Suspension Maintenance - What, Why & How Often?
How often does your suspension really need servicing?
Unfortunately there's no simple answer because there are a lot of differences in riding conditions and how abusive your terrain (and rider) are! Regardless, we're going to try to simplify this in a helpful manner.
Performance deteriorates, dirt gets in and stuff just wears out. But on the flip side, nobody wants to spend a ton of time and money doing more maintenance than is necessary.
How Often Should I Service My Fork & Shock?
Manufacturers such as Fox and Rockshox typically recommend 100-200hrs between full services for rear shocks. But how long is that, really?
Let's take a look. We'll use the upper limits because nobody wants to do more maintenance than they have to, and we aren't here to tell you your 3 week old shock needs a service (unless maybe it's done 21 straight 10hr days in the bike park... then it might!).
Coil Shock Servicing
If, throughout the year, you average a ride once a week for about 3 hours, that 200hr upper limit means once every 15 months or so. For most coil shocks under most riders, that's usually realistic.
Air shocks tend to get aerated in a shorter time frame than that - that's the squelchy noise you hear after a while. Maybe you ride for 8-10hrs a week - then we're looking at more like every 5 months.
Rear Shock Service Intervals
|Hours Riding Per Week||Months To 100 Hours (Lower Limit)||Months To 200 Hours (Upper Limit)||Suggestion|
|3||7.7||15.4||Service Once Per Year|
|8||2.9||5.8||Service 2-3 Times Per Year|
|20||1.2||2.3||Service Every 2 Months|
Most people work well on an annual servicing schedule, but if you ride a lot, you may benefit more from having your shock fully serviced twice a year. Sometimes we hear "That's excessive, my car can go 5000km between oil changes" - this actually only works out to about 125 hrs at an average travel speed of 40km/h, and a lot less if you do a lot of highway driving.
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Air Can Servicing - Additional Requirement
Air can services should ideally be done at least once between major services on rear shocks too - on most Fox and Rockshox air shocks where the air can simply unthreads from the eyelet (not the Float X2, Vivid Air or any Cane Creek shocks, unfortunately air sleeve services are not so simple on these), this is simple and easy to do yourself without special tools.
This lets you keep contaminants out of the air spring, which in turn means you don't score the sealing surfaces and compromise the shock. It also means your seals stay clean and lubricated, so they hold air better and move a lot more freely.
Suspension Fork Servicing
Forks are a bit more intensive - the service intervals for the lower legs should be relatively short at around 50-75hrs between services. This might sound way too often - keep reading!
It varies from fork to fork but usually dampers and spring systems don't necessarily need attention in this time frame. Also, your wiper seals may well last longer than that so they may not need replacement every time the lowers are done.
Most of the time, cleaning the lowers and seals out, re-lubricating the seals and replacing the oil in the lowers is sufficient to prolong the life and performance of your fork.
Servicing your fork lower legs is relatively simple to do yourself with minimal tooling and only a little bit of knowledge required. We highly recommend that any serious mountain biker learn to do this. The benefits include:
- Saving you money.
- Keeping your bike feeling nice.
- Protecting the most expensive parts of your suspension (CSU's*) from wearing out.
* Crown/steerer/uppertube units aren't cheap, and the most common cause of wear on them is dirt in the seals and bushings.
We generally recommend fork lowers be serviced twice between more comprehensive full services. By full service, we mean replacement of wiper seals and service of the damper and spring systems as well as the lowers. Fork lowers services are generally not too difficult - they're worth learning how to do yourself. Just be careful, read the instructions carefully and avoid being heavy-handed, and it will usually go smoothly.
Fork Lowers Service Intervals (Can Be Completed At Home)
|Hours Riding Per Week||Months To 50 Hours (Lower Limit)||Months To 75 Hours (Upper Limit)||Suggestion|
|3||3.8||5.8||Service 2-3 Times Per Year|
|8||1.4||2.2||Service Every 2 Months|
Service Every 2 Weeks
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This works out to 50-75hrs between lowers services and 150-200hrs between damper/spring services. This way, you can get the most out of your fork at a minimum of cost. Drop us a line and we can point you in the right direction for the service manuals and supplies you'll need for your specific fork.
Fork Damper/Spring Service Intervals*
|Hours Riding Per Week||Months To 150 Hours (Lower Limit)||Months To 200 Hours (Upper Limit)||Suggestion|
|3||11.5||15.4||Service Once Per Year|
|8||4.3||5.8||Service 2-3 Times Per Year|
|20||1.7||2.3||Service Every 2 Months|
*assumes you do a lowers service at home every 50-75hrs.
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One Simple Trick
The single best thing you can do for suspension longevity?
Never point a hose anywhere near your seals.
Each time you do, you may effectively bring your next service about 25 hours closer. Yes, it's really that bad.
Ideally, don't use a hose to wash your bike at all, but given the difficulty of that, keep the pressure super low - a trickle of water ideally - and wipe the seals down with shop towel.
Applying a dirt-extractor to the stanchions, like WPL's ForkBoost, also helps draw oil out of the stanchion/seal seam which means you can wipe it off rather than have it eventually get drawn through the seals into a place where it can do damage.
When Should I Service My Suspension?
If your suspension needs servicing, don't delay. Regular servicing prevents damage to the most expensive components in forks and shocks. We suggest learning how to do lowers services at home but sometimes this is not practical due to constraints of time and space. For professional servicing, you can find more information and book here.
From late winter, through spring and summer we can be extremely busy with servicing work - often fully booked weeks in advance. Take advantage of the quieter periods and book your forks and shocks in for service during fall and winter so that water, dirt and corrosion doesn't damage your equipment.
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