Setting up your suspension can seem complicated, especially if you talk to your friend who knows all suspension. What you want is a simple and easy to follow guide that can teach you all about suspension and do so quickly. That is why we’ve created you this suspension guide.
Getting your sag sorted
Setting your sag is the most important first part of setting up your suspension. It is pretty simple to do and easier if you have a friend to help you do it. You may also need a tape measure unless your fork stanchions have a guide on them, and you’ll definitely need a shock pump.
- If you’re setting up a full suspension bike, you’ll need to note or know, some numbers from your rear shock. You’ll be looking for a metric number like 230 x 65, the first part is your eye to eye length, and the second number is your stroke. Write down the stroke number.
- Now put on all your day to day riding gear. You want to put on what you ride with, regardless of how silly you feel.
- Place your bike beside a wall; you might need this for balance. How do you mostly ride? Sitting down or standing up? Assume whichever position it is.
- Bounce down on your bike. Doing so will open your suspension and remove some stiffness, you’ll also want to make sure that you've not locked your suspension out before doing so.
- You should see an O-ring. Move that to the air chamber on the shock and the bottom of your stanchions on your fork. If you don’t have one, use a loosely fitted zip tie. You might get your friend to do this for you. Then assume your riding position again.
- Now get off the bike very carefully, do not press down. Get off your bike gently. You’ll not want to compress your suspension further.
- The O-ring should have moved. You now need to do a quick bit of maths. Measure the distance from the air chamber to the O-ring, only the suspension that doesn’t already have a guide printed on it. You want the distance the O-ring has traveled to be around 25 – 30% of your total travel. Such as on a 100mm fork, you might find the O-ring has moved 25mm, so you have 25% sag.
- Setting it between 25-30% depends on your preferences and manufacturer’s guidelines. If you need more sag, drop your air pressure. If you need less sag, pump up your shock.
When setting rebound, you’ll want a notebook handy to make a note of your settings. Doing so will make all future adjustments easier; it’ll also allow you to fine tune your suspension for different trails and conditions.
To set rebound, you’ll want to go outside and find a normal sized curb. You’ll want to easily roll off this curb without getting run over, so find a quiet road. The reason for a curb is that it’ll feel similar to trail obstacles, and it’ll give you a fairly standard response every time you hit it. You want your suspension to go through one cycle here, not repeated cycles when you drop off the curb.
- Make sure your rebound is fully open, on RockShox that means you’ve clicked all the way to the hare.
- Now roll off your curb. You want to stay still and composed as you do this, too much movement and you’ll change the answers. Make sure you’re in the same riding position as when you set your sag.
- If your fork goes up and down more than once, then you need to add some more rebound damping.
- Repeat until your fork only goes through one shock cycle. You now have a baseline setting. Note how many clicks you went through to get there.
- If you’re on a full suspension bike, do exactly the same all over again to set your rear shock.
If you’re on a full suspension bike, now you’ll need to make sure your bike is balanced. Ride along your street, and you’ll want to bounce the bike. Keep all your weight on your feet when you do this. If your bike wants you to go over the bars, you’ll then speed up your fork’s rebound, or slow down your rear shock’s rebound. If you want to fall off the back of your bike, then speed up your rear shock, or slow down your fork’s rebound. Again, note these settings.
Compression is not a setting we can tell you a definitive settings answer. It is all about how you feel on your bike, and we all like it set slightly differently. We do though have some guidelines to head you off in the right direction.
To play with compression, you’ll want to grab your notebook and an easy section of trail that you can play on without getting tires. You’ll again want to set your compression to the fully open position. Then as we go through the clicks, make a note so you can always return to your base settings.
We’ll just be looking at low-speed compression here, you’ll get high-speed compression on some high-end suspension forks but once you have the basics dialed it easier to dial in. Remember, don't use the same settings as your friend who knows everything, find your own sweet spot.
When you're riding down the trail, and you feel your suspension moving around too much when your riding, be it pedaling, braking aggressively, or firing around berms, then you’ll want to firm up your compression. Pretty simple isn’t. If you keep clicking eventually, you’ll get to the locked out position, and you ideally don’t want to get there, except for climbing or sprinting.
You’ll then want to try your bike off a small drop, don’t pick the biggest drop at the trail center, pick the one you can have a few shots dropping off without scaring yourself. If your fork feels like it’s trying to break your arms, your compression is too firm, open it up again. If you bottom out your fork, or it feels a bit sloppy, then stiffen your compression, which is heading towards the locked out position. Do these 1 click at a time.