What’s the easiest way to wreck your bike’s suspension forks?
Answer: Don’t do anything.
It really is just that easy. If you don’t have your suspension forks serviced, you will do some major damage within a couple of seasons, especially if you ride hard and in nasty conditions. The thing with the new generation of high-end forks is that they require more maintenance, but the forks are easier to maintain than ever. Here are some tips on keeping your expensive suspension forks running smoother for a longer time.
There are as many methods of maintenance as there are suspension forks on the market, and each manufacturer has their own recommendations for servicing there products, here are some rough guidelines to get you started.
- Keep your stanchions and dust wipers clean and free of debris. Wipe dirt and mud off your stanchions as often as you need to. Dirt left sitting on the dust seals eventually ends up inside the fork. Water and dirt have a sort of sandpaper effect and will break down seals, get the stanchion and bushing and begin creating major wear. Your dust seals are the fork internal’s first layer of protection, by treating them well you keep everything else functioning nicer for longer. At the first sign of worn seals, which is when they start leaving heavy rings of oil and dust on the stanchions, you need to replace them. Remember, if oil is leaking out, than dirt is getting in.
- Change the Semi-Bath. A semi-bath is a small amount of oil splashing around inside your fork lowers used to keep the seals and bushings lubricated and sliding smoothly. If your fork uses a semi-bath, it is a good idea to change it regularly. How often depends on how much you ride, and the conditions you ride in. Check with your fork’s manufacturer for details, but as a rule of thumb, do this at least once per season if you are a fair weather rider. Do it at least twice a season if you ride in mud and dust. You can’t really have it done to much! If your fork is an Open-Bath system, you can usually get away with a little more riding before changing all the oil in the fork.
- Fork Overhaul. It is a good idea, to bring your fork into a dealer to have it fully overhauled. A complete break down of the fork and its internals is necessary to ensure that all the moving parts have a chance to be cleaned and inspected for wear. At this time all the seals and O-rings should be replaced, bushings and stanchions can be checked for wear and replaced as necessary. Afterwards your forks should feel as new. The time to do this depends on the rider. Once a year for this is the most you should need to do this. If you have owned your fork for years and have never had it overhauled, this year is a good time to have it done!
Each manufacturer has there own recommended service intervals and procedures. Check with them or your local bike shop for advice on what to do and when. There are great resources Online for servicing most forks, but if you don’t have a mechanical touch, bring it to someone who does. Forks are easy to maintain, but they are also easy to wreck and they are never really cheap to fix, so be cautious!
Some helpful resources:
Manitou: Service Guides.
X Fusion Shox: Technical Guides.