Maintenance, and in particular ensuring your bike is set up in the optimum way for you, is a key part of safe and comfortable riding. Here our special correspondent gives some insights on the mysteries of suspension.
Maintaining the suspension on a bike is vital. The big problem is that we riders aren't as clever as the people who designed the bikes we own. Many have multi-changeable suspension settings with either a single or pair of shock absorbers. You wouldn't necessarily expect that a previously owned bike would be correctly, or even adequately set up, but you might expect the bike you've bought new should be pretty close to the optimum.
Sadly this is not so and it might be said that the majority of the dealers have no interest in assisting you, so let's talk basics to understand how you can have more of an understanding about what is between your bike and the wheels.
The settings on the front fork legs and the settings at the rear should be balanced. There will be a variation depending on the weight of the rider (and passenger) and their style of riding.
These control how quickly the suspension compresses on uneven road surfaces
These control how quickly the suspension returns after being compressed and can affect the handling of the bike when taking corners and travelling over uneven road surfaces
These control how much of the suspension's maximum travel is used
It's a complicated and dark art to get right as it is very complex. If you are unsure what settings you require you can refer to the manufacturer's guidelines for your bike, or spend a little money and visit a professional who take time and set the bike up for you.
While on the subject of suspension it would be good to mention understeer and sliding or oversteering. If your bike is not able to track a planned line through a bend or is wallowing around a corner it might be running wide - referred to as understeer. The cause is most likely due to overly soft suspension.
If you find your bike is oversteering or sliding when you ride this could be due to:
By the way, if the tyre is under-inflated it overheats and fails, so do make sure the tyres are maintained at the correct pressure and check the pressure frequently. Also keep the dust cap on the valve stem. If the valve fails the cap prevents a massive loss of air and rapid deflation of a tyre.
If your bike has a chain this should be kept lubricated and the chain tensioner adjusted, per the guidelines of the manufacturer.
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