Mountain bike fork adjustment: adjusting the MTB suspension

mountain bike fork adjustment

If you have a mountain bike with a suspension fork, it is important to adjust it. A well-adjusted suspension ensures a comfortable and safe mountain bike ride. On this page you will discover everything you need to know for adjusting your MTB front fork.

Why adjusting your mountabinike fork is important

Nowadays every mountain bike is equipped with a suspension fork. When buying a new mountain bike or after replacing an mountain bike fork, it is important to adjust the suspension for your body and riding style. I list a few reasons below:

  • More comfortable mountain biking
  • Safer mountain bike
  • Faster Performance

It is therefore very important to adjust the front fork correctly.

mountain bike fork adjustment
With an O-ring you can easily adjust the negative spring travel (SAG). ©

MTB fork adjustment step-by-step plan

In my extensive guide to the mountain bike front fork I already explained that the front fork consists of different parts. You can adjust these different parts separately from each other. For example, you can adjust the suspension, but also the compression and rebound damping. Let’s list all the settings with the corresponding steps.

Adjust mountain bike suspension

When adjusting the mountain bike suspension you speak of the ‘SAG’. This is the negative travel, which is the distance of the suspension that collapses when you are on your mountain bike. It is therefore important that you sit on your mountain bike when setting up the SAG with mountain bike clothes and equipment. For example, do you always have an mountain bike backpack on your back? Wear this one too!

The right SAG depends on your weight and the riding style, i.e. the type of mountain bike you ride. For example, a downhill mountain bike has greater SAG (about 35% of the total suspension travel) than a cross country MTB (25%). In the table below you will discover some guidelines.

MTB TypeRecommended SAG
Downhill~ 35%
Enduro~ 30%
Cross country~ 25%

Please note: these are guidelines, the perfect SAG also depends on your weight and is also personal. Now let’s see how to adjust the recommended SAG.

Follow the steps below to adjust the MTB suspension.

  1. Fully open the rebound and compression damping

    Check that the rebound damping (red) and compression damping (blue) are fully open (fastest position)

  2. Pump the fork and damper to PSI guideline

    In many cases you will find the recommended PSI . on the back of the front fork

  3. Sit on the mountain bike and lean against the wall

    So put on the clothes you normally wear while mountain biking and get on your mountain bike

  4. Move up and down a few times, then you should stop

    Make sure the suspension moves properly and then stop moving

  5. Slide O-ring or tie wrap down

    Have an assistant slide the O-ring (or tie wrap) down. The front fork may no longer deflect after this.adjust mtb fork

  6. Get off the bike and measure the SAG

    Measure the SAG with a ruler. This is the distance from the outer leg to the O-ring/tie wrap. Check whether or not it matches the recommended SAG.

  7. Increase over decrease PSI in small increments to desired SAG

    Do this in small steps and repeat the steps until you reach the recommended SAG

Adjust compression and rebound damping

After adjusting the suspension, you can further optimize the front fork by adjusting the rebound damping. The rebound damping controls the suspension of the front fork. This should be done quickly, but checked. You can easily check whether this is correctly adjusted by pressing the front fork firmly and releasing it.

When the front wheel lifts off the ground when rebounding, the rebound damping is set ‘too fast’. You can often easily adjust this damping with the red adjustment knob. Adjust it in small steps, for example with one or two clicks, after which you can test it again.

Adjust compression damping (Low and High speed)

Some mountain bikes also allow you to adjust the compression damping. This damping controls the MTB’s deflection. When adjusting the compression damping, a distinction is made between Low speed (LSC) and High speed compression damping (HSC).

  • HSC damping: for hard and fast hits. With too much HSC damping, the front fork feels stiff, but with too little, the front fork can sag.
  • LSC damping: for small and less violent shocks. With too much LSC damping, the MTB feels stiff, but with too little LSC damping, even pedaling movements and flowing hills can cause a bouncy MTB.

Can you adjust the compression damping on your MTB? Use the adjustment knob (often a blue knob) to set the compression damping to the lowest setting. Drive around and feel how the damping reacts to large and small obstacles. Then adjust the compression damping in small increments until it feels comfortable.

Frequently asked questions about adjusting an MTB fork

Can I adjust the MTB fork myself?

With the right mountain bike tools, a lot of patience and concentration, you can adjust the front fork and suspension of your mountain bike yourself. It is useful if you have an assistant for adjusting the suspension.

What tools do I need to adjust the mountain bike suspension?

If you have an air-suspended front fork, you will need a front fork pump to adjust the air pressure.

What can you adjust in the field of MTB suspension?

It is smart to start by adjusting the correct negative travel (SAG). The right SAG depends on your riding style and weight. When you have adjusted this properly, you can get started with the compression damping and rebound damping.

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