HOW TO: Set Up Your Mountain Bike Suspension
Setting up the shock and fork on your mountain bike can change your ride and give you more confidence. Here’s how to do it right. – By Lydia Tanner
Setting up the rear suspension on your mountain bike can make a huge difference in how it rides. Too much pressure, and you won’t use all your travel; too little, and you risk bottoming out, which can damage the shock, your bike, or yourself. Sag (the amount of travel you use simply weighting by the bike in a neutral position), is the main point of reference you’ll need to set up your rear suspension.
To test sag, have someone hold your handlebars while you get on your bike. Bounce up and down a bit, then sit neutrally and slide the indicator (the rubber o-ring on your stanchion) up against the shock. Then get off the bike. There should now be some stanchion showing between the air canister of the shock and your indicator. If that distance, or sag, is around 20% of the full travel, it means you’ll be able to engage the suspension without worrying about using too much on big hits. If the sag is more than 20%, you need to add a little air to the shock; if it’s less, you should let some out.
In order to get the best performance from your shock, you’ll want to calibrate the sag when you’re as closest to the weight you’ll be while riding. That means wearing everything you would wear for a day on the trail during the test— including shoes, a full hydration pack, and a helmet, all of which can add significant weight. It’s also important to make sure you reset the indicator before every test.
Remember to check your suspension throughout the season, since weather, travel, storage and general use can change the pressure in your shock slightly. Especially if you notice that your suspension feels sluggish or strange, sag is a good starting point for shock trouble shooting.
Luckily, sag is also one of the easiest adjustments you can make on your bike. All you need is a shock pump and your normal riding gear. If you don’t have a shock pump, most local bike shops will be happy to let your borrow one— but it’s a good idea to get one of your own in case you want to make adjustments later, or even on the trail.