Perhaps you've heard.
It's one of the best improvements any rider can perform on their dirt bike. It's better than an aftermarket exhaust, tires, handlebars or clutch system. It's even better than race gas. OK, that's a joke, race fuel doesn't do that much for performance improvement.
And it's not farming out the suspension. So what's even better than suspension? When you do it yourself.
Let all those suspension technicians make their money off the pros. If you're like most riders, you work to ride. This often means scrapping every dime together to keep your bike operating and pay your way to the track or trails. An uncomfortable bike is a bad bike so your first thought, and rightfully so, is to set the sag, spring for weight and get the proper pre-load. Your next thought, and wrongfully so, is to pay someone else to do it.
You know how car owners swear their vehicle runs better after they've waxed it? It's in their head. And so is, quite often, the better feel of the bike after you've forked over some cash to have a professional make the same exact adjustments you can do on your own. Think of it this way - how can you possibly replicate track or trail conditions inside a mechanic's shop? You can't! The following all factor in to your suspension setup
- Air Pressure
- Wheel Adjustment
- Adjusting Sag
- Compression and Rebound Adjustment
- Bleeding Your Forks
- Fork Height Adjustment
- Linkage, Swingarm & Shock Bearings
So why get your suspension dialed based on you telling someone else what you feel? The only way this works is if the technician accompanies with you to the track, watches you ride and makes an assessment based on observation and what you say.
Air pressure affects your suspension - do this yourself
The best and most cost effective method to dialing in your suspension is a lap or two around the track, head to the pits and make the adjustments yourself. Troubleshooting equals experience. It's the most edifying and affordable way to fix and learn how to fix problems on your dirt bike. So what if you don't get it dialed on the first, second or even third tries. You're riding!
Therefore, with a bit of understanding of how hydraulics function and a set of the correct tools you can save hundreds of dollars and time.
We'll put this in real money for you. Are you riding at a level that requires a factory set-up? Go ahead and answer as we ring up the cost of a suspension upgrade. It's $2000 to $3000. So forget that. Now you're thinking of seeing a professional tuner. That's about $500. And no guarantee what you get in return adjusts to your liking.
Instead, do it yourself. Yes, we are MotoSport.com so here are the tools you'll need:
- Fork cap wrench
- Compression valve removal tool OR Fork Cap tool
- Fork Seal Installer
- Fork Seal Driver
- Fork Seal Bullets
You've just spent about $100 for a lifetime of use. (Please note, this is not a "HOW TO" article, rather a piece to help you save $$$ so we're not going to explain how to. This guide should help though.)
These tools you'll also need but should already have or similar versions: (See your money ahead!)
- Ratio Rite Measuring Cup
- 3/8 drive Ratchet and a metric socket set ranging in sizes around 8mm-19mm
- Metric open-ended wrench set 8mm-19mm
- Oil drain pan
- Slotted/Flat Blade Screw Driver
Suspension setting also includes revalving. Another ominous task many riders prefer to hand over to the professionals. We won't gloze over this, it's hardly sag setting. The nuts and bolts of revalving is a shim stack (with a few other parts) that determines how much fork fluid flows through the fork circuit via the clickers. So, when you've reached maximum adjustment on the clickers you'll need a revalve to obtain the desired range using the clickers. Revalving is a bit more complicated, but it can be done yourself, so grab a valve kit and follow the instructions.
Wait! Before you jump into this project, your suspension might not even require a revalve so follow the above advice and try using heavier or lighter weight fork oil and/or adjusting the fork oil levels.
Of course, the rear shock is a whole different beast. It's charged with nitrogen so if that aspect needs servicing, don't do it yourself. That should fall in the hands of a professional. However, the springing and tuning is most doable and all you'll need is:
Obviously, suspension setting is more involved then say, an oil and filter change, which is why it scares some riders off but the experience gained and the cost savings realized by figuring it out yourself is invaluable. Think of it this way - when you become the suspension king you just might get a tank of gas or gate fees paid by helping someone else!
Clickers are the "go to" when it comes to suspension settings
Now we have no actual scientific evidence to support this but, like the newly waxed car, the psychological effect comes into play. Most riders swear the bike feels more comfortable, or at least different, after fiddling with the suspension settings. Just imagine how much more of a boost you'll gain knowing it was all you and the money saved goes towards that exhaust system you can now afford.
So where do you start? Check the service manual. It's all in there. You'll get factory settings for fork oil level, sag settings, clickers, spring rates, everything you need to provide a base point and you can adjust from there to your liking and riding conditions.
Finally, we have it on record, from somebody in the know, and we're not making this up, but sometimes the technicians for the pro teams won't actually do anything or revert to the original suspension settings after the last dozen or so adjustments failed to measure up for a nit-picky rider. And guess what? After a lap or two, the rider loves it! Don't let the joke be on you. It's much too expensive.