If you’re one of those riders who likes to ride a little motocross and a little Supercross, or engage in moto- cross play racing and desert riding, then hopefully
you’re willing to sacrifice some suspension performance.
Using your motocross setup for the desert is like taking
the big four-wheel-drive Jeep that you use for offroading
and entering a rally with it. You can do it, but you would
be better off with a Subaru WRX.
People ask me all the time to just set their suspension
up somewhere between the two types of riding they
like to do. I have to explain that if I do that, they won’t
have the best performance for either type of riding. The
suspension will be too soft for motocross and too stiff for
offroad. If you’re a rider who likes to spin laps on the local
Supercross-style track one day and then take your bike
to an outdoor track the next day, you risk getting hurt
because of the bad setup on one track or the other. An
in-between setting will be too soft for Supercross, even if
you do every jump perfectly—and who’s perfect anyway?
The first time you make a mistake in the whoops and drop
the front end, you are going over the bars. Even worse,
if you over-jump the big triple jump only to find out that
there’s not enough compression damping to keep the suspension from crushing through its stroke, your ankles and
wrists are not going to be happy.
Conversely, if you take this in-between setting to a high-speed motocross track, the bike won’t soak up the chop
and braking bumps like it should. Eventually, your arms
will pump up and feel like baseball bats, making it hard
to hang on.
What’s the solution? The best solution, if you can afford
it, is to have two bikes. That will give you the luxury of a
plush offroad setting and a stiffer motocross setting without having to compromise. And, the compromises are not
just in the suspension settings but with the tires, air pressure, gearing, wheelbase, engine spec and other elements.
The second solution is to get another set of suspension
and just swap it out whenever you go to different tracks
or riding areas. This isn’t as expensive as it sounds if you
buy used parts from riders who have upgraded to new
The third and the most common solution is to set up
the suspension for the type of riding you do the most.
This way, you will at least be happy with your bike for
one type of riding. Then, when you take your bike out to
do something else, you will be aware of the sacrifices you
made in performance. I must caution you, however, that
when you’re out having fun, it is easy to forget that your
suspension is going to be way too stiff or way too soft for
the obstacle ahead. Don’t worry too much, though, because
when you’re into a major swap and your life is flashing
before your eyes, you will suddenly remember, “Oh yeah, I
was supposed to be taking it easy out here.”
Our Pro Circuit team riders are as guilty of this as any-
one. We often do Supercross testing at our private track
at Glen Helen at the same time that the National track is
open for practice. Before we know it, one of our riders will
go missing, and we’ll find him out on the National track
doing laps with the locals. The rider usually comes back
right away saying what a bad idea it was.
The moral of this story is, don’t enter your mom’s Camry
in the Baja 1000; take your dad’s F150 instead. ❏
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
DEALING WITH COMBO SETTINGS