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How to Set Up Your Motorcycle Suspension for Optimal Performance

What is Motorcycle Suspension? 

Setting up a motorcycle suspension can be scary and confusing and sometimes needs an expert touch, as it is a challenging task for any layperson to tackle a job like this. Figuring it out independently can be an overwhelming experience, but it does make a difference in knowing how a motorcycle handles. The suspension balances your bike and keeps your wheel in contact with the road, as it equally distributes your weight optimally for the type of terrain you’re covering, whether it’s silky-smooth tarmac or gnarly off-road. Stock motorcycle suspension is often designed for an average rider on average roads, which, let’s face it, does not exist.

Everyone is different in terms of weight, height, riding abilities, riding style, and so on. The most important thing you can do for yourself as a rider is to customize your motorcycle’s suspension to your specific demands. So, understanding motorcycle suspension is crucial? The answer is Yes. Adjusting your motorcycle suspension is manageable once you know its importance and significance. The plus side is once you get a hang of it, you can do it yourself.

Learning about motorcycle suspension tuning is the quickest way to get your motorcycle suspension setup, ideally for you. 

Motorcycle suspension explanations

Let’s first understand the type of suspension adjustments and how to go about it: 


The first thing you check and set is Sag, as it is the distance the suspension compresses from a fully extended, unloaded position. The space the suspension compresses under the weight of the motorcycle alone is referred to as free Sag. Rider sag is where the rest of the rider’s weight settles on a fully geared-up bike.


Preload is basically the extension of how much the spring is compressed from its original length with the suspension component fully extended. It modifies the amount of force required to commence suspension motion. A more significant preload causes the motorcycle to sit higher. More detail will be necessary to compress the spring, making the motorcycle bottom out more difficult. When there is less preload, the motorcycle sits lower and closer to the bottom of its suspension travel. The main reason for altering the preload is to set Sag.


On a motorcycle, the damping is all about regulating the extension and compression speed of the suspension. What damping means is the reduction of the amplitude of a mechanical oscillation. The oil in the forks and the rear shock is pushed via a small hole or other restriction as the suspension moves. The reluctance of the oil to flow through this limitation delays the suspension motion.

Compression Damping

The compression damping system governs how rapidly the suspension compresses upon hitting a bump, while rebound damping controls the rate at which the suspension expands to maintain wheel contact with the road after passing a patch.

Spring Rate

Spring rate is basically the spring’s stiffness in inches/pounds or kilograms/millimeters. The spring rate basically indicates how much force it takes to compress the spring at a given distance. Having the correct spring rates for your body weight is essential. The key focus is that the spring should be soft enough to handle bumps yet stiff enough to prevent bottoming out. 

Why Tune Your Motorcycle Suspension?

Let’s tune into why you’re dialing in your motorcycle suspension. Let’s dig into the why and then the how.

One size does not fit all

To enhance your motorcycle riding experience, tailor it to your preferences and needs from the outset. Showroom motorcycles with original equipment (OEM) suspension are designed to accommodate every rider, but this is only occasionally feasible. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all setting for every rider in every situation.

Your body will thank you

A motorcycle with a good suspension setting will perform exceptionally and will provide better handling, giving a more comfortable and safe riding experience. 

It takes a lot of physical energy to ride a motorcycle, and you can feel every bump on the road. On the other hand, a personalized suspension system can alter the dynamics and enable you to ride farther and more comfortably. With the proper suspension adjustment, ride lengths can be increased from 100 to 500 miles—talk about a fantastic return on investment!

Avoid wheelspin

Wheelspin can also be avoided with a suspension that is adjusted correctly. The majority of motorcycles have enough power to spin the back tire when they accelerate.

Overly supple springs can cause the suspension to bottom out, applying all of the force to the back tire’s flexing rubber carcass. Wheelspin occurs when the tire is stretched past its breaking point. On the other hand, if the springs are excessively stiff, the suspension becomes immobile, and the acceleration force is once more applied straight to the tire.

How to Modify the Suspension on Your Motorcycle

Adjusting the suspension on an older motorcycle was a complex process that included, among other things, handling fluid viscosity and removing and reassembling parts. Whether it’s a two- or three-wheel motorbike, the majority of current motorcycles include adjustable suspension screws and knobs that allow us to acquire the exact settings we want.

Keeping that in mind, take note that the following phases and stages will require a lot of fine-tuning, followed by test drives to determine whether you’ve made the changes that work best for you. Make more substantial adjustments if you’re new to the technique so you can better understand how adjusting your suspension will affect your ride as a whole.

Setting Sag and Preload

In motorcycle suspension tuning, adjust preload to account for rider weight, altering the sag – the amount the bike sags when seated on – for optimal performance. Preload adjustment is unavoidable, but for optimal performance on your motorcycle, it should fall into a particular range.

Measuring the length of the utterly extended suspension, the size while the break is at rest, and another time when you (the rider) are aboard, together with any relevant gear or stuff that you’d routinely take along on your motorcycle, are the best ways to estimate preload. There are numerous methods for finding out whether a preload value is correct. Employ the percentage method, dividing the fully extended rear suspension by the remaining portion under the rider’s sag. This calculation should provide a starting position of nearly one-third, or approximately thirty percent.

If the percentage drops below thirty percent, you will need to lower the preload, which you can accomplish by rotating the shock’s retaining collar upward. To increase the amount of preload, you must turn the collar lower if the percentage is more than thirty percent.

Modify and Adjust the Damping (Rebound)

While specific metrics aid in determining the proper preload, rebound adjustment remains more arbitrary. To ensure you know where you’ve created, it’s wise to start by jotting down your existing settings. You want to take good care of this adjustment since it has one of the most significant effects on how the bike handles.

It’s time to count the “clicks” on your adjustment knob after you’ve recorded your current settings. Start by rotating the knob clockwise as far as it will naturally go. After you’ve reached the end, count the clicks as you turn it anticlockwise to the other end. After you know that number, you should turn the knob to the middle. This can be accomplished simply by returning the value obtained by dividing the total number of clicks in half. To reach the center of your knob, for instance, you would turn it ten times if it had twenty clicks in total.

Usually, the center is the most excellent place to assess your rebound needs. Check to see whether the motorcycle seems too rough or loose during a test ride. It will require changes if it performs poorly in the conditions you require. Additionally, you don’t have to click too much—one or two clicks will be plenty to notice the changes. You should wind a bike clockwise “inwards” if it feels too slack to handle. Wind “out” anticlockwise if processing is too severe. Test again and again until you achieve the desired result.

Reconfigure and Adjust the Compression

Although some shocks lack compression settings, those that do allow you to customize the bike’s response to bumps and braking, similar to what we did with the damping stage, we want to count all of the clicks on the knob in order to determine its center and go for a test ride.

You wind the knob anticlockwise on motorcycles that have rear-wheel hop while braking and that override on uneven terrain. Turning clockwise will solve the opposite problem, where the bike feels too soft and bottoms out. You should not bother attempting to adjust your suspension if it is missing this knob.

Adjusting suspension on a motorcycle

Congratulations! You’ve come this far! Compared to most riders, you now know more about motorcycle suspension tuning. Although you still need to hire an expert, you can set up your suspension on your own using the information below. The first and most crucial step is to adjust the motorcycle suspension to your weight.

Continue experimenting if you’ve now developed a taste for modifying motorcycle suspension. Particularly when it comes to damping settings, there is a lot to explore and learn. Another excellent reason to ride more is to learn how to adjust the suspension on your motorcycle to perfection. Take notes, test ride a lot, and pick up knowledge along the way.


We venture that modifying and altering the suspension of a motorcycle isn’t as mysterious as you may have imagined! You can set up and dial in your ideal suspension if you’re careful with taking notes, exact with measuring, and patient with learning. For every bike you ride, you’ll develop a routine that includes monitoring sag, changing preload, and setting rebound and compression damping.



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