Mountain Bike Suspension
How to get the most out of your forks and shocks!
Your mountain bike's suspension plays an outsized role in how your bike feels. Its sag, pressure, rebound, and compression will significantly affect the way it rides. Properly set up, even entry-level mountain bike suspension will lead to miles of smiles as your bike aids your pedalling, steering, turning, and hucking. Unfortunately, even top-tier bikes can't make up for poorly set-up suspension. So, do your performance, your safety, and your enjoyment a favor: spend a little time tuning your suspension to suit your weight and preferences.
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SAG"Sag" is the distance of your suspension's stroke taken up by your weight while you sit on the bike in your normal riding position. Sag is measured without any impacts or other stimulus upon the suspension. Usually, forks and rear shocks will have a rubber o-ring around their stanchions to help you set sag. Standing beside your bike, place the o-rings against the top of the stroke. Now, carefully mount, then dismount, your bike. The distance your o-ring traveled AWAY from the top of the stroke denotes your current sag.
ReboundRebound is the speed at which your suspension recovers from a hit. If your rebound is under-damped, usually denoted by the (-) on your damping control, your suspension will extend too fast and your bike will feel bouncy and out of control. If your rebound is over-damped (+), your suspension will not recover quickly enough after repeated hits and it will sink lower and lower into its travel. This is called "packing down," and it will result in temporary changes to your bike's geometry, poor performance, and potential damage to your suspension if it repeatedly bottoms-out.
CompressionIn the same way you can adjust how your suspension dampens its rebound, you can also adjust how it dampens compression. Where rebound is your suspension's recovery stroke, compression is its impact stroke; it is the speed and characteristics of your shocks' movements during a hit or other forces' stimuli.
As you make these adjustments, seek balance fore and aft. A fast front end will clash with a slow back end, and vice versa. Ultimately, suspension is designed to make your bike handle in a predictable way over harsh terrain--when in doubt, seek a feeling of balance.