Why suspension needs regular servicing:
Everyone wants better suspension. If they don’t... then they should. Both riding/driving comfort and good lap times for the racer come mostly from good suspension.
If you are chasing better performance, besides just being fitter, healthier and stronger, the next place to look at is your machine (in our case it could be a bike, ATV or UTV) and the way your machine is set up. Modifications to add more power are usually quite pointless if you don’t have your suspension sorted so you can apply what power you have to the ground more of the time...and good suspension is equally as important for other things like steering(chassis setup/adjustment) and braking.
Tyre choice and condition can make a big difference and is one of the easiest improvements to fit. If you have already made the appropriate tyre selection and they are near new, it is just about inarguable that getting your suspension ‘dialled’ should be your greatest priority.
If you are new to the sport and getting advice from knowledgeable people, invariably it should all be lining up more and more and always pointing at suspension.
But the picture they paint might not be getting any clearer as you hear about the never ending complexities of springs, re-valves, settings, tweaks and adjustments to get the best result.
We clearly and confidently guarantee that the best place to start is with freshly serviced suspension.
Perfect suspension does not really exist, it’s always a compromise, and you’ll never get to 100%. As soon as you get closer, the track conditions will change and you’ll need a different new tweak to be 100% on the money.
So let's call 95% as good as it gets... and for the rest of it, you’re attitude on the day or the weather will make a lot more difference.
So how do we get to 95%? That’s the point of this blog, and the question that has to be asked is ‘where are you starting from?’
The first thing you need to know, is what you’ve got, and you can’t really know that unless your suspension is “in service".
You need a baseline to start from. If your standard suspension hasn’t been serviced for a year or two, it’s even out of spec from where the manufacturer originally intended.
If you’ve already had a suspension tuner set your suspension up a season or so back and you’ve been afraid to upset that good work, then guess what?... you already have. It will be way off those initial great settings.
Fluids and suspension internals wear out over time. The drop in performance is gradual and its rarely noticeable as you go, so most of the time people will only get their suspension serviced when a seal blows and it's too late. Regular suspension servicing keeps your suspension performance above the magical 95% line, and it can save you money in the long run.
Add to that, over that time your skills might have further refined, so these new requirements and the drop in performance from the ‘wear’ your suspension has suffered have doubled up to create a far from ideal package.
Some characteristics could be wearing in the right direction as your skills grow, others definitely won’t be, and now you are being held back or learning bad habits to compensate as you try to advance on worn out suspension.
To get it right, you need to get your suspension serviced to know your clean base line for improvements. Also at that point, a good suspension tuner like QuadSquad Performance will be able to ask a few questions about your riding/driving style and include a heap of industry knowledge/experience for tweaks to address any known shortcomings in the standard equipment. From your first service all the big ticket problems are crossed out and you are left with a bunch of clickers in your hands to achieve that fully personalised custom suspension.
Your first service with a reputable tuner(such as QuadSquad Performance) should kill 4 birds with one stone;
· You’ve done a service, replaced worn parts, cleaned out the bad stuff that is accelerating wear, and got good, consistent performance back,
· You’re back to a re-established base line for the purpose of fine tuning (instead of fighting with clickers to try and tune worn out suspension),
· QuadSquad Performance have applied updates and initial setting recommendations that could include your first valving changes or even simple spring adjustments to set your ride height(ATV/UTV) or sag(bike).
· Now you have something you can have a proper opinion on, and something you, a coach or and Expert can really work with.
Then you need to ride/drive it and start turning clickers. These are only fine adjustments, but when you start maxing them out, it’s a good sign that you are requiring a valving adjustment. Testing is the best way for you to get a feel and understand what your machine is doing and how it responds to the adjustments. Dont be afraid to go ‘all in’ and ‘all out’ with the settings to help understand where you need to be(just don't force the adjusters past their stopping point) . Our strong tip is to record your initial settings and make one type of change at a time to develop your understanding on what adjustment gives what result. When testing, go to track or riding area that you know well so you can compare what the adjustments are doing and not be focused on learning the track. Also, make sure you give each change enough track time for you to notice it without being influenced by the rider or track conditions. If you find yourself going in circles or getting lost just go back to your initial baseline settings or last known “better” setting and restart the process (this is why you recorded them earlier). This is also a good idea to do once you think you’ve found a good setting. Don't be afraid if you don't feel any noticeable difference. This is common as every rider is different. If you can't feel any noticeable difference, make adjustments in bigger increments or " number of clicks" until you can. Test it back to back with the baseline so you can compare results (write it all down). If you find yourself maxed out on any particular setting and know that feels right, you have just discovered where your next valving change is required. You can ride or race it like that until your next service, but if you want the improved adjustability now, you could service early.
Each consecutive service is an opportunity for QuadSquad Performance to keep getting it better and better for you with your feedback and our ongoing testing. We constantly develop our settings through track and dyno testing so any improvements we develop along the way are naturally passed on to customers at every service. Don’t leave your next suspension service too long again though, because if you start chasing adjustments to compensate for old oil due to an out of service fork or shock, you will end up down the wrong road with poor performance and start to feel like you are turning clickers for no reason. If you feel lost and you’ve been beating up your suspension for quite a while... get a service. And of course if it used to be good, and nothing else has changed... then it should be just a simple fluid change and replace wear parts and you’ll feel back in the game with your adjusters.
Typically when a shock is way out of service the travel will feel too linear. Old fluid sort of lacks progression and has a feel of blowing through its stroke too easily(especially when hot). So maybe you are not too fat? Maybe your shock oil is just old? When a fork is out of service with old fluid and worn bushes etc it will lose its "smoothness" and you will start to feel the smaller bumps more through the handlebars. Similar in the same way a worn shock feels when it needs a service.
If the above applies and you find yourself thinking “it used to be right” then chances are you’ve ended up chasing your Compression and Rebound adjustments a lot further in. On the compressions(high and low speed if you have them)... maybe all the way in and it still blows through its stroke and bottoms too readily. If you feel this, your shock definitely needs a service.
Staying in service means adjustments make sense. Any adjustment you make should be noticeable, all relative to your base line and you start to feel like you know how to play this game.
If kept in service, chasing that elusive 100% suspension starts to make sense. And aiming at 100% from 95% is the best start you can get. Applying good riders and tuners adjustment recommendations for that last 5% will make a discernible difference on the track.
As you chase those best compromise adjustments, you might find you are at some extremes with the clickers. That’s ok, and when you know the shocks oil is all good... this is the ultimate information that QuadSquad Performance needs to give you the best setup.
For example: If you hand Quadsquad Performance a shock with the low speed compression wound all the way in, the high speed nearly all the way out, and the rebound almost all of the way in, and importantly you can honestly tell him the shock is in good nick and recently serviced... QuadSquad Performance will know very exactly what your next valving changes should be. Congratulations, you are now the perfect customer, and one who stands to benefit the most.
QuadSquad Performance will give you back a shock that should put you back in the middle of your clickers, at the dream 95% result with 5% of adjustment either way in your re-valved shock.
In suspension... that’s called perfect. Which we all really know means it’s as good as it will get and the rest is up to you and which way the wind is blowing on the day.
It’s important to see this shock tuning tip.
You got a shock back tuned 95% perfect, and with 5% adjustment up your sleeve to find the 100%. If you max out any adjustment before you return that shock for its next service... without any questions, QuadSquad Performance will be able to see exactly which direction you are chasing and your next re-valve will come back 97.5% perfect and you’ll still have 5% adjustability in your clickers to play with. It just gets closer and closer every time.
The disclaimer being that if your skill and ability has changed in the last season, you may develop a taste that requires more than a 5% change anyway. That and QuadSquad Performance will be taking into account what the quality of the oil in the shock ‘appears’ to come out like.
Although, if you give QuadSquad Performance a worn out old shock with all the clickers screwed right in... you’ve got a long way to go, but at least you’ve started the journey.
Suspension gains are greatest from this lower starting point, but jumping to the perfect result in one hit is much less likely.
The gains from servicing and valving adjustments the second time around are smaller, but also a lot more meaningful, important and accurate. At either end of the scale... you win.
Once you’re on top of shock servicing a good casual racer will probably only be looking at a service once a season. And the amazing thing is... you start to be able to feel when a service is due.
So it doesn’t matter which way you look at it, give yourself the best chance and keep your suspension in good service.