Basic mountain bike suspension setup explained

Follow these steps to get your bike perfectly dialed for next trail ride

Tech
Once dialed, record all your suspension settings. This lets you see how changes affect your bike’s behavior.

Once dialed, record all your suspension settings. This lets you see how changes affect your bike’s behavior (click to enlarge).

Editor’s Note: This article is courtesy of the team at Art’s Cyclery. The original post can be found here.

Properly setting up mountain bike suspension can seem like a magic trick to many people, but by following a few simple guidelines you will be pointed down the right track in no time. Here’s a step-by-step guide.

The first step is determining sag, which is the distance your bike settles into its travel when weighted. Make sure that your fork and shock have travel indicators and if there are none, install a zip-tie yourself, but not too tightly so that it will move when you compress the suspension.

Increase or decrease air pressure five PSI at a time until proper sag is achieved.

Increase or decrease air pressure five PSI at a time until proper sag is achieved (click to enlarge).

Place the bike next to a wall or have a friend hold the bike while you climb aboard. Wear what you would on a ride, including helmet, riding shoes, hydration pack, and armor. Stand on your pedals in the attack position, centering your weight over the bike. Gently bounce a few times, then slowly reach down and push the travel indicator against either the shock or fork.

Avoid compressing your suspension by slowly dismounting the bike in the opposite direction. With your air pressure properly set, the travel indicator should move 20-30% of the stroke and about 35% for longer travel applications. Increase or decrease air pressure five PSI at a time until proper sag is achieved.

Now that you have your air pressure dialed, it’s time to set rebound damping. Less damping — turning the adjuster counter clockwise — means the shock or fork will return from compression faster, and vice-versa. If rebound is too fast, you’ll get a skittish, bucking ride. Too slow, and your suspension won’t be ready for the next impact, making for a harsh ride.

When setting sag, wear what you would on a ride, including helmet, riding shoes, hydration pack, and armor.

When setting sag, wear what you would on a ride, including helmet, riding shoes, hydration pack, and armor (click to enlarge).

The easiest way to get in the ballpark is to use the “top-out test.” Turn your rebound adjust knob so it’s fully open. Now compress the fork or shock as much as possible by pushing down on the saddle, and quickly let go. If the suspension extends too quickly, coming to an abrupt stop at the top of its travel, you’ll need to increase rebound damping to slow it down. Repeat the top-out process on your fork, pressing down on the handlebars instead of the saddle.

Continue to page 2 for more basic mountain bike suspension setup tips »
About the author: Arts Cyclery

This article was originally published on the Art's Cyclery Blog. Art's Cyclery is dedicated to offering free expert advice, how-to videos, and in-depth product reviews on ArtsCyclery.com to help riders make an educated decision when selecting cycling gear.


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  • ColinL says:

    Critical flaw in the instructions for the first step. I’ll give a hint – what must you do with all compression, platform or lockout adjusters before setting sag?

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