Outside of having your suspension tuned and setup by a professional, you can fine tune your dirt bike's suspension and make it work better by improving the mechanisms that affect the bike's suspension.
Great suspension incorporates the tires, wheels, chain drive and general maintenance of the forks and shock. All these components can make or break your bike's suspension despite brand new valves, springs and shim stacks. So if you're having suspension issues try the following tips before you make an expensive appointment with a mechanic for a complete suspension overhaul. In this section we cover the following suspension tips:
- Air Pressure
- Wheel Adjustment
- Adjusting Sag
- Compression and Rebound Adjustment
- Bleeding Your Forks
- Fork Height Adjustment
- Linkage, Swingarm & Shock Bearings
Checking the air pressure is like forgetting to leave the cap on the camera when you take a picture. It's a simple solution and one that's commonly overlooked. Proper air pressure is crucial to overall ride performance of the bike. As a general rule use 11-13 psi when riding motocross and a bit higher for off-road. When in doubt, check your owner's manual.
Check your spokes. You might need to tighten them and most likely you'll find a few loose after a day of hard riding. Loose spokes affect wheel tautness which in turn affects how the bike's suspension feels. Overly tight spokes feel like a rock when you land a jump, loose spokes give too much and you might find yourself in the dirt.
The drive chain is another commonly overlooked piece of equipment. Place two fingers between the chain and chain guide - if the chain presses against your fingers it's tight enough. If it's too tight or too lose you'll need to adjust the chain tension. A tight chain can put unwanted pressure on the wheels which of course affects the suspension. See our Dirt Bike Gearing Guide and Routine Bike Maintenance Tips for 2-stroke and 4-stroke.
You can actually tweak your bike's suspension by adjusting where the front and back wheel sits on the bike. Lengthening the distance between the front and rear wheels gives a smoother ride on a straight line; shorten the distance and you'll get better cornering. Adjusting your rear wheel further back gets you softer suspension.
To check sag - the distance between the fender and swing arm - first check the distance with the rider off the bike and then with the rider on the bike in full riding gear. If you have more than 105mm of sag you'll want to add free-load to the shock spring which is done by turning the spanner ring clockwise.
Compression and Rebound Adjustment
This is where your clicker settings come into play. Compression adjustment is how stiff the shock is and rebound adjustment is how fast or slow the shock decompresses. Low speed adjustment affects how stiff the shock is on the face of a jump and high speed adjustment affects the shock on impact.
To perform any adjustments, first turn either the low speed adjustment or high speed adjustment clockwise as if you're screwing it in and then adjust by backing out or unscrewing it. For low-speed try 12 clicks out; for high speed back out two to three turns. The rebound adjuster follows the same principle as the low speed adjuster.
When adjusting your clickers it's a good idea to write down how many clicks in or out you're currently at. To do this simply count the number of clicks when zeroing out. This will allow you to go back to the original settings if needed.
Bleeding Your Forks
This is the single most important maintenance check for the fork to work properly. The bleed screw is next to the compression adjuster. (Note: this of course only applies to the front shocks.) It's recommended to bleed forks when cold. Turn counterclockwise (unscrew it) until air seeps out, you should be able to hear it hiss slightly.
Fork Height Adjustment
Measure from the top of your triple clamp to the top of your fork tube. Adjusting the fork height is really up to rider comfort. If you feel the bike is hard to turn raise your forks or lower the forks to make the bike feel more stable which is useful on a rutted track. Adjust in increments of 2mm for the desired effect. Be sure both forks are at the same height.
Linkage, Swingarm & Shock Bearings
Seized bearings can definitely have an effect on your suspension. Even if your bike is brand new, it's not a bad idea to check and make sure your linkage, swingarm and shock bearings are greased enough. And if you bought your bike used it is a must to inspect these bearings. If you need new ones check out our full kit:
Linkage, Swingarm, Shock Kit
Pivot Works Swing Arm / Shock / Linkage Bearing Combo