Explaining the Adjustment Dials on Forks and Shocks


Tuning suspension remains one of the great mysteries of life to many motorcycle riders. Lack of understanding or lack of wanting to understand often leaves suspension tuning destined for the too-hard basket.

The external adjustment dials on modern motorcycle suspension are very good and a bit of experimenting and understanding of what each adjuster does can help give you the ride you desire.

Keep in mind that any given suspension setting is not going to work 100 percent, 100 percent of the time. Every different track or road condition offers different surface and every rider is different, the suspension setting is very personal, what works for me will likely not work for you.

The owner's manual of most modern bikes suggests standard setting for suspension adjustment and this is usually a great place to start dialing in your suspension. Be sure to read the manual and when you do start making adjustments, do it in small increments and always write down what you have done. Ride the bike with the new adjustment and then go back to what you started with and ride the bike again. This will give you a better feel and understanding of the adjustments you've made.

Front Fork Compression

The adjuster is screw located in the center of the top of twin chamber forks in the compression adjuster. The compression adjuster screw controls the amount of compression damping in the first part of the fork's stroke. If you feel a lot of shock through the front end of your bike when riding over small bumps , the compression adjuster may be screwed in too far, making the fork action too hard. Or, if the front has a wallowing feel or the fork dives too far through the stroke over small bumps and when braking a little, the compression setting is too soft.

Shock Compression

The compression adjustment for the rear suspension on most modern bikes is located at the top of the shock between the shock reservoir and the shock body. The small adjuster inside the nut is the low-speed compression adjuster which controls the amount of compression damping when you hit small bumps in the road. If you're riding over a lot of small bumps and you're feeling too much of the hit through the rear shock, your compression could be too hard. The shock isn't actually absorbing the bumps and is transferring the shock of the impact through the bike.

Fork Air Bleeders

On some modern twin chamber forks you will find two screw adjusters at the top of the fork. The screw located off-center is the air bleeder screw.

Normal fork action causes oil inside the fork to heat up. Fumes from the heated oil pressurize the fork, making the fork action less effective. Winding out this screw releases pressure built up inside the fork. Release the screw only when the fork is fully extended with the front wheel off the ground.

Shock Rebound

The small adjuster located at the bottom of the shock controls how quickly the shock extends back out after compressing from hitting an obstacle. If you're riding over a succession of bumps and the shock progressively feels hard after the first few bumps, the shock may not be rebounding quickly enough. Speed up the rebound damping by screwing the adjuster outward will make the rebound action faster.

Fork Rebound

Bikes with twin chamber forks have the round adjuster screw located at the bottom of the fork. This screw adjusts the rate at which the fork extends back out after being compressed. Make adjustments to this screw if you feel the fork is packing down and not responding quickly enough after compressing or if the fork is rebounding too quickly after compression.

High-Speed Compression

The outer adjuster on at the top of the shock controls the high-speed compression damping. This adjuster affects the rate of compression damping on bigger bumps and hits when you're generally riding faster and harder.
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