Mastering suspension setup is a critical skill to maximizing the bike's handling capabilities. By understanding the basics of suspension setup, you can shave lap times and improve overall performance with simple adjustments to your front and rear suspension. Part 1 of the 3 part series focuses on front suspension adjustment with JT of Rockstar Energy Racing.
Dirt Bike Front Suspension
Hey, How's it going? It's JT, here at the Rockstar Energy Racing Shop in Corona, California. Today, we're going to be working on suspension setup - starting with your forks. We're going to talk a little bit about compression adjustment, rebound adjustment, and fork height.
Tools for Front Suspension setup:
- A skinny flathead screwdriver for adjusting our clickers
- A wider flat-blade screwdriver for bleeding your fork screws
- A metric ruler for setting your fork height
- Torque wrench and a socket to adjust your fork height
Your compression adjuster is located on the center, on the top of your fork. It's not to be confused with the air-bleed screw - that obviously bleeds the air out of the fork.
The first step in checking your suspension, you want to get a baseline of where your clicks are. I like to start in the middle on your compression and rebound, which is typically around 12 clicks.
I take a flat-blade screwdriver and slowly count until my compression clicker lightly seats on the bottom. You don't want to turn it in too hard because you can damage the needle that controls your valving. I counted 12 clicks.
I back out from all the way in. My first click is 0, and I put it where I want it. I like to start on the center of your adjustment, which is typically around 10 to 12 clicks, and I can adjust harder or softer from there.
If you feel your fork bottom excessively, your compression on your forks is too soft. You need to stiffen it up by turning the clicker clockwise. If it feels too stiff, you need to soften it up by turning the clicker counterclockwise. Typically, you would adjust your clicks two at a time to get a good feel of what direction to go.
The next step we want to check our rebound clicker, which is the same procedure. Your rebound clicker is located along the bottom of the fork. The rebound controls how fast or slow the fork comes to full extension. By turning the clicker clockwise, it slows the fork down. By opening it counterclockwise, it speeds the fork up.
This is the only screw that's located on the bottom of the fork that you can adjust. We'll count in until the rebound adjuster lightly seats. We'll count: First click at 0, back out to 12.
Adjusting for Soft Track and Hard Track
Typically when I ride on a sanding track, I like to slow my rebound down. On a more of a hard track, I like fast rebound, maybe around 14 clicks. Sometimes on a harder track when you have small chop or breaking bumps and you feel like the bike's not working with you and it's hard to control coming into turns, so long as your rebound may be too fast, you can slow it down and regain control on entry into turns.
Clicker adjustment is both very important but it's also very simple. The good news is if you're uncomfortable with your setup, you can always go back to where your baseline of where we started, which is around 10 to 12 clicks.
Bleeding Your Forks
Now that you have your clickers dialed in, the next thing you want to do is bleed the air out of your forks. This is very important for the fork to work properly. Your bleed screw is located right next to your compression adjuster.
I like to bleed my air with a fork cold. I turn the bleed screw counterclockwise, you can remove it, and you may hear a little bit of air escape from the fork. This is an aluminum screw so it does not need to be too tight.
Fork Height Adjustment
The next procedure we're going to look at, that is commonly overlooked, is your fork height adjustment. Typically your fork height, there's a line on the fork about 5mm down from the top of the fork tube. That's your standard adjustment.
If you go out and ride and you feel like your bike's hard to turn, you can raise your fork, usually in increments of 2mm - to make the bike turn faster. Or lower your fork in the triple clamp to make the bike turn slower and also make the bike more stable. On a rutted track, I like to run the forks a little bit lower, maybe around 2mm.
If you do want to adjust your fork height, I like to take a metric ruler and simply measure from the top of your triple clamp to the top of your fork tube.
Looks like this one is set at 6mm right now. Then we know where we start with and we can adjust from there.
To adjust the forks, simply loosen these 10mm pinch bolts on your triple clamps top and bottom, and slide your fork to wherever you want to adjust it. Both forks need to be the same height or else the suspension can bind up and the bike will not handle properly.