What is it that you notice as you are riding? Does the front-end feel disconnected or floaty, does it bottom-out or feel harsh? Do you feel like you are being thrown out of the seat or spinning the rear too much?

Whatever you are feeling, it is doing at least two things.

One. It is improper control of the chassis, either moving too much or too little.

Two. It is distracting you from riding. How can you focus on hitting your marks and going faster if you are being distracted by what your bike is doing?

The number one goal of your suspension is to keep your tire in contact with the ground. The second goal is to disrupt the chassis as little as possible. This means you need the suspension to have sufficient travel, up and down. You should be using ALMOST all of your travel, front or rear, every lap. If you are not using ALMOST all of your travel, your bike is too stiff for you; if you are using all of your travel every lap, your settings are too soft…for you, at the track you are riding, at the pace you are riding it.

Too stiff and your chassis, and you, have to go up and down over bumps. We want the wheels and tires to go over the bumps without moving the chassis. This setup will also force more load to your tires potentially causing them to lose traction.

Too soft and the chassis moves too much and can bottom- or top-out. If the front bottoms out, normally under braking, and turning in, and/or hitting a bump, that force is again transferred to your front tire. This can lead to a lost of traction and ultimately a low-side. This will also cause the front to have a ‘float-y’ disconnected feeling as the chassis moves up and down multiple times after either letting off the brakes or hitting a bump, or both.

On the rear, if the bike squats too much, either from a soft spring or soft compression damping, weight is transferred off the front. This can cause the front to lift. You may run wide on corner exit, or you may wheelie too much. If the rear spring and/or compression damping is too hard, you will not transfer enough weight to the rear and the bike will have a tendency to spin. If the rebound setting is too soft, after hitting a bump, the spring will extent too quickly and you will be pushed off the seat. It may also push the tire back into the ground too quickly causing you to lose traction.

The interesting part is that both too-soft and too-hard can both be felt as harsh. Springs, valving (clickers or internal valving), and oil level are all settings that can be adjusted. They are based on your weight, the bike’s weight, the track you ride, and the pace at which you ride that track. Think about the top levels of racing. They spend 2-3 days working on these settings leading up to the race, every track, every time. There is no perfect setting.

Think about what you are feeling. Think about where on the track you are distracted by the bike. This is where we start working.

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