Tag Archives: Pre-course

What is a mech hanger or dropout?

A mech hanger, derailleur hanger or dropout is a metal connecting component that acts as a bridge between your bike frame and your rear derailleur. It is designed to bend or break on impact in order to protect your frame from, what could be, terminal accidental damage.

Aluminium frames can be quite brittle and prone to snapping, while old school steel frames are less likely to snap and can be bent back within reason if damaged.

Carbon frames, although compliant like steel, tend to be built to be stronger in certain directions and still need protection in the weaker areas around where the derailleur attaches.

Mech hangers are often completely ripped off when an errant stick goes in the wheel, ahead of the derailleur, before being swept back by the spokes ripping the derailleur right off snapping the mech hanger in the process (see picture below).

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More common perhaps is a lateral blow from an impact with a rock or tree which bends the mech hanger out of line, thereby throwing your gears out of index. This can be very difficult to fix out on the trail (although your local bike shop may be able to straighten it if it is not too badly damaged) .

Another case that we often see is where riders drop their bikes down heavily on the transmission side and the derailleur hits a projection on the ground such as a stump or a rock. The mech hanger is bent and the gears thrown out. To avoid this, get into the habit of laying your bike down “gears to sky.”

Singletrack School coaches report that they bend or break a mech hanger about once or twice a year.

Damaging your mech hanger out on the trail can mean the end of your ride. Not a massive problem out on your local trails, but if it happens at the highest/furthest point on a trail centre or back country ride, you can find yourself in an escalating situation; particularly when lightly equipped in poor weather and fading light.

It is possible to remove your derailleur completely and temporarily single-speed your bike, but this is tricky, requires more tools and skill and is only really practical with hardtails. It’s only a “get me home” solution in any case.

It is therefore good practice to carry a spare mech hanger. It’s an easy task to replace your mech hanger on the trail with just an allen key (see picture below). Mech hangers themselves are very light and don’t take up much space in your pack. Just remember to make sure you’re carrying the correct spare for the bike you’re riding.

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Your local bike shop is the best place to source your spare mech hanger, although there are also several online services that can help you find that rare or out of production hanger. We recommend Superstar Components.

Replacement mech hangers cost from £10 to around £25 depending on the make and model of your bike. A small price to pay considering the potential hassle a broken hanger may cause.

See a video of how to replace a mech hanger.

Are clipless or flat pedals best for my course?

We are often asked the question, “Are clipless or flat pedals best for my course?”

Whilst it’s always best practice to learn on flats, you should arrive at your course with the pedal/shoe combination that you are most comfortable with. Your skills course is not the time to get used to unfamiliar components on your bike. The same is also particularly true for tyres or any other major component.

If you do decide to use flat pedals please make sure your pedals have a platform with a large surface area to maximise the contact patch with your feet. Also choose a pedal that has lots of long pedal pins, preferably with screw thread all the way to the end which will give more grip than those with smooth surfaces.

We recommend DMR V8s (pictured above) which are a great starter pedal retailing at £27.99 a pair. There are many more expensive pedals on the market if you fancy spending a little more for that bling pair that matches your bike’s colour way. DMR Vaults (pictured at the top of the page) are the very best if money is no object. These retail at around £100.00.

display_pedalsBeware of the cheap “display pedals” (example pictured right), that
new bikes are often supplied with, as these will not give you a sufficiently positive connection with the bike.

Bike manufacturers more often than not cut corners on the pedals they supply with new bikes. If you are unsure your local bike shop will be able to advise you if the pedals supplied with your new bike fall into this category. Pedals will be the most important upgrade you will ever make to your bike.

Your footwear should be either a mountain bike specific flat pedal shoes such as those made by Five Ten, flat soled skate style shoes,  last year’s running shoes or anything comfortable with a flat softish sole. Don’t use anything you don’t mind getting dirty and worn out quite quickly.

Finally never use clipless specific shoes with flat pedals, even with the cleat blanking plate left in, as the soles are often constructed with a very hard a rubber or plastic compound that will not allow the pedal pins to make a solid connection with your foot. Clipless shoes should only ever be used with clipless pedals.