Suspension Tuning – do you need it?

Suspension tuning, rockshox monarch, rear shock service, MTB

You have spent a small fortune on your bike, insurance, car/fuel to get to the trail so naturally you want your bike to perform at it’s very best and a big chunk of that means having your suspenders set up just right. If you aren’t confident in setting up your suspension it may be that you don’t need suspension tuning, just some help with setup. If you are not sure about suspension setup read our guide before considering tuning.

One of the most common questions we hear is “can you tune my suspension for me?”. The answer to this is “yes” but before we can get to that stage there are a couple of boxes that need to be ticked to ensure that you will actually benefit from suspension tuning.

What is Suspension Tuning?

The term “suspension tuning” is perfectly accurate but it’s use is misleading “I’ve had my suspension custom

fox fork service, suspension tuning, bush replacement, bush removal

Lots of dirt and worn loose bearings, simply sorting this out will transform performance

tuned” sounds infinitely more sexy than “I’ve had my suspension adjusted”. That’s not to say that Mr or Mrs custom tuned bike hasn’t received a good service or that they haven’t benefited from the tuning/adjustment, but the bottom line is that tuning or custom tuning is simply adjustment.

Some adjustments you can make yourself, such as more or less compression, rebound or sag. You might even be comfortable adding or removing volume spacers which will affect how your fork or shock “ramps up” towards the end of the stroke.

Beyond external adjustment and volume spacers you start to get into the realms of where you will probably be better off letting a suspension service centre help, such as damper pressure, different valving options, aftermarket internal components (pistons for example), fork bush re-sizing etc. These adjustments or changes may affect the range of damping that you have available to you or improve the efficiency of your fork or shock.

There are things we change on every set of forks and every shock that we receive for servicing to improve performance at no extra charge, simply because we want your suspension as well as it possibly can. All this is done without changing hardware.

O.K. got it, I still want my suspension tuning, where do I start?

There are two questions that you need to be able to answer with confidence before you look at tuning.

Question 1:

  • Is your bike, including the pivot bearings and suspension itself clean, functional and running perfectly i.e. it have they just been serviced?

Fox shock service, nitrogen recharging, fox shock repair, service centre

Fractured/rotten return spring from long standing water ingress. A repair rather than tuning is required as this was preventing the compression damping from performing as it should.

On a number of occasions we have removed a shock from a bike and the bearings were so seized that you could lift the rear wheel upwards without the shock in place yet the swingarm would stay exactly where we left it – seized bearings prevent the shock from working as it should. Likewise we see our fair share of trail fudge packed suspension.

The problem is that any adjustments will largely become redundant when the aforementioned mechanical or service issues are corrected.

Question 2:

  • What do you want your suspension to do differently that it can’t do at the moment?

Much more difficult this one, if you know what the problem is, for example you are bottoming out your shock too often, even with sag set correctly and the compression dials wound up then maybe you do actually need some tuning because the shock is valved for somebody half or double your weight.

We have been approached by a few companies touting various aftermarket fork and shock internals for us to sell on to our customers, they are always met with the same questions

  1. How is this component superior to the original and what performance benefits will a rider see?
  2. How will this component affect damping?

Just because a piston for example looks nicely machined and comes with a sticker that says “tuned” doesn’t mean there will be any perceived benefit and unless we are certain of improved performance we won’t sell these products to our clients.

The thing is, if you don’t know the answer to all of the above there really is no point in messing around with the internals. Imagine you are on a plane, for whatever reason the pilot can no longer fly and it is left to you to try and figure out the controls and save the passengers. Sure you can randomly twiddle with the controls and hope for the best, but that approach is unlikely to result in a safe landing followed by tea and medals, just as randomly adjusting your settings is unlikely to produce better results.

Tuning for tuning’s sake is not the way to go, it’s just adjustment and those adjustments may not suit you, your weight or your riding.

If you have tried setting up your suspension and things don’t feel quite right feel free to get in touch or pop in store for a chat, we will be able to diagnose problems or give you some advice.