Motorcycle Suspension Set-up FAQ


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Motorcycle Suspension Set-up Frequently Asked Questions

We get quite a few emails regarding the Motorcycle Suspension Set-up article published on our site. Here are some of our frequently asked questions.

Name John
Date Sat 18/10/2003
Comment I really enjoyed your treatise on suspension and found it very helpful.

But... In the section on Preload, Rear Preload, I think you mislabled what Rider Sag and Static Sag are. Shouldn't Static Sag be step 1 minus step 2 and Rider Sag be step 1 minus step 3?  

Response Thanks, received loads of emails on this issue. There was a typo error that has been rectified, and pictures added to clarify

Name withheld
Date Mon 05/01/2004
Comment just found your suspension set up page and its brill
i wonder if you would mind me adding a link or cut and paste the write up for my “website”
check us out if you think we are worthy cheers 
Response I am well flattered that someone else read the article, please add a link only. Do not copy and paste the article as I still alter text now and then

Name Michael
Date Mon 05/01/2004
Location Sweden, GSX-R1000
Comment As a novice I'm not afraid to put dumb questions... Why bother about static sag, wouldn't just the ride sag be important to check? The bike will always has a rider on during driving and even if the rider is weight-less after a passing a bump, and some reserve for top out is always desireable, the spring can top out anyway if also the bike leaves ground. Is there any simple explanation why static sag is important?

Maybe it could be assumed the rider unloads the bike much more often than the bike itself totally unloads the spring, and rider/bike-initiated top outs must be handled by two different settings?

The reason for checking static sag could perhaps be explained a little deeper in your article.

Response Hi Michael,

First understand that I am not a suspension manufacturer or researcher. I based my article on my experience and can only respond on things I tried out. I understand the point you are trying to make but you DO need static sag under certain conditions.

1. High speed; heavy braking. Under these conditions the back wheel will "unload" a lot, especially on sport bikes, so much so that a slight touch on the rear brake will cause it to lock up and slide sideways. The static sag will give it that little bit extra play.

2 .Correct spring weight. If you are very very heavy; to maintain the right rider sag may require maximum preload. This may remove all the static sag indicating the spring is not suitable for the rider and should be changed. Also, the same argument with a light rider that ends up with too much static sag.

3. With no static sag, when the bike is at rest, the bike suspension would be under "topping out" pressure. If you pushed down on your bike and let go it would clatter the suspension as it tops out. Not good.

4 hmm that is all I can think off

As a novice, you ride a very good bike (envy GSXR1000) and ask good questions, good luck with the bike.

Name John
Date 20/01/2004
Location Sydney Australia
Comment Your info is excellent.
I have recently purchased a "fireblade" and have been looking everywhere for information regarding suspension adjustment.
My bike is still running in and I will stick to factory settings while getting used to the bike, but your explanation of what changes can be made, is "spot on".
Response The biggest mental challenge for some bikers is simply to get your bikes handbook and compare the bikes current set up with the manufacturers recommended setting. I heard of bikers that have opted to replace their standard suspension with expensive third party suspension rather than read the bikes handbook.

Name Eduardo
Date Wed 18/02/2004
Location south of Portugal
Comment My name is Eduardo and I live in the south of Portugal. I would like your permission to translate you article about tuning the suspension to Portuguese AND to made that translation available to the fellow members of my moto-club (we are a small club, around 150 members total, being around 90 active members) in the form of a small "take one from the table if you want" brochure.  

This would be to be given away for free, not for sale. I think it is time for the kids to start to know (and do) something positive with theirs CBR's and R6's instead of just bullshitting all day with no knowledge, kind of "I got myself under the bike in order to lower the center of gravity, and I was doing a 400º curve (??) at around 1500 Km/h)... You see the type.  

Good riding (in Portuguese: "Boas curvas").  

Response Sure, no problem, simply add the names of all the people who helped write the article plus the name and website address of our club on the publication so that we can be famous. If possible please send us a copy too.

Name withheld
Date Sun 14/03/2004
Location UK
Comment just start racing and won a couple of trophys but set up is a mistery, what would be handy is a print off saying if it does this do that ie; if it runs wide on exit harden this or soften that.but thanks for trying read it 3times and still scratching my head. cheers
Response Firstly congratulations on the trophy, you must be doing something right.  A search of the web will show you webpages that tries to give quick solution to suspension problems.

I am trying to educate the rider on how to feel the bikes suspension so that they can make there own analysis and adjust to suit instead of referring to mates, experts or printouts. Top racers are supposed to be able to give feedback to there mechanics.

I have received numerous emails from people from all over the world indicating that the article is educational, but I do accept that it can be a bit excessive to read.  

Note that I am not a racer and have only written the article from personal experience but I see from your email that you are UK based. I travel around a bit with my bike club and am willing to explain the little I know to you in person.

NOTE: I try to avoid racer issues because I am not a race but road rider that only commutes daily, travels and does a few track days with my bike.

Name Dmitri
Date Mon 22/03/2004
Location Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Comment I just read your article about suspension, and I think for the first time in 14 years of off and on riding I can understand the basics of all the factors. Nice work!

I am a bit clumsy, so I guess I will go to a specialist so they can adjust the suspension for me, but at least I know now if they start giving me any bullshit ;-)

Response It was because of the bullshit I got from so many people that I wrote the article. Good to see someone else is not going to fall for it.

Name Andrew
Date Tue 06/04/2004
Comment I have read your explanation of how to set your suspension up with great interest. It explained things well and now I have a better understanding of it.

I have a BMW R1100S, I have just fitted Wilber Racing Shocks to it and want to set it up as best I can. With the front having Telelever and a shock, do I set the loaded sag at 30 to 40mm as well. I have done the rear and adjusted it to 35mm.

Also is it the same sag 30-40mm front and rear when I have my wife on the back. I know I will need to adjust the preload to achieve this, but want to know if it is the same measurement. Hope asking the questions is all right, looking forward to your reply.

Response I do not know much about telelever shocks nor have any experience on them so I do not how they differ from conventional suspension. Therefore I am worried about commenting on them. Also I have not done any testing with passengers but as you said you increase preload to compensate. The measurements are only a guide but I prefer to use the cable ties method to set my front preload.
Comment2 Thanks for you're reply. I have had a fiddle about with the suspension over the last week or so and have adjusted it, to get a good feel and feed back.

Most of this was done with a pillion, so now need to sort it out for solo

Name David
Date Mon 26/04/2004
Location South Africa.
Comment I read your great article regarding suspension. Awesome.

I'm having some trouble setting my 2003 R1 up for the track on the standard suspension. Can you please give me some advice, perhaps the settings that you use? I'm more or less 80kg with full leathers and helmet, boots and gloves.

We're going to the track tomorrow, any help appreciated! :-)  

Response I had my R1 stolen last year and only recently replaced it. The new R1 has been badly set-up and I have not had a chance to get any setting for it. Also I am heavier than you (94kg) and on a 2000 model R1 so my setting may not work for you.

However, since you need something for tomorrow, I suggest you set your front preload on ....

Sorry I do not give email bike settings. the above is a only exception.

Comment2 Thanks for the great advice. I'm still pretty new to the track scene and any help is always greatly appreciated.

The track day went fine, didn't have any scary moments. My head-stock is a little loose,

Always make sure your bike and suspension i.e. fork oils, seals, tyres etc are serviced before fiddling with your suspension



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