The first rule of motorcycle suspension is to make sure you have the correct spring rate and the preload is adjusted for your weight! That is an absolute MUST for everybody who has a motorcycle.
If this is not done, handling will be compromised! No amount of other adjustments can compensate for this. I can't emphasize that enough! The difference between a properly set up motorcycle suspension and one that is out is like night and day!
Especially on a dirt bike. The stroke is very long so the bad effects on the steering geometry are huge. Without this basic setup everything else you do to your suspension or bike is a waste of time.
So here are the basics to maintain the motorcycle suspension characteristics:
So they are set up for an average rider normally between 70-85kg without gear. Many handling problems like oversteer, understeer or headshake can be avoided by setting up the suspension. Apart from that it is also a safety issue to stay in the correct range of the stroke.
That is also the reason why suspension lowering should never be done by reducing preload or pulling the forks through the triple clamps.
Nothing can make up for bad suspension. All the money spend on steering dampers, trick aftermarket parts like exhaust systems, bash plates, hand guards, GPS systems, aftermarket carburettor jet kits etc. is wasted if the suspension is not performing like it should!
My husband worked several years for WP at the KTM factory in Austria. Testing for months on end goes into the development of the suspension. If you adjust your suspension right and you look after it properly you actually have a very good set up.
He now has his own suspension work shop. Often people come after he has done the basics: fitted the right springs, checked the clicks, set the sag and done a service. They can't believe it is the same bike. Often they start climbing up to 5 places in the championship. Beginners can do climbs they couldn't do before or easily tackle a section they found hard before. It sounds almost too good to be true but that is what suspension can do for you.
Once your motorcycle is set up properly you can think about getting familiar with your click adjusters and to change the setup for a specific terrain or your riding style.
The next step of personalization is to change the internals of the bike: the shims. But never ever let anybody mess with shims who has only limited experience. Once it is a mess in there an inexperienced person will never get it back to where it was.
You should also avoid changing the oil level in your forks if you are not sure what you are doing. Air has a progressive compression effect under pressure. Changing the air chamber by means of the oil level can have negative effects on compression and rebound.
If you want to get it really trick because you are actually in the top five of your nationals (and your country is not the Vatican) then you might want to consider aftermarket suspension or test days with a suspension technician. But really the average to above average rider should not need to do that. It gets quite costly and if your motorcycle suspension is setup right you will have very fine material under your bum!
The Dirt Bike Garage Manual
HOW TO GUIDE for "do it yourself" riders