How to Adjust the Suspension of a Motorcycle

Home / News / How to Adjust the Suspension of a Motorcycle

How to Adjust the Suspension of a Motorcycle

How does your bike ride and handle? Chances are, not the best that it can be.  A good percentage of riders just accept the way their bike is setup. It’s good enough, right?  Well maybe if you’re just into settling for what the factory gives you or if you just happen to fit the mold of what the factory determines is the average rider. Chances are, though, that you don’t fit the mold of the “average” sized rider.  Your suspension setup also needs to account for the extra weight of your luggage and a passenger if you ride two-up. All of the different variables make it fairly hard to rely on the stock setup for optimal handling and comfort.It is important to note that correctly adjusting your suspension won’t necessarily make your bike ride like a dream (that’s what aftermarket upgrades are for). But tuning the suspension will allow you to get the most out of your bike as is.  You won’t know if you need to upgrade the parts until you have ridden the bike with it properly set up for you and how you ride.Before you begin to make any adjustments to the suspension, you first need to ensure that all of your components are fully functional. 

Check the shocks and forks to see that they are working as they should. The seals should not have any leaks.  Also check for any slop in the steering head bearings, swingarm bearings, wheel bearings and bushings. Any wobble in these components will throw off your bike’s handling and can negate any adjustments that you make.Your tires aren’t technically a part of your motorcycle’s suspension, but they play a crucial role.  Your bike will not handle the way it is supposed to if the tires are either under inflated or over inflated. In order to set a solid base line to test your suspension setup, you need to ensure that the tires are properly inflated.A proper suspension setup starts with properly set ride sag. Ride sag is the amount of “sag” or compression of the shock(s) that occurs when under load from the normal weight of the rider, gear and whatever weight is on the bike while riding. The purpose of ride sag is to act as the suspension when your bike travels over cracks, potholes or other depressions. It allows the shock to extend preventing the chassis from being upset. 

A properly set ride sag will also improve your bike’s handling by being able to properly handle the weight of the bike shifting.To measure your suspension sag, you will need a tape measure, your owner’s manual and a friend or two. A stand or lift can also make the job a bit easier to complete, especially for heavy bikes.Start by fully extending the rear suspension. You can do this by lifting the bike by hand if it is light enough, tipping it onto the side stand or by using a lift. With the suspension fully extended, use your tape to measure from the center of the axle to some fixed point directly above, like on the subframe or fender.  Record the measurement.Next, measure the amount of sag that occurs under a normal riding load. This should include the rider, all the gear that is worn and any luggage that may be used. 

Before motorcycle shock absorber taking a measurement, bounce the suspension up and down a few times to help remove any stiction that could prevent the suspension from settling correctly. Now, sit in your normal riding position with all your weight on the bike.  Have your assistant measure from the center of the axle to the same point from before and record the measurement.Now divide your first measurement by the second. The ideal starting point for suspension sag is about 1/3 or 30% of the extended length. If the result of your equation is less than 30%, you will need to reduce the amount of preload on the shocks.  If it is more, you will need to increase the amount of preload. Spin the retaining collar on the shock in the appropriate direction to achieve the amount of desired preload. Spinning the collar down increases preload and reduces the amount of sag.  Spinning the collar upwards reduces preload and increases sag.  Do so until you reach the desired amount of sag.  For example, a shock with 9 inches of travel should have 3 inches of sag under a normal riding load.

Contact Us