Suspension Forks Buying Guide


SUSPENSION FORKS BUYING GUIDE

Upgrading your suspension forks can significantly improve your ride. Modern forks are extremely good at soaking up rough terrain giving you more control over rocks and ruts and a fast flowing descent. There are lots of things to consider when buying new forks including travel, damping controls, wheel size, coils and steerers so here is our quick guide on what to look out for when buying some nifty new forks for your MTB bike... 


 

Things to Consider When Buying New Suspension Forks

 

STEERERS

The steerer is the top section of the fork that fits into the headset of your bike and allows the front wheel to turn. They are usually made out of aluminium or carbon and will either be the same width from top to bottom or narrower at the top which is call ‘tapered.’ Your headset will determine whether you can fit a tapered fork or not. 

 

 

CROWN

The crown is the bracket that suspends between the two stanchions to provide stiffness in the suspension fork. This is usually single on standard forks but large forks for downhill riding may feature a dual crown for extra stiffness and strength. 

 

 

AXLE

The axle attaches the fork to your front wheel. New forks now use a 15 or 20mm through bolt axle that is secured using a quick release clamp on either side of the fork or, on larger forks, it will be fixed using bolts and an allen key.

 

 

WHEEL SIZE

It’s important to make sure that you match your suspension fork to your wheel size as they are not interchangeable. 

 

 

TRAVEL

The distance that the stanchions of the fork move up and down whilst you are riding is referred to as the travel. The general rule is that the longer the travel, the more suspension you will have and the smoother the ride will be. However, longer travel also means more weight and a more relaxed riding position which will make hill climbs more difficult, so you’ll need to decide which balance is right for your style of riding. 

 

TYPICAL TRAVEL FOR DIFFERENT MTB TYES:

  • XC / Cross Country - 80-100mm
  • Trail - 120-140mm
  • Enduro - 140-170mm
  • Downhill - 180-210mm 

 

You should also check your bike manufacturer’s recommended fork travel for the bike geometry to avoid putting stress on the frame. 

 

 

 

DAMPING CONTROLS

Some of the top end suspension forks give you varying amounts of control over the damping. Damping is how we control how quickly the fork compresses and bounces back. The actual fork movement pushes oil through internal valves and the speed at which this oil moves through these valves determines the speed at which the fork compresses and rebounds. Having controls allow you to accurately adjust the setup to suit your weight and riding style. 

 

 

AIR OR COIL

An air suspension setup is light and simple to adjust with good control over resistance and compression. Metal coil springs are heavier in comparison and give you less adjustment control, however they are more effective over small lumps and bumps and generally feel a bit smoother than air forks. 

 

 

LOCKOUT

If fast hill climbing is a priority for you, you might want to consider a fork with a lock out dial that allows you to switch off or limit the front suspension and compression whilst you climb. 

 

 

SUSPENSION FORK SETUP

Most new forks give you the option of adjusting the Preload, Compression and Rebound, and while it takes time and a lot of fine tuning to find your suspension setup sweet spot, here is a guide to get you started.

 

 

3 SUSPENSION FORK CONTROLS

Preload 

  • This refers to how much resistance a fork will give against your weight. If you have air springs, you would need more air pressure the heavier you are and if you have coil springs you’ll need a stiffer spring the heavier you are. You will need to set up your preload sag to 25% depending on your weight.

Compression

  • This refers to how quickly the oil moves through the valves inside the fork. You can control this by using compression damping. If you add more compression, the fork will move down more slowly. If you add less compression damping, the fork will move down more quickly.

Rebound 

  • This refers to how quickly the fork returns to its original full height. The more rebound you have the slower the fork will bounce back and the less you have the quicker it will return. More rebound might be needed if the rebound feels quite harsh.

 

 

BASIC SUSPENSION FORK SETTINGS GUIDE

Fast and flowing trails

  • Fast compression and slow rebound for a more flowing ride on fast descents 

Slow and technical terrain

  • Slow the compression and increase the rebound rate for more precise rider feedback

Big drops or jumps

  • Decrease compression to avoid ‘bottoming out’ and slow the rebound rate so the fork doesn’t bounce you back off the bike. 

 

 

Want More Advice On MTB Suspension Forks?

If you would like more advice or information on the best MTB Suspension Fork for your bike and riding style, we’re here to help. Have a chat with one of our cycling experts in one of our Cycling Surgery stores and they will point you in the right direction.