How to Dial in Motocross Suspension

January 11, 2021

How to Dial in Motocross Suspension

Like many other riders, I am always searching for a way to give myself an edge every time I take to the track. Because of this, I wanted to optimize my suspension. But how do you dial in motocross suspension? 

There are a few ways that you can make sure that your suspension has been set-up properly. First, you’ll need to adjust it to your weight, by setting the sag. Then, you’ll need to set the damping. This controls how active the shocks are. 

A key part of preparing for a race is getting the correct suspension settings on your bike. There are plenty of tips that you can use to make sure that your bike is well-set up. Let’s look at some of the most important things that you need to know.



 

num 47 ktm multitool usa motocross sponsored dirt bike sitting on an ATS stand by Risk Racing

How to Adjust Dirt Bike Suspension to Your Weight?

One of the first things that you need to test is the way that the bike handles your weight. Often, this is known as the sag. This is the amount that the bike lowers when you are riding on it. 

The first step to this adjustment is measuring the sag. The best time to do this is before the race. To do this, you’ll first need to put the bike on a stand. This takes the pressure off the wheels. It will also make it easier to perform any changes. This adjustable top stand is designed to suit all types of motocross bikes. 

Once it’s on the stand, you’ll need to measure from the axle to a fixed point of the fender. Remember where you are taking the measurements from. It’s also important to use a good pit mat, so you know that the ground is even. Write down this measurement, so you don’t forget. 

Then, put your motocross gear on. Once you’ve done this, remove the bike from the stand. Bounce the bike, this loosens the suspension. Then sit down in the position that you usually ride. Get a friend to measure that gap between the axle and the fender. Make sure that you’re recording from the same point as you were last time.  

num 841 red honda dirt bike sitting on an ATS stand and pit mat by Risk Racing red motovan in the background

Calculate the difference between when the bike was on the stand and when you were standing on it. This is your sag. The acceptable range will often vary slightly, depending on what you are using the bike for. However, in most models, it will be between 95 to 155mm. Personally, I like mine sitting at 105mm. This is based on my own experience and how I like the bike feeling.

To adjust your sag, you’ll need to loosen the lock ring. Then, you’ll need to adjust the spring preload ring. When you turn it clockwise, you’ll be reducing the amount of sag you are experiencing. Each turn will reduce the sag by about 3mm. 

Once you’ve finished adjusting the sag, measure it again. This will allow you to fine-tune the sag. The sag on the front and back of the bike should be roughly the same. If not, it can lead to handling issues.

 

num 94 getting his suspension dialed in by two helpers in the mx pits

How do you Check Free Sag? 

It’s also important that you are checking the free sag of the bike. This is the amount of weight that the bike is putting on the suspension. Once you’ve set the sag to the right level for your weight, lift the bike off the ground by the fender. 


How far you can lift the bike before the wheel lifts off the ground is known as free sag. Ideally, it should be between 30 to 40mm. If you have too much, the shock spring is too stiff. Not enough and it's too soft. This could be a sign that the shocks need to be adjusted or replaced. 




 

How do you Adjust Damping on a Dirt Bike? 

One of the most important aspects to consider when tuning your suspension is damping. This is how the shocks will respond to changes in the surface. When you go over a bump, the damping controls how quickly the shocks will spring back. To make sure that the damping has been set correctly, there are a few things that you need to know. 

 What Type of Damping is Best for Dirt Bikes? 

The type of damping that you want to use will often depend on the way that you want to use the bike. For example, if you want to ride along a gentle track, you will probably want slower shocks. Often, there won’t be any big rocks or unexpected dips. Because of this, slow shocks will give you a smoother ride. 

However, if you are riding over rocky ground, you’ll need to have high-speed dampening. This will make it easier to get over these rough obstacles. This often means that motocross riders will want to have faster shocks. 

The best way to test out the damping is by riding around your chosen track. When doing this, make sure that your bike is on the recommended settings. This will give you a good idea of how the bike is performing. Once you know this, you’ll be able to start making adjustments to improve the ride quality. 

num 330 motocross bike sitting on an ATS adjustable top magnetic stand by Risk Racing outside in the dirt

How can you Change Damping on Dirt Bikes? 

Now that we know what damping is, let’s look at how you can adjust it to better suit your style of riding. 

In most cases, there will be two components to the damping. First, you have the compression. This is the rate at which the spring will be squeezed. Secondly, you have the rebound. This is how quickly it will bounce back into place. When setting your damping, you’ll need to adjust both of these elements. 

In most cases, you’ll be able to set the damping on the springs and forks. You’ll often see a small C and R. This refers to compression and rebound. Where the adjustment mechanism will be depends on the type of model that you have. In some cases, you might need to get a work light to see where they are. Risk Racing offers an impressive range, which is sure to come in handy. 

If you don’t see a C and R, check the manual. It can sometimes mean that you won’t be able to change the damping. This is more common in older models. 

When you adjust these elements, you’ll be able to change the damping. There might be a small clicking sound, as the suspension is changed. Generally, you’ll just need a screwdriver to start making these changes. Once you’ve finished making these changes, test it out on the track. This will allow you to fine-tune it. 



 

off road suspension springs shocks

How Often Do You Need to Check Your Suspension? 

You must check your suspension regularly. When riding, it can often take a beating, especially along the rougher tracks. How often, you’ll need to check-in will often depend on how intensely you are riding. 

It’s generally recommended that you aim to check your suspension for every ten hours of seat time. This is also the perfect time for you to be able to change the oil. By changing it this frequently, you’ll be able to spot any potential issues, taking action quickly. This will ensure that your equipment is always in good condition. 

It can often be a good idea to keep a notebook of what you changed and when. This will help you reverse any shock changes if they aren’t delivering better performance on the track. It will also make it easier for you to schedule the right time to check the shocks and change the oil. 



 

 

 seal doctor sitting posing in foreground with blurry dirt bikes in background

Final Thoughts

Getting the right suspension on your bike is essential. It will determine how smooth your ride is and how well the bike handles. Thankfully, it’s easy to check and adjust. With just a few tools you can adjust the sag and the damping. So, use these tips to dial in your suspension today. 


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