Typically when we get a new dirt bike, it's so easy to start browsing online and find all the bolt on parts you can get your hands on. Some of the first things people want to do to their dirt bike is get a new pipe & silencer, some new bars, levers, graphics, and of course....you gotta have some BLING! If you've got the cash, knock yourself out, but many people overlook a VERY IMPORTANT component when setting up their new dirt bike...
Suspension has to be one of the most overlooked components by newer riders. Yet, it's arguably one of the most important. Especially when you're trying to get comfortable on a dirt bike that's new to you. I know a lot of riders, myself included, who have bought new dirt bikes and just gone out and ridden them without setting up any of the suspension components at all. While there is of course nothing wrong with going out and breaking in your new machine without touching the clickers, it's something you're going to want to consider sooner rather than later. Even if you don't have the suspension re-valved or re-sprung right away (depending on your weight, you might choose not to), there's a couple things you're going to want to set up before you hit the track for the first time.
SET THE SAG
One thing you will want to do is set up the sag on the bike. There are two measurements you're going to want to take. #1) is the static sag, also called free sag, which measures the amount the suspension compresses under the bike's own weight. #2) is the race sag, also called rider sag, which measures the amount the suspension compresses with the rider on the bike in full gear.
If these measurements are off, it can definitely cause some handling issues for the rider. You can use a manual sag scale or a traditional measuring tape, but you can make this process super easy by using Motool's Slacker Digital Sag Scale.
I personally am no math wizard, so I love the Slacker tool. I can do the measurements by myself and the device takes out all the guess work.
To adjust the sag, you'll need to adjust the spring tension on the rear shock. You can do this with the proper Spanner Wrench or with a punch and a hammer. I would not recommend using a screw driver, as it can really chew up the shock nut.
SETTING AIR FORK PRESSURES
If your bike is equipped with air forks, you'll need to set up the air pressures BEFORE you head out on the track. It's important to check them often throughout your practice sessions (usually when you get back to the pits) and definitely in between motos if you're racing. Air fork settings can change depending on the rider, weather, and track conditions. One of the best things about air forks is you can adjust the spring rate just by using different air pressures. One of the worst things about air forks, the spring rate adjusts with air pressures! So be sure to check them, because you want the bike to handle the same every time. I've had mine fluctuate as much as 10 psi on warm days in between motos.
When setting up air pressures, the Works Connection no loss air adapter is a great tool to add to your track box. It takes the guesswork out of air pressure adjustments and gives you the confidence of knowing your pressures are set correctly.
ADJUSTING CLICKERS ON SUSPENSION
After you've got the sag set up and the air pressures right (if applicable), it's time to head out on the track and see how the dirt bike feels. Pay close attention to how the bike's suspension performs over bumps, through turns and over jumps. Are you bottoming out? Is it just too stiff? Does the bike want to stand up in the corners? All of these issues can be caused by poor suspension settings.
If you find you're having these issues, start adjusting your clickers on your forks and your rear shock. Always start with the stock settings and adjust from there. Make small adjustments, only one or two clicks at a time. And only adjust either the shock or the forks and then test it. If you adjust both at the same time and the issues get worse, it may be harder to track which adjustment caused the problem. Keep track of the adjustments you've made, by either writing them down or using an app on your phone.
HAVING YOUR SUSPENSION DONE PROFESSIONALLY
This is hands down what I recommend as the ultimate solution to suspension issues. Have your suspension re-valved and re-sprung for your weight and riding style. Have someone reputable do the work. AireMX is who does my suspension, but there are numerous companies out there that have a good reputation in the industry. Here are my top 3:
Having your suspension set up just for you is going to make all the difference in the world when it comes to being comfortable on your bike and riding to your full potential. It's my number one recommendation for initial mods to your dirt bike.
So if you want all the bling and cool accessories first, by all means, knock yourself out. Just don't forget about your SUSPENSION!!
Check out the infographic below for an easy guide to suspension. This infographic is provided by www.motocrossgear.com using the following sources: Dirt Bike Tips and Pics, Transworld Motocross, 4strokes.com
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