Suspension Tuning for Road Bikes

I have spent a long time researching the art and technique of motorcycle suspension tuning. There are very valuable resources on the internet and in print – check out Andrew Trevitt’s book on this topic as well as Dave Moss’ valuable information (more on that later).

At the moment, my bike is in pieces being prepared for the upcoming track season – when it is reassembled I will do some video demonstrations using basic suspension (ex., SV650) and more sophisticated suspension (ex., Daytona 675 – Ohlins equipped).

Here are some very basic things you can do to get your bike tuned into a functional range which, as Mr. Moss has frequently noted, will make you and your bike safer and more confidence inspiring.

First, set your sag. If this is foreign to you – do a YouTube or google search on the subject. Dave Moss is a good keyword to include!

Next, ensure your air pressures are set properly.

Now, when focusing on suspension, this is going to be brief and non-technical. For the forks and shock, start with your Rebound adjusters and with suspension that is warm – go out for a ride to get the fluid heated to operating temperature. Suspension behaves much differently when cold.

Starting with the forks – stand to the side of the bike, rest the bike on your hip, grab the handlebars, activate the front brake and do a bounce test. Do this by using a good bit of force! Pull up on the bike’s handlebars and push down through the plane of the forks. You are looking for the number of bounces that occur after compressing the forks and allowing them to rise as freely as possible. Rebound that is set TOO FAST will result in forks that pogo. Conversely, rebound that is set TOO SLOW will result in forks that resist movement. We want “just right” which is identified by forks that return upwards and settle on the top of the first down stroke.

The shock is a different story. Again, I want to refer you to Dave Moss’ YouTube series of videos as a guide. The idea is to get rebound matched to the front of the bike so that the suspension is balanced.

Here’s a tip that I conceptualized – it involves reading your tires. This is a very basic approach – remember that much more goes into fine tuning suspension; this will get you into the ballpark. Looking at the bike from the left side – find the sipes on the edge of the tires. For example, start with the rear tire. If the leading edge of the sipe is higher than the trailing edge of the sipe, you want to turn your rebound adjuster into it, which would mean that the suspension has been TOO SLOW; you want to dial out rebound in small increments. Using this idea, the opposite is true – if the trailing edge of the sipe is higher, your rebound is TOO FAST. Now apply this reasoning to the forks.

What you will find is a bike that becomes better balanced and works front to back in unison. You avoid a pogo-ing front with a slow to react rear, for example.

Compression is another story – we can save that for later. But remember, compression can control front end dive by making the forks HARDER or SOFTER in response to being compressed.

As the multimedia component of this site is developed, I will add photos and video to illustrate these and other stories.

For now, enjoy!

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© Copyright 2013nolarocks, All rights Reserved. Written For: Motorcycle Road, Track & Trail

About nolarocks

Life long motorbike rider from New Orleans with a passion for riding sportbikes, naked (cafe) bikes, dirt bikes, mini bikes and on and on and on. Throw in some Isle of Man TT racing, short circuit racing, and the glory days of 1950s-1970s English/Irish/Manx road racing and you are getting close. I can't get enough.
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