Adjust the front suspension fork

The suspension fork is an important part of mountain bikes. It not only has a significant effect on comfort but also bike’s performance. Every newly installed front fork needs to be adjusted. In this article, let’s learn how to adjust your suspension forks.

Front fork

The adjustment of the suspension fork mainly includes: adjusting damping, setting the preload value, adjusting the locking function, adjusting the locking protection function, etc. (Note that not all front forks will have the above functions). 

1. Compression Damping Adjustment

Damping adjustment is essential for good suspension performance. You can micro-adjust the damping to control the energy the damper absorbs during compression, so as to slow down or speed up the velocity which the fork moves through the compression stroke. Without damping, you may feel the fork is not stiff enough when you shake the bike even when pedalling. It reduces riding efficiency and comfort. All suspension forks are equipped with compression damper, but generally, only high-class bikes have compression-damping adjustment functions

Adjusting Compression Damping

It can be adjusted directly through the rotary switch. Turning it off during long-distance climbing can improve pedalling efficiency and prevent force leakage. When riding on the flat off-road, the middle setting can provide you with a balance between pedalling and shock absorption. When you find that you always lose force when pedalling, or when braking, the front fork compression stroke is too long, you need to adjust it. But don’t adjust it too much, because the most important thing for the front fork is to help you reduce bumps. 

2. Set preload value

The front fork preload value refers to the stroke of the front fork being compressed when sitting on the bike in a normal riding posture (including riding with a load). The higher the percentage of preload value in the total stroke, the softer the feel. Generally, the preload value accounts for 15% to 25%. Racing riding generally prefers 15%. If you want to improve comfort and the road impact is small, it can be set at 25 %. XC bikes are generally set at 20 %. AM, FR, and DH are generally a little higher. Sometimes, some front forks do not require setting the preload value.

Set the preload value

Generally, when setting the preload value, a special high-pressure air cylinder is required. It’s professional work, so we recommend you to find professionals to assist you. 

3. Rebound Damping adjustment

There are two main locations of rebound damper depending on the design of the front fork, one is at the crown position, and the other is at the fork leg position (the bottom end of the front fork), most of which are at the fork leg position. The rebound damper can control the speed which the front fork returns to its initial stroke after being compressed. The greater the rebound damping, the slower the rebound speed. 

The adjustment takes the position of the fork legs as an example:

(1) First, turn the knob counterclockwise to the end. If there are several segments, determine the number of segments in advance. Then turn the knob clockwise to the middle position.

(2) Compress the front fork and test the rebound. If the rebound speed is too fast, adjust clockwise. In contrast, if the rebound speed is too slow, adjust counterclockwise. Test several times until you find a comfortable rebound speed.

(3) Carry out the test on the road that you often ride, and be careful not to use extreme roads for testing at the beginning.

(4) During the test, if the fork frequently moves to the limiting position. You can appropriately reduce the preload value.

Rebound damper

If you ride at high speed on a flat road, adjust the rebound damping a little smaller; if the road is bumpy, adjust the rebound damping a little larger; if you are riding for racing, you need to shake the bike, the damping also should be adjusted a little larger. You need to try more and experience more to find the best rebound damping. Note that not all forks have the rebound damping adjustment function. 

4. Lock the front fork 

Through hydraulic or mechanical methods to prevent the fork from compression or rebounding, the front fork will lose its shock-absorbing function. The fork locking function is now commonly equipped in high-class XC and AM, which can greatly reduce force leakage. This function is generally used on flat roads and upslope. If it is locked on off-road climbing roads, it will greatly reduce the controllability of the bike.

Front fork locking

5. Adjust lock protection

The locking protection function can automatically unlock the fork when fork suddenly encounters a large obstacle. It can be automatically locked on a smooth road so that the front fork will not be damaged due to a huge impact force. The critical locking point can be found through multiple times adjustments according to your riding conditions.

Intelligent locking adjustment knob

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[1] ‘Cycling Bible’ Editorial Board. Cycling Bible [M]. 1st Edition. Beijing: Machinery Industry Press, 2013.

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