Mountain bike suspension isn’t one size fits all. Every mountain biker, from professional racers to casual riders, need to dial in their suspension to their own weight and riding style. Don’t fear. Setting up your suspension is easy, and will lead to bigtime gains in the feel and performance of your mountain bike.
How Bike Suspension Works
Before explaining the process of adjusting your shock and mountain bike fork, let’s review how mountain bike suspension works. There are two main types of suspension, air-sprung and coil-sprung. These both act in the same way, to provide resistance. The damper then provides control over that resistance, influencing how fast that resistance is applied. Together, these functions help your bike absorb the impacts of rough bike trails.
Setting Your Sag
Setting up a bike for an individual rider really means two things, setting the “sag” and dampening. First up, sag. This is also referred to as “preload” or “spring” setup. When you step on your bike pedals, the suspension will compress a bit under your weight. This is normal and helps the suspension to conform to the trail as you pass over it. You’ll not only pass over bumps that compress your suspension, but holes that the suspension extends into to maintain contact between your bike wheels and the ground. The amount that your suspension compresses under your weight while you’re standing still is your sag.
Setting up your sag is more or less the same regardless of what spring type (air or coil) that you have. The only caveat is that coil springs have a limited range of adjustment and you need to make sure that you have the right weight spring. You will repeat this process for both your shock and your fork.
Some Tips For Setting Your Sag
- When you’re setting up your bike, gear up exactly as you would for a ride, this means everything from your mountain biking backpack to you pads and shoes.
- Some bikes, like Transition bikes, have the sag distance printed right on the frame. If not, consult your owner’s manual. Typical sag settings are around 25 percent of your total travel.
- For more info, head to evo.com for our full bike suspension setup guide
Rebound and Dampening
Now that you’ve set your sag, it’s time to set up your rebound damping. This is generally a set-it-and-forget-it adjustment that doesn’t require on-trail adjustment, but is best done on-bike with some testing.
Set the rebound, initially, full open or as fast as it will go. Get on your bike and roll off a curb and try to be as static with your body position as possible. Use a body position that’s similar to your riding position. If you feel the suspension go up and down more than once, add more rebound damping. Repeat this process until you feel only a single shock cycle. That’s a good baseline rebound setting. Do the same for your other rear shock if you’re on a full suspension bike.
On-Trail Testing and Tweaking
These tips and tricks are meant to set a baseline. Over time you will develop your own personal preference for how stiff or soft you like your suspension. This might all change with a new bike, or new suspension components. It’s a good idea to bring a shock pump with you on your first couple rides with a new bike, or new suspension settings so that you can change up your settings when you’re out on the trail.
We are evo – a ski, snowboard, mountain bike, surf, wake, and skate retailer based in Seattle, Washington, USA, with stores located in Seattle, Portland, and Denver. We also offer trips to remote locations across the globe in search of world-class powder turns, epic waves, and legendary mountain biking through our evoTrip Adventure Vacation Packages.