It’s generally best to leave your bike setup as consistent as possible, so that you can build your skills without the added challenge of adjusting to new parts, different angles, and so forth.
But if you’re absolutely stuck on a trick you’ve been trying to learn - or have reached a temporary plateau – then changing things up can sometimes break bad habits that have been holding you back, or can provide that little change that you need in order to keep progressing.
This doesn’t necessarily have to mean spending money on new parts; all you'll need are your tools. Here are just a few ways you can give your ride a different feel, without having to put out any cash:
-- Bring your seat lower, or make it higher. For certain tricks, this will change the angle taken by your body and/or the bike at the balance point. You may find that adjusting your seat height makes a trick feel more comfortable or more natural; but if you don’t like it, all you have to do is change it back. Raising or lowering the seat also slightly changes your bike’s center of gravity, giving your bike the illusion of feeling lighter (or heavier) depending on the trick you’re doing.
-- Change the angle of your handlebars. It’s common for riders to put the angle of their bars in line with the head tube; but if you were to angle the bars slightly forward (closer to vertical), it would make your top tube feel longer and your bars feel taller. (This effect is, of course, reversed when you flip your bars backward.) If these changes sound like something you might like, give it a try. It won’t cost you anything.
-- Want to try your bars a bit taller, but don’t want to change their angle? Try raising your stem up higher on the steerer tube of your fork. (This usually means you will need to add one or more spacers.)
-- Flatlanders love their high pressure tires, and with good reason: higher pressure decreases rolling resistance and makes the bike more responsive for spins, turbines, etc. But sometimes a trick will be made easier to learn when your bike is LESS responsive; so it can’t hurt to try riding with your tire pressure dialed down a bit, especially on super-fast surfaces. You don’t even have to take any real action: your tires will slowly lose air pressure when left alone, so you can try riding at lower pressure by just refraining from pumping them back up for a while.
-- Want to try a shorter back end? Slam your back wheel and remove links from your chain if necessary. Want to try a longer back end? Pull your rear wheel out further if your dropout allows, and lengthen your chain as needed.
-- Want to drop a few pounds from your bike and force yourself to focus on brakeless tricks? Take off your brakes. If you decide that the loss in potential tricks isn’t worth the weight savings, then just put them back on.
-- Want to drop even more bike weight and really challenge yourself? Lose those pegs! Maybe you’ll end up making Chad Johnston and George Manos look like beginners. (Or not. Or at least not for a while.)
-- If you use brakes, drip some Tri-Flow into your cable housings, and clean your brake pads and rims. Maybe the extra stopping power will help you nail a trick that was eluding you.
-- Try riding at a new spot. Maybe you’ll find that the added speed from a slight downhill slant makes learning a trick easier, or that a smoother surface helps with that turbine you’ve been working on, etc.
But here’s the best way of all to increase your chances of learning new tricks, without having to spend any money on new parts…
Spend more time riding.