Basic mountain bike suspension setup explained

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

Tech
If the front or rear of the bike bucks, increase the rebound damping a click to slow the rebound down.

If the front or rear of the bike bucks, increase the rebound damping a click to slow the rebound down (click to enlarge).

You will most likely need to fine-tune your rebound one or two more clicks on the trail. If the front or rear of the bike bucks, increase the rebound damping a click to slow the rebound down. If the bike seems like it’s overly harsh through successive hits, speed up the rebound a click so the suspension will be able to extend for the next impact. Err on the slow side of rebound for the shock so you won’t get bucked, and on the fast side for the fork, so it won’t pack up and throw you forward. A general guideline is to set up your rebound 1-2 clicks faster for trails with small, high frequency bumps and 1-2 clicks slower for trails with big hits.

Compression damping is more involved and requires time on the trail to dial in. Most trail components only offer low-speed adjustment, while downhill components offer separate high and low-speed adjustability. High-speed compression handles big, square-edged hits and bottom outs, while low-speed compression affects small bumps and pedaling platform, along with brake dive and ride height in corners. It’s helpful to think of low-speed damping as a blow-off gateway to access the high-speed damping.

The best way to set up compression damping is to back the damping all the way off and get out on the trail, paying attention to specific ride characteristics which apply to both the fork and the shock. If you find yourself bottoming out harshly or too often, increase high-speed compression damping. Adding volume reducers to your fork and/or shock’s air chamber is another option to deal with this problem.

Most trail components only offer low-speed adjustment, while downhill components offer separate high and low-speed adjustability.

Most trail components only offer low-speed adjustment, while downhill components offer separate high and low-speed adjustability (click to enlarge).

For low-speed damping, focus on brake dive and ride height as your indicators. If the fork compresses excessively when braking or when driving through turns, increase low-speed compression damping until ride height remains stable and brake dive is under control. For your rear shock, small bump compliance and pedal bob will direct you in adjusting your shock’s low-speed compression.

It’s important to record all your suspension settings. This lets you see how changes affect your bike’s behavior and will help get you back to the sweet spot if your settings are altered. Once you finalize your settings, you might write them on pieces of tape affixed to your fork and shock, or pen them on a piece of paper you keep in your hydration pack. That way you’ll always know where you should be.


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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