Dirt bike suspension tuning guide

This dirt bike suspension tuning guide provides some guidance on what actions to take depending on what problems a bike's suspension exhibits. Realize that proper tuning can only be acheived with proper riding technique, correct spring rates and suspension that is properly maintained. If the suspension is not working correctly to begin with, tuning will have little if any benefit. The same is true if a rider exhibits poor body position while riding. Please refer back to Suspension Adjustment Basics for an overview.

  CORNERING

Understeer:

Understeer means that a motorcycle is slow to turn. In this case, the bike may tend to drift wide despite the effort of the rider.

  • Forks spring rate too stiff
  • Shock spring rate too soft
  • Incorrect rear sag
  • Forks compression damping too slow (stiff)
  • Forks rebound damping too fast (soft)
  • Rear shock compression damping too fast (soft)
  • Rear shock rebound damping too slow (stiff)
  • Triple clamps position too high on forks
Oversteer:

Oversteer means that a motorcycle turns too quickly. In this case, the bike may tends to turn too sharply (or dart to the inside) which can disrupt a smooth, controlled arc.

  • Forks spring rate too soft
  • Shock spring rate too stiff
  • Incorrect rear sag
  • Forks compression damping too fast (soft)
  • Forks rebound damping too slow (stiff)
  • Rear shock compression damping too slow (stiff)
  • Rear shock rebound damping too fast (soft)
  • Triple clamps position too low on forks
Washing out:

Washing out refers to the front end loosing traction while cornering, causing the rider to lose some or all control.

  • Forks spring rate too stiff
  • Shock spring rate too soft
  • Incorrect rear sag
  • Forks compression damping too slow (stiff)
  • Forks rebound damping too fast (soft)
  • Shock compression damping too fast (soft)
  • Shock rebound damping too slow (stiff)
  • Triple clamps position too high on forks
  • Shock spring rate too stiff
  • Incorrect rear sag
  • Shock compression damping too slow (stiff)
  • Shock rebound damping too fast (soft)
  • Forks spring rate too stiff
  • Forks compression damping too slow (stiff)
  • Forks rebound damping too fast (soft)

  HANDLING

Head shake:

Head shake is when the front end of the motorcycle deflects side to side in a continuous manner.

Problem occurs slowing down
  • Forks spring rate too soft
  • Shock spring rate too stiff
  • Incorrect rear sag
  • Forks compression damping too fast (soft)
  • Forks rebound damping too slow (stiff)
  • Rear shock compression damping too slow (stiff)
  • Rear shock rebound damping too fast (soft)
  • Triple clamps position too low on forks
Problem occurs accelerating
  • Forks spring rate too stiff
  • Shock spring rate too soft
  • Incorrect rear sag
  • Forks compression damping too slow (stiff)
  • Forks rebound damping too fast (soft)
  • Rear shock compression damping fast (soft)
  • Rear shock rebound damping too too slow (stiff)
Rear end swapping:

Rear end swapping means the rear of the bike deflects side to side.

  • Shock compression damping way too stiff (rear deflects)
  • Shock compression damping too soft (rear bottoms easily)
  • Shock rebound damping too fast (soft)
  • Rear shock spring too stiff (rear deflects)
  • Rear shock spring too soft (rear bottoms easily)
  • Insufficient rear sag
Problem occurs on first bump hit
  • Forks spring rate too stiff
  • Forks compression damping too slow (stiff)
  • Forks rebound damping too fast (soft)
Problem occurs on subsequent hits, first bump hit ok
  • Forks spring rate way too soft
  • Forks compression damping way too fast (soft)
  • Forks rebound damping way too slow (stiff)
Problem occurs on first bump hit
  • Rear shock spring rate too stiff
  • Rear shock compression damping too slow (stiff)
  • Rear shock rebound damping too fast (soft)
  • Insufficient free sag
Problem occurs on subsequent hits, first bump hit ok
  • Rear shock spring rate way too soft
  • Rear shock compression damping way too fast (soft)
  • Rear shock rebound damping way too slow (stiff)
  • Possible excessive sag
Harshness:

The suspension has a jarring effect. Impacts are transmitted to the rider and there is a lack of plusness.

  • Spring rate too stiff (suspension can't move enough)
  • Spring rate way too soft (suspension riding too low)
  • Way too much sag (suspension riding too low)
  • Compression damping too slow (stiff)
  • Compression and rebound damping rates not in balance
Packing:

The suspension stroke progressively shortens across a series of bumps or whoops because it is unable to return quickly enough after each successive hit.

  • Spring rate too soft
  • Rebound damping too slow (stiff)
  • Compression damping too fast (soft)

  JUMPING

  • Compression damping too fast (soft)
  • Spring rate to soft
  • Low accumulator pressure (where applicable)
  • Low oil level
  • Excessive sag
  • Forks rebound damping too fast (soft)
  • Forks spring rate too stiff
  • Excessive gas pressure in forks
  • Insufficient sag (forks)
  • Shock rebound damping too slow (stiff)
  • Shock compression damping too fast (soft)
  • Shock spring rate too soft
  • Forks rebound damping too slow (stiff)
  • Forks spring rate too soft
  • Shock rebound damping too fast (soft)
  • Shock compression damping too slow (stiff)
  • Shock spring rate too stiff
  • Insufficient free sag (rear shock)
  • Brakes dragging (front or rear)
Pogo:

Upon landing, after the suspension completes compression stroke, the bike springs up rather than returning to ride height in a controlled manner.

  • Rebound damping rates too fast (soft)
  • Spring rates too stiff
Harshness:

The suspension exhibits a jarring effect. Impacts are transmitted to the rider.

  • Compression damping rates too slow (stiff)
  • Spring rates too stiff

Note: Suspension could also be bottoming out. See "Suspension bottoms too easily".

PARTS AND SUPPLIES

Need parts and supplies for your dirt bike? We have you covered with all the parts and accessories you need from aftermarket to OEM.

FRONT SUSPENSION TUNING

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SPRINGS

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