Tag Archives: suspension setup

Most mountain bikes today are coming equipped with a suspension. Learn how the right suspension setup can have you riding longer and in greater control.

Suspension Setup For Your Smoothest, Fastest, and Best Ride Ever

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

Most mountain bikes today are coming equipped with a suspension fork, many others are offering suspension for both the front and rear wheel. Additionally, the technology being employed in these suspension systems has become truly amazing. As good as suspension is, it does nothing unless setup correctly. Read on to learn how the right suspension setup can have you riding longer and in greater control.

Suspension Setup Terminology

To properly set up your suspension, it is first important to know what all the parts are called, and what they do. While shaped very different, suspension forks and rear shocks use the same terms and functions


Suspension travel is simply the distance your wheel can move. On suspension forks, this is easily measured on the fork itself, while measuring rear wheel travel is far more difficult. ON the bright side, most manufacturers publish the amount of rear wheel travel a bike has.


Suspension springs can be made of metal (coil spring) or air. Coil sprung suspension is great because it offers smooth motion from the initial movement to the end of its travel. Air springs are great because they are lighter than a coil, and have a wider range of adjustment (just add air to make the suspension stiffer, or remove it to make the suspension softer). The downsides of an air spring is that they suffer from a greater static friction (stiction) in the initial part of its movement than a coil spring. Additionally, to change pressure in an air spring, you need a specific shock pump.

Suspension Setup

These cutaway pictures show how a suspension fork works. Coil spring on the left (green) and air spring on the right (blue)


Damping is a way of controlling how fast the suspension can move. As an example, if a fork is un-damped, it would rebound as quickly as it was compressed, making your bike bounce around the trail like a pogo stick. A damper is the mechanical device inside the suspension that allows it to compress quickly when you hit an object, but return at a controllable rate. Damping comes in two common forms, Compression and Rebound. Compression damping controls how fast a suspension can be compressed and rebound damping controls how fast the suspension can return to full extension.


Preload is a set amount of compression force applied to the spring at its full extension. For instance, a coil spring might have some preload applied if a rider feels their suspension is too active. By applying some preload, you raise the force needed to begin the suspensions movement. In most cases, preload is handled by adjustment knobs on the top of a suspension fork.


Sag is the amount your suspension will compress when you are seated on your bike. Having some sag allows your wheels to track down into holes in the trail as well as compress if you hit an object. Overall, an optimal amount of sag is between 25-35% of the total travel.

Bottom out

Bottom out is when you compress suspension to its limit. Most suspension is designed with bumpers to protect metal parts from doing damage to one another during a bottom out.

Setting Sag

First, you will need something to mark your sag point. Most suspensions come with a rubber o-ring installed around the fork leg or rear shock. If they don’t have an o-ring, you can use a zip-tie that is loosely installed around the leg or rear shock.

Next, lean the bike up against a nearby wall and get on. Stand on the pedals with your hands on the bar and bounce up and down on the bike a few times. Now sit gently on your saddle with your weight forward (normal riding position).

Now push the o-ring down on the suspension against the seal and get off your bike carefully. You should see is some space between the o-ring and suspension seal (see image). That space is your sag measurement. Like stated earlier between 25-35% of total travel is optimal, so suspension with 100mm of travel should have 25-35mm of sag. If you have too little sag, stiffen the spring, too much then soften it.

Suspension Setup

The zip tie is flush against the fork seal under the weight of the rider, but when the rider steps off, 25mm of sag can be measured (left)

Suspension Setup and Air Spring Adjustment

Most manufacturers have a recommended air pressure based on your riding weight (remember to account for the weight of your gear and pack!). Before checking your sag, start by pressurizing your suspension to those recommended settings. Once you have checked sag, either increase or decrease the air pressure to make your suspension stiffer or softer.

Coil spring.

To adjust the sag amount on a coil spring you have two options. First option is to replace the spring for stiffer or softer versions. Replacing the spring will be necessary if you can’t achieve the proper sag by adjusting the preload setting. To adjust preload, simply turn the knob on the top of the suspension fork to the right to stiffen the fork, or the left to make it softer.

Setting Damping

Most suspensions only offer the ability to adjust rebound damping easily. Compression damping can always be adjusted, but it typically requires some disassembly. To initially setup your rebound damping, first find the adjustment knob usually located on the bottom of the right fork leg. Turn the damping knob to full open (typically represented by a “–“ symbol or a picture of a rabbit). Now, stand over the bars; press down then pull up quickly. You should feel the suspension spring back up as quickly as you compressed it. Turn the damping knob closed a small bit and repeat your compression test. Continue to compress and add damping until you feel the suspension is not quite able to keep up with your hands as they pull up.

Suspension Setup On the Trail

With your suspension setup now at a good starting point, take the bike out on the trail to fine tune it. First thing you want to ensure is that you bottom out your suspension under normal riding conditions a few times per ride. Bottoming out the suspension is a clear indicator that you are using all of your travel. However, be sure you aren’t bottoming out all the time. I know I just told you it’s OK to bottom out the suspension, but if you are doing it more than 2-3 times a ride, chances are you need to stiffen your spring.

If by chance you haven’t slowed the fork’s damping down enough, you will feel as if the bike wants to bounce away through rough sections. An under-damped fork will almost feel like the front end of the bike is trying to get away from you. The solution to this problem is to increase the amount of rebound damping you have.

As you add damping, be concerned with not allowing the fork to “pack up”. When you set your damping, you determined the rate at which the suspension can return to full extension. If your terrain is particularly rough, it is possible to set the damping to rebound slower than you need. As an example, if you go through a rock garden, hitting an object every second that compresses you fork 10mm, you want the damping to allow the suspension to rebound at least 10mm per second. If your suspension can only rebound 7mm per second, you will quickly be riding at less than full travel. The key indicator of this is the fork will feel stiffer through the rough stuff, but soft again when the trail smooths out. If you experience this, speed up the damping slightly until the feeling goes away.

Continuing adjustments

Over the first 6 months of owning your new suspension, never stop focusing on how it performs. As the forks wears in and begins to move more freely, the amount of damping you need may differ. Also, as you adjust your spring, it will slightly change the way your damping works. The best way I can describe suspension setup is as a dartboard. Rather than shooting for the bulls-eye in one shot, you are traveling down a spiral road getting closer to the bulls-eye with every new adjustment. With a little luck and focus, you will realize all the performance your suspension has to offer you.

We have compiled the best list of simple bike tips to make your next ride more fun, more efficient, and more comfortable.

Simple Bike Tips to Get You Going Faster, Farther, and More Comfortably

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

Do you want to make your bike ride more fun? How about getting all you can out of your bike? What about making your bike more comfortable? Well, we have is some great news! We have compiled a list of simple bike tips to make your ride more fun, more efficient, and more comfortable.

Lube your chain

If your chain isn’t running smoothly, neither are you. While a in-depth bike clean is great, simply keeping your chain lubricated is an easy way to ensure you bike runs well. Start by propping the bike up so you can rotate the cranks backward freely. Next, Backpedal the bike, while dripping lubricant onto each chain link. Once the chain is well saturated, give a few moments for the lubricant to penetrate the chain. Finally, wrap a rag around the chain, backpedal, and remove all the excess lubricant. Done!

Bike Tips to Find the Perfect Tire Pressure

First, fill the tires to the recommended maximum pressure as listed on the sidewall. Next, take the bike for a quick spin around the block for feel. From there, let about 5psi out of each tire (a digital pressure gauge works great) and ride it again. Continue lowering the pressure in 5psi increments until you can no longer feel the small imperfections in the road vibrate through the bike. Use these pressures as you starting point. Finally, over the next few rides, adjust pressure by 2-3 psi in search of the absolute perfect pressure. The goal is for a pressure that allows the tire to easily deforms over objects, offer ample traction, and resist compressing too far under hard braking and turning. As an example, I recently determined my mountain bike’s perfect pressure to be 28psi for my front and 32psi in the rear.

Saddle fit

Checking your saddle height is also a quick way to get more comfort and efficiency. While a complete bike fit does the most benefit, checking saddle height goes a long way to help with back pain and other discomforts. To set saddle height, sit on your bike and place your heel on your pedal. Then rotate the pedals backward. At the bottom of the pedal stroke your goal is to have your leg completely extended while keeping your hips level. If at the bottom of the pedal stroke you aren’t getting complete extension, raise your saddle. However, if you’re tilting your hips at the bottom of the pedal stroke, lower the saddle. Once you begin pedaling naturally (with the ball of your foot on your pedal, rather than your heel), you will have the proper amount of bend to your knee.

Mountain bike tips

To get your Mountain bike working it’s best try a few of these bike tips.

Cut your bars

Bicycle companies usually install all the same width bars on their mass-produced bicycles. That means that all but the largest size riders usually ride with bars that are too wide. For many riders, uncomfortable bar width is something they just get used to. But before you get used to it, realize that there are serious ramifications on using a bar that’s too wide. First, riding a bar that’s too wide spreads your arms out forcing you to use your support muscles inefficiently. Second, as you spread your arms, your back will naturally pitch forward (potentially leading to discomfort). Finally, wider bars are more prone to accidentally clipping trees or signs, causing a crash.

To cut your bars, first remove the grips (Spray a little hairspray under the grip and they will slide right off), Then measure and mark the amount of bar you intend to remove. Considering you can’t uncut your bars, only take 1-2 cm off at a time, then ride for a few weeks to verify before cutting again. You can cut the bars with a pipe cutter or hacksaw, but remember to smooth the sharp edge with sandpaper once finished.

Brake reach

Stopping the bike confidently leads to control and comfort, so make sure you adjust your brakes levers to match the size of your hands. Most brake levers have a reach adjustment built into them. By loosening or tightening the reach adjustment bolt you can bring the brake lever closer to the bar, or move it further away. I like to setup a brake so that the rider can easily reach the lever without changing their hand position on the grip. Additionally, I try to make sure the levers can’t hit the bar, or other fingers when they are squeezed.

Check your sag

A mountain bike with a suspension fork will work better once that fork is adjusted for the weight of the rider. The first step in adjusting the suspension is to set the “sag”. “Sag” is the amount your suspension compresses when you put your weight on the bike. Most suspension calls for about 25% sag, meaning, when you sit on the bike, the suspension compresses ¼ of its travel.

To set sag, first snug a zip tie around the upper leg of your suspension fork. Make sure it is snug enough to stay in place by itself, but not actually tight. Slide the zip tie all the way down until it is resting on the rubber seal of your fork. Next, find somewhere that allows you to put both feet on the pedals and balance without needing to pedal (I find a wall works well). Get on the bike, rock back and forth a few times to cycle the suspension, then sit still on the saddle in your standard riding position with both hands on the bar. Have a friend, move the zip tire so it sits on the seal once again and carefully get off the bike. You can now measure the distance from the seal, to the bottom of the zip tie and determine your sag. As an example, if a fork has 100 millimeters of travel, you want the distance between the zip tie and seal to be 25 millimeters. If you would want to adjust your suspension, see your forks owner’s manual for details.

Road Bike tips

Not to forget the road bike out there. Here are a few bike tips for the drop bars.

Re-tape your bars

On your road bike, bar tape does a big job. If installed correctly and replaced frequently, it can quiet loads of road buzz that would otherwise be transferred into your hands. Many times, riders ignore their tape because it appears OK. While your tape may look OK, the real test is to see how compliant it is. Use the tip of your finger and press firmly into the tape where your hands typically rest (usually, this is just behind the hoods). Follow up by then pressing an area of the bar that never sees wear. Compare the two to see just how compressed your tape has become, replace if needed.

Adjust your hoods

While you are replacing your tape, it’s a good Idea to review the location of your brake hoods. Verify, that when seated on your bike with your hands on the hood, your wrist is straight. If your hands bend upward or down, you are putting excess strain on your shoulders, arms and hands. That strain can lead to fatigue or pain.

Overall, a great fitting and functioning bicycle will allow you to ride longer, faster, and in more comfort. If you have additional questions about customizing your bicycle the professionals at your local bike shop can be a great resource.