Your bike's suspension is incredibly important to how your bike feels to ride. It's all too easy to leave it be but its performance will degrade with time and you could be left with a hefty repair bill. Here are nine handy tips that'll help you keep your suspension running as smoothly as possible for longer.
Before getting into the good stuff, each manufacturer's componentry is built slightly differently. So for specific info be sure to flick through the manual that's included (and easily found online) with your new bike before you get fettling.
Achieve proper sag
Your suspension’s sag is absolutely key when setting up your suspension. Without correct sag, your suspension won’t ever be set up correctly or feel as good as it should regardless of how you adjust any rebound and compression damping.
Before doing absolutely anything, make sure that your sag is set up for your weight. On forks, aim for 25% but a shock’s sag can range from 25-30% depending on your preferences. This is determined by where your sag ring sits on your stanchion after the bike has been weighted.
Remember to compress the suspension as you inflate it to charge the negative chamber. That goes for front and rear dampers.
Fit the correct spring
It’s slightly tougher to work out your sag on coil suspension but it solely relies on the weight of the spring you install. If it’s too heavy, or too light you simply won’t achieve the best sag for your weight and the suspension won’t perform as it should.
Unfortunately, winding on more preload isn’t a substitute if you’ve bought too light a spring as it can cause the spring to bind and you won’t be able to use full travel. Brands have spring calculators on their websites, so pop your details into that before dropping the cash on a spring.
Keep an eye on your air pressures
Air suspension components are air-sealed units. So, it’s a good idea to check the air pressure in both the front and rear. If it’s regularly decreasing, that could mean that a seal is damaged or perished, indicating that your suspension is due for a service.
Naturally, shock pumps will release some air as you attach them, so be sure to make up for this air loss when inflating your suspension. That’s just so you don’t mistake something perfectly normal, for something that’s not.
Release trapped air
During prolonged descents with large changes in elevation, air can get trapped in the lowers of your fork, and over time that can make your suspension feel less supple. A quick trick is to carefully slide a zip tie under the fork seals to release the air. If successful, you’ll hear a hiss. Do be incredibly careful though and perform this on a clean bike. The last thing you’ll want to do is scratch a stanchion.
Fox 36 and 38 models from 2021 onwards come built with a couple of buttons on the upper rear of each lower. Those are designed especially to release any air that’s trapped in the lowers without risking damage by slipping zip ties underneath the seals.
Lower leg and air sleeve service
Lower leg and air sleeve services are an easy but important bit of preventative maintenance that can be done with a few tools at home. Basically, it’s refreshing the suspension component with fresh oils, cleaning seals, any foam rings and the inside of the lowers but once complete, you’ll be rewarded with smoother suspension and you’ll avoid any premature wear.
The processes are similar on most brands’ suspension and it involves removing the fork’s lowers, giving the interior of the lowers and the seals a wipe with a clean cloth or shop towel, and filling the foam rings with fresh oil. Then reassemble, of course.
Air sleeve services are even easier and can be done with the shock left on the bike. First, make sure that the shock is completely deflated, then unscrew the air can, wipe away dirt and mucky oil, pour in fresh oil and reinstall the air sleeve, and reinflate.
We’ll have full tutorials on how to get these jobs done soon.
Keep it clean
This one’s simple but vital in prolonging the working life of your suspension while again, avoiding premature wear and keeping it feeling fresh. Fox recommends that any suspension components are washed with a warm water/mild soap solution. Be sure to wipe away any crud from around the seals with a clean soft cloth too.
If you're looking to step your suspension seal cleaning up a notch, there are sprays available such as Juice Lube's Fork Juice and Muc-Off's Silicone Spray. These are designed to be sprayed onto the stanchions before pumping the suspension a number of times to shift any crud hidden under your seals, prime to be wiped away. Be sure to keep your brakes as far away as possible from these sprays though, as they'll contaminate your rotors and pads, rendering them useless and very dangerous.
Experiment with those dials
Every suspension fork and component comes kitted with some form of rebound and compression adjustment. Keeping things simple here, the rebound dial adjusts the speed at which the suspension rebounds to full travel, while the compression controls the speed at which it compresses. Both of those work in tandem to keep your wheels tracking the ground while keeping you comfortable aboard your bike.
It can be tricky to find the correct setup for you, however, but one big step forwards in finding your suspension's sweet spot is to take a look at your manufacturer's recommended settings. Then, as trails can differ, adjust those settings only gradually while making note of what you've adjusted and how. The right setup for you is vital in getting your suspension working as it should.
Get that annual service done
Let’s face it this has to be done. Remember that your suspension components can be the most expensive part of your bike so it’s best to keep on top of their annual service intervals. This isn’t only to keep your bike running smoothly but you’ll avoid any costly repair bills or the cost of a whole new fork.
Check your pivot bearings
Often overlooked but your bike’s pivot bearings are an integral part of your rear suspension’s performance. You could have your shock fresh after a service but if your pivot bearings are shot, your bike will still feel awful. While your shock is in for a service, check through those bearings and make sure they’re still running smoothly and there’s no play anywhere in the system. This will only help keep your suspension running sweet.
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