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How to Measure Correct Trail

 
►Using a tape measure, or if not available, a piece of string, raise the bike to upright position.

►Start by holding the tape measure straight down from the front axle to the floor.  Put a mark on the floor at that point.  Then, place the tape parallel to the steering axle, following the angle of the steering head all the way down to the floor.  Put a mark here too.  Now all you have to do is to measure the distance between the two marks and you have your trail figure.  It should read between 2 and 6 inches.

*Note: If your bike is equipped with rear suspension, have someone sit on the seat when you make these measurements, to simulate your actual riding conditions.

 

 

Correct Trail is essential for optimum ride!

               
   

Too Much Trail

 

Normal Trail

 

Too Little Trail    

 
   

 If the trail is more than 6 inches the bike will handle sluggishly at high speeds.  It will seem almost too steady.  You will have trouble balancing  your bike at lower speeds, or on winding roads.  It will feel generally sluggish and clumsy.

 

 

   Somewhere between 2 to 6 inches the bike will handle easily at both high and low speeds.  Flowing smoothly through curves without swaying or wobbling.  If you use a very fat rear tire, you should keep the trail as close to 4-6 inches as possible.  A slightly large trail is  also practical for touring.

 
  With too little, and in some extreme cases negative trail, (steering axle mark behind the front axle mark), the bike will handle with unbelievable ease at low speeds, but be completely out of balance at high speed.  It will easily develop a fatal high-speed wobble.  Extremely dangerous!



 
 
 
Changing the Center of Gravity

►To make full use of your triple trees you should also readjust the fork when your bike's center of gravity changes, like when you are packing a lot of luggage.

►If the center of gravity is too low, you will have good maneuverability around curves, but the stability when you are going in a straight line will suffer.  If the center of gravity is too high, it will be the other way around.  Always readjust the triple trees within the sensible limits of trail, as riding conditions change.  This way you will always be able to use your bike's handling resources to the maximum benefit.  The adjustable triple trees are designed to give you the best possible handling at all times.  So make use of them!

 
 
That's Marc's bike (the "Punked"). We discussed trail and handling with Tolle, who is THE expert in raked bikes (they build front ends with up to 50" over tubes!!). Tolle recommended 7 degrees for the trees to keep the trail very short and improve the handling that way, since it is such a long bike-- We used Tolle's 7 degree trees (the best on the market for stiffness and "no-tweeking") and increased the forks to 26" over stock. The bike handles great considering it being so long.