HOW TO ADJUST YOUR MOUNTAIN BIKE SUSPENSION

These days, suspensions are a critical part of mountain biking. To get the most out of your suspensions, you need to learn how to adjust them.

Read on for our tips on how to adjust your fork or shock absorber!

How to adjust your suspension correctly

Adjusting your suspensions is important, and it's personal too as it depends on your weight, how you ride, and how you feel on your bike.
Properly adjusting your suspensions is an essential part of mountain biking, as an improper adjustment can lead to falls.

So, how do you properly adjust your fork? How much pressure should you add to your shock absorber?
Read on for our tips on how to adjust your suspensions.

1/ The different types of MTB

When it comes to suspensions, there are three types of mountain bikes:

- The rigid MTB has no suspension; it's somewhat the ancestor to today's mountain bike though it is making a comeback amongst some riders. Perfect for riding on (very) smooth ground, it is highly responsive, with good pedalling performance, but is uncomfortable compared to the other two types.
- The hardtail MTB has a front suspension, a so-called "suspension fork". There are many varieties: forks with a double-T, inverted forks, "single-arm", etc. Here we only deal with classic air forks or those with a helicoidal spring (coil), but in general the adjustments are pretty much the same.
- The full-suspension MTB has two suspensions: a front suspension with a suspension fork and a rear suspension commonly called a shock absorber or simply shocks.

Note that the above three bikes have two "suspensions" mechanisms in common which are often overlooked: the frame and the tyres. The architecture, geometry and composition of the frame will absorb and cushion some shocks by deforming ever so slightly as you ride. Next come the tyres, which depending on their dimensions and air pressure, will cushion small shocks and smooth the ride. Check out our tips on how to correctly inflate your tyres by clicking the link below.

How to adjust your suspension correctly
How to adjust your suspension correctly

2/ Everything you need to know about your suspensions

How does a MTB fork work? Your fork and your shocks (if your bike has them) generally work the same: a spring deforms as it absorbs the energy of a shock. But to learn how to properly adjust your suspensions, you need to first know what they do!

How to adjust your suspension correctly
How to adjust your suspensions properly.

3/ HOW TO ADJUST YOUR SAG

How to adjust your suspensions properly.
How to adjust your suspensions properly.
How to adjust your suspensions properly.

Now that we know how to adjust the hardness of the spring, next we need to learn how to obtain the correct sag!

To check if you have the correct sag, put a rilsan (nylon) clamp around one of the dampers. If your fork or shock has an O-ring (also called toric joint) on the damper, you don't need to put a clamp. Get all your cycling gear on: helmet, shoes, bag, glasses, protections, then get on your bike.

Sit on the bike, pedals horizontal, hands on the handlebar, and lean against the wall with your elbow or have someone hold you up.
Slide the O-ring or the nylon clamp down to the fork seal, then get off the bike while taking care not to compress the suspension.
Determine the amount of travel obtained by measuring the distance between the O-ring and the fork seal. Then calculate the proportion of this travel relative to the maximum travel of your suspension, and you will have your sag.

Here's a little formula to help:
(total travel * 100) / fork travel = sag

If your sag is too high, loosen the coil spring or let some air out of your pneumatic spring. If it's too low, then do the reverse: tighten the coil spring, or add more air. Then repeat the test! Important: if you change the pressure of your suspension, remember to pump your fork or shock absorber two or three times in order to distribute the air between the positive and negative chambers (if you have an air suspension fork).

How to adjust your suspensions properly.
How to adjust your suspensions properly.

4/ HOW TO ADJUST YOUR REBOUND

How to adjust your suspensions properly.
How to adjust your suspensions properly.
How to adjust your suspensions properly.

5/ HOW TO ADJUST THE COMPRESSION OF YOUR SUSPENSION

After adjusting the sag and the rebound (release), you can now adjust the compression of your fork. This adjustment is a bit more complicated than the two previous ones. Remember: adjusting the compression will change the speed at which the suspension descends (compresses). It is adjusted using a dial (typically blue in colour with the marking CHARGER or COMPRESSION) on the right side of the T of the fork.

Entry-level suspensions typically don't come with a way to adjust the compression; others only have two positions (open, closed), others have a single compression adjustment that can be set to several positions, and lastly, high-end MTB enduro/gravity forks have two compression adjustment mechanisms.

1. Locking the suspension
On some forks and shocks, the compression dial has only two positions: open and closed. When the dial is in the open position, the suspension works normally. When in the closed position, the suspension is much more rigid, nearly "fully-locked", which yields better performance on smoother terrain, uphill climbs, or riding on paved roads.
To lock the suspension simply turn the dial which is located either on the handlebar or on the suspension itself, depending on the model.

2. Low-speed compression adjustment
This adjustment is only on suspensions that have one or two compression adjustments made using a dial with several positions. When the fork or shocks only have a single compression adjustment, this adjustment regulates the low-speed compression.

What is low-speed compression?
It concerns compressing the suspension at the start of a ride or when riding over small bumps, when braking, or when pedalling force is applied by the rider.

A low speed compression setting that is too open can result in a loss of traction when applying force, braking, or on a raised turn or banked curve. Conversely, a low speed compression setting that is too closed will make your suspensions too firm and you will feel the jitter from small bumps much more in your arms.

3. High-speed compression adjustment

This adjustment is only found on suspensions that have two compression adjustment mechanisms. The central ring is for the low-speed compression, while the outer ring is for the high-speed compression.

What is high-speed compression?
It's the compression of the suspension at the end of the course, or over large bumps such as very uneven terrain, or when landing jumps.

If during steep descents over very uneven ground you feel you don't have enough manoeuvrability or that your bike is shaking too much, your high-speed compression setting is too closed. Conversely, if you feel that the fork or shock goes in too far on impact it's because your high-speed compression is too open.

HOW TO ADJUST YOUR MOUNTAIN BIKE SUSPENSION

Lastly, don't forget to regularly check the condition of your suspensions and care for them to prolong their effectiveness and lifespan.

You're now ready to roll. Happy riding!