Tech Tips: How to Keep Your Suspension Moving in the Winter

Jan 4, 2019
by Daniel Sapp  


Suspension performance is affected by the seasons. Hot and dry conditions from summer are vastly different compared to the cold and wet of shoulder seasons and winter. Just like wearing a winter jacket and warm socks, you should also prepare your bike's suspension. It's easy to get caught up in the tech of bikes, but there's not a product in the world that's better than common sense. It's in our nature to want nerdy solutions to non-issues (I love my job), but when it comes to keeping your bike running in the winter, it can be pretty simple on the suspension side of things.

I recently stopped by Fox Factory's North Carolina office and caught up with engineer Josh Coaplen to hear what he recommends for keeping things moving in the winter. While I went in thinking I was going to hear a lot of World Cup-level ideas and processes, it turns out that almost anyone can do the most effective things.





Check Your Sag

It's easy to just grab your bike and go if it was working fine when you put it away from your last ride, but just because the settings are the same doesn't mean the outside air temperature is. Have a baseline for how much sag you run on your bike and make sure it's the same. The air pressure number may not always be consistent but your measured sag should be. Cold or hot temperatures make pressures change on air-sprung suspension. It probably won't be a huge alteration due to the temperatures, but you also have to factor in all the food you ate over the holidays... It all adds up.




Adjust Your Damper Settings

The viscosity of the oil in your fork and shock can change depending on how hot or cold it is and the way that it moves impacts how your suspension behaves. There's a lot more to it than just that and there are different fluids that can be used which have different viscosities but, if you're swapping out damper fluid depending on the temps, there's a good chance you're already scrolling to the comments at this point. To keep it simple, think of it like a jar of maple syrup. When it's warm, it moves quickly and is easy to pour. When it's cold, it moves much more slowly. This is similar to how the fluids in your fork or shock move. For the suspension to work, there are tiny holes and shims that the fluid has to move back and forth through as the suspension cycles.

From your standard settings, you may have to move the compression and/or rebound out a couple of clicks to overcome the increased viscosity in the oil and air spring. You also may need to change the air pressure in your tires as the rubber rebounds differently and you ride frozen or wet terrain differently than you would dry dusty trails in the summer. It's not going to always be the case but if things are feeling off or if your suspension feels slow once you're outside, it may need to be dialed out.




Run a Fender

Yep, it's that simple. Get fender and run it. For a lot of the world, the winter months mean that you're riding in mucky and nasty conditions and tossing a lot more mud and debris onto your bike than you typically do. All of the mud that gets on your suspension is pushing up against the seals every time it cycles so the more you can keep off of it, the better chance they have of performing as they should. If you do end up with frozen water and grime on your fork do not run it into the wiper seals of your fork/shock.




Clean Up Quickly

It's one of the last things you want to do after a cold and wet ride, but make sure you clean up your bike before the mud and water refreezes in the garage. When fluid freezes in and around the seals and expands, it can cause damage - the same goes for other parts of your bike. Just use common sense and wipe it off; it'll pay off end the end.




There are plenty of other ways to dial in your bike to make riding in the winter a better experience but paying attention to these few things will go a long way in keeping your bike running well. Also keep in mind that in some places, it may be best to take a little time off of the bike or ride different trails than you may in the summer - some trail systems don't hold up well to wet riding or are closed in the winter and it's important to respect that.


119 Comments

  • + 241
 Also, if you ride a 1996 Proflex 855, try pooring boiling water on the elastomer before you ride. Plush suspension for at least the first 4 minutes. Sublime
  • + 17
 I used to have one. More pedal kickback than suspension travel...
  • - 13
flag chyu (Jan 4, 2019 at 9:35) (Below Threshold)
 Gwinter is coming.
  • + 2
 Genius! I'm going to add a cup for the elastomers in my Onza clipless pedals too!
  • + 90
 I live in Australia. In winter I wear shorts, in summer Tyre sealant boils. #straya
  • + 83
 Perhaps in summer you should swap out your damper fluid for maple syrup, to keep it running sweet Wink
  • + 13
 @sam264: Do they offer maple syrup in a multi-viscosity?
  • + 81
 @theky1e: Of course! What are you guys, cavemen? The three national viscosities are: Light, Amber, Dark and Very Dark. It's written on our national beaver fer Christ's sake.

Pro tip: amber in the brake hoses makes DH runs smell like a pancake house
  • + 7
 @bishopsmike: Light doesn't count. It's pretty much fools gold. May as well be using Aunt Jemima as light maple syrup.
  • + 9
 Californians use organic fee range agave syrup. Dried pressed kale for brake pads.
  • + 1
 @PtDiddy: I think you meant Oregonians..
  • + 2
 @H3RESQ: same difference
  • + 6
 @PtDiddy: don't forget Avocados or strawberries, we put that sh*t on everything
  • + 0
 ...
  • + 5
 @bishopsmike: I love the fact no ones picked you up for your small error on the THREE Natoinal viscosities. I read four there my friend. Hahaha.
  • + 5
 @2-1RacingUK: It's like ratedgg13 said, light doesn't count! ????
  • + 40
 If you ride in the real winter:

- As a guideline, increase the air spring pressure by 1 psi for every degree below 0 C, for example in -10 C add 10 psi. A more accurate guideline could be to increase the pressure by 2 % for every degree below 0 C, ie. in -10 C increase by 20 %.

- Use less damping if you don't change the oil to lighter one.

- Fork's can get sucked down, possibly because of stiffened grease blocking the +/- groove, pull your fork to max extension by holding the crown and pulling from the handlebar to get the springs to equalize during the ride.

- Grease gets stiffer, put JUST couple drops of oil to the fork's air spring from the top, that keeps your seals moving easier in the really cold.

In snow the rear brake caliper can get covered by snow, then the snow melts when you use the brake and freezes again. Cover the caliper's top opening with some tape to keep the brake working consistently.
  • + 5
 Any ideas on what lighter oil to run in a Charger cartridge? Cause they feel really crapy below - 15C*
  • + 6
 @Crisskan: I've filled the Charger cartridge in my Boxxer and Pike with "Redline, like water", this should be 2-3 times more viscous in freezing temperatures than the original 3wt Rockshox (originally Maxima) Fork oil based on numbers from Peter Verdones list of oil viscosities. Lubrication oil has much bigger impact, so I'd suggest you try that first. 1/3 parts 0w-30 and 2/3 parts 2.5wt Rockshox Fork oil to be on safe side.Though all very viscous fully synthetic motor/gear oils should work as well.
  • + 1
 @Novakki: Any idea on how to prevent a Rockshox Monarch Plus RC3 shock from sticking down 20 mins into any ride below 2 degrees Celsius??
  • + 12
 @radney: totally. Undo the bolts at each end and toss it in the bin! This happened to me all the time! Ruined many a ride before I swapped to an X2.
  • + 10
 Step 1 - coil Step 2 - ride Step 3 - Profit!
  • + 1
 Solid
  • + 2
 @Crisskan: Try Driven SHX, its a 2.5 wt. Fantastic shiiite
  • + 1
 Most likely a bad o ring allowing air to bypass into the neg chamber of the air can. Had this happen and replaced all the can o rings and re-lubed(air can service) to fix. Worth a shot! @radney:
  • + 34
 Can't understand why Fox, Rockshox etc don't come out with their own mudguards and an arch made for them.
  • + 41
 They'll dick about with offset for a few years, bring out a few new colour schemes and then accommodate for HyperBoost. Integrated fenders are pencilled in for 2025.
  • + 18
 Syncros make one that fits the new 36 with some small screws.
  • + 4
 @rchez08 It doesn't provide a barrier between the tire and the stanchions. When will the fork manufactures figure out an integrated solution. DVO's has one, and I really like it, but it too doesn't guard the stanchions.
  • + 0
 @rchez08: But lefts uncovered the bars and the mud goes there::.
  • + 4
 my 34 already has threads in the arch for just that, but fox doesn't see the value in selling us a proper mudguard even after they went through the effort of adding threads
  • + 3
 @vtracer: syncros man. They are sweet and 30g and thread in. Call a Scott dealer and they will get you one for 15$
  • + 1
 Sycros is a great option that bolts to 36 and 34. Want it even better, scuff it up and epoxy a cut front Mud Hugger to it. Get the bigger shaped fender in a bolt on option. Obviosly not for weight whennies but it is good for those that hate the zip ties on thier forks.
  • + 9
 @UtahBrent: I added some flaps to mine with some of that heat and mold plastic sheet I got off Amazon.
www.pinkbike.com/photo/16729363
  • + 5
 My Suntour Auron came with one, super slick and the fork performs excellent otherwise. Much better than the 34 I had last year...
  • + 1
 @UtahBrent: Manitou also has integrated barrier between tire and stanchions (arch in the back)
  • + 21
 And if you live somewhere where is a real winter, change the damper oil to a lighter one. When it's -15C the knob adjustment range is propably not enough anymore.
  • + 1
 You mean my high 30's and light rain in California isn't real winter?!
  • + 14
 Not for nothing but this is why I love having a rigid fat bike for the winters. This right here is just too much thinking for me when it's cold out.
  • + 6
 rigid single speed for me.
  • + 2
 @fartymarty: show off Wink
  • + 2
 @Mac1987: it certainly shuts your riding mates up when you stomp them up and down the hills.
  • + 10
 Reduce your winter time suspension worries by riding a slack hardtail! Winter is a great time to spend a few soft sloppy months on a hardtail. Dont worry, you can go back to fiddling with your squishy rear end bits come Spring.
  • + 11
 Personally, as I don`t have an e-bike to plug an hair-dryer on it, I simply piss on my fork to warm it up and it works wonderfully Smile
  • + 2
 jelly fish
  • + 7
 R. Kelly, is that you?
  • + 10
 Tip 1: If you just bought a Fox fork, brand new full kashima take it apart and put oil in the lowers, they are shipped dry 99% of the time.
  • + 2
 No idea how fox has gotten away with such garbage QC for so long
  • + 7
 To be fair, they compensate for that by filling the negative air chamber for 90% with grease.
  • + 1
 @Mac1987: is that the reason the forks tend to get stuck in the lowers?
  • + 1
 @LukasN89: if the grease clogs the equalisation port, than possibly. It can't hurt to check the negative chamber anyway.
  • + 7
 For those of you who keep your bikes in the house, just because your sag is correct straight out the (warm) door doesn't mean it'll be correct on your (cold) ride. Let the bike cool down to outdoor temps before finalising your pressures.

The same goes for your tyres.
  • + 18
 What I always thought was cool for tires is the pressure deflates with cold weather, just like you want them to for grip. It's like mother nature's hand job.
  • + 34
 For those of you who keep your bikes in the house . . . what's it like to be single?
  • + 7
 @rrolly: You must be doing something wrong..our bike rack stays in the kitchen for riding season
  • + 3
 @blazekelly: Close to the maple syrup
  • + 2
 @rrolly: absolute bliss
  • + 5
 @Franzzz The durolux r2c2 damper, a.k.a. Grip v0.99 is really easy to work on as long as you have the slightest idea what you are doing. Mine was overdamped from the factory, but oil change and removal of shim from the HSC was easy
  • + 1
 Rc2 and similar experience except didn't feel the need for hsc shim to be taken off. Actually i add one click for more controlled damping. 18cst oil if i remember correctly. Factory is around 26 cst
  • + 7
 Wearing more clothes, being caked in mud and carrying a hipflask offsets the sag difference, so don't bother with that.
  • + 5
 and ride a rigid single speed - keeps you nice and warm.
  • + 3
 there is no mud during the winter, its replaced by snow Razz
  • + 4
 What is all this, just move to somewhere like the PNW that while wet, isn't frezzing. If you don't mind getting wet its year round joy on a bike. Oh wait, nevermind this place sucks. Move to California or Arizona. Rain sucks Smile
  • + 3
 Your suspension probably feels horrid in winter because you're riding slower! Settings that are supportive in fast dry summer conditions will be horribly harsh when you're going half the speed on wet rocks and slippery roots, the bikes covered in a kilo of mud and your belly has a kilo of Christmas pudding in it... I wind it back, it feels fine, then on that first perfect ride in spring the bike feels all mushy and slow. And repeat...
  • + 5
 Keep that spiced rum in a stainless steel flask instead of a glass bottle in case you crash. My winter riding tip.
  • + 1
 anybody have a monarch plus with the debonair can? ive noticed mine acts funny in the cold. seems as if the first part of travel has alot of friction then once its past that point it feels smooth. had a warm day and it went away for some reason..
  • + 3
 Ditch those shitty Marsh Guards, get something like the Mudhugger or try to DIY. Super expensive for what it is, but works way better.
  • + 1
 Slowly converting my mates over to these, I run a front MudHugger all year round as we can get a few wet days in a row any time of year. Together with a Mobi washer for a quick clean of the bike as soon as I finish the ride means my forks and headset last a lot better than theirs do. One riding pal was going through fork stanchions regularly as he never really cleaned his bike and he was using one of the neoprene guards, mud was sat on the seals all the time and being constantly topped up. Gave him an old, original front MudHugger I had going spare (I run the FR ones now) and the problem disappeared. I also use the rear ones all winter, while they look 'special' my arse and dropper post are much, much happier!
  • + 4
 After reading this, I need mapple sirup !
  • + 1
 If the lower temperature affects pressure in the air spring, why would you adjust it at home? Go out, ride a bit, then adjust pressure (and damping to match it).
  • + 1
 I always ride in winter on my 180mm/203mm Full sussy bikes! and will fix it in winter/spring.

www.pinkbike.com/video/496437
  • + 2
 Nobody mentioned that Fox 20wt Gold oil become very viscous at low temperatures?
Obviously Fox will not tell you that... Smile
  • + 1
 Odd I ski in the winter and obsessively read Pinkbike in the hopes that there is any bike related news to get me through the snowy months.
  • + 1
 Any suggestions for dropper posts? My Thompson Elite, which works flawlessly above 40F or so gets mushy when the temps dip below freezing.
  • + 3
 Two words: rigid fatbike.
  • + 2
 mountain unicycle
  • + 3
 Article coulda just said "Switch to coil"
  • + 1
 Coil shocks will also change their characteristics in the cold. The seals in air shocks will have more friction, but it's the oil in the damper thickening at certain temps that causes things to get harsh (slower compression and rebound), which will happen with coil too.
  • - 1
 What I do in the brutal SoCal winter, is send in a brand new Fox 34 fork back to Fox for warranty service to remove the globs of excess grease that their Asian factory workers incompetently applied during assembly causing the brand new fork to suck 30mm into its travel as the +/- air chambers can't equalize............... Then I sell the POS Fox product as soon as I get it back and buy a DVO Sapphire 34 D1 and live happily ever after.
  • + 1
 I just blew all the air out of a Suntour fork due to the cold and it was not much below freezing, but not sure yet if it just needs new seals or I broke something
  • + 2
 Interesting... which Suntour do you have? I have an Auron RC2, with a closed bath damper, and it`s pretty difficult to custom something. I did lub my seals with a fluid oil and dialed down the rebound + a bit less air for a softer compression. It does operate till now...
  • + 1
 @Franzzz: Suntour Raidon 650+ so might have blown the damper, but do have an older 2009 Bomber that has same damper & was reason for there death
  • + 1
 @aljoburr: I had the same problem with mine. Turns out the grease they put in the top of the air chamber isn’t very much and air leaks. Cleaned it out and used some of the Fox Float oil and it has never been better.
  • + 1
 That weather killed my dropper post.
  • + 1
 How to Keep Your Suspension Moving in the Winter: Run a coil like me. Much easier.
  • + 2
 What's this "garage" you speak of?
  • + 1
 Take a vacation or a car ride to the tropics where it's warm and say f*** winter
  • + 1
 Hmm, sceptical. The oil and air in your damper heat up pretty quickly once you start descending, no?
  • + 3
 It warms up yes, but it'll still be colder relative to summer temps.
  • + 1
 @sam264: shock will heat up relatively nicely, however to heat up fork is damn hard, there is just too much metal surrounding it causing much more of a heatsink effect.
  • + 1
 What about hydraulic dropper post in winter? Rock Shox Reverb Stealth does not work below zero degrees celsius...
  • - 1
 Poradne odvzdusnit ovladani a pak zatocit tocitko na pacce na max speed polohu. Pak to chodi bezproblemu i v -10.
  • + 0
 Alternatively get some fresh oil in your lowers - just watch a youtube how-to. It's really simple to do and will be far more noticeable than above.
  • + 1
 Why every time I read 'Tech Tips' I end up with a hashtag on my mind that is #CaptainObvious lol
  • + 1
 Off topic but has anyone found what appears to be white lithium grease in the seals of a Fox fork?
  • + 2
 did pinkbike just call me fat?
  • + 1
 IM IN THE SAME ROOM WITH THE OWNER OF THE EVIL!
  • - 2
 How does the cold (below freezing temperatures) affect the seals and wipers? Rubber tends to get softer, will this increase the amount of dirt and water getting through? Does snow riding affect service intervals?
  • + 14
 Pretty sure rubber does not get softer in the cold...
  • + 1
 @bishopsmike: do to the laws of thermodynamics every thing gets denser the colder it is.
But hey I'm no scientist.
  • + 1
 @Sshredder: As a not scientist, tell me more about this thermodynamics thing, specifically as it pertains to water. I'm super curious to hear any insights you might have. /s

"and that, children, is why 90% of the iceberg is underwater"
  • + 2
 WTH, rubber doesn't get softer with colder temps.
  • + 1
 @rxdog1: From what I've read, the polymer chains of rubber shorten on heat and relax in cold, an exception to the rule we are used to.
  • + 1
 @DoYaSeeMe: that effects expansion or elasticity due to temp change,think its still stiffer when cold. The cold expansion would mean the seals are not as tight to the stantion.
  • + 1
 @rxdog1: Anyway, the seals are not 100% rubber. My question is how badly they're affected by the cold (a few hours of -10 degrees celsius and snow). Will this shorten the life of the seals considerably? Will they allow more dirt in or increase friction by getting tighter?
  • + 0
 @DoYaSeeMe: when it's below zero your stantions can ice up.
Say by by to your seals in a short amount of time.
The ice chews up the seals.
  • + 1
 A good Winter riding tip is Sedona. Your whip will ride plushy.
  • + 1
 Or just run coil.....problem solved.
  • + 1
 Or you can just stay at home reading pinkbike?
  • + 0
 Don't let them freeze. boom done.
  • - 1
 Winter , what is this winter you of?
  • + 6
 Speak* ; )
  • - 3
 That's easy. You just ride a Metric coil. Works perfectly without fiddling Smile
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