Bike Suspension Part V: Suspension Maintenance
Bike Suspension Part Five…The Final Installment!
Anything that moves needs periodic maintenance, and suspension does a lot of moving! Regular suspension maintenance is one of the most important responsibilities for any bike owner.
- Prevent or reduce scratches to the stanchions. If these get nicked from a rock or tool, the rough edge can tear up the dust seal and bushings as it slides past, diminishing the performance and life of the suspension.
- Clean the stanchions after every ride with a soft cloth and mild cleaning solution, flossing around the tube and down to the seal in the top of the lowers.
- Check your owner’s manual for any other regular maintenance that can be performed by the owner. Some will recommend a light lube around the dust seal at the top of the sliders.
Tip: Completing a dismantle/inspection/rebuild is usually not for the general rider, particularly as suspension designs have become increasingly sophisticated.
Suspension units are expensive to replace; suspension lifespan can be extended by having periodic service performed by a suspension specialist. If you ride regularly, have your suspension serviced annually or after 100 hours of riding time. Regular service will also prolong the life of your bike frame.
We highly recommend a professional suspension service whenever you experience the following:
- Excessive oil leak onto the stanchions around the top of the sliders.
- An air-sprung unit not holding air and losing all travel.
- Play or knocking between the stanchions and the lower sliders.
- Any unusual collapse or resistance to normal function.
Basic Suspension Setup
Make sure your suspension is properly adjusted. Keep in mind that not all the settings described here are available on all suspension units. Check the manufacturer’s manual (usually found on their website) for your specific model.
Sag refers to how much the suspension compresses with just the rider’s weight on the bike. Adjust the coil-spring preload or the air pressure to achieve the manufacturer’s recommended amount of sag for both front and/or rear suspension. Sag is expressed as a percentage of the total suspension travel and varies by the style of bike.
XC: 15% – 20% Trail XC: 20% – 25% Trail: 25% – 30% All-Mountain: 25% – 35%
Sag enables the wheel to follow undulations in the ground more effectively, allowing the suspension to extend so that the wheel can drop into depressions in the trail. More sag equals a softer ride.
Rebound damping is the most important damping setting. Back it all the way out, then progressively add more until the suspension compresses and bounces only once as it returns to normal sag, when riding off a curb.
Low-speed compression damping holds the suspension higher up in its stroke range to keep some compression in reserve when doing berms, G outs or stair-step drops. This is also what a platform setting does on rear shocks.
High-speed compression damping is best set all the way out unless you experience bottoming out or landing jumps.