When it comes to mountain biking, having good suspension goes a long way and can be the difference between a pleasant ride down a mountain or feeling like your front wheel is square. It’s easy to overlook servicing your forks, and many of us do it. Forks are incredibly engineered and need a bit of your help every so often in the form of a suspension fork service.
In this article, we’ll cover the following steps:
It is easy to neglect general maintenance with anything, but when it comes to your suspension, it can have some consequences that could end up causing you a lot more trouble in the future. Below are five reasons why it is vital to stay on top of servicing your forks and shocks.
Above everything else, looking after your forks is vital for safety. We’re not saying unserviced forks are prone to unscrewing themself and snapping in half, but you might come across situations that could lead you into danger. Let's say your forks get very dry, and they start to get sticky and perform differently. You might find the descents you used to do are more difficult with an underperforming fork or shock. When it comes to any part of your bike, it always pays to keep on top of any components that have an impact on your potential safety.
When you don’t service your fork or shock, a lot can go wrong internally. You won't be able to see it while it’s not being used, but you could have inadequate lubrication, you might not have enough compression, and you could even have pitting or scratching on the inside. This will have a substantial impact on the performance, and can play a big part in your riding experience and comfortability. You might not notice the performance degradation as it happens slowly over time, but as soon as you get it serviced you will notice how much better it is.
The thing about suspension components is that one problem can lead to another. Sometimes if one part of a fork has an issue, for example, and once things start to go wrong, it can lead to damage of other parts of the fork as things wear and get worse. A good example is if you have pitting on the fork as this can lead to damaged seals and a loss of oil. Eventually, everything suffers, and you will end up needing to replace half the fork. The better you can keep on top of servicing, the better life your fork will have, and you will find it does not need to be replaced out of neglect.
When we start looking at second-hand mountain bikes, many of us want to know it's been taken good care of. The first place we start looking is at the things on the bike that, if broken, will cost a lot of money to replace. With mountain bikes, it’s often the forks and shocks that hold a lot of value. When you think about reselling your bike, one of the first places people will lookis your forks. If someone comes to your bike and sees it hasn’t been properly maintained, they either won't buy it, or they will aim to bargain down the price as a result.
An unserviced fork feels pretty awful to ride. You don’t get that lovely smoothness and the greasy feeling you get from a new fork. Instead, you get a dry, lumpy feeling that feels very harsh to ride. It takes away from the experience that you get and just makes riding your bike a little less enjoyable. And nobody wants that feeling.
When it comes to a fork service, the process can slightly change depending on your fork. This next part will tell you the tools required and a shortened process of what happens in a fork service. We are going to be talking about a lower leg service as this is the most common type that is done to keep your shocks working properly.
Before we start, it's important to note that we highly advise leaving a job like this with a professional. Nevertheless, the below should give you a high level idea of what’s involved in suspension service.
Firstly the compression will be tested to ensure you can get your fork back to where it was before, and a note of the rebound is made. Then the air gets released from the fork, and the rebound adjuster is removed. After this has been completed, the mechanic will then proceed to remove the lower legs. This sometimes requires a process called shocking which frees the legs from the bottom, and you have to be very careful when you do this.
After the legs are off, you must remove the foam rings from the fork, and these lubricate the fork when it’s under use. You might need to replace these fully, but if they are in good condition, you could use them again. While it's apart, we recommend replacing them. Now you will want to check the fork seals. If these need replacing, it should be done now.
Next, the rest of the fork is inspected for scratches and anything that might be an issue. The foam rings are then put back in and oiled using the syringe. The grease is added, and then the lower legs are put back on, taking great care that the seals don’t get damaged on the return. Once back together, the correct oil must be added, in the correct quantity, so it doesn’t damage the fork. Then everything else is put back on and torqued together, ready for riding.
If you have the correct tools and know what you’re looking at, doing it isn’t too bad, but we wouldn’t suggest trying unless you have had some experience. We recommend leaving it to a professional.
It depends on what the manufacturers recommend. Some companies say the lowers every 30 hours and a full service every 125 hours or annually, depending on what comes first. It might be worth trying to get it done at the same time as an mtb service.
Providing you look after them well and service them when required, they can last for a very long time, but it depends on many factors such as where you live, how much you ride, and what fork to give a definite answer.
Unlike components like chains and cassettes, which you can give a rough mileage count to their life with a fork, you actually judge it by the time instead. Some mountain bikers will log the hours in an Mtb maintenance schedule so they can recognize if it needs a service.
There are many brands on the market, such as RockShox and Fox, which cater to a lot of the market and are a couple of the best. But there are many other great suspension manufacturers as well such as: DVO, Cane Creek, Ohlins and MRP.