Riding a dirt bike is one of the most thrilling experiences anyone can have. Off-roading can be an incredible adventure, but it can also take a toll on your bike. One of the most common issues with dirt bikes is soft suspension. When your suspension is too soft, you’ll find yourself bouncing around on the bike and losing control, especially during rough terrain. This blog post will explain how dirt bike suspension works and how you can stiffen it to make your ride smoother and safer.
- How dirt bike suspension works – a simple explanation
- How to find the “Perfect” suspension setting
- Why your suspension is too soft
- What can happen if your shock or forks are too soft?
- How to stiffen your suspension:
- Signs of discomfort and danger!
- 1. Adjust the Preload:
- 2. Install Stiffer Springs:
- 3. Improve Damping:
- 4. Adjust the Ride Height:
- 5. Upgrade the Suspension Components:
- Why your dirt bike suspension can feel harsh when it’s too soft
- Getting your suspension balanced before anything else
- 1. Suspension Adjustment
- 2. Comfortable Riding Experience
- 3. Enhanced Stability
- 4. Improved Durability
- 5. Prioritizing Suspension Balance
- How to make your dirt bike suspension softer
- 1. Adjust your suspension settings
- 2. Replace your shocks with softer ones
- 3. Change the fork oil
- 4. Adjust the sag
- 5. Upgrade the suspension system
- Front forks too soft
- Rear shock is too soft
- Adjusting the clickers
- The problem with sending out your suspension
- 1. Third-Party Suspension Shops May Not Be Experienced:
- 2. Suspension Shops May Not Have The Best Parts Available:
- 3. Turnaround Time:
- 4. Cost:
- 5. The Better Option:
- Top 3 mods that are free or cheap
How dirt bike suspension works – a simple explanation
Dirt bike suspension is designed to absorb the bumps and jumps that come with off-road riding. It’s a combination of two systems: the dampening system and the spring system. The dampening system uses hydraulic fluid to restrict the movement of the suspension, while the spring system absorbs the energy from the bumps as you ride. When your suspension is too soft, it means that both systems aren’t working as they should. The dampening system is not restricting enough movement, while the spring system is absorbing too much energy.
The first step in stiffening your dirt bike suspension is to adjust your preload. The preload is the amount of tension on the spring before the weight of the rider is added. By increasing the preload, you can adjust the spring to work better with your weight, making your suspension stiffer. You can adjust the preload on the rear shock by tightening or loosening the spring collar. On the front suspension, you can adjust the preload by adjusting the top bolt.
Another way to stiffen your dirt bike suspension is to adjust your compression damping. Compression damping is the resistance of the suspension to compress under pressure. When you’re riding on rough terrain, you want your suspension to compress enough to absorb the bumps, but not too much that it bottoms out. By increasing your compression damping, you’ll be able to make your suspension stiffer and prevent it from bottoming out. You can adjust the compression damping by turning the knob on the rear shock. For the front suspension, you’ll need to take the fork apart and adjust the internal valves.
If adjusting your preload and compression damping don’t provide enough stiffness, you can also adjust your rebound damping. Rebound damping controls the rate at which the suspension rebounds after being compressed. By increasing rebound damping, you can slow down the rebound to prevent the suspension from bouncing too much. Too much bouncing can cause the rider to lose control. You can adjust the rebound damping by turning the knob on the rear shock. For the front suspension, you’ll need to open up the forks and adjust the internal valves.
Lastly, if your suspension is still too soft after adjusting your preload, compression damping, and rebound damping, you may need to install stiffer springs. Stiffer springs will make your suspension stiffer, but they will also make it less forgiving. Before investing in new springs, make sure you’ve tried adjusting the preload and damping first.
How to find the “Perfect” suspension setting
As a biker, having the perfect suspension setting is crucial for a smooth and successful ride. However, when your dirt bike suspension is too soft, it can cause major issues with handling, stability, and control of your bike. This can be both frustrating and dangerous. We will cover how to stiffen your soft dirt bike suspension to give you the best ride possible.
The first step in adjusting your dirt bike suspension is to determine the cause of your soft suspension. If your bike’s suspension is too low, you may need to add more air to your forks or adjust your shock’s preload. Alternatively, if the suspension is too soft in response to jumps, you may need to adjust your rebound and compression damping.
It’s important to note that adjusting your suspension is not a one-time fix. Suspension settings need to be continually adjusted and fine-tuned to accommodate track and terrain conditions. Taking some time to understand the various elements of dirt bike suspension and their interplay will help you achieve the perfect set up.
One great way to find the perfect suspension setting is by asking an expert. Specialists can provide expert advice on how to adjust your suspension to your specific style of riding. Alternatively, watching online seminars or reading tutorials can improve your understanding of suspension and help you make the correct adjustments to your bike.
Technology is good, but not that good…
Investing in high-tech suspension systems can be expensive, and they may be overkill for amateur or hobbyist riders. Finding a simple and functional system that matches your price range and use case is always important. You can also check second-hand websites for used bike parts. This can save you a lot of money while ensuring that your bike’s performance remains top-notch.
Why your suspension is too soft
The first reason why your suspension might be too soft is simply because it was designed that way by the manufacturer. Dirt bike manufacturers often make their bikes with soft suspension to help absorb the impact of jumps and bumps on off-road terrain. However, if you are an experienced rider looking for more speed or performance, you may find the soft suspension too spongy and sluggish. The second reason your suspension might be too soft is if your weight exceeds the recommended limit for your bike’s suspension. If your suspension was set up for someone who weighs less than you, it is likely that your suspension will be too soft and bottom out more easily.
What can happen if your shock or forks are too soft?
There are several negative effects of having soft suspension on your dirt bike. First and foremost, you will experience a lack of stability and control when riding. This can lead to difficulties in cornering or changing direction quickly. Secondly, if your suspension is too soft, you run the risk of bottoming out on jumps or rough terrain. This can damage the bike’s shock or forks and be dangerous for the rider. Lastly, having too soft suspension can lead to excessive rider fatigue, as the rider is forced to absorb more of the impacts of riding rather than letting the suspension do its job.
How to stiffen your suspension:
Now that we understand why your suspension might be too soft, let’s explore some ways to make it stiffer. The first and easiest way to stiffen your suspension is to adjust the preload. This can be done by either tightening or loosening the preload adjuster on your shock or forks. This will increase or decrease the amount of sag in your suspension, making it stiffer or softer respectively. The second way to stiffen your suspension is by adjusting the compression and rebound damping. This controls how much resistance the suspension has when compressing or rebounding. By increasing the damping, you can make the suspension stiffer and more responsive.
Signs of discomfort and danger!
Nothing is more exhilarating than riding a dirt bike on rough terrain. But what about experiencing uncomfortable bumps that make you feel like you’re about to fly off the bike or high jumps that make your landing too bumpy and dangerous? If you’re experiencing these signs of discomfort and danger, it’s a sign that your dirt bike suspension is too soft. The good news is that you can easily fix this problem and ensure that your ride will be smoother and safer.
1. Adjust the Preload:
One of the main reasons why your dirt bike suspension may be too soft is because the preload has not been adjusted correctly. The preload is responsible for how much force it takes to compress the spring. If you increase the preload, the spring will compress less and the suspension will feel stiffer. On the other hand, if you decrease the preload, the spring will compress more and the suspension will feel softer. By adjusting the preload, you can easily make your dirt bike suspension stiffer to ensure a smoother and safer ride.
2. Install Stiffer Springs:
Another way to make your dirt bike suspension stiffer is by installing stiffer springs. The suspension’s primary function is to absorb shock which is done by compression and rebound between the bike and the ground. Stiffer springs will maintain the correct tension required to support the rider’s weight and improve shock absorption, making the bike more stable.
3. Improve Damping:
Damping is the force that’s required to slow down the motion of the spring as it compresses and rebounds. If the damping is not working properly, it will impact the stiffness of your dirt bike suspension. To ensure the damping is working correctly, you need to check the damping settings and make sure they are adjusted to fit your riding style.
4. Adjust the Ride Height:
Ride height is the distance between the rear axle of the bike and the body. It’s an essential consideration when adjusting the dirt bike suspension. Lowering the ride height will make the dirt bike suspension feel stiffer, as the shock will be more compressed. On the other hand, raising the ride height will make the suspension feel softer, as the shock will be less compressed. Adjusting the ride height will help ensure that the bike’s weight is in the right place for optimal performance.
5. Upgrade the Suspension Components:
Lastly, you can upgrade your dirt bike suspension components to make it stiffer and improve the performance of your bike. This will include upgrading the springs, shocks, fork tubes, and dampers. It’s best to consult with a mechanic to find out which parts will be most beneficial to upgrade.
Why your dirt bike suspension can feel harsh when it’s too soft
Every dirt bike enthusiast wants to experience a smooth ride when racing or trail-riding. The suspension system of your dirt bike is a critical aspect that can make or mar the experience. However, many riders have overlooked the importance of getting their bike suspensions balanced. We’ll explain why a dirt bike suspension can feel harsh when it’s too soft and why getting your suspension balanced should be your top priority.
Before diving deep into why a dirt bike suspension can feel harsh when it’s too soft, it’s essential to understand the make-up of your dirt bike suspension system. The suspension system of a dirt bike comprises several components, including the swingarm, shock absorber, and fork. These components work together to ensure that the bike’s wheels can move up and down over bumps and undulations on the road or dirt track while maintaining tire contact with the ground.
Why Soft Suspensions Can Feel Harsh
Every dirt bike rider wants a softer suspension. However, having a suspension that is too soft can result in a harsh riding experience. When the suspension is too soft, the bike’s wheels compress more, and more energy is absorbed by the suspension, leaving less for the rider. Consequently, the suspension bottom out and feels harsh. Furthermore, the suspension will lose its ability to rebound as the bike’s weight compresses the shock. This loss of rebound damping can lead to a skip or hop in the rear of the bike, which can be dangerous and make handling difficult.
Getting Your Suspension Balanced
With the understanding that a soft suspension can feel harsh, the next step is to get your dirt bike suspension balanced. Balance means having the right spring rate, rebound damping, compression damping, and sag. The right spring rate gives you the perfect balance between soft and hard suspension, while rebound damping controls the rate of suspension return after the downward force of the suspension. Compression damping, on the other hand, controls the rate of suspension compression, and sag improves the traction of your suspension.
Getting your suspension balanced before anything else
Riding a dirt bike is a thrilling experience that comes with a lot of excitement and adrenaline rush. However, to keep the excitement going, it is important to ensure that every component of your bike is in good condition, with the suspension being one of the most important. The suspension plays a critical role in keeping you safe and comfortable while working the bike through challenging terrains. We will discuss why getting your suspension balanced should always be the first step before any other modification.
1. Suspension Adjustment
The first thing you need to know about getting your dirt bike suspension balanced is that it requires precision. You can either do it yourself or take your bike to a qualified professional. Either way, you need to adjust both the compression and rebound damping of the shock to get the perfect balance. This is a process that takes time, and it is important to be patient if you choose to do it yourself. You may need to make several adjustments beforehand before getting the perfect balance.
2. Comfortable Riding Experience
The suspension is what makes riding a dirt bike comfortable, especially when riding through rough terrains. A suspension that is not balanced prevents the bike from absorbing impacts and vibrations. It also makes it harder to control the bike when taking corners. A balanced suspension, on the other hand, ensures a more comfortable ride. It enables the bike to absorb impacts and vibrations, allowing you to keep your balance and control of the bike even when riding through rough terrains.
3. Enhanced Stability
A balanced suspension enhances stability, providing an improved confidence boost when taking corners or going off-road. It also enhances the overall performance of the bike, enabling it to work seamlessly through different terrains. When the suspension is balanced, you can ride the bike in a straight line, even when riding through deep sand or any other challenging terrain.
4. Improved Durability
A balanced suspension increases the durability of the bike by reducing the wear and tear of its components. When the suspension is not balanced, some parts of the bike take on the most impact and wear out faster, leading to overall deterioration of the bike’s components. Adjusting and balancing the suspension ensures even wear on all parts, increasing the overall durability of the dirt bike.
5. Prioritizing Suspension Balance
Getting your suspension balanced should always be the first step before any other modification. You may be tempted to install new parts, add more power to the bike, or change the bike’s look, but the truth is that without a balanced suspension, the other changes you make will not deliver the expected results. A balanced suspension works seamlessly with other modifications, enhancing the bike’s overall performance.
How to make your dirt bike suspension softer
1. Adjust your suspension settings
Before you begin modifying parts of your suspension system, it is always best to start with adjusting the suspension settings. Most dirt bikes have adjustable shocks that allow you to tweak the compression and rebound damping. Compression damping controls how quickly your suspension compresses, and rebound damping controls how quickly it returns to its normal position. Play with the settings until you find a sweet spot that works best for you.
2. Replace your shocks with softer ones
If adjusting the settings doesn’t make a significant difference, you can decide to replace your shocks with softer ones. Softer shocks will deliver a smoother ride, but they may be less durable and have a shorter lifespan. Ensure you choose shocks that are compatible with your bike’s make and model, and don’t compromise on quality.
3. Change the fork oil
The fork and shocks of your dirt bike are filled with oil that lubricates the moving parts of the suspension system. Over time, the oil can become thick and dirty, reducing the shock absorption ability of your bike. Changing the fork oil to a lighter weight can help to soften the suspension and improve overall ride quality.
4. Adjust the sag
Sag is the amount your suspension compresses when you sit on your bike. For a softer ride, you should adjust the sag by adding more preload to the rear suspension. Be sure to refer to your bike’s user manual to determine how much preload is safe and recommended for your bike model.
5. Upgrade the suspension system
If you have tried all the above steps and your suspension still feels stiff, it may be time to upgrade the entire suspension system. Upgrading the system involves replacing the shocks, springs, fork oil, and damping settings to match your riding style and preferences. Upgrades can be a bit pricey, but they offer the ultimate comfort and performance on your bike
Front forks too soft
If you feel the front forks are too soft, you’ll need to make some adjustments. Start by looking for the fork compression and rebound adjustment screws at the top of the fork leg. Turning the screw clockwise will make the front fork stiffer, and turning it counterclockwise will make it softer. Adjust both screws equally to maintain balance. A good rule to follow is to make three-click adjustments at a time until you reach the ideal setting.
Rear shock is too soft
If the rear shock is too soft, adjustments have to be made to the spring preload. This means adjusting the spring on the damper to ensure that the sag between the bike’s wheelbase and the rear shock is suitable. A pre-load can be increased by turning it clockwise, which will increase rigidity and reduce shock travel. In contrast, turning it counterclockwise will reduce pre-load and increase shock travel.
Adjusting the clickers
Most modern dirt bikes come with adjustable clickers that allow you to make micro-adjustments to the front and rear suspension. If you’re looking for a softer setting, the first step would be to decrease the clickers’ resistance by turning them counterclockwise. For more precise tuning, you can count your clicks and make equal adjustments on either side. As a general rule, the front and rear clickers should always have the same amount of compression to maintain balance in the bike.
How to adjust the clickers
Adjusting the clickers requires patience and attention to detail. After you have located the clickers, make small adjustments of about 1/4 turn at a time. It’s essential to keep tabs on how the shock feels after each adjustment. A good way to test the shock is to jump on it several times while parked to ensure it’s at a softer setting and won’t make you feel like you’re hitting bumps.
The first thing to consider when setting up your dirt bike suspension is the fork preload. It refers to the amount of force required to compress the fork’s spring. Adjusting the preload will help you get the perfect sag (suspension action guide) by effectively setting the right spring rate on your bike. Setting the right sag is crucial as it improves the wheel’s traction, making it easier to control your ride. Preload can be adjusted using the preload adjuster that’s usually located on top of the fork, or you can take it to a professional mechanic.
The weight of the oil in your front and rear forks plays a significant role in how your bike handles. Heavier oil (thicker oil) will provide a firmer suspension with less brake dive, while lighter weight oil will make the suspension feel softer. Experts suggest experimenting with different oil weights according to the sort of terrain you’re riding on and your style of riding. Utilize a thicker oil if you’re riding a track in the woods or a rough terrain with a lot of bumps, while using lighter oil for smoother tracks.
Oil height/air gap
The second key factor in proper suspension setup is the oil height or air gap. The air gap refers to the empty space or “gap” above the oil in your suspension system. The oil height or air gap, as it is sometimes called, determines how the fork reacts to coming into contact with objects like ruts or jumps. You can adjust this by either adding or subtracting oil in a suspension fork. The amount of oil should be adjusted according to a dirt bike’s make and the rider’s weight.
Re-valving is a process of replacing the valve metal parts inside the suspension to improve its performance. Stock suspension systems are usually made of less expensive parts, suitable for the average rider. If you’re an experienced rider who is looking for better performance, internal re-valving is a way to achieve it. The process requires specialized experience which an experienced mechanic can help with. Riders can consider re-valving if they’re looking to make substantial changes to the suspension or take their riding to the next level
The problem with sending out your suspension
Suspension is one of the most critical and complex components of your dirt bike. It plays a significant role in keeping you safe and comfortable while you’re riding off-road. Most riders understand this and know that they need to maintain and adjust their suspension regularly. However, far too many of them make the mistake of sending out their forks and shocks to suspension shops without fully understanding the potential dangers. We’ll discuss the problem with sending out your dirt bike suspension and why you should always be cautious.
1. Third-Party Suspension Shops May Not Be Experienced:
Some suspension shops have certified technicians that provide top-quality work. However, not all of these shops have the necessary experience and expertise required to properly service every type of dirt bike. Sending out your dirt bike suspension to an inexperienced technician can not only prove to be ineffective but could also lead to some dangerous consequences.
2. Suspension Shops May Not Have The Best Parts Available:
It’s essential to realize that as a dirt bike enthusiast, you know your bike’s ins and outs. Chances are you know your bike’s specific needs when it comes to suspension components. However, some suspension shops may use generic components that may not be the best fit for your specific bike. They do this to save on costs. Unfortunately, cutting corners can lead to an overall decrease in performance and safety.
3. Turnaround Time:
When you send out your suspension to a third-party technician, you’ll likely have to wait several weeks before it’s returned to you. During this time, you could miss out on crucial riding opportunities or events. Besides, dirt bikers invest quite a bit of time and effort in maintaining their bikes. Waiting weeks or even months to get them back can be frustrating.
Suspension work is crucial, and it can be expensive. When you send out your suspension to a third-party technician, you can expect to pay a premium. Often, these shops markup the prices for the same services or components that you could find elsewhere for considerably less. You may also run the risk of getting ripped off or overspending for the required services.
5. The Better Option:
Fortunately, sending out your suspension is not the only solution to get it serviced and back up to speed. You don’t require a suspension tech to replace your fork seals, adjust your sag, or improve your rebound and compression damping. Most of these things can be done at home with the right tools. Companies like Race Tech and Factory Connection offer DIY kits that allow you to fully service your suspension without leaving your garage.
Top 3 mods that are free or cheap
If you’re an avid dirt biker, you know how important suspension is. It’s what keeps you riding through some of the toughest terrain and makes your experience enjoyable. But buying a brand-new suspension system can be costly, and not everyone can afford it. The good news is, there are some cheap and even free mods that can improve your dirt bike’s suspension. We’ll discuss the top three dirt bike suspension mods that won’t break the bank.
1. Adjust the sag:
One of the easiest and cheapest things you can do to improve your dirt bike’s suspension is to adjust the sag. Sag is the amount of suspension compression that occurs when you sit on your bike. An incorrect sag setting can make your dirt bike feel unstable, and you may bottom out your suspension more often than you’d like. Adjusting sag is as simple as tightening or loosening the spring preload. The recommended sag setting is usually listed in your bike’s owner’s manual. If you’re unsure, try adjusting it by small increments at a time until you find the sweet spot.
2. Change the fork oil:
Over time, the fork oil in your dirt bike can become contaminated with debris and lose its viscosity. This can cause your suspension to feel mushy and less responsive than it should be. Changing the fork oil is a straightforward task that you can do at home with just a few tools. All you need to do is remove the fork from your bike, drain the old oil, and fill it with fresh oil. The weight of the oil you should use varies depending on your bike’s make and model, so make sure you check your owner’s manual for the correct weight.
3. Play with the clickers:
The clickers on your dirt bike’s suspension adjust the compression and rebound damping. Compression damping controls how quickly your suspension compresses, while rebound damping controls how quickly it rebounds. By adjusting the clickers, you can fine-tune the suspension to match your riding style and the terrain you’re riding on. Start by setting your clickers to the stock setting recommended in the owner’s manual. Then, try adjusting them in small increments until you find a setting that feels good.
Your dirt bike’s suspension is critical to enjoying your ride, but it doesn’t have to cost a fortune to enhance it. Adjusting the sag, changing the fork oil, and playing with the clickers are three cheap and easy mods you can do yourself. Remember to take notes on what you do and how it feels for future reference. Suspension tuning is an ongoing process and requires patience, but the final result is well worth it. Happy riding!
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