If the rider area is still not correct, try the next step:

2. Rise (also called stack)

This is also inexpensive, but it’s a bit more involved than changing the stem.

If the rider area is too long, try a lower stem or move spacers from below the stem to above the stem. You can also try a handlebar with less rise.

If the rider area is too short, try a taller stem or move spacers from above the stem to below the stem. You can also try a handlebar with more rise.

If the rider area is still not correct, try the next step:

3. Frame size

This is the last resort. If reach and rise adjustments don’t work, look into a shorter or longer frame to create the rider area you want. 

Even better: Use the RideLogic Rider and Bike Calculator (membership is required) before you buy anything!

If your frame is the correct size and your RAD is perfect, your bike will handle great. 

That said, you can further dial in your bike for your riding style by adjusting your Rider Area Angle in Degrees (RAAD).

Getting RAAD

Put simply, the steeper the line from your bottom bracket to your grips, the more range of motion you’ll have for braking, cornering and going down things, and the better your bike will feel on technical descents. The shallower that line, the more your bike will feel optimized for climbs.

  • If your bars are anywhere in the range shown on the above diagram, your bike will handle great. This is important!
  • If you have a choice between a higher or lower RAAD, and you’re concerned with technical handling, err on the higher side. This might mean a smaller frame than you’re used to.
  • If your bike is short and tall, you’ll have to go with a high RAAD.
  • If your bike is long and low (like many new enduro race bikes), you’ll have to go with a low RAAD.

Lee’s trail bikes are at about 58 degrees, and they handle great. His BMX, dirt jump and slalom bikes are around 60 degrees, and they handle even better!

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *