6 top suspension maintenance tips

Suspension rebuilding and tuning professionals at Colorado's DirtLabs weigh in

Keeping your mountain bike's suspension maintained is one of the best ways to ensure you're getting all the performance you can out of your bike. Plus, giving your fork and shock a few seconds of attention here and there can prevent costly repairs or even replacements. 

Boulder, CO's DirtLabs knows a bit about bike suspension, servicing over 4,000 suspension components in 2015. They are an authorised service centre for Fox Racing, RockShox and Manitou, and an authorised warranty centre for Cane Creek and X-Fusion.

Since 2008, they've had their hands on nearly every fork and shock made. The DirtLabs team also works on dropper posts, focusing on KS and RockShox posts. With that level of knowledge here are Mike "Luby" Luebesmier and his crew's top tips for keeping your suspension performing at its peak and making every mountain bike ride awesome. 

From air to coil, every shock gets new life after passing through DirtLabs
From air to coil, every shock gets new life after passing through DirtLabs

1. Keep your suspension clean

Dirt is the number one enemy of suspension. After every ride make sure to wipe the seal area and stanchions of your fork and shock. Wipe in a horizontal motion, not vertical as you don't want to force any debris towards the seals.

2. Use a protective spray

The guys at DirtLabs swear by Maxima's SC1. This aerosol spray not only cleans and shines, but also lifts dirt away from the seals according to one technician. We have some Maxima SC1 being tested and will update soon.

DirtLabs swears by Maxima's SC1 cleaner and protectant
DirtLabs swears by Maxima's SC1 cleaner and protectant

3. Double check your sag and adjustments

Every few rides double check that your suspension sag is correct, as well as your rebound and compression adjustments. If something has changed, or the adjustments aren't working as before, some maintenance is likely due. And remember, every time you thread your shock pump on, 10-15psi of air pressure will transfer from your suspension to the shock pump so the initial PSI reading will be low.  

4. A full rebuild is more than just a standard bike tune-up or new seals

A full rebuild includes complete disassembly of your suspension component, a meticulous cleaning, inspection for damage and replacement of any necessary parts before reassembly. Every point of stiction is considered and lubricated, and your fork or shock can be tuned to fit your riding style or terrain. 

Tools of the trade: a bench vice makes easy work holding small or delicate parts
Tools of the trade: a bench vice makes easy work holding small or delicate parts

5. Maintain your suspension at least once a year

Even if you haven't ridden as much as you wanted to the oils in your suspension will break down, the seals will dry out and crack, and dirt and debris inevitably find their way in. A once-a-year service will keep your suspension running smoothly, and lessen the need for a complete replacement. Plus, having properly working suspension makes riding a lot more fun!

While DirtLabs can work wonders, not every fork can, or should, be saved. This graveyard of forks gets emptied a few times a year
While DirtLabs can work wonders, not every fork can, or should, be saved. This graveyard of forks gets emptied a few times a year

6. Bonus tip: Don't pull up on your dropper post

When your dropper post is lowered do not use the saddle to pick your bike up, or pull up on the saddle. Doing so causes cavitation, which is the formation of bubbles in a liquid. In simple terms, when you pull up on your lowered dropper post air mixes with the oil inside, which inevitably causes your post to stop working.

Russell Eich

Tech Writer, US
Russell fell head over heels in love with bikes in the '90s, and has been involved in the bike industry ever since. Between wrenching in bike shops, guiding professionally, and writing about bikes, Russell has honed an appreciation for what works, gained knowledge of what doesn't, and can barely contain his enthusiasm for what comes next. His two-wheeled passion continues in the Rocky Mountains high above Boulder, Colorado.
  • Discipline: Mountain, road, cyclocross
  • Preferred Terrain: High altitudes, forgotten singletracks, bike parks, roads without cars
  • Current Bikes: Custom Meriwether steel hardtail, Specialized S-Works Enduro 29, Kona Jake the Snake, Trek 69er, and a bunch more
  • Dream Bike: Yeti SB5c, Intense Tracer 275C, Black Cat custom road
  • Beer of Choice: Gin + Tonic
  • Location: Rollinsville, CO, USA

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