Finding a suspension specialist is a pretty tricky task. A lot of chancers who have a motorcycle workshop call themselves suspension specialists because they sort of know how to service suspension. Besides, there is a lot of conflicting information out there what needs to be done for suspension tuning. I would like to clear up certain myths that seem to hang around. Hopefully after reading this article you will be better able to judge for yourself who is capable and who is just talking a lot.
There are no shortcuts! A lot of people seem to believe that simply removing or adding some shims will actually improve the handling. It’s like taking a recipe for “Spaghetti Carbonara” from a 5 star Italian restaurant to the Wimpy (McDonalds) and hoping that they will make it better. The suspension comes from the factory and has been designed especially for this bike and for all the components of the bike to work together. It takes A LOT of experience and knowledge to improve on the setting with which the bike was delivered.
Anybody can cut hair and you will still go to the hairdresser if you want a decent haircut. And even amongst the hairdressers the professionalism can be worlds apart.
It takes ONE YEAR of testing by professional technicians with professional riders before releasing a production bike. Your suspension is a work of art! When you want the best experience of Beethoven’s 5th you will get the best hifi, right speakers, good acoustics, even good company, but you won’t start rearranging the violins. So make sure your suspension can do its job by using good oil, genuine bushes, having it serviced correctly and sufficiently, maintain your seals, set the sag, get the spring rate right and just make sure that you can let it do what it was designed for.
Testing is done on ALL different terrains in different countries with different riders under different conditions. And normally the crème de la crème of off road riders will agree on one setting that works best over the wide variety of terrains (including rocks or whatever it is that you ride on!).
Even with the click adjusters you can make a bike handle terribly. I encourage you to play with the adjusters, get familiar with them and use them to adjust your bike to different terrains and your personal preferences. But be aware! If in doubt go back to standard. So if click adjusters can have that kind of negative effect if misused, then imagine what a messed up shim stack can do. And this is where the fun ends because you are leaving the safety zone.
The first and foremost task in suspension is to set it correctly AS IT WAS INTENDED. But that is not as easy as it might seem. There are numerous mistakes that can be made by making incorrect adjustments, assembling components incorrectly, interfering with one or more components on the bike etc. If somebody wants to change a shim stack or internal setting without personal field testing or without very accurate and specific information from you about the exact problem, tell him to take a hike!
And is there no place to change the internals of the bike? Yes there is. For one if you have an MX bike and you want to use it for Enduro. The other one is to go testing with a suspension specialist.
I hate to disillusion you on this one…
Looking for a suspension specialist in South Africa?
Go to Hayward Suspension
Want to read more on how to set up your bike? Read the article on MOTORCYCLE SUSPENSION SETUP!
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