Setting up suspension sounds like a daunting task for most - however it is not as complicated as some may think. Touching your adjustments will not cause your bike to explode, and you’ll quite likely find that riding on the extremes of adjustment (e.g. fully open or closed) may be quite uncomfortable or feel sketchy, but as long as you’re mindful not to take crazy risks while setting up your bike (e.g. don’t go hitting huge jumps before you’re confident in the setup!), making adjustments does not need to be dangerous in any way.
If you don’t try to figure it out yourself, you don’t learn. If you don’t learn, things will never change. So if you’re interested in dialing your setup we recommend that you try bracketing.
Tuning your suspension is challenging, especially when you’re going off ‘ride feel’ alone. Note that this way of suspension tuning is useful for riders who have a good feel for the behaviors of their bike. It can be difficult for many riders to articulate what they feel from the suspension alone. If you find yourself feeling like your bike doesn’t quite work how you’d like it to, but you don’t really know why, bracketing is a good approach.
Bracketing allows you to narrow in to your preferred settings without really needing to know much other than a vague sense of “better”, “worse” or “no different”. You don’t have to start at 0, but riding on the extremes a little bit will allow you to get an idea of what the range and capabilities of the suspension adjustments are, and give you a good idea on how the adjustments affect how your suspension feels.
The principle of bracketing is that you start by trying the two extremes of the adjustment range, then adjust to a setting that’s roughly halfway between the two. Determine which of the three you preferred the LEAST, and then adjust halfway between the other two “better” settings. Repeat that process, splitting the difference between the two settings you liked the most.
Here is an example of how bracketing works, on a rebound adjuster with 10 clicks of adjustment. The clicks are measured as a negative number from fully closed/fully slow:
"Run 1 and/or 2"
There are a few things to know before you start:
- Don’t bother doing this on suspension that is in poor condition (i.e. hasn’t been serviced recently, or isn’t even in full working condition). It assumes your gear is working properly.
- Only change one thing at a time. This is critical.
- Know how many clicks you have in total. Count clicks from fully closed.
- Write down each change along with the result overall.
- Do repeated laps on a trail or segment of trail that you are familiar with. Bike parks are great for this, but don’t do laps that are too long or fatigue will make a bigger difference than suspension settings.
Rebound - what to feel for:
If rebound damping is too open (i.e. too fast) the suspension will extend too fast and feel bouncy and uncontrolled - like the bike is “pushing back” at you. If the rebound damping is too closed (i.e. too slow) the suspension will not recover fast enough after repeated impacts and ‘pack down’, sinking ever lower into its travel and performing poorly because the wheel is leaving the ground more often than it has to. This often feels harsh and dead, and can feel similar to excessive low speed compression damping.
Low Speed Compression - what to feel for:
If low speed compression damping is too low (open) the suspension may feel unsupportive and divey. People often describe this as feeling “loose”.
If low speed compression damping is too high (+) it may feel harsh and dead. Compression preference is a matter of comfort.
Note: not all compression adjusters make any significant difference, especially for heavier riders. Many of them, even on some very high-end forks, have such a limited range that you may not notice any difference on the trail at all.
High Speed Compression - what to feel for:
Focus on how the bike feels under high-speed impacts, like landing jumps or big obstacles at high speed. Too much high speed damping is actually quite rare (especially in forks, despite what you may read on the internet), but can begin to limit travel usage and cause a sensation of harshness over sharp edges.
Read more -