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Tuning ?

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For me trying to describe it is like trying to describe the feeling of hitting a baseball out of the park or a sweet 300 yard drive (no, I've not done either, but I've tried both enough to know the 'feel' of a good hit). Or the perfect sequence of carved turns down an icy face...this I've done numerous times.

I know when I've got my suspenders are tuned just right for the conditions, and my condition, cause I grin from ear to ear while linking perfect turns on the trail.

...when the bike tracks very well, and the rocks and other hits don't hurt nor disturb the front or rear end nor the direction of travel. When you are able to effortlessly climb the steep hiills that require you to pop over a 2-3 ft. lip part way up...and continue on without disturbing the 'flow'.

That's how I know.

Problem is the conditions change frequently, and my condition (mental) changes from day to day...so I guess suspension is all about compromise.

I wish you well in your quest. Talk to others, find a great tuner, and/or learn all you can here and tune it yourself.

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For offroad riding. How do you know if your suspension is dialed in correctly?

The simplest question turns out to be the most complicated. Good job at keeping it simple and to the point.

The bottom line is that the average guy can't obtain an optimal setting, you can only assume or guess at what it may be. Actually, even with some sophisticated equipment you still have to make some assumptions or deal with settings that may not be ideal. I mean...winning or losing often comes down to fractions of a second saved per corner or bump, and that difference may mean the slightest change to a set-up.

With that aside, there are a bag of simple tricks that you can do.

The first thing is to go out and ride the bike and figure out what feels right or wrong, note it, then try to figure out what is causing the problem. For example, if the front end pushes or rides high you may be able to correct this by moving the forks in the clamps or adjusting front or rear spring rates or pre-load.

Other tricks include putting a zip tie on the fork or shock and running the bike over a set of bumps. Even better is to do this at various speeds, noting how much movement you get from the suspension during each run. For example, if you hit a bump that is 3 inches in height at 10 mph and see three inches of movement, you're doing okay. A bit soft, but okay. If at 40MPH the movement is 6 inches, you have some problems and might consider adding in some more compression damping. This is a simple test that will begin to illustrate the matter of compromise, (what works at 10MPH may not work so well at 40MPH and vice-versa).

Another test is to set up a digital video camera, via a tripod, at an area in which you can capture you and the bike riding over a collection of bumps, or perhaps taking a particular corner, as long as you can note the contact between the ground and tire and see most of the suspension.

From this, you can look at the amount of movement at the axle, at the handlebar, and the distance traveled by the tire before it decides to return to earth. Do this frame by frame. Again, if you hit a three-inch bump and the fork moves 6 inches and the bar lifts 2 inches, and the tire is off the ground for the next 12 inches of dirt, you have serious problems.

Of course, the bottom line is to find the path of least resistance. This is usually the shortest point from A to B, meaning that the greatest amount of speed and often control is when the tire is not following the exact line of the ground. This is a good principle for bumps and whoops, but not the best when it comes to corners. I mean...you'll want to skip over some stuff and stick to the ground when doing other things. Compromise, compromise, comprise.

And with that, nothing tells the truth like a stop watch and the pain in your hands after a few hot laps.

Beyond this, you would need some more sophisticated equipment.

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