Roof of Africa
Preparation and Tuning

Let’s face it: the Roof of Africa is rocks, rocks and more rocks. Lesotho is a rough country to say the least and good suspension is a must. I have to admit that I never attempted this race. But my husband (remember – the suspension specialist) won his class twice and finished it 15 times. So I would say he knows what he is talking about.
And here is what he has to say:

First things first!

Before you even consider touching the suspension do the following:

  • Check steering head bearings are lubricated and are not too tight.
  • Check front wheel and axle fitment and alignment.
  • Grease all linkages and swing arm pivots.
  • Turn steering damper to position of least resistance. On rocks the steering must be free so it can choose its own line and be manoeuvred quickly and easily. Stiff steering will always throw you off line.
  • Make sure your springs are suited to your body weightspring rate.

Comfort, balance and safety

Suspension function can be split into 3 basic needs:

  • Comfort
  • Balance
  • Safety

All three of these areas are crucial for proper functioning on a race like the Roof of Africa AND everywhere else. Good suspension is a compromise between all these three things.

Comfort is what most people think they want in rocky terrain. This is true in a way as maximum comfort is good on any terrain. Remember though the more comfort you feel, the more safety and balance you forfeit.

This is why going softer on compression helps up to a point. But you will always lose safety and balance the softer you make the damping. For the Roof of Africa you cannot afford to forfeit too much safety and balance as the terrain is rough and dangerous at all times.

Never remove any damping from the shim stacks inside the forks or shock. If you have an enduro bike setup from the factory then leave the shims alone at all costs. It will be enough to open up the compression adjusters a few clicks at a time until you feel the most comfortable (working with your click adjusters). If you have an MX bike then get someone who knows what they are doing before you consider any internal shim mods to make it enduro worthy.

Comfort

To get the maximum comfort from your suspension is very easy:

  • Service it properly
  • Change bushes and seals
  • Use only genuine parts

Do this as close to the race as possible. At least 70% of the comfort you need on rocks can be found by reducing friction and not by removing shims or damping! If you do not change the bushes and seals, then at least make certain that you grease and oil the seals every day at the Roof of Africa.

Test your suspension before the race

Making your suspension a little softer (with external clicks only!) is a way to achieve some extra comfort, but make sure you test it before the race. Open 3 clicks at a time on compression until you feel most happy. I would not recommend removing oil either from forks as this messes with the balance and fork progression too much.

On rocks you need damping and the softer you go the more chance you have of the bike kicking you off unexpectedly. This happens when balance is affected and safety is lost or by the suspension working too low in the progressive part of the stroke or bottoming. You might think your fork or shock is too hard in this situation, when actually it is way too soft and does not absorb bumps properly any more. So be careful how soft you go!


Checklist for the
Roof of Africa suspension setup

  1. Make sure you have the correct springs for your weight and static and rider sag is correct.
  2. Remove all friction. Service as close to the event as possible (change all friction bushes and seals, use only genuine parts).
  3. Open compression (softer) on both fork and shock 3 clicks at a time until you feel most comfortable.
  4. Close rebound maximum 2 to 3 clicks from standard (slower) and test to see if better for you on rocks.
  5. Bleed air from forks before each day
  6. Lube seals with grease and spray oil before each day
  7. If not sure use standard click settings for race
  8. Do not remove shims or oil from inside the suspension especially without testing lots before the event.
  9. Avoid tight steering and use steering damper on softest setting if you have one (bars must move freely on rocks).
  10. Make sure tyre pressures are correct or mousses are softened by using them prior to the event.



Hope that helps! Good Luck!


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