In the world of mountain biking, tuning your suspension can be a daunting task. If you’re considering purchasing a new bike, this article may help with your choice. It may become apparent that more adjustable suspension may not benefit you, particularly if you’re not of the mechanical or race inclination. Simpler often translates to less time tuning and more time riding.
Here, we’ll provide an overview of what adjustments are available and what changes to these settings can do for your ride.
Manufacturers provide recommendations for baseline settings. We recommend checking out their websites and dialling in your suspension to their recommended settings as a first step. Once you’re set up and your sag is between 20-30%, go for a few varied laps to get an overall impression of how the suspension feels for you.
Suppose that you are not using a significant proportion of your suspension’s travel, and it is feeling too rigid. In that case, you may want to consider dropping your pressure - drop the pressure by 2 or 3 psi in the fork and 10psi in the shock at a time, don’t make drastic changes.
The expected effect? Softer suspension throughout the entire stroke and reduced load on your hands and forearms, particularly at the beginning of the stroke. Consequently, you may need to speed up your rebound settings with a click or two to keep the fork from packing out.
Conversely, if you’re blowing through your travel, nose-diving to infinity when on the brakes, or if it’s just feeling soggy, add some more pressure or up your spring rate. This will keep your bike sitting higher in its travel and help keep the bike riding in its designed geometry. You may then need to reduce your rebound with a click or two.
Always keep note of your sag as you make these changes; if you’re outside of 20-35% sag, you likely need to start again and reassess your settings.
If your pressure settings feel correct, but you are bottoming out on those bigger hits, consider adding a couple of bottomless tokens to your fork or shock. Conversely, if you’re struggling to use the last of your travel – take them out! (if you’ve got them).
Rebound, how fast? How slow? Are you getting bucked? Is your wheel skipping? Or maybe your suspension is staying low in its travel as you blast through the rock gardens?
As a rule of thumb, riders often prefer a slower rebound for bike park days, where a fast rebound can send you off-centre when hitting jumps. Unless those brake bumps are pronounced, dropping your rebound by a click or two may be the way to go.
On more technical, enduro style trails, faster is often better. However, if you feel like your arms are working more after you have speed up your rebound, then it’s likely that the rebound is too fast, and your front wheel is skipping. Likewise, if you start drifting or getting bucked from the back – it’s likely too fast on the rear too!
When the rebound is too slow, the suspension will feel packed-down, it's likely you’re permanently halfway through your travel. Your bike will ride better with the suspension extended, giving you more travel to use on those upcoming hits and benefit from the bike's intended geometry.
Your suspension may have a switch that reduces the oil flow rate in your shock. Flick it to trail - it’ll firm up, flick it to closed and it’s solid.
Modern suspension has an inbuilt mechanical relief that stops you from blowing up your suspension on big hits when it is set to closed. LeRipp does not recommend intentionally taking big hits on the closed settings. So flick it into closed for easier pedalling or trail mode (particularly on the shock) for those more flowy trails where you want to pop and play around.
Low-speed refers to the shaft speed of your suspension, not the speed that you’re riding (although there is an obvious correlation here…)
If you feel that your bike has good small bump sensitivity and isn’t bottoming out, but the mid-stroke is unsupported, then add a couple of clicks of LSC. This will stop the bike from diving into its travel on steep trails, pushing into features and berms or when loading the brakes. However, adding LSC is done at the compromise of small bump sensitivity – so only add what you need or click up or down to suit the trails you’re riding!
Low-speed compression can also be added to reduce pedal bob. If you don’t have a pedal mode, consider adding more LSC for those long ascents (just remember to put it back).
High-speed compression also relates to the shaft speed of your suspension, not the speed of your riding – useful when dealing with potholes, square-edged obstacles and landing jumps or drops.
High-speed compression allows for progressive dampening – or, put more simply, if you want your bike to use less travel on big hits, then add more HSC.
Therefore, if features feel harsh, or you’re bouncing off these features – decrease your HSC. Conversely, if you’re hitting these features and blowing through your travel budget, increase your HSC.
Balance! It’s highly likely that after you’ve adjusted the front, that the back doesn’t feel correct. Be sure to make your adjustments incrementally as suggested, so you can balance out the suspension as it becomes more suited to you. For instance, as you slow down the rebound on the front, the back will likely feel too fast. Keeping the settings similar if your fork and shock are from the same manufacturer is a good idea – otherwise, keep searching for that perfect balance.
GOOD LUCK !
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