10 Dirt Bike Suspension Tips | Dirt Rider

10 Dirt Bike Suspension Tips

Dirt Bike Suspension Tips That Improve Your Ride

You can have the best dirt bike suspension in the world but if you don't maintain it or understand how it works it's not worth much. Before your next ride follow these few simple tips to improve your suspension and get the most out of your bike.

- Tire Pressure - Begin by making sure your bike has the proper tire pressure so it will handle it's best. A bike with too much air in the tires will be harsh and deflect off obstacles while an under inflated tire will distort under load and not give good rider feedback. Use 11-13 psi for motocross and 13-14 psi or more for off road to prevent flats. Heavy tubes and mousses will greatly affect your bikes suspension so aim for the lightest possible set up you can without risking punctures. An 18" rear wheel also has more rider comfort than a 19".

- Proper Spring Rate and Sag - Your springs hold up the rider and bike so make sure you have the proper rate spring in your bike. Most bikes work best with 95-115mm of sag when the rider is on the bike. Once you have the rider sag, check the static sag of the bike without the rider. Static Sag should range between 25-45mm. If the static sag is less than 25mm you need a stiffer spring and if it is greater than 45mm you need a softer spring.

- Install your front wheel correctly - Install your front wheel squarely with the forks before tightening the axle pinch bolts and axle nut. Improper installation will cause the forks to bind and wear quickly. Begin by tightening your axle nut first then torque the left side axle pinch bolts to spec. Make sure your right fork leg will slide easily along the axle before tightening. Compress the fork to set the leg and tighten the right pinch bolts when you are sure the fork leg is not binding and in it's natural position.

- Use a torque wrench - Never over-tighten the triple clamp bolts because the fork tubes are very thin and will distort easily. Check your owners manual for the proper torque spec. Your fork bushings travel past the lower triple clamp mount and can bind if the clamp is over-tightened and cause the fork to be harsh. Be sure both fork tubes are mounted at the same height. You can also vary your bikes turning and stability by raising and lowering the forks in the triple clamps.

- Bleed the air out of the forks every time you ride - Bleed the air out of your forks at the beginning of the day before you ride. Always bleed the forks with your bike on a stand and your front wheel off the ground. Air expands with heat and altitude so it is important to start your ride with no excess pressure.

- Maintain your suspension - Change your fork and shock oil every 20 hours and replace wear parts like bushings and seals every 40 hours. Oil breaks down and gets contaminated over time causing your suspension to fade when it heats up. Worn bushing are also a cause of leaky seals and friction because of excess play. Most modern dirt bikes specify the use of 5wt fork oil. Shocks run at higher temperatures and use lighter 2.5wt oil so they don't fade and breakdown as quickly.

- Fork Oil Height - Adjusting the fork oil height alters the amount of air space in the fork and changes the damping characteristic in the 2nd half of the suspension travel. Adding oil stiffens the fork and increases bottoming resistance while removing oil softens the fork. Add or subtract oil in small 10cc gradients until you get your desired effect . You can add fork oil through the air bleeder with a small syringe. To remove oil, you will need to remove the fork legs from the bike and turn them upside down to drain oil out of the air bleed holes.

- Grease your linkage and headset - Clean and grease your pivot bearings to maintain performance and minimize wear. A properly maintained linkage will move more freely and have less friction so your suspension will work better. A headset that is properly adjusted and greased will give accurate rider feedback.

- Chain tension and length - Adjust your drive chain on a stand with 30-40mm of play so it will not bind when the rear suspension is fully compressed. Running a longer wheel base will offer more straight line stability while a shorter wheelbase offers improved turning. Running the axle forward lessens the leverage on the shock and stiffens the initial suspension movement. If you want softer suspension in the beginning of the travel, you can move the rear axle rearward to increase leverage on the shock. Gearing you bike higher with less teeth on the back sprocket will give for better traction because of lower engine speed.

- Troubleshoot your suspension -Learn to troubleshoot your suspension for better performance. Suspension that bottoms out too easily might need more compression from your clickers, more compression valving, a higher oil level, stiffer spring rate, or just need to be serviced. A rear shock that kicks up over bumps has a different set of problems than one that kicks to the side. When you are testing suspension ride the same lines around the track in order to determine if your changes are working. A good rider can avoid all the bumps on the track and make any suspension feel good.

- Bonus - Pneumatic spring fork tips - Adjust the air pressure every day before you ride with the wheel off the ground. Use a small dial pump with a good no loss air valve. 2 psi is the equivalent of 1 spring rate. The air in the fork will heat up and expand as you ride causing an increase in pressure. Nitrogen does not offer a significant advantage over air.

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