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If your bicycle veers to one side when you are either holding the handlebars lightly or when you ride with no hands, something is definitely wrong. One of the first things you should check is the condition of your fork to make sure it is straight and true. To find out if your bike fork is bent, do the following:
• Stand behind your bike and place your wheels in line
• Take your bicycle by its saddle and wheel it around
• Pay attention to whether it rolls straight or pulls to one side
• If it still goes to one side, it is likely that your fork is bent
If you are a large rider, your bicycle fork will obviously be under a lot more strain than one under a smaller rider. Many people take for granted that any bike fork will hold their weight. The truth is, however, that not all bike forks are created equally—some are capable of holding more weight than others.
*For those who are over 200 pounds, its best to get a carbon road fork with a steel, aluminum or titanium steerer—a carbon-only fork will flex too much.
When you buy an off-the-rack mountain bike, its suspension fork will most likely be adjusted for a 150 to 170 pound rider. So, if you weigh more or less than that, you should change the adjustment. Without changing the adjustment, your comfort level and control over bumps will suffer, as will your fork.
If you weigh under 150 pounds, explore your other options. You might want to think about having a bike built to fit your body type perfectly. If you're already set on a specific bike, however, you can have it customized to fit your needs.
Women, because of their anatomy, have different fork adjustment needs than men. Women carry more weight in their hips, leaving less weight over the bicycle's front end than men of the same size. This usually makes it more difficult to initiate the fork's movement. As a result, a women is less likely to achieve optimum comfort or control.
*Elastomer forks are great for women. These forks endure less static friction and work better for riders carrying less weight.
Elastomer forks are great but they won't do you any good if you don't set them up correctly. To make sure that your elastomer fork will perform, follow these steps:
• Push the protective rubber boot up to the top of the fork leg
• Place a zip tie snugly around the bottom of the stanchion tube
• Cut off the excess and pull the boot back down over the tie
• Go for a ride and make it a point to go over some bumps
• Peel the boot up and measure how far it has moved
*Most elastomers should have 2 inches of travel. If yours moved less, soften your fork. If the fork moved too much, then adjust the other way.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|