Suspension Setup Tips From 6 World Cup Technicians - Leogang DH World Cup 2019

Jun 7, 2019
by Mike Kazimer  
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.

Evan Warner Rock Shox

bigquotesOne 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

Todd Anderson Rock Shox

bigquotesThe 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

Jeremie Zeller DT Swiss

bigquotesPeople 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

Allemand Kein SR Suntour

bigquotesThe 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

Kolja Schmitt FOX

bigquotesIf 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

Taj Hendry FOX

bigquotesThe 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

Author Info:
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Member since Feb 1, 2009
1,696 articles

  • 177 4
 Service your fork every two weeks is gigantic stretch for me, I don't wash clothes every two weeks.
  • 31 7
 I never service my dirt jump fork. If it ain't broke don't fix it.
  • 51 1
 If I can't see it, it doesn't exist
  • 9 11
 Depends on hours. A weekend at a bike park, service after 2 days. One ride a week, a month is probably fine
  • 6 0
 best comment. period.
  • 5 0
 @matt-15: best comment. period
  • 11 0
 @SupraKZ: never service anything on the dirt jumper haha
  • 1 1
 or use a better oil than what they recommend... and some high some so called high spec oils just worsen stiction. with some oils you can get more than 6 months on dry weather.
  • 19 1
 @SupraKZ: If it ain't broke yet, it will be if you don't maintain it.
  • 10 1
 Wash clothes? Im lucky to take a shower every 2 weeks
  • 17 0
 I wash my bike more than I shower already. If it means I have to stop showering altogether to service my suspension more often, so be it.
  • 7 26
flag tomasinbc (Jun 7, 2019 at 13:47) (Below Threshold)
 @islandforlife: ive never ever serviced my fox 36 I ride every other day and thing feels buttery smooth , quit being a B and stop worrying about components
  • 1 0
 @islandforlife: I need all the excuses I can get to upgrade my 34 Rhythm to a Factory without feeling bad about getting rid of a good part
  • 12 21
flag SintraFreeride (Jun 7, 2019 at 14:33) (Below Threshold)
 I find it ridiculous that they recommend you service your fork every 50hrs! Seriously? How crap is your fork Rockshox? How about making a better fork with more oil that you service every 6 months? My old Shiver needed an oil change every year and it still was more plush than any of these new forks before the oil change!
  • 15 4
 @SintraFreeride: have fun on your shiver then!
  • 10 1
Why is changing fork oil frequently a ridiculous suggestion, do you know of some magically conjured oil that degrades less quickly than the oil rockshox is using?
To get the best out your fork over an extended period of time, the tip from the expert is to service it regularly, in fact way more than the bare minimum recommended 50hours....feel free to run it into the ground though if you like.
  • 5 0
 @makripper: dude this is a guy you buy a bike from on PB... his forks are literally too fresh
  • 4 2
 @SintraFreeride: try riding your old shiver now, flexy noodly 3 1/2 kilo divey piece of junk... we tend to remember only the good things
  • 2 1
 @chriskneeland: Priorities.
  • 6 0
 @SintraFreeride: the problem is most forms now don't have anywhere near the amount of oil that a Shiver (or any open bath Marzocchi) had... Part of that whole lightweight thing..

That being said, the Shiver is still one of my favorite forks ever...
  • 2 1
 @OoHoO: I sold it a while back because I was having a hard time finding spare parts =(
  • 2 0
 @benjiancillotti: What bothers me is that with so little oil these modern forks require very frequent servicing AND they STILL don't feel plush!
  • 4 4
 @ctd07: It was 4kgs and yes it was flexy but I wasn't a big deal because I am light. A little more compression damping would have been better for sure but it was WAY better than ANY modern Rockshox lyric/pike!
  • 3 0
 @lumpy873: Yeah true. I got the next best thing and bought a Dorado because I didn't have the cash to splash for a DVO Emerald.
  • 2 0
 @SintraFreeride: most people don't realize that flex wasn't a bad thing.. it made it so forgiving in the rock gardens ..
  • 3 0
 @ctd07: there was nothing wrong with the shivers and they aren't as you say "noodly" in the least lol I'm pretty sure you've never even rode one with a statement like that. I have a pair sitting next to fox 40s and I'd rather ride the shiver any day of the week you can't beat the plushness on a USD fork. Also the weight isn't an issue unless you're an anorexic with no muscle mass lol
  • 1 0
 @mhoshal: I rode Shiver sc's, was comparing them to modern trial and enduro forks, never rode the Shiver dc you're right
  • 1 0
 @lumpy873: So true! This was why when the Fox 40 went 650b they made it more flexible!
  • 60 2
 more like this please pb! very insightful
  • 49 2
 You can also fully close or fully open all of your buddy's external adjusters when they're not looking. That'll surely make you faster than them at some point!
  • 1 0
 Hahahaha...thanks good dude
  • 4 5
 You'll have to be fast if you want to mess with my bike
  • 6 0
 @matt-15: and on the flip side, you will have to be slow af, if you want to mess with my bike.
  • 31 5
 Service your fork every 2 weeks? Yeah, dead on. How about designing a fork that doesn't need serviced every two weeks.
  • 7 13
flag tomasinbc (Jun 7, 2019 at 13:49) (Below Threshold)
 Yeah who gives af ive never serviced my 36
  • 5 0
 @tomasinbc: I would recommend servicing it haha. Makes a big difference especially if it's been a while.
  • 8 2
 Forks don't need to be serviced every two weeks or even every two months for average riding. 50 hours is a full riding season for some people. You can probably go two years if you're ok with higher risk of damage to your stanchions from low and contaminated oil. But this tip is about maximizing performance by keeping your fork in the best condition. For racers and regular park riders that might even be every week. For others that is once a year
  • 5 2
 Im waiting for RockShox to bring back the totem. the bleed ports at the bottom of the stanchions made changing the oil a breeze
  • 2 0
 @showmethemountains: yeah if it's 50 hours of actual riding then it would take a a couple of years for me to get to that on my DH bike and that's being generous. I already get it serviced by a professional once a year so probably won't ever bother trying to lower leg service it myself.
  • 1 1
 The oil gets shittier as dirt gets in. You could have tighter seals, but then it will be sticky from the start rather than in a year.
  • 1 4
 @tomasinbc: people who actually care properly for their bikes give a f*ck. Sounds like you’re one of those people with a dentist bike who never ride and the bike works only because they have the money to keep replacing broken parts instead of maintaining them on the rare occasion they do ride and break something.
  • 3 1
 I’m 17 yrs old , dentist ? f*ck r you on about lil buddy ? @TheSlayer99:
  • 22 1
 My experience working at the shop nearly every damn day....

Customer: "My shock sucks... can you help me tune it?"

Me: "Sure, what're your damping settings"

Customer: "My what?"

Me: "What is your rebound/compression set to?"

Customer: "I dont know I just put air in it and went riding"

Its amazing how many riders dont know anything about how their suspension works and worse yet, how many dont have proper sag. 240lb dudes running like 40psi complaining their fork sucks cause it bottoms out too much.
  • 4 0
 No joke. I'm pushing 240 myself. Went on a couple weeks ago and it was freaking torture. First thing I did when I got back was check my fork air pressure. I got lazy and hadn't checked it for awhile. Was running like 72psi. Pretty much made me go... no wonder I was diving so hard. LOL. Seriously spent the entire ride trying not to die. Put another 20 in it. Mucho Better. Last couple rides it's been cherry. I check the shock a bit more often because I run so much damned pressure in it. Anyone that's just saying they don't tough their stuff ever and it works fine either doesn't know what it's supposed to perform like or they're incredibly lucky.
  • 15 0
 I totally agree with the "it's probably your rebound being too slow, not compression" that Kolja states. Speeding up the rebound after months of fiddling with HSC/LSC made a night and day difference on my shock.
  • 2 0
 I’ve experienced the exact same thing and I wish I learned it much sooner
  • 2 0
 I learned that a few weeks ago while cracking my head on how to make my fork work better for the trails I ride and not finishing up with my hands sore.
  • 3 0
 Agree. Fast rebound and open compression on my Fox 36 grip 2 is soooo much better!
  • 17 1
 Great Article!
  • 10 0
 Speaking of great: dealt with your warranty department in Europe last week. Cracking bunch. Super helpful.
  • 10 1
 People twiddle your knobs moar . Far to left and far to the right . It will feel good.
  • 6 0
 A tip I learned recently that really helped my setup: Yes, tokens can help with mid-stroke support. But beyond that, if you're trying to prevent too much dive, try more LSC instead of increasing air spring pressure.

I was afraid of LSC because I thought it would make things too harsh. I just dropped my air spring pressure by 25% and went from barely any LSC to mostly closed, and my fork is smoother and more composed everywhere, especially through rock gardens. Feels like my riding went to another level just from this improved tuning!

**YMMV based on your damper brand and model
  • 2 0
 Thanks for the tip. I’ll try this. Currently running my FIT 36 with the LSC full open. Luftkappe. I feel like I’m blowing through my early travel and pounding on ramp up.
  • 2 0
 Definitely same for me on 36er. Ramped up LSC and diving reduced a lot especially in rock gardens and steep rough stuff.
  • 3 0
 Ok so I just did a 7 mile shuttled downhill with my LSC at 12 clicks. FIT36. Ummm. Why didn’t t I do this earlier? This is the best my fork has ever felt. Smooth, lively, composed tracking on sketchy shit. Not harsh at all. Just more confidence inspiring at speed.
  • 1 0
 The Tokens are more for bottom out resistance, right?
My goal has always been to run just enough tokens that with the correct sag, I don't get a harsh bottom out unless I do something stupid, but still use full travel on pretty much every ride.
If you want more support, compression is your friend. On my hardtail I run a ton of LSC so the geometry doesn't change so much when braking into corners.
  • 9 0
 Where's Jordi at
  • 46 1
 too busy with Loris
  • 4 1
 Was wondering the same thing. That being said, his Dialed episode is on point.
  • 1 0
 @jaydawg69: Hahaah good one
  • 8 1
 stopped reading at "service your fork every two weeks".
  • 6 2
 I'd have loved to gotten Steve at vorsprung's take on this too! Or a response to some tips here. That guy hates sag Big Grin
  • 1 1
 Does he? I've watched most of his vids and don't remember seeing that.
  • 3 0
 He’s just not into relying heavily on your travel ring. He rightly states that you will never get the same measurement twice
  • 2 0
 Most industry professionals agree...a properly damper/product should rely on damping force and not air spring force for control. GRIP2 is good but 'dumps' at medium / high velocity impacts leaving you with air spring.
  • 2 0
 Nice article, iv ridden my Manitou forks for a solid year (about 75 ride hours worth) without any issues, but definitely gonna need some fresh oils soon
  • 3 2
 "little bounce to break any friction...…" just run a coil. done and done.
  • 1 0
 Dust wipers, wear band in the damper, damper sealhead. I have a bomber jrt with dual coils and it sure as hell ain't stiction free. I've even sprayed it with SC1 and it's still shit.
  • 2 0
 Okay who's riding the single crown on sunday.....
  • 2 0
 Manitou... Flip switch to party mode and ride.
  • 4 2
 watch DIALED!
  • 1 0
 I service once a problems so far
  • 1 0
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