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Chapter IX: Mastering the Front Suspension



I was ready to give in and trust a local suspension guru with this.  Experience with tuning suspension goes beyond repair.  A specialist, with special tools, has their place.  That is why I sent my top-end to Eric Gorr for corrective work. 

Even simple suspension stuff can be difficult to coordinate…ever try to measure race sag on a bike without two other people, or a hugely expensive, computerized tool?  I’ve never re-valved and tuned suspension like this on my own.  However, I have rebuilt and re-sprung single-chamber, cartridge-style USD forks with no issues.  Would I go it on my own or trust a professional?

The flip-side was wanting to know this bike better and wishing to learn the skills related to suspension work.  This was a golden opportunity to take on the challenge.  Intimidation may be more of a hindrance than anything, and I’ve chided others for being fearful of learning.  Hmmmm….

In this case, what it came down to was price and time.  I’d need to pay for parts regardless of who does the work.  Could I buy tools and learn to get a good result in a shorter period and less cash than what I’d get taking ancient, damaged suspension to a local tuner who does this for a living?  Am I likely to break or botch something that will cost me more time and money than going with a pro?  Will the improvement I can make be good enough for me as a non-racer?  How much money do I really have to do this, regardless of the benefit a pro would bring?

This took a quote from the suspension shop here in town.  The baseline was $1000 before they even looked at it.  On my own, being frugal on eBay, all the required parts for the front and rear, including oils, came in at about $750 for rebuilding, re-springing and re-valving both ends of the bike.

I thought I would start with a first-stage partial fix.  The back got a rear shock spring, but with no rebuild.  The front needed all the attention and budget, so it got a bushing kit, seals, springs, a Gold Valve kit and fresh oil.

What was the big barrier?  Fear.  Was it warranted?  Absolutely not.  I learned how things worked by following instructions provided by RaceTech to the letter.  The hardest part was sanding down two pieces of PCV to get 4mm preload spacers in the proper size for both forks.  The valving just took patience and the right tools.  Yes, old oil is messy, and filling/bleeding new oil can be almost as bad if one is not careful and methodical.  However, I have a far better understanding of what is going on with the mechanics of this system now, and I’m glad I took on the work…even if the result ends up being a few percentage-points below what a pro tuner could have given me.

So, both ends went back together and immediately felt smoother and far more balanced with the “bounce test.”  The fork experience made me eager for the time that I can take on rebuilding the shock myself.


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