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Suspension is hard to understand. Especially if you’re somewhat of a novice when it comes to setting up your bike. It took me a long time to understand what my bike was doing and how I could make it better. If you’re struggling to set up your suspension or maybe you just want to arm yourself with some knowledge, here are some tips to help you when you’re in your garage or out on the track.
Adjustments are there for you to “customize” your set up and feel on the track. The compression and rebound damping adjustments on your machine are known as your “clicker” adjustments. Making the correct changes with your clickers will make your bike handle better and give you a friendlier riding experience. Clickers control the amount of oil flow that is allowed to bypass your fork/shock valving stack. They work like a fuel screw and can fine tune your suspension.
A shock has both low-speed and high-speed compression adjustments. The low-speed adjuster controls the damping at low shock speed velocities like rolling whoops and acceleration bumps. The high-speed adjuster controls damping when the shock is moving at high speeds like g-outs, jump faces and can affect the ride height of the machine. If you’re on an older KYB PSF2 fork (may god be with you by the way) you’re stuck with high and low speed compression and high and low speed rebound. Before you start messing around with clicker adjustments here are some things you should do first:
Check where your clickers are set at and write them down.
Start out with recommended stock settings first for baseline.
Adjust your tire pressure for the type of riding and terrain. 13-14 psi is usually standard.
Make sure you have the correct spring rate for your weight and set your sag.
Bleed the air out of the forks every time you ride, if you have a spring fork.
If using air forks, makes sure to check air pressure and if you’re on AER forks, there is an air bleed for them as well.
Start off by riding your machine with your clickers set in the stock position. This will give you a good base setting of how your bike handles. Ride only a few laps (2-4) at a time when you try new settings so you will not be second guessing your initial impression of each adjustment. When you stay out too long you will start to second guess your initial thoughts. Ride the same lines/bumps every lap so you get a feel for the changes you make and do not ride around the bumps you are trying to test on. If you change lines this will alter your perception of how well your stuff is working. Cheating doesn’t nothing for you here! This will only hurt you in the long run, so buck up and take the rough line! Make changes to your clickers 1-2 “clicks” at a time and one adjustment at a time (rebound or compression). Changing compression and rebound on the fork and shock at the same time can confuse you as to what setting is actually improving your machine. There is the old 2 for 1, which is for every two clicks of compression you go in or out on rebound. For example, if you’re on a KYB spring fork and you go two clicks in stiffer, you might want to back out one click of rebound to compensate for the stiffer comp setting. For beginners, just chill down and do one adjustment at a time. Soft terrain usually requires more compression damping (stiffer) because the bumps are softer in nature and usually taller. Same goes for when the bumps are soft/big and spaced further apart, so in that situation the machine can require a slower rebound damping to minimize kick. If there is a hard base underneath, the bumps will usually be closer together and square edges will develop. In this case a softer/faster setting can be used, especially when speeds are higher.
You can also run your front end higher (drop your fork height) and the rear end lower (higher sag number) if possible for stability, to combat any twitchiness your bike may have.
On hard pack dirt it is better to adjust the rebound and compression to a softer setting while still maintaining control and bottoming resistance. Try to find a happy medium between bottoming and comfort. It’s ok to bottom out once or even twice a lap, so don’t freak out if you bottom out once in a while. That doesn’t mean you need to stiffen your suspension if you’re bottoming out. All of your suspension is meant to be used, that’s why it’s there, so let it do its job. If you are bottoming out more than that, you would adjust your compression clickers to a stiffer setting. Adjusting your rebound damping to a stiffer setting will help if your bike feels unstable (loose feel) or if you are blowing through the stroke on jump faces. In very rare cases adjusting the rebound clicker one way or the other could work. While it is common to stiffen the shock rebound when your bike kicks over bumps (because you feel like it’s bucking you), many times it is caused by compression that is too stiff. Try going one or two clicks softer/faster to see if it soaks up the bumps and calms the chassis down. If that doesn’t seem to help check your riding position on the bike or yes, it could be that your rebound is too fast/soft. Getting the shock to not “kick” on top of jumps is difficult to diagnose so be ready to try both sides of the spectrum with rebound on this type of tricky obstacle.
Again, be patient. Designate a day where you just play around with your settings and get familiar with your bike. I feel like suspension tuning is kind of like dating. You must learn your partner before you can get married right? Getting a balanced, comfortable suspension setting is no different than dating. Get to know your bike before you decide to dump it and blame it all on her. Maybe it’s you? Maybe you didn’t give it a chance? Play around and see what works for you. If the rear of your bike kicks to the side, the cause can be that it’s too stiff of a setting. Again, try one adjustment at a time. Lack of traction (wheel spin) on acceleration bumps can usually be improved by softening the low-speed compression on the shock or speeding up the rebound, so the rear tire follows the ground better. Keep in mind that faster riders generally prefer stiffer settings to maintain control at speed (performance) while slower riders prefer softer settings for comfort
When it comes to air forks messing with the air pressure can be a pain. Just to let all you know, 2 psi is one full spring rate on any air fork, so that is why I usually adjust using “bar”, not psi. How many times have you changed a spring out at the track? Not very much right? Unless you are very light or on the heavier side, the stock air pressure settings from the factory are usually a great place to start and keep within .2-.4 bar (softer or stiffer). Adjusting your compression and rebound clickers on air forks is much easier and a simpler way to dial in these types of forks. Air pressure will change throughout the day as heat builds up, so if you are checking your air pressure in the middle of the day, make sure the fork is cooled down to ambient air temperature.
Follow some of these easy steps and I can guarantee you that you will get your set up even better and enjoy riding that dirt bike of yours even more. If you have any set up questions you can email me at email@example.com as we will always try to be here for you!