suspension change. The MXA wrecking crew goes to the
extent of writing suspension setup numbers on the
fenders so they are easily referred to.
Trickery. Even the best testers in the
world get tricked into feeling something that
isn’t caused by the obvious culprit. Most com-
monly, forks that feel too stiff are often too
soft. They feel stiff because they are hanging down into
the harshest part of the stroke. Attempts to make them
softer will only make them worse. Instead, going
in on the compression will bring the ride height up to
the plusher part of the stroke.
Fork height. Fork height is your friend.
It changes the weight bias. It changes the
frame geometry. It can decrease headshake or
increase turning prowess. When you slide the
fork legs up in the clamps, you achieve three things:
(a) You steepen the head angle for quicker turning. (b)
You put more weight on the front wheel to soften the
forks. (c) You lower the chassis and shorten the
wheelbase for quicker handling. It’s amazing how a few
millimeters can make so much of a difference.
High-speed compression. A lot of
people tend to stay away from the high-
speed compression adjuster due to lack
of knowledge about what it does. It isn’t
called “high-speed” because it has anything to do with
how fast the bike is traveling; it has to do with how fast
the shock shaft is moving. If your bike reacts poorly to
G-outs or square-edged bumps, turn the high-speed dial in
a quarter turn. This will increase the damping and slightly
raise the rear of the bike once in motion. If the bike feels
harsh on G-outs, turn the high-speed dial out to soften the
compression and lower the rear slightly. ❏
The MXA way. Every new model year
the MXA test riders spend months trying
every feasible suspension combination. We
go all the way soft. We go all the way stiff.
We lower the oil height. We raise the oil height. We go
to extremes to get the most out of the stock suspension
components. Our goal is to help consumers find a good
starting point. Now, with the new breed of complicated
Showa SFF TAC Air forks on the market, the need for
workable air pressures is even more critical. We know
that our recommended settings aren’t perfect for every
rider—because they aren’t perfect for every MXA test
rider. But, they will get you in the ballpark. The rest is
up to you.
Balance. If the front and rear suspension
aren’t working in unity, the bike will never
function correctly. If your bike has a
stinkbug feel or is unstable at speed, you
can lower sag, slide the forks down in the clamps or less-
en the high-speed compression. If your bike feels like a
chopper or is having issues turning, do the opposite. An
old trick to see if you’re in the ballpark (but it only works
with spring forks) is to take the bike off the stand, put
your foot on one of the pegs and press down. Both ends
of the bike should move down equally. If one side goes
down significantly more than the other, you have
Feel. When testing your suspension, pay
attention to the areas on the track where a
setting performs well and where it falters.
Your goal is to have very good suspension
performance around the whole track—not great
suspension on one specific portion.
Spring rate. Manufacturers select their
spring rates to work with a wide variety of
weights, speeds and skill levels. So, if you’re
a light rider on a 450 or a heavy rider on a
250, then the correct spring rates for your weight and
riding level are on a shelf somewhere.
Sag. Rider sag should be the first thing
you check before hitting the track. Just a
few millimeters can make a big difference.
Typically, most big bikes work well between
100mm and 105mm. We don’t go below 105mm, although
there are riders who do. Why don’t we? Once the sag
exceeds 110mm, the effect on the frame’s geometry drifts
toward the weird side of the equation. Too much sag
may solve one problem but it creates others.
Oil level. Adding oil to your forks reduces
the air volume. Since the compression of the
airspace is gradual, lessening the airspace
will make the forks feel stiffer from mid-
stroke on. Logically, if adding oil makes your forks feel
stiffer, taking oil out of your forks will make them softer.
MXA tends to remove 10cc of oil whenever a fork feels
harsh in the middle—and we keep lowering the oil height
until we have a bottoming issue.
Butterfly effect. Any changes made to the
suspension settings will have unexpected
effects on other parts of the bike. Changes to
the rear will affect the front and vice versa.
The auxiliary effects can become very confusing. So confusing that often a shock problem is really a fork issue
and vice versa. We recommend keeping notes on every
ABOUT DIALING IN YOUR SUSPENSION