Skills to get you started | Mountain Bike Set Up

So you have a new mountain bike, your Girlfriend/ boyfriend has a new mountain bike. You're ready to hit the trails right?? Unfortunately, it's just not that easy.. 

There are a few things that most people don't realize when they buy a new mountain bike. If you are new to mountain biking it's hard to know what to expect from your mountain bike. How should it feel? Where should the seat be? Are the levers on your handle bars in the best spot? Is the sag on your suspension set correctly? What the hell is 'sag'?

These are all questions that I had no idea about when I got my first mountain bike. How are you supposed to know if no body tells you? Here is a very basic blow by blow on bike set up. Have your bike working for you to its full potential! BEWARE: there is some unavoidable jargon to navigate...

Seat height adjustment

Ok first things first -


Seat height.

There is a very simple way to get an approximate height of your seat so that when you are pedaling up hill, you are being as efficient as can be. From here you can move the seat UP or DOWN a touch to what feels perfect.  All you need to do is loosen off the seat post, lean over your bike so that your saddle is in your armpit, and your middle finger is on the bolt that goes through your bottom bracket. This is about your perfect climbing position! DONE

Brake lever position

Next thing is, you want to be strong -


Leaver positioning

To get the most out of your flash new mountain bike, sometimes you must throw away old habits. Most new mountain bikes now come with hydraulic disc brakes. They are the brakes that motor bikes have. They use hydraulic fluid instead of a stretchy cable to drive the brake pads onto the Rotor or Disc. With this great technological advancement it means that you need less pressure on the brake lever to get maximum braking. Remember as a kid you almost had to squeeze the lever with your whole hand? OLD HABIT! Now with your flash new mountain bike, you really only need ONE FINGER! I know, it doesn't sound right.. this can be your NEW HABIT. Just using one finger to brake means that you can use the other three to hold on to your handlebars. Pretty important in order to still be able to control your mountain bike. To really adopt this new habit, your going to need to slide your leavers into the correct position on the handlebars. Loosen off your leaver. Hold onto your grips where feels comfortable. Stick out your index finger and slide the lever along the bar until it is just in the groove behind your first knuckle. Depending on if you're more of an XC or DH rider will depend on the angle you have your fore arms on, therefore the angle you have your lever on. Once it feels good, tighten it up. NOW you are up with the times and you will feel all that new control of A) your brakes working well, and B) being able to comfortable hold on to your handlebars C) you are ready to start working on your new skills!

Ready Position

How to Set the Sag in your Suspension!

Alrighty... now it's getting a little more technical for you

First off, what is sag? The sag is how depressed your suspension is when you just sit still on your mountain bike. This is adjusted by the amount of air that you put into your suspension. Most new bikes come with a funny little pump called a shock pump. It's like the one for your tyres only way skinnier and with a pressure gauge on it that usually goes up to about 300psi. Adjusting the sag is about as personal to riding a mountain bike as your toothbrush is for the hygiene of your mouth. It's weight dependent and needs to be adjusted on front(fork) and rear(shock) suspension in order to have your suspension working at its best for you. Ok, it's all to do with your weight and how you distribute it when your are in a "READY" position just standing still. So to do this adjustment you might need to find a friend or a wall to help you keep your balance. You want about 20-25% of your fork and 25% of your shock to be depressed when you weight the bike in this stationary ready position. If there is more or less that these percentages you are going to want to add or release some air. As a guide, on lots of suspension/mountain bike manuals they will give you a rough guide as to the amount of pressure that you want to have in your suspension.  So try it, see how it feels, and it should improve your bikes performance and your level of comfort and control. *Most mountain bikes also come with some kind of "REBOUND" adjustment to. If your have any questions on this then feel free to leave a comment.

Sag adjustment

You want about 20-25% of your fork and 25% of your shock to be depressed when you weight the bike in this stationary ready position. If there is more or less that these percentages you are going to want to add or release some air with your shock pump.

So there you have it! New bike, new set up, now you will also be feeling like a shredder! Of course this is just the very basics on setting up your new bike and yes, it does get a lot more technical. But hey, we are just riding bikes for fun in the end right?

All of this is covered in our basic skills clinics before we even get on the trails, we need to set up our bikes. It should only take about 10 minutes and it makes a world of difference when your are out riding your mountain bike in the forest!

Now you're ready to roll.  See you out there!


A few other things to do in Rotorua - that we approve of...

Travel is a multi faceted beast. You hope for excitement, new experiences, leisure and relaxation, and a general impact on your senses. There are no rules. If a Pacific Island resort stay with a book by the pool and on the beach is your thing, then fair play - just make sure it’s a damn fine book.

We’re a little biased here at New Zealand Mountain Biking. Our team is made up of bikers, kayakers, surfers, hikers and climbers. We’re all bound by a common thread to get into natural environment and in a sense, “get connected” again. As well as running our tours, our bias extends to our favourite things to do in Rotorua area, where we’re based. So we thought it’d be appropriate to showcase some of the other operators who share our view of getting connected….

Rotorua Canopy Tours


Just outside Rotorua, lies a small pocket of virgin native forest, that somehow escaped the logging boom of the early 20th century. Back in 2012, Rotorua Canopy Tours launched with a series of foot bridges and ziplines that soar above and through the forest canopy and take you on a journey into New Zealands pre human past. The forest is lush, and the birdlife is abundant. guides are experts at interpreting this stunning area.

Rotorua Rafting


Okere Falls is a small village a short distance from Rotorua, on the edge of lake Rotoiti and the world famous Kaituna river. The Kaituna flows out of Lake Rotoiti, and down through one of the most pristine gorges anywhere in the world. The walls of the gorge are a deep green colour - lined with moss, and punctuated with stunning tree ferns and canopy trees that hang over top. And that's just the scenery. After a warm welcome and thorough briefing from the rafting team made up of world class professional kayakers, you'll descend numerous exciting rapids in the gorge, including the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world - Tutea Falls. The team at Rotorua rafting ensure the trip is fun, safe, informative and exciting.

The Blue Lake - Tikitapu

blue lake.jpg

Not all Rotorua activities are ones you have to reach into your wallet for. Again, just out of town lies an absolute gem - the Blue Lake, or Tikitapu. A collapsed crater, this lake is visually spectacular with turquoiuse water, beautiful forest on it's edges and a fantastic 5 kilometre walk circumnavigating its entirety. With it's pristine water and easy parking, it's a perfect place for a swim. Being relatively shallow (27 metres at its deepest), the water here is warm in the summer. Check out our Ultimate Rotorua Day - we make a stop here after riding in the Redwoods in the morning!

Get in touch with us for more information on things to do in the North Island.