This Tech Tuesday shows how you can wake up your suspension fork’s performance in about five minutes for pennies, using a flat screwdriver, a clean cloth, some factory lubricant and little bit of elbow grease. The problem is dirty or poorly lubricated dust-wiper seals and the fix is quite simple. We used a Fox 32 Float RLC fork for the illustration.
Stiction is the Enemy
Dry and dirty dust wiper seals can rob a fork of its low-speed sensitivity. Follow these simple steps to get your fork sliding smoothly again.
Seal friction is the number one enemy of a suspension fork. Every time the fork reaches the beginning or end of its stroke, before it reverses direction, the stanchion momentarily stops sliding under the lip of the dust wiper seal. Once immobile, the dust wiper’s tightly wrapped synthetic rubber lip adheres to the stanchion tube. This creates a great deal of starting friction – like sliding a piano across a wooden floor – the force necessary to start the piano (or stanchion tube in this case) moving again is significantly more than that which is necessary to keep it sliding. Suspension engineers call starting friction “stiction” because it makes the suspension feel sticky instead of responsive. What You’ll Need:-A clean fork and a clean environment to work on it. (a bike stand is a great help here).
-A thin blade flat screwdriver to use to pry out the seal.
-Factory authorized lubricant for the seal (15-weight suspension fluid will work in a pinch).
-Masking tape to cover the screwdriver blade to keep from marring your sliders (not really necessary unless you like to keep your stuff looking new, or you own an Audi).
-A couple spotlessly clean shop towels (or a roll of paper towels).
-Your Mom's toothbrush.
-A bucket of water and some bio-degradable detergent (dish-washing detergent is OK). Tip:
The life and happiness of your fork depends upon its sliding surfaces, so make every move in a deliberate and controlled manner so you don‘t slip with the screwdriver and gouge the stanchion tube or cut the seal. Take your time and the job will actually go faster. Also, you may need to back off you low-speed compression or perhaps, add some spring pressure to compensate for the slippery action of your newly serviced fork seals. Grime and stiction build up over time as the fork loses its lubrication, which causes many riders to adjust their spring and damping pressures to compensate.
Clean your fork well, especially around the inside of the arch where it curves behind the fork wiper seal. Dish washing detergent and water are a good call for this task.
Particles of dirt (right) should have been cleaned before removing the wiper.
take a close look at the dust wiper seal where it sits against the fork slider. There should be a few depressions molded into the base to allow a thin screwdriver blade to slip between the fork and seal. Tape up the screwdriver blade if you want to keep the sliders looking perfect and, using a slight side-to-side wiggle motion, work the blade under the seal until it lifts. You won’t need much pressure to lift the seal, so don’t force the screwdriver. Repeat in three places around the seal until you can lever it out all the way. Slide the seals up the stanchion tubes about 3 inches.
Look inside the slider to find a foam lubrication glide ring – most forks use one as a reservoir for lubricating oil and to continuously spread new lubricant on the stanchion tube. You may get lucky and pry them up with a screwdriver blade, but it’s a lot easier to put the bike on the ground and compress the fork to lift the glide rings. Slide the foam glide rings up near the seals.
Using a towel wrapped around the screwdriver blade carefully clean the seal area and under the glide rings until there is no evidence of oil or grime. Fill the cavities with paper towels or shop towels so dirt and grime can’t fall into them while you work on the seals and glide rings. You can use masking tape to hold the plugs in place.
Use your mom’s tooth brush, along with bio-degradable cleaner or detergent and water to clean the seals and glide rings inside and out. Dry all parts with a clean towel.
Prepare the lubricant you will use to saturate the glide rings (Fox sells it in 5 cc bubble packs). Slide the glide rings into the fork cavities and put enough oil into them so that they are dripping full. Use your finger to lubricate the stanchion tubes for an inch or so above the rings.
Slide a dust wiper down on the fork slider and visually align it so it sits level with the slider. CAREFULLY, push the seal in using hand pressure and the screwdriver blade. Place the blade near the outer edge of the seal where it is reinforced by an internal steel band molded into the rubber. Press the seal in by working around the circumference in three opposing spots until it seats. This will not take a lot of force, so use some love. Take care when you reach behind the fork arch with the screwdriver.
: Make a visual inspection to ensure that the dust wiper seals are seated evenly on the fork sliders and then cycle the fork about ten times to get the fork running smoothly – wipe any excess oil from the fork and then go ride.
Remember to clean your fork and seal area well before you remove the wipers. Small amounts of grime can shorten the life of your fork if it gets into the mech. Got any more tips for sprucing up a fork? We'd love to know.
A job well done. Cycle the fork a few times to get the dust wiper and stanchion tubes lubricated and then enjoy riding your front suspension as it was intended to be.
Past Tech Tuesdays
:Technical Tuesday #1 - How to change a tube. Technical Tuesday #2 - How to set up your SRAM rear derailleur Technical Tuesday #3 - How to remove and install pedals Technical Tuesday #4 - How To Bleed Your Avid Elixir Brakes Technical Tuesday #5 - How To Check And Adjust Your Headset Technical Tuesday #6 - How To Fix A Broken Chain Technical Tuesday #7 - Tubeless Conversion Technical Tuesday #8 - Chain Wear Technical Tuesday #9 - SRAM Shift Cable Replacement Technical Tuesday #10 - Removing And Installing a HeadsetTechnical Tuesday #11 - Chain Lube ExplainedTechnical Tuesday #12 - RockShox Totem and Lyric Mission Control Damper ModTechnical Tuesday #13 - Shimano XT Crank and Bottom Bracket InstallationTechnical Tuesday #14 - Straightening Your Derailleur HangerTechnical Tuesday #15 - Setting Up Your Front DerailleurTechnical Tuesday #16 - Setting Up Your CockpitTechnical Tuesday #17 - Suspension BasicsTechnical Tuesday #18 - Adjusting The Fox DHX 5.0Technical Tuesday #19 - Adjusting The RockShox BoXXer World CupTechnical Tuesday #20 - Servicing Your Fox Float ShockTechnical Tuesday #21 - Wheel Truing BasicsTechnical Tuesday #22 - Shimano Brake Pad ReplacementTechnical Tuesday #23 - Shimano brake bleedTechnical Tuesday #24 - Fox Lower Leg Removal And ServiceTechnical Tuesday #25 - RockShox Motion Control ServiceTechnical Tuesday #26 - Avid BB7 Cable Disk Brake SetupTechnical Tuesday #27 - Manitou Dorado Fork RebuildTechnical Tuesday #28 - Manitou Circus Fork RebuildTechnical Tuesday #29 - MRP G2 SL Chain Guide InstallTechnical Tuesday #30 - Cane Creek Angleset InstallationTechnical Tuesday #31 - RockShox Maxle Lite DHTechnical Tuesday #32 - Find Your Tire Pressure Sweet SpotTechnical Tuesday #33 - Three Minute Bike Preflight CheckTechnical Tuesday #34 - MRP XCG InstallTechnical Tuesday #35 - Stem Choice and Cockpit SetupTechnical Tuesday #36 - Handlebars - How Wide Affects Your RideTechnical Tuesday #37 - Repairing A Torn TireTechnical Tuesday #38 - Coil spring swapTechnical Tuesday #39 - Trailside help: Broken Shift CableTechnical Tuesday #40 - Installing a Fox Float Air-Volume SpacerTechnical Tuesday #41 - Replace the Seals on Your 2011 RockShox Boxxer World Cup Fork
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