Suspension Setup: Advanced Level

In our previous article, we went over the basics of suspension. Now we want to look a bit deeper and give you a much better understanding of the subject. We’ll look at the terms people use and tell you how to break them down.

 

What is a rebound click?

 

 

Everyone talks about rebound clicks, and if you read our previous article, you sue them to move your suspension from fully open to fully closed or vice versa. What though is a click and what does just one click do? A click makes a change to your rebound damping. That statement has probably just opened up the question of what is rebound damping?

 

What is rebound damping?

Damping is the change of kinetic energy into heat. You’re taking movement and transforming it into heat if you remember your school physics lessons, all forms of energy can only be transformed into another form of energy.

Think of your shock, and you think about a spring. Your spring stores energy and your damper dissipate energy. Your rebound damping then controls the rate at which your spring returns to its original position. The damper is controlling the rate at which energy dissipates from your spring. It is allowing you to control the rate at which your wheel rebounds, with no damping you would be bouncing all over the place.

 

How does this affect me?

If you have too many clicks towards being open, your rebound damper will allow your wheel to rebound too quickly. You’ll easily be able to tell if you have gone too far in this direction as your bike will feel out of control. When leaning it into berms, you’ll lose traction, and if you hit a jump, you’ll have a similar feeling to a rodeo clown. You’ll definitely want to back a few clicks back towards being closed if this happens to you.

If you too many clicks towards the closed position, your wheel and suspension will rebound slowly. The slowing of the rebound causes your suspension to “pack down”. Each time you hit an obstacle, you have less suspension to help you as your fork or shock can’t get back to full travel in time.

If you have this problem, many people reach for their compression damper. Don’t do that, even if the local trail slayer tells you to, as it’ll make the problem worse. Once you’ve dialled in your rebound setting, you should not even be thinking about it while riding, thinking about your rebound speed is a symptom that it isn’t working.

The simple rule of thumb here a click too fast and you’ll lose control, a click too slow and your bike will feel harsh.

 

Should I adjust my suspension to where I’m riding?

Yes. That was a pretty easy answer, but what should you do. The first thing is to know what your base settings are; you did note them down as we said in the previous article. Before we tell you what to do, there is one rule to live with only change one setting at a time. The next bit takes time. Ride a bit of the new trail.

The think how does it feel, is your bike trying to buck you, or is it packing down? If it is trying to buck, you take one click to the closed direction if it is packing down take a click to open to the open direction. If you do this, start to keep a suspension diary. Write down what changes you made.

The more varied the terrain you ride, the better the knowledge of what settings you need. Eventually, you’ll be able to go to a new trail and make adjustments on the fly. The reason for doing the extra work at the start is so that you can have more fun in the long run.

 

What is suspension lockout?

 

 

If your suspension were active all the time, you would be bobbing all over the place when you ride along smooth flat trails/roads or when you ride uphill. You then need a way to make the suspension more efficient for these two times.

Lockout effectively stops your suspension from working; there will still be a bit left as you don’t want to blow your suspension if you hit a big obstacle. The idea here is to give you a more rigid pedalling platform. Think of riding a road bike up a hill and how efficient it is, that is what you’re mimicking here.

 

My suspension doesn’t have lockout lever?

On cheaper suspension forks, you’ll have no option but to have the bounce on all the time. On other suspension systems, the manufacturer’s have become a bit more nuanced on how they limit compression and will offer some settings.

What is the difference between Climb, Trail, Descend (Fox CTD) / Open, Pedal, Lock (Rockshox)

 

 

Fox has named their lockout options for what they help you do. So Climb is the setting nearest full lockout and is for climbing and sprinting. Trail, offers a bit less compression damping and is perfect for undulating trails and technical sections. It stops you from having excessive travel when you don’t need it.

Descend, is for when the trail gets gnarly. It gives you the lightest low-speed compression. You’ll find then that you have grip in all situations. If you fancy some high-speed drops, then this is where your suspension should be set.

 

 

RockShox has their Open, Pedal, Lock options and to be honest they are pretty much the same as Fox’s CTD, just in the opposite order. So when it is gnarly, you go Open. When it is undulating or technical, you go pedal. If you’ve got to climb or sprint, you want to be in Lock. Suspension, as we have said, is pretty easy when you sit down and think about it; there is no dark magic about it.

 

Can tyre pressure affect my suspension?

Yes, it can. Your tyres are the part of your bike in contact with the ground. Think of them as a buffer between you and the bike. A lower tyre pressure allows your tyres to move and flex. They can then absorb some or all of a shock before your suspension has a chance to react.

Higher tyre pressure causes your tyres to be much firmer. They then can’t roll and flex, so they don’t absorb as much, or any, of the shock. You can definitely feel this. You’ll find that your bike feels a bit more chattery and you’ll get more trail shock through your wrists. As with your suspension dialling in your tyre pressure, and not riding what your buddy rides, is another way to get the most out of your bike.

 

Spotting suspension issues

If you follow all of the above information, spotting any suspension issues as they arise should not be a problem. The more in tune you are with your suspension (pun only slightly intended) the more you’ll notice a small niggle before it becomes a big problem. There are a few telltale signs that you should be aware of happening to your suspension.

  • Leaking oil. Go to any trail centre, and you’ll see people who have a line of black gunk around their suspension. The black gunk is the oil that has leaked out and is now holding dirt. The black gunk means you need to stop riding and service your fork. The longer you wait, the bigger the repair bill.
  • Leaking air. If you constantly have to pump up your shocks, you very probably have an air leak. Get this fixed before you have a blowout at an inopportune moment.
  • You are bouncing all over the place. Make sure your rebound damper is working correctly. If no matter what you do, you are still riding out of control, then you need to open your suspension up and have a look or send it to an expert.
  • Adjuster issues. If you no longer get clicks or have an adjuster that moves while you’re riding, then you’ll need to have a look inside your suspension to see what is happening.
  • Squelching. If your forks are making a sound like when you stand in mud, it means you might have a seal issue. If it sounds like someone knocking on the door then you have a big issue, and you need to stop riding there and then, or you’ll be buying a new fork or shock when you get home.



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