How to Adjust Dirt Bike Suspension

How to Adjust Dirt Bike Suspension
How to Adjust Dirt Bike Suspension

How to Adjust Dirt Bike Suspension – Before we delve into adjusting your suspension, let’s quickly review what dirt bike suspension is all about. The main goal of dirt bike suspension is to assist riders in controlling their bikes when navigating corners. Suzuki dirt bikes are a prime example, excelling in cornering abilities. The suspension allows the bike to “bounce” off the ground rather than skidding, enhancing control. Whether riding for enjoyment or competition, proper suspension setup is crucial for improved performance. For ATVs, the suspension angle is typically 45 degrees to the ground, with the front suspension adjustable to the left for smoother braking and turning.

Modern suspension forks come in various sizes, and changing them for reasons other than suspension modifications may require new tires and possibly a new shock absorber. When adjusting forks, be cautious to prevent breaking the front suspension mount. Any changes to a dirt bike’s suspension can affect ride quality, underscoring the importance of proper setup, considering factors like valve clearance that significantly impacts performance.

Types of Suspension Adjustments

Not every bike needs the same type of suspension adjustment. In order to properly understand how to adjust dirt bike suspension, here are the different types of suspension adjustments you can do:


Knowing sag is vital for getting the right feel on your dirt bike. Free sag measures how much the bike compresses by itself, and rider sag checks how much the suspension compresses with a rider. Changing sag influences ride height and suspension softness. Less sag makes the bike more maneuverable but less stable at high speeds, while more sag does the opposite. Adjusting sag is done by changing the spring preload, enabling riders to fine-tune their bike’s handling and stability according to their preferences and riding conditions.


Preload is how compressed the spring is when it’s not in use, showing the constant tension on the spring. Adding more preload makes the suspension harsher, as the spring always wants to expand. On the other hand, reducing preload gives a softer ride. It’s essential to find the right balance because too much preload can make your dirt bike handle like a cheap go-kart, while too little can mimic the handling of your great-grandpa’s Lincoln. Adjusting preload to an optimal level ensures a well-balanced and responsive suspension tailored to your dirt bike and how you like to ride.


Damping is vital for controlling the springs on your dirt bike, managing how quickly the shock and forks respond to different terrains. Low-speed damping is ideal for rolling hills, providing a smooth ride, while high-speed damping is better for rough terrain. Damping involves compression, which controls how fast the spring compresses, and rebound, which manages the rate of expansion. To check if your bike’s damping can be adjusted, look for letters like C and R, usually with arrows, on your shock and forks. If these markings are not present, it’s likely that the damping settings cannot be adjusted on your bike.

How to Adjust Dirt Bike Suspension: Rear Suspension Adjustments

Rear spring preload

Let’s work on improving your dirt bike’s suspension by adjusting the rear spring preload. First, put your bike on a center stand and measure the rider sag by checking the distance from the rear fender to the center of the axle nut. Wear your riding gear, bounce on the pegs to eliminate stiction, and have someone measure again. Adjust the sag by loosening the lock ring and turning the spring preload ring with a hammer and punch. Turning clockwise increases preload, and counterclockwise decreases it.

Repeat until you achieve the desired sag, usually between 95mm and 115mm. Measure free sag off the stand, aiming for 25mm to 45mm for the correct spring rate. If adjustments are necessary, consider a new spring based on your weight or wear. While tools like a sag measurement device can help, they are not essential.

Rear damping

When adjusting your bike’s rear damping, the process may vary depending on the model. Öhlins makes it easy with visible points, but if your bike lacks them, it might not be adjustable. For specific settings, check online for recommended numbers tailored to your bike, providing a good starting point. The goal is to balance compression to prevent bottoming out and rebound to maintain traction without a bouncy ride. Adjust low-speed compression using a top-of-the-reservoir nut that clicks when turned. High-speed compression may share a nut with low speed or have a separate one nearby. Rebound is usually adjusted at the bottom of the shock with a wheel or flathead screwdriver.

How to Adjust Dirt Bike Suspension: Front Suspension Adjustments

Front spring preload

To adjust the front spring preload on your dirt bike, use the preload adjusters at the top of the fork, turning them with a knob, wrench, or screwdriver. While most modern forks allow this adjustment, older models may not, so check your bike’s details online. If there’s no external way to change preload on your forks, it’s likely impossible without internal modifications.

It’s recommended to aim for similar sag and free sag values in the front and rear of your dirt bike to maintain balance and good handling. If there’s a significant difference, it could lead to handling issues. If your front sag and free sag values are considerably off or your forks are adjusted to an extreme, consider getting new fork springs tailored to your weight for better performance.

Front damping

Modern dirt bikes have upgraded front damping systems compared to older designs. In the past, both forks housed springs and damping components with limited adjustments, requiring both sides to be even. Many current bikes use Separate Function Forks, where one fork manages the spring, and the other handles damping. High-end forks take it a step further, using pressurized air instead of springs and controlling damping with oil. Once you know your bike’s setup, making adjustments is simple. Rebound damping is usually adjusted at the top of the fork with a flathead screwdriver or twist mechanism, while compression damping is often located similarly, sometimes near the bottom of the fork.

How to Make Your Dirt Bike Suspension Better

To enhance your dirt bike suspension, it goes beyond mere adjustments of stiffness or softness based on your weight and riding preferences. Improving your bike’s suspension requires intentionality and careful observation of its behavior with each modification. Understanding how your dirt bike feels and functions can significantly enhance your riding experience on any motorcycle. You can enhance your dirt bike suspension without the need for professional assistance by ensuring the use of correct spring rates, achieving a balanced suspension setup, fine-tuning the suspension clickers through testing, and mastering proper riding techniques. These steps empower riders to optimize their dirt bike suspension for improved performance and comfort.

Other Tips and Tricks

When it comes to your bike’s suspension, achieving the perfect balance of compression, rebound, and preload is essential. While it may seem challenging initially, with time and experience, it becomes second nature. Many dirt bikes come with factory settings that are often in the middle range, providing a good starting point for adjustments. It’s crucial to confirm your baseline and then make changes incrementally, noting the impact of each adjustment on your bike’s handling. Familiarize yourself with these effects before making drastic suspension changes to prevent unexpected handling issues during your rides.

If you want to learn other ways to adjust your bike, it helps to know how to tighten the chains and the spokes. Aside from this, you can also learn things like when to replace the clutch and cleaning the carburetor. By knowing these different maintenance tips, you can avoid issues such as a low compression or worse problems.

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