Got the latest and greatest long travel fork but don't feel it's as plush as you want? Try these tips from Cyclinic's main man Aiden Lefmann.
Words: Aiden Lefmann, Cyclinic Big Chief
Longer travel bikes are becoming the norm, and they are also becoming far more capable than what was available just a few short years ago. Longer travel typically meant longer wheelbase, slacker head angles, lower BB height and so on, however with advancements in the design world, we have seen many of these properties addressed to find that happy medium between geometry, capability and the big one - performance.
Many of these factors are well and truly met by the leading brands, however, there's a common trend starting to emerge, that we feel needs to be outlined and addressed.
Why doesn't my fork feel plush?
There are a lot of truly capable bikes in the 140mm-170mm travel market, bikes with 64, 65 and 66-degree head angles, 150-180mm travel forks and often with a 51mm offset. On top of the slack angle and long travel forks with varying offsets, riders then choose around 30% sag (on average) for the rear shock, and then there's the dropper, the 150mm dropper post has become the norm, and it's awesome.
Now, with the above sentence considered, it's important to think about how this translates to our weight distribution on the bike, and how this may affect our front suspension's ability to react, suspend, and provide traction with its sensitivity. An increasing number of riders are experiencing a 'light' front end, or a top-level long travel fork that up front just feels 'dead' and not as sensitive as one would have expected. This is becoming a very common symptom which can easily be corrected by simply being aware of the circumstances, and adjusting your riding position and style to suit.
Quick tips: suspension setup on the fly
For example, you have 160mm travel up front in your Fox 36s, and your Float X2 at the rear is perfectly setup with about 30% sag and all your compression adjusters are dialed. Then, you start heading down the trail, drop the 150mm dropper down as low as it goes, and you start railing turns and shredding the trail.
Think about where your weight is naturally going to want to go... Now, if you can consider the fact that your weight is likely going further and further back, lower and lower to the ground, then you may see the merit in the point that for these reasons, we may not be getting the most out of that very capable front end suspension.
This can often be the cause for that 'dead' feeling up front, or that lack of sensitivity on the often steeper and or more technical descents. It can, and will also affect climbing, naturally.
Simply put, it often can be a result of not putting enough weight on the front end.
The suspension up front cannot work unless it is somewhat weighted. It only moves with a degree of weight (ie - 'force') applied, hence if your weight is taken off, and away from the front end of the bike, its ability to feel sensitive and active is made harder.
So how do we improve the feel?
The answer is not a simple one, but before one goes and rushes out for the latest 'upgrade', here's a couple of things to consider at least:
1) Consider bringing the rider's weight slightly forwards. It's not about leaning over the front of the bike, it's more about bringing the weight more to the centre of gravity, it's kind of like the 'happy medium' for the position, and allows a level of weight to be applied at the front. Think low, not back.
2) Consider how much sag is being used in the fork vs the shock. If it's 30% at the rear shock, try for closer to 35% upfront for example. This will help the front end requiring less weight/force to initiate its travel, and with slightly less sag at the rear, will help to keep the bike more balanced and stable. Keep in mind that many bikes are now running 10-20mm more travel up front tham at the rear, so it is even more important to get that balance right.