Mountain bike suspension setup can be an intimidating task, especially for newcomers to the sport. It doesn't need to be, though, and with a little practice and some research it can become a relatively easy process. Pinkbike's Ross Bell took a trip through the pits at the Leogang DH World Cup to find out what some of the best technicians in the business had to say about this topic.
One thing to keep in mind with current suspension products from RockShox, and all manufacturers, is that the external adjusters are there for a reason – you can use them. I find that at times people tend to set it and forget it. When you get a new fork you should use the external adjustments. Run through the range of rebound and low-speed compression, high-speed compression. Play around with it, and go to the extremes a little bit to get an idea of what the range and capabilities of the suspension are.
Set the sag to start. Get that air spring figured out right off the bat, and then you find your favorite loop that's not too long and do a couple laps. Play with it fully open on high-speed and low-speed, and then go the other way, fully close it down. That'll give you an idea of, “Wow, that's what these knobs do.”
It's good to do one adjustment independently of the other - do one thing at a time. That helps isolate in your head what you're feeling. Same thing with rebound – see what it feels like when it's too fast and too slow, and then find your range of adjustment, two or three clicks, and then depending on where you're riding you know where it should be. Write it down too, on your phone or with the Trailhead app from RockShox.— Evan Warner, RockShox
The basics will really help keep your fork running well. You know, wiping down your stanchions after a muddy ride, trying to keep it as clean as possible. Doing a lowers service more often than not – it's super easy, YouTube has a ton of videos on how to do it.
Use the proper grease and oil that's recommended for your fork. That'll keep your fork not only working really well, but also extend the life of it. When to service a fork is really dependent on conditions – is it really muddy? Is it a really fine dust? Because that will get into your fork a lot quicker than some areas. RockShox recommends a lowers service every 50 hours, but that seems high – depending on how much you're riding, if you did it every two weeks your fork would work so much better.— Todd Anderson, RockShox
People don't read the manual at all, which doesn't help. The manual comes with basic setups, and it's always a good starting point. From there, your personal setup is going to be easier to find versus starting from scratch.
If the rebound is too slow the fork is going to pack, and that can make you go over the bars. If it's too fast you're going to lose connection with the floor, and you'll crash at the exit of a corner, for example. Compression is a matter of comfort. It's common that people want their fork set up like the pros, but they don't have the physical fitness and technique that's necessary.— Jeremie Zeller, DT Swiss
The first step is the air pressure for the fork and the shock, the sag. In DH we use 20% for the front and 30% for the back. After the sag is set, depending on your fork, you can check the compression.
It's easier to check the low-speed compression – it's when you touch the brake, or when you arrive in a corner. You can feel if it's too hard or too soft. If you use too much travel when you touch the brake you can close a little bit of low-speed compression, the opposite if it's too hard. It's the same for the back or the front. Next, check rebound – not too fast or too slow, but it should feel the same in the front and back. Often, riders have too much rebound in the front and not enough in the back. That's not good because your bike stays stuck down in its travel. You want balance, the same in the front and back.— Allemand Kein, SR Suntour
If your sag is set up right your next step will be to make sure the rebound is not too slow. Normally, you go to the faster side; faster rebound makes for a better working fork and shock. On the compression side, it's best to start in the middle and then work your way up or down. Most riders set their rebound too slow. Also, many riders feel like it's a compression issue, but actually it's coming from the rebound because the shock or fork doesn't respond fast enough and you get all the hits, all the bumps, and you'll feel it in your hands. Many people just make their compression softer and softer but it's actually coming from the rebound.— Kolja Schmitt, Fox
The most common mistake you see is people running the incorrect sag on their fork. If you run them too soft it won't give you the support in corners when you need it, and in an air fork it can also become very harsh if you're running too much sag. You probably want to run 15-20% sag in the fork, and 25-30% in the shock. Get on the bike, brakes off, little bounce to break any friction that's there, reset your travel rings, stand for a second, and then get off and measure it.— Taj Hendry, Fox