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Track vs. The Trail: How Do I Tune For That???

Stillwell Performance

More and more we see suspension jobs coming through the shop with the requirement “give me a setup that works for off road, and an occasional track day”.

Think about it-off road race series are incorporating more MX tracks than ever before, and having a bike that can handle both is increasingly important. Or, if you live in colder areas of the country like we do, the tracks might be your only option to get a mid winter ride in.

So here is a general primer for what you should do to set up your off road machine up for the MX track:

• SAG-Double check your rear sag. As always, do this before you make any adjustments. Unless the track is mostly sand, your off road sag setup should work fine. Deep sand/sand whoops favors a bit more sag (3-5mm in most cases)

• SPRING RATES-The ideal pure off road setup will run on the soft side for the track. Higher speed jump faces on an MX track tend to make off road bikes “blow through” the suspension, especially on the front end. If your bike has adjustable preload on your forks, this is an easy way to get a bit more firmness without changing springs. Dial it in (clockwise). Most bikes with this feature have an adjustment range of 1mm of preload per one complete rotation of the nut. Check your manual for specifics. If you are doing several months of track riding during the winter, it is worth it to swap fork springs for a set 1-2 steps stiffer. You can also raise your fork oil height/volume to better resist bottoming. Add oil in 10cc increments.

• CLICKERS-For MX you will want to add compression to both ends of the bike. As a baseline, start with 3-4 clicks stiffer on fork compression, and the same on your shock low- speed compression. For shock high-speed compression (if your bike has that adjustment) you will want to increase/stiffen by .25-.75 turns. This will help hold the back end of the bike up when hitting obstacles and jumps on the track. For rebound, the general rule is to slow/stiffen both ends as well. Do this by feel, if your bike is landing from jumps and giving you a “bouncing back” sensation the rebound is too fast. Go with smaller increments of adjustment, 1-2 clicks at a time until the bike feels planted when you land.

As always, take it easy when changing any suspension settings. Get a feel for what the bike is doing before playing RC out there. Have fun!

Keep It Pinned,

Alan Stillwell

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