Cycling FAQs
Bike Suspension FAQs

Q. What is bike suspension?
A. Suspensions differ from bike to bike. For the casual rider, the suspension system provides increased comfort through the absorption of minor bumps. For mountain bikers,it also helps to maintain control and speed on tricky descents.

Q. What are damping adjustments?
A. The damping adjustment helps control the suspension's speed of travel or rebound. Less expensive forks simply rely on friction, and thus are not adjustable. With more expensive forks, damping adjustments are made to match the terrain. If you ride terrain that has big bumps, and ride at higher speeds, you'll want more damping. You need to slow the travel of the fork so that it doesn't bottom out, or launch you when it rebounds. If you ride terrain that has frequent, smaller bumps, you'll want less damping so the fork can travel quickly and be ready for the next impact.
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Q. How does bike suspension work?
A. There are at least two components to any good suspension system on a quality mountain bike: the "suspension" (or "spring") part, and the "damping" (or "shock absorbing") part. "Suspension" keeps the rider floating, or suspended. "Damping" slows the action of the spring, or absorbs its energy. The best suspension systems combine these two functions. The spring can literally be a metal coil spring, an elastomer spring or a chamber of air. The damping can be as simple as friction, or as complex as a piston traveling through oil. Some more expensive bike forks actually have both compression and rebound damping.

Q. How do I maintain my bike's suspension?
A. The best overall advice is to keep the suspension system clean. This applies to all forks, even the "maintenance-free" ones. For more detailed maintenance information, consult your Owner's Manual or a reputable bike shop. Today's forks are much easier to maintain than they were 10 years ago. Easy-to-change cartridges have replaced most of the "open-bath" models of the past. Also, there are more elastomer and coil-spring forks on the market, and "air" is making a comeback on some of the higher-end bikes.
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Q. What are preload adjustments?
A. With the exception of the least expensive bike forks, most have some type of "preload" adjustment. This allows you to adjust or tune the spring rate to your weight. Spring rate is how much force is required to get the spring moving. A heavier rider will require a higher preload adjustment than a lighter rider.

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