Two of the great mysteries in the moto world are what goes on inside your suspension and what could make it perform better. Factory Connection has been the solution for pro and amateur riders since 1988 when Mike McAndrews founded the company in Vermont. A few years later, current owner and shim witch doctor Rick “Ziggy” Zielfelder took the reins and guided the company into a hugely successful boinger-tuning factory as well as the force behind a top race effort that’s seen riders such as Mike LaRocco, Josh Grant, Trey Canard, Justin Barcia, Bret Metcalfe, Travis Preston, Jake Weimer, Eli Tomac and Kevin Windham under its tent.
We didn’t uncover any valving or set-up secrets, but we did get a chance to poke a camera around FC’s Barrington, New Hampshire, headquarters, just one of its three shops throughout the United States. While there, we saw regular customers’ suspension going down the line bin-to-bin with the race suspension of both Kevin Windham and Mike Lafferty. So if success is measured by the company you keep, maybe you ought to let your fork and shock take a trip through Factory Connection.
This is where the journey for your suspension begins. Forks to the right, shocks to the left. When they meet again they’ll be Factory Connection units.
Ziggy isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty when the shop is busy, which is most of the time. Here he works the shock line.
Fork lower tubes are inspected for nicks then spun on the lathe using special fixtures and polished to ensure a smooth surface. A nick or scratch left here could tear a new fork seal.
Andrew Hussey is an engineer FC works with. Here, he lines up a frame to measure the shock mount dimensions. You just know this guy’s great at that stuffed animal crane game!
Even when Ziggy’s not on the line, the techs still can’t slack off. His office window has a bird’s-eye view of who’s doing what down below.
Spring rate testers ensure each rider has the proper springs installed. Springs are rated for accuracy during each revalve or service.
Techs pick from shims of various diameters and thicknesses to get the damping oil flow characteristics they want.
Saturo Tanno is a former Showa factory tech who was instrumental in developing the revolutionary twin chamber fork. A true suspension surgeon, he wears a mask!
Factory Connection knows off-road, too! Just ask eight-time enduro champ Mike Lafferty, whose suspension is handled by the shop.
The shop’s bread and butter is shim tuning, but they have hard parts for other tuning options and to reach even higher levels of performance.
I made the five-axis CNC machine laugh so hard it blew milk out its nose while it was trying to mill a fork spring seat.