STOCK - Flat bar angle: Have the bars angled to have the angle about 15-20 degrees back from straight up. The way to do it perfectly is to look at the bike from the side while it is leaning against a wall.
Brake lever position: Slid in far enough so that when I have my hand all the way out on the grips and stick my index finger straight forward, I can just grab the end of the lever. One finger braking all the time.
Brake lever angle: Somewhere around 35-40 degrees or less down from horizontal. The key is to have the brake levers set so that with your finger on the lever, you are able to have the top of your hand be parallel with the top of your forearm (so that your wrist is not angled up or down, causing injury to your wrist).
Brake lever pull: Set so when I squeeze hard, they're almost parallel with my handlebar. This is more personal preference than anything else. It is a lot easier on my wrists than having just a little pull. It also allows you to pull up the bar easier, with a better full-hand grip, even with the brakes locked. Be aware that the more pull you have before the pads hit, the less power you're going to have, usually... I like my brakes set so they're perfect without dialing the TPA's in at all...
Chain tension: The tighter the better. Supertight can wear out freewheels quickly, however... Take a look at this picture to see the difference between good chain tension and unacceptably loose chain tension. (see photo)
Tire pressure: - This is one of the most important things! I generally recommend running the least amount of pressure you can without pinchflatting or having the sidewall fold. I run about 25 psi front (IRC MinuteMan 2.1) and 20-25 rear on my mod bike (fatwall monty tire), and I weigh about 173 lbs. I run 26 psi front and back on my stock bike (Hutchinson Python Gold 2.0 front, Tioga Factory DH 2.3 rear). If you bottom out the rear, increase tire pressure. If your rear feels like it's gonna fold off to the side, increase tire pressure (I run up to 25 psi in the rear of my mod when I ride on pointy rocks (this would be like 35 psi on the x-lite skinwall mod rear tire)). If your body (probably your wrists, knees, lower back) hurts from riding, it MAY be that your tire pressure is too high. Another thing it might be is the angle of your brakes, or your stem/bar setup, or just plain your bike. Or you could just need to ride more. :-)
Platform or caged pedals (no clipless or toeclips, you'll scrape yourself up)
Have your brakes set up right so that they're strong. If they don't quite lock up enough (this is for non-ground rims only) stick strips of scotch-brite inbetween your pads and rim, and ride around for like 15 minutes with the brakes almost locked up. Roughen up the pads with sandpaper or emory paper. Doing all this will improve locking up and braking overall (great for XC, too).
If you use tar, clean your rims occassionally. Spray some Simple Green degreaser onto your rims and pads and ride around squeezing your brakes.. This gets the tar into a liquid form so you can just wipe it off with paper towels... Doesn't seem to leave any residue, either... A lot easier than trying to clean it with paper towels and some paint thinner... Let the rims dry before you ride.. or ride to get your rims dry (just don't expect much until they do dry!!). I always stress that tar and/or grinding your rims is NOT important until you are around sport/expert level. (Plus, a good grind without tar is fine for practically all Pros...) Actually, pathetic brakes will make you a better rider. Don't tar or grind your rims if you use your stock bike for XC, too, (unless you want to go deaf or go over the handlebars when you ride XC and grab a load full of front brake).
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