This is one article that is going to be a little difficult o write, but I feel it has to be done. I know I am going to offend some people, but that is not my
intention. I believe I have a responsibility to help guide
riders into making the right decisions about their suspension. I don’t want anyone to have suspension problems
that may lead to them being beaten up or, in a worst-case
Over the years I have seen a lot of messed up suspension—broken parts, parts put in wrong or just sloppy
workmanship. But, as of late, I have noticed that a lot of
riders are sending me stuff that has been worked on by
another suspension shop. This isn’t unusual. Lots of riders
Jim “Bones” Bacon has tuned the suspension of
the biggest names in motocross, including Jeremy
McGrath, Ricky Carmichael, Ryan Villopoto and Adam
Cianciarulo. If you have a suspension question, send it
are suspension shoppers who jump from tuner to tuner in
search of the magic setting. I’m sure that my suspension
has ended up on some other suspension shop’s re-do list.
But, that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about
shoddy work from local suspension shops—things that are
so egregious they could cause a rider to get hurt.
Here are some examples: When taking the valving off
the end of the shock shaft or a fork piston-holder assembly,
there is some delicate grinding or machining that has to be
done to get the ends of the shafts un-peened. All manufacturers peen over the ends to make sure the nuts don’t come
loose. After aggressive grinding, there may not be enough
threads left to securely put the nut back on. On fork shafts,
sometimes a tuner needs to make a new piston holder with
more threads so that the new locknut will be fully engaged.
On the shock, it is very critical to grind or, as I do, machine
the peened-over area on the shock shaft so the nut can be
removed and still have enough threads left for a new nut to
be reinstalled after the re-valve has been done. I’m shocked
at the number of components I get in my shop that have
nuts that are barely held on by a couple of threads.
Another common problem are shocks that have been
reassembled with too much oil volume inside the shock
body. Most modern shocks have a bladder inside the reservoir that isolates the oil from the nitrogen. If there is too
much oil in the shock, the nitrogen bladder will stay in a
collapsed shape. When this happens, the collapsed bladder
cannot respond to the oil being displaced into the body
as the shock compresses. This can cause the shock to
hydraulic lock, which can rupture the shock and cause it
to break at its weakest point. It’s bad, dangerous and very
expensive if this happens.
When I take a fork or shock apart and find that questionable practices have been used by whoever worked on
it before, I get angry. I am not talking about their valving,
spring rates, oil viscosity or setup choices; it’s more about
their knowledge, experience and passion to do a good job.
I don’t like suspension shops that take shortcuts—out of
ignorance or negligence.
When picking a suspension company to send your components to, it should not be about who can do it the cheapest. It should be about who has the experience, knowledge,
concern and funding to make the necessary replacement
parts and do the job correctly. Most important, they should
take pride in their workmanship.
Think of your suspension shop in the same way that you
think of the clinic that is going to do Lasik surgery on your
eyes. Are you going to go with the doctor who can do it for
the cheapest price? Or, are you going to research the doctor’s credentials, get references from previous patients and
check his tech equipment? Trust me; not every suspension
shop is perfect or flawless, including mine. But, if the desire
and passion are there to do the best job possible, then that
is your best investment. ❏