Front Fork Suspension - The Best Tips for Keeping Your Suspension Fork Running Smooth All Season
Then front suspension fork, a staple of mountain bike pioneering. Hardtail mountain bikes and full suspension bikes owe a huge part of their capabilities to the front suspension forks featured on this type of bicycle. Suspension forks have come light years from their release in the decades ago, with a focus on higher performance, longer life, and lower weight. While these modern marvels of mountain biking are made of many parts and pieces, the two main components responsible for this invention's success are the spring and damper.
The spring allows the suspension to move up when the wheel engages with bumps or obstacles, and in turn allows the quick downward movement after the wheel passes the obstacle. The design of the spring has evolved from a steel coil to an empty chamber filled with pressurized air, both designs are still used today and have their benefits in specific riding applications. The ability of the spring to compress, but not bottom out is what determines what style of riding a specific fork design is suited for. You don't want a coil or air shock bottoming out when you land after a big air.
The Damper is what regulates the spring, and keeps it from bouncing up and down continuously after impact. When the spring is compressed, the entire suspension system must dissipate that energy and the damper is the component that achieves this feat, as well as allows for finer tuning of most forks. Most dampers are filled with oil similar to the design of a car suspension system. The shock absorber compressed, in this moment a piston forces oil to pass through a small hole which requires a lot of force. Energy is pushed through this small hole, causing the oil to heat up. This also dissipates energy and applies resistance to the shock compression. The faster you compress the shock while riding, the more oil has to be pushed through that small hole, creating pressure. This is what creates stiffness in the front fork. A balance between the spring compression and the dampening is the ultimate goal, and this balance is different for each rider and riding style. Air springs are typically more adjustable that coil, however coil has benefits such as heat dissipation that still make it a viable choice for a lot of extreme athletes and average joes.
Now that we have a better idea of what goes into the design and performance of a front suspension fork, what can we do to keep our suspension fork running at its best? Maintenance, maintenance, maintenance! Suspension manufacturers have a recommended service schedule for all of their products, and highly recommend adhering to this schedule if you want your suspension to feel plush and last a long time. If you've ever hopped on an old bike and felt the suspension fork feel sticky or sluggish, the fork is most likely overdue for service. From wiping down your stanchions with a microfiber towel, to replacing the seals there is a lot that can be done to help keep your fork operating in optimal condition. Ultimately a fork deserves a full break town of the damper and air spring assembly, when exactly depends on the service interval determined by the manufacturer.
Fox recommends a minimum suspension fork service after 125 hours of riding, or once a year, whichever comes first. While this is their minimum recommendation, many riders prefer to service the front fork twice a year as this practice provides a better performing fork and a longer overall life. As with any recommended service one should take into account all factors playing into the wear and tear on your front fork. Riding terrain that is heavy in dust, mud, or debris will increase the opportunity for debris to enter your fork internals and contaminating your oil. If you put your front fork through a lot of abuse, do it a favor and service it more often to ensure it has your back when the trail gets rough, for years to come.
Fox recommends that the minimum suspension fork and shock service is every 125 hours of use, yearly, or whichever comes first. That is certainly on the longer side of things. The more frequently you service your suspension, the better the fork will perform for longer.
RockShox recommends servicing your suspension fork more often than their competitor, in general every 50 hours of ride time. Changing the oil, cleaning or replacing seals, and replacing foam rings are the common practices for a lower leg service. Sticking to a maintenance schedule will keep your fork running smoothly and make your rides more enjoyable.
Bicycle Warehouse Tech Center
Our mission at the Bike Tech Center (aka: Service Dept) is to always return your bike to 100% so you can have an awesome ride, every ride.
We created a one of a kind service center that ensures we deliver top quality work, guaranteed. We brought together all of our tech’s into one central location allowing us to train cohesively, stay current on all new developments, and we've never been more efficient. We have a 3 layered QC (Quality Check) process to ensure we get it done right the first time. We'd love to have the opportunity to wrench on your bike.
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