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Axle travel vs cushion stroke, '09 CRF450 spring rate

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Returning rider here, just got a new 09 CRF450R, have ridden about 2 hrs, and I'm at the point of starting to tweak the suspension. I put a zip tie on the fork tube to see how much travel I was using, and it measured right around 10.7 in from fully extended. I think I was bottoming slightly since I seem to recall a slight "tink" sound after some jumps, but since I'm new to the bike it's hard to distinguish that from other sounds (like cable slap against the front plate, chain slap, etc). I notice in the service manaual it says something like "axle travel" was 10.7 in, and "cushion stroke" was like 12.3 in. (in ballpark numbers, I'm at work with no access to the manual at the moment). What's the difference? I'd like to confirm if I was actually bottoming or not. I noticed the zip tie wasn't pressed all the way against the axle block, was about 2 in. north of that.

After that what I want to determine is, if I am bottoming, would I be better off dialing in more compression damping or getting a stiffer spring? I'm 170 w/o gear, and it has the stock .46 fork spring. I'm aware of the complaints about the '09 CRF450R having way too soft forks, I just want to make my own determination rather that swapping springs just "because some magazine guy said so". I don't notice the stinkbug feeling with the bike, but then again I don't have a frame of reference either (been out of dirt bikes for about 20 yrs, been doing roadracing).

FYI mx for me is for fun. I've no intention of racing mx, just want to ride some tracks and have fun.

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I'm not familiar with the term, but my guess is that what they're referring to is the hydraulic stop at the end of the fork stroke. The last inch or so would be the "cusion" by way of a hydraulic stop.

At your weight, the stock spring should be fine, but the '09/'10 CRF450 has too much forward weight bias, and therefore the fork spring feels soft. We generally recommend going up one additional rate on the fork spring than what would be considered "normal" (this bike only, at this time).

However, having said that, if you have the proper springs for your weight and are bottoming your suspension it's because you're over-powering the damping, not the spring. In other words, the spring is there to hold you and the bike up at the proper ride height. The damping controls the speed that the fork moves.

Now, the external adjusters on your fork and shock only control the lower speeds that your suspension moves. It's very easy to make the suspension move faster than these adjusters can compensate for. Therefore, hard bottoming - let's just say you land off a jump into a hole that was made by everyone else hitting the same spot - is most likely also a "high-speed" bottom. Your compression adjuster cannot control that type of oil flow. You can try to control it by turning your adjuster in (firmer/slower), but then the suspension would feel harsh on other parts of the track. Only through a revalve can you make the required adjustments to control that type of action, but still allow the bike to be rideable on other, less demanding parts of the track.

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