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The Quick, Down and Dirty Bike Setup Transfer; How I Set Up a Road Bike in 15 Minutes

A friend of mine has more bikes than… well, he has a lot of bikes, so he let my wife borrow one of his gravel bikes because it never gets any use – it’s been sitting in his basement for quite a while. This is great for me, because I’ll still be riding my 24 pound behemoth while she’ll be sporting a sleek, 16 pound rocket – I’m going to get a workout this gravel season.

Speaking of, I just went out for my first gravel ride of the post season last evening and it was spectacular. I picked up some new tires, 32’s (the widest that can fit on our gravel bikes), and they’re excellent – much better that the Espoir Sport slicks that came on the bike.  The dirt section of the road I live on was absolutely gnarly last evening and I was still able to hold 19-ish mph.  With the old tires, I’d have been happy with 15 because I’d have been all over the place.

So back to the post. The bike showed up last week but we haven’t had any time to mess with the set-up but we’ve got a big gravel ride coming up on Sunday so I had to deal with it last night so my wife could test it out today and we could tweak it after my ride this evening if necessary. I’ve got her old gravel bike, so I’ve got the dimensions I need – I just had to transfer them over.

First, I measured and set the saddle height. My wife is easy; 36″ on the nose. Next, I took out my 4′ level and set the edge at the nose of her saddle, plumb to the floor, and took the measurement from the edge of the level to the center of the crankset – 1-7/8″. Fortunately, the saddle on the loaner was set perfectly at 1-7/8″ once I’d raised it the inch and change. From there, I check the reach. In this case there’s a bit more reach on the new ride, but it’s not like we’re putting a new stem on someone else’s bike, so we’re going to see if my wife can live with an extra 1/2″ reach.  That’s a bit of a stretch – I like an extra 1/4″ myself, but a half inch is a lot of extra reach.  We’ll see.

From there, I eyeball the drop from the nose of the saddle to the handlebar. Normally, I’d take that 4′ level and set it on the saddle of the original bike, finding level, then measure from the edge of the level down to the handlebar. On the new bike, I’d do the same and swap spacers from below the stem to above the stem to lower (or vice-versa and raise) the bar to where it needs to be. In this case, with the extra reach and a little bit of stretch, we’re going to see how my wife likes it where it’s at, then lower it from there – with the extra reach, we won’t need as much drop.

So there it is, the fifteen minute set-up transfer.

Now, if the reach had been a little closer, and I’d dropped the bar to match the original gravel bike’s set-up, that might have added two or three minutes to the process… but then the Title would have been “How I set up a road bike in 17 minutes”… and that just doesn’t have the same ring, now does it?

No, of course not.