Burning Question: Suspension Setup Pitfalls, New Technology, & More - Shock Week 2023

Aug 18, 2023 at 14:06
by Dario DiGiulio  



Is there a specific bike/kinematic you prefer to work with when tuning shocks?


Because we offer shocks with a wide range of damping, Cane Creek typically likes to use a variety of bikes (and a variety of riding styles/rider weights) that have different traits to determine damping needs. To get a good range, I like to use a higher leverage bike with a heavy-ish rider, as this combination requires higher spring rates and consequently more damping, while also testing with a lighter rider on a lower leverage bike to make sure our range of damping is suitable for both cases.

If shock extenders are so bad for loading shocks in the wrong way, why do so many bike brands have them?


Clevis mounts are widely used as a solution for companies to have more control over the pivot point locations to create the kinematics they are looking for and have a fixed location for the shock mounting. Additionally for fitting the shock in the front triangle. A shock and the amount of stroke needed to generate a certain amount of rear wheel travel is long and bulky, and this needs to be connected to the rear wheel somehow while also bypassing the seat tube. Another driver here is the prioritization of long-travel dropper posts. Keeping the seat tube straight and uninterrupted is critical for a 200mm+ dropper post. So something has to be compromised (I.E. the shock mounting) to house that rider's benefit. When you don't need a long dropper post, you have more room to negate the need for a clevis mount.

There is no doubt that a shock is not designed to compress from forces perpendicular to the eyelet; suspension companies employ bushings specifically for rotation to accomodate for compression forces. But if you mount a shock in the intended orientation on a clevis linkage, the shock wouldn't compress, it would just buckle. I am no expert on frame design, but I suspect that clevis mounts are not the last word in this style of rear shock mounting, even given the same envelope to work with.

For the average customer, what is the biggest trap in shock setup that you’ve found? How should they negate falling into this hole when setting their shock up? (For example, getting kicked off a jump and slowing the rebound, when it’s more a technique issue).


I find that it is more often a flaw in spring rate set up (sag) for the gen pop riders that creates poor performance or unwanted riding sensations more than anything else on the damping side. It still blows my mind how many people I see at events that are riding around with 50% sag and have never even seen a shock pump or know how to use one. Or a coil shock rider that bought the bike second-hand and hasn't taken the time to determine that they need a 100lb stiffer spring. When people complain about "Sitting deep in the travel and bottoming out off of take-offs", or "I feel like I am riding a chopper on the climbs" - dead give away that they overlooked the most important step - setting sag. Undersprung riders are more common than oversprung riders, but oftentimes oversprung riders are skilled/progressing riders simply looking for more progression, and incorrectly increase spring rate instead of reducing air volume or getting a progressive spring. Bottom line, if sag is set correctly, it makes it a lot easier to focus on damping adjustments and avoid trying to use the damper to compensate for an incorrect spring rate.

Are there any technologies that are present in other two wheeled sports, like on and off-road motor bikes, that could be interesting in a mountain bike application? Why might they not have been adopted yet?


Man, I love this question!! I really want to see us get rid of derailleurs - especially on ebikes - Pinion's new E1.12 motor and gearbox got me so fired up for the future. It just makes so much more sense with the added torque on the drivetrain.

As far as tech on the suspension side. I am not much of a fan of electronic suspension but clearly the industry is moving that way. I am more of a fan of having a suspension component be designed to accommodate a wide range of compression types on one run and not have compromises (between large and small hits) without needing to charge another battery. More to come on that from CC...






Is there a specific bike/kinematic you prefer to work with when tuning shocks?


When we work with our OEM partners we discuss a range of bike and kinematic considerations – All with the goal of getting their bike to ride the way they intend it to. Most of this discussion is hyper-specific to the particular OEM, but some general considerations from our side would be:

1. Average leverage should be above 2.0 and below 3.0

2. The amount of progression the bike has ought to be tied to the intended use and what shock will go on it, Air or Coil. When we consider the progression of a bike we look at 30-95% of travel. The energy it takes to move the bike from 0 to 30% of travel does not have an impact on bottom out. We also cut out 95-100% because at this point the shock is well into mechanical bottom out systems and the leverage rate is less important.

If shock extenders are so bad for loading shocks in the wrong way, why do so many bike brands have them?


No comment.

For the average customer, what is the biggest trap in shock setup that you’ve found? How should they negate falling into this hole when setting their shock up? (For example, getting kicked off a jump and slowing the rebound, when it’s more a technique issue).


1. Taking the time to start with a basic set up procedure: Setting and checking sag, adjusting the rebound to match the spring and personal preference. Ideally, the rider would follow this up by riding a short section of trail which represents the average riding they will do.

2. How should they negate falling into this hole when setting their shock up? (For example, getting kicked off a jump and slowing the rebound, when it’s more a technique issue). This is a hard one to fully address from the suspension side, as you note the rider’s technique plays a role. This really comes back to riding the short section of trail so that the suspension can be fine-tuned to the rider – it also gives the rider an opportunity to experience how their own technique impacts the bike’s performance.

Are there any technologies that are present in other two wheeled sports, like on and off-road motor bikes, that could be interesting in a mountain bike application? Why might they not have been adopted yet?


This is an interesting question. From our perspective there are interesting things happening on the moto side of things but mountain bike suspension has many more constraints than moto which has pushed our technology ahead of theirs, a few examples:

1. Weight. Mountain bikes are under considerably more pressure than any moto sport to reduce weight.

2. Efficiency. Riders have limited horsepower and can perceive very small changes in forward movement relative to output. This is why riders want lockouts on shocks – from the ‘basic’ lever on a shock to Flight Attendant. While some of this technology is present on the moto side it is not ubiquitous as it is in MTB.

3. Noise. On a moto the engine noise is louder than anything else. On a mountain bike riders can hear the tires on the ground, the chain, brakes and suspension – some of these cannot be avoided but in the end they are all distractions that pull the rider's attention away from the trail. This is why we have invested in reducing the noise on shocks and forks make.






Is there a specific bike/kinematic you prefer to work with when tuning shocks?


We like to work with a wide variety of suspension platforms / kinematics to ensure the shock functions on a wide range of bicycles. Our customers range from single pivot to multilink designs over massive travel ranges and riding styles. We have to ensure the best performance for each of those by having a wide tuning range that is adaptable.

If shock extenders are so bad for loading shocks in the wrong way, why do so many bike brands have them?


This might be a better question for the bike manufacturer. Likely they are trying to achieve a certain kinematic along with maintaining a seat tube angle and seat post insertion.

For the average customer, what is the biggest trap in shock setup that you’ve found? How should they negate falling into this hole when setting their shock up? (For example, getting kicked off a jump and slowing the rebound, when it’s more a technique issue).


You nailed it with continuing to slow rebound when the rider is kicked off of a jump being a common misdiagnosed condition. This condition can be a multitude of issues ranging from spring rate balance front to rear, compression tuning and/or rebound speed. The most important thing for the rider to keep in mind is not too tune for a specific feature or characteristic such and big compression or small bump. Finding the balance for the full range of trail inputs without having a negative effect on the performance on the other end of the shaft velocity / trail condition spectrum is the goal.

Are there any technologies that are present in other two wheeled sports, like on and off-road motor bikes, that could be interesting in a mountain bike application? Why might they not have been adopted yet?


There are some cool technologies and design architectures that could be implemented, however many of them come with a large weight cost. Motorsports have an advantage where weight isn’t nearly as big of a factor as it is for bikes, where a few hundred grams can make a large difference in performance, stiffness, durability and component longevity.






Is there a specific bike/kinematic you prefer to work with when tuning shocks?


In general, nothing too crazy regarding leverage or progressiveness but there is a lot more to achieve a good bike set up. While the shock tune based on frame kinematics is important several other variables influence the overall performance of the bike, as frame flex, wheels, tires, rider style and preferences etc. A custom tune needs to take all that into account.

If shock extenders are so bad for loading shocks in the wrong way, why do so many bike brands have them?


We cannot answer for bike manufacturers. There are clearly challenges with this but so far, we’ve managed to deliver a good product for the OEM customers with this solution.

For the average customer, what is the biggest trap in shock setup that you’ve found? How should they negate falling into this hole when setting their shock up? (For example, getting kicked off a jump and slowing the rebound, when it’s more a technique issue).


The by far most important part of set up is to get your sag right and the front-rear balance of the bike. It is important to do this before starting to fine tune with the clicks. It is possible to make set up very advanced but if a rider just does the following steps they will have a good bike set up to start with.

1. Set your shock up to have 30% sag for trail to DH and 20-25% for XC.

2. Pump the fork up to recommended pressure.

3. Go out and ride. Adjust up and down to find a good balance of the bike.

4. Fine tune with clicks.

Are there any technologies that are present in other two wheeled sports, like on and off-road motor bikes, that could be interesting in a mountain bike application? Why might they not have been adopted yet?


We’ve come a long way with our MTB range and have an exchange of technology with other disciplines within the company, such as F1, MX, Moto GP, Rally etc.

An important part of our approach is to spend a lot of engineering time to give the customer an out of the box high performing product. Adding features, clicks and knobs don’t necessarily make a better product, they need a purpose and must be easy to use so the customer get a clear usable benefit. That being said, we always look to improve and are happy to say that the range we just released for XC is full of new technology.






Is there a specific bike/kinematic you prefer to work with when tuning shocks?


There is no preference here. We do a lot to tuning, so we run a pretty wide gamut of suspension styles and outcomes. A lot of what we do is solve for how an OE wants a shock to ride on a given platform – this can be easy, or hard, dependent on the desired ride-feel and how well some platforms work with ride styles from XC, to Trail, to Enduro, to DH. Some of the more interesting projects are when we get to work directly with an OE to bring a unique suspension platform, or solution, to life.

If shock extenders are so bad for loading shocks in the wrong way, why do so many bike brands have them?


Shock extenders is a pretty broad statement, so we might need some clarity there. What I can say is that anything that increased the possibility for tolerances to change, or to extend areas of deflection on meeting the shock, can be hard on suspension.

For the average customer, what is the biggest trap in shock setup that you’ve found? How should they negate falling into this hole when setting their shock up? (For example, getting kicked off a jump and slowing the rebound, when it’s more a technique issue).


Still the most common issue is not setting sag properly and this can affect your entire tuning setup process. Often setting rebound incorrectly is the second most common, and setting aside enough time to run a quick bracketing loop for suspension setup would be ideal for tuning in your ride!

Are there any technologies that are present in other two wheeled sports, like on and off-road motor bikes, that could be interesting in a mountain bike application? Why might they not have been adopted yet?


We’re keen to bring more learnings from our Power Vehicle Division into bike – products like Live Valve (and its most recent iteration Live Valve 1.5) were informed heavily by our experience with active suspension systems in powered vehicles. Another recent-to-market has been ABS brakes for e-MTB applications. A lot of the technologies in Power Vehicles need to become significantly smaller and lighter for adoption in analog MTB platforms. eMTBs give a nice blend of power source, assist, and in general, an interest in trying new technologies, so we’ll likely see more moto-influence here.






Is there a specific bike/kinematic you prefer to work with when tuning shocks?


For good damping/control and efficiency a maximum of 3:1 ratio and the longer damper stroke possible for the given wheel travel. The rest depends if using air or coil spring. With air can be kept more linear with coil some end stroke progressivity would be beneficial.

If shock extenders are so bad for loading shocks in the wrong way, why do so many bike brands have them?


I think you should ask the bike manufacturer! There are many things in MTB suspensions that could be made differently and would make the bike more reliable but certain design standards and industry paradigms should be changed.

For the average customer, what is the biggest trap in shock setup that you’ve found? How should they negate falling into this hole when setting their shock up? (For example, getting kicked off a jump and slowing the rebound, when it’s more a technique issue).


Complicated question and solution for neophytes! That's why it's important that suspension manufacturers deliver a well-tuned damper for the bike model. Big/large adjustment ranges that are often advertised as a "plus" generally make it more complicated to find a good setup and confuse understanding even more when there is no check 1-way system on rebound/bump. The most important adjustment is the rebound! Rebound helps with traction, body control, comfort and safe riding as it works to damp/control spring, weight transfer and frequency. It's also pretty easy to understand the effect of rebound changes and feel differences while riding. Especially if there is not a big adjustment range available.

Are there any technologies that are present in other two wheeled sports, like on and off-road motor bikes, that could be interesting in a mountain bike application? Why might they not have been adopted yet?


There are technologies available not only used in 2 wheeler motorvehicles but also cars! Unfortunatly MTB standards, dimensions and the extremely weight paranoia make it difficult to apply.




Author Info:
dariodigiulio avatar

Member since Dec 25, 2016
149 articles

73 Comments
  • 74 0
 Cane Creek mate seems the most grounded and humane
  • 20 0
 Agreed. Best responses were from CC.
  • 2 1
 @laksboy: haha yep, fantastic kit!
  • 10 0
 Can confirm Sam is a rad dude.
  • 9 0
 The entire company is made up actual riders, they know what they're talking about and the practical application of their products.
  • 4 0
 I agree, but if I could choose one of them to come and set-up my shock I'd pick Franco from EXT.
  • 6 0
 "Humane" makes it sound like the other manufacturers hang, draw and quarter their customers.
  • 2 0
 @getonyourbike: Or they test their products on mice and rabbits.
  • 4 0
 I've been in touch with Cane Creek a good bit, not regarding warranty or malfunction... my CC products have been flawless, with questions about overshocking / spring rates etc. They are good people at a small company with American assembled parts who care about the products they put out and about the end user experience. I have nothing but positive things to say about my Helm MKII and CCDB coil.
  • 2 0
 @rbarbier12: Yep, CC customer service was good even when they were making those ridiculously unreliable early air inline shocks. They ideally would offer more than a one-year warranty though IMO.
The CCDB Coil is arguably the most important and iconic shock in MTB history too. They got it so right, so early.
  • 37 1
 "For the average customer, what is the biggest trap in shock setup that you’ve found? How should they negate falling into this hole when setting their shock up?"

Average customer: "I just spent $3-7k on a toy I can't be troubled to put effort towards knowing how to optimize. But hey, I'm sure I can make it down this blue trail with 5-7 inches of travel somehow or another."
  • 36 0
 Average customer: "This shock feels like garbage, I'm sure spending $800 on a new top of the line shock, that I'll never bother to put effort into setting up, will fix it."
  • 25 0
 Average Sam Pilgrim: "Idk what this shock does but I'm gonna put 500psi in it and hit this jump line."
  • 10 1
 Average customer to shop that sold them the bike: How do I set this up? Average shop reply: IDK.
  • 4 0
 @ddocky: Bad bike shops will give bad service, but a good one would help a bit. However, a lot of the onus is on the customer to actually learn about the product they've just bought. I don't go back to the Nissan dealer every time I need to reposition the mirrors or move my seat back
  • 2 0
 @ddocky: "IDK" might mean that the sales person has been asked that question lots of times, and maybe did help that sort of question on a few occasions until they learned they don't have an hour of extra time to dial in a customer's suspension when this customer could very well figure it out for themselves, and need to anyway if they want to have the suspension tuned for the entire time they own the bike, because over time the customers goals and needs will change.
  • 1 0
 @ddocky: Most manufacturers offer a pretty good set up guide that the sales person should follow. I run into really wonky settings a lot when I'm doing shock/fork rebuilds. Prior to starting a rebuild I pull pressure and count clicks, I always set them back when I'm done. Occasionally I've called the customer to get their weight/height since I think the shock has to be way off. I've been told on multiple occasions that they like their setting and leave them alone. I find in general most people run too much rebound damping, which has to be annoying on any trail that would pack your suspension down.
  • 2 0
 @TimMog: What do you do when the turn signal fluid needs to be refilled?
  • 18 0
 This is such a great series. Keep it going!
  • 13 0
 I love that the frame brands yell at Fox for the X2's troubles and Fox says that it's trunnion's fault. It is like a Spiderman meme pointing around about whose fault the unreliable shock is. Whose fault is it? Someone smarter than me can say. There is probably blame to go around. All I know is that my trunnion backup float x has not failed like my trunnion X2s have.
  • 8 1
 The 2024's are great. If you have an X2 that hasn't been warrantied with the 2024 updates, do it. So worth it.
  • 1 0
 @rrolly: Just got on mine. Here's to hoping it lasts. I have loved how the older ones performed until they exploded oil.
  • 6 0
 ZERO issues on my 205x165 Trunnion RS SD air shock…
  • 1 0
 @SchalkMarais: Mine blew after two months.
  • 4 0
 I had the non-trunnion X2, so I agree, it can't all be blamed on trunnion. I wasn't a fan of the carbonated oil in the X2, so I replaced it with the new RS SDU coil. It probably added nearly a kilo to the bike, but it rides incredibly well and it actually works, so I'll call it a win.
  • 5 0
 Blaming it on trunnion is a total cop out. Or it would be if they did, but they didn't. Anyhow I also replaced my 2021 X2 with a SDU Coil the moment it blew. The X2 was repaired but it's an expensive paperweight now. No turning back.
  • 13 0
 sag, sag, sag.

No point twisting any dials or adjusting anything else if your spring rate or air pressure isn’t giving you the appropriate sag that you need to start with.

And don’t be afraid to play with your sag settings ( bit easier / cheaper on an air shock than coil) you may find a bit more or less suits you better than the ‘recommended’
  • 12 0
 Every bro on MTBR would like a word with you. Lol. Their issue seems to be lack of custom tuned EXT…
  • 2 0
 @wolftwenty1: Oh, I thought that was everyone's issue!
  • 3 0
 Quick question, bought a spec Enduro on sale, incredible bike. Specs app recommends 185 psi in the RS super deluxe select plus , 205x60 trunion. I'm running 250 psi to get to 30% sag. Sound normal?
I'm 90 kgs kitted up. Thanks in advance
  • 1 0
 @HughBonero: Disclaimer, I'm only an average+ tech and am not an elite level rider or suspension expert. However, from my RS riding and maintenance experiences, I feel that RS recommendations end up being too soft, and that average people in general run their suspension a little too soft. If you've competently measured your sag and it requires 250 then ride 250. I'm in the same weight category as you and any RS I just verify the max pressure it will take, then run whatever I need to under that. I've never hit max but always over the recommendation. If you're riding big stuff though watch how much room to max you have before you go "stiffening" everything up with more air (which as the first article in this series mentions, isn't a great solution).
  • 2 0
 @iammarkstewart: thanks for advice and confirmation! 185 psi as recommended was giving me about 40% and "wallowy". Felt odd going so far past recommended to 250 to get to 30%. Feels great using about 90% of travel on local dh/Enduro track small drops, small jumps, and rocks. I think we're dialed in. Thanks again
  • 1 0
 @HughBonero: Glad it helped! Points to you for paying attention to your bike and making changes. Just don't forget to service that shock once in a while ;-)
  • 14 0
 An article about trunions, yokes, clevis, eyelets and all that terminology with some visuals, pros/cons would greatly help a lot of people. I am one of those people.
  • 15 0
 Was risse racing not available for questioning?
  • 9 0
 They would have been great to hear from, in 1998
  • 5 0
 what about avalanche? Would have been a 10 minute rant about covid and magnets.
  • 2 0
 Yes because they don't answer phones or emails haha
  • 9 0
 The second question reminds me of that Senator that demanded that the Google CEO answer whether his iPhone is listening to him.
  • 7 0
 Best answer from each:

CC: "I am more of a fan of having a suspension component be designed to accommodate a wide range of compression types on one run and not have compromises (between large and small hits) without needing to charge another battery." (Indeed.)

RS: "Setting and checking sag, adjusting the rebound to match the spring" (CC also said pretty much the same thing.)

Moz: "You nailed it with continuing to slow rebound when the rider is kicked off of a jump being a common misdiagnosed condition." (Goes with CC and RS mentioning setting sag, and then rebound to match, and then FINE tuning for preference from there.)

Ohlins: "The by far most important part of set up is to get your sag right and the front-rear balance of the bike." (There seems to be a pattern emerging re: sag and rebound. The pattern continues, as well.)

Fox: "Shock extenders is a pretty broad statement, so we might need some clarity there." (And the rest of that paragraph. And they mentioned sag and rebound, of course.)

EXT: "The most important adjustment is the Rebound!" (Holy patterns, Batman!)

Honourable mention from the O: "We cannot answer for bike manufacturers." Can anyone, really? Another pattern emerged around that "shock extenders" question.

Perhaps you're asking the wrong questions, since most of these ones already have a consensus.
  • 6 0
 Notable that Ohlins mention the front-back balance and nobody else did. IMO this is one of the most important parts of bike setup, especially if you like to corner and jump
  • 4 0
 In my experience, most people mess suspension up by not taking the time to learn what everything means and what each change does. It would be like somebody trying to season a meal without ever having tasted the spices they're using.... just reading about them one time from an expert on Reddit.
  • 6 0
 I would really like to try an EXT shock!
  • 2 0
 Highly recommend it. If you notice they state that rebound and sag is one of the most important things to get right and also one of hardest things to get right in set up. EXT will help you get the spring rate dialed in and tune the shock specifically for the coil weight the shock is sent with. USA distributor even offers free spring exchange if it is not perfect from the start.
  • 5 0
 Rockshox "no comment" to the shock extender question made me laugh more than it should.
  • 3 0
 I will openly admit to being a bit naïve here, what are they referring to when it comes to a "shock extender"? Would a yolk be considered a shock extender?
  • 6 0
 I think they mean anything that adds to the effective eye-to-eye length. So, yes to your question. Includes the Manfu yoke on many Specializeds, the twisted-looking link on Yetis, the yoke on a Ripmo and other Ibises, and more.
  • 5 0
 @justinfoil: Ok, cool. Appreciate that information. I try to not be too presumptuous, and will be inquisitive when I don't know/understand.
  • 7 0
 Eggzactly
  • 1 0
 all the photos that include bikes in this article are examples
  • 3 1
 Surprised to see nothing from Formula and MRP. Does that imply they won't be included in the group test? That's a disappointment, as I suppose they're quite good and respected.
  • 5 3
 FOX Have you any unique features on your X2 shock other brands are keen to adopt............ OTHER BRANDS No, we're good thanks
  • 2 0
 Fox please start putting sag indicators on your products. Maybe less people would have trouble setting sag if it was a lot easier to measure.
  • 8 0
 RS owns a patent on sag indicator marks, which is why nobody else uses them.
  • 4 5
 If a person can't be bothered to have a way to measure, ie a tape measure or straight rule in their toolbox, then a "sag meter" ain't gonna help.
  • 1 0
 My Magura MX shock has a sag indicator too, just no stanchion and O-ring Wink .
  • 2 0
 @sanchofula: That’s exactly what a sag meter does. Allows one to not utilize a tape measure. So yeah, the sag meter is gonna help.
  • 1 0
 Focus less on the sag % and more about the ride and control you're getting at that spring rate.

If you need more support or less, gradients won't help, spring rate will.
  • 3 2
 What, no interview with DVO? Top notch suspension products, user rebuildable and tune-able, and their customer service is the best in the industry, bar none. Where's the love?
  • 4 0
 If anyone hasn't mentioned it yet, Killer Graphic Taj!!
  • 2 0
 why does rock shocks sounds like it was written with Chat GPT?
  • 1 0
 Love the shock week stuff. Can you guys do an article specifically for XC / marathon racing?
  • 2 3
 So glad I ride full rigid.
None of this stuff to worry about :-D
  • 2 0
 (removed: threaded to the wrong comment)
  • 2 0
 @mtmc99: They didn't need to use machine learning for this one. It's obviously the most common problem, and it's also pretty much the easiest ones to fix. It is also very commonly stated as the first thing to do, yet is still seemingly ignored by a decent amount of riders.
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