Something for the weekend? Suspension set up | WORKSHOP
With spring just around the corner maybe its time you learnt how to set your suspension up properly. Most scooterists buy a fancy shocker and just whack the preload up as hard as it’ll go, this defeats the object.
Our Mad Manx, Nick Prince is coiled and ready to show you how your adjustable suspension should be set up…
Some riders have told me they’ve bought rear shockers and just put them on, straight out of the box. Manufacturers don’t put all these fancy adjusters on for show, so a shock needs setting up properly to get the best out of it. Perhaps it’s time to learn how to set your suspension up, it doesn’t take long and will transform your ride.
You have to set the ride height, rebound and ‘sag’ to you and your machine personally, a bit like how you like your own cup of tea or coffee made!
Setting your sag
The easiest way to set the sag is by putting on all the gear you would normally wear when you ride your scooter; helmet, gloves, boots etc. and if you usually ride with a pillion and luggage you should get your pillion dressed up as well to sit on the back for Fig 3, and also stick some luggage on the rack.
Fig 1: With the scooter on the centre stand mark the back of the frame with a non-permanent marker, or stick a length of masking tape on the frame and draw a line on that.
Fig 2: Push the scooter off the stand, this bit requires a second person. Get them to hold the scooter whilst you lift the back end up slightly, then let go gently and allow the scooter and suspension time to settle.
Fig 3: Then step through the legshields, grasp the handlebars and hold the scooter perfectly level. Don’t sit down yet. Whilst you are doing this the second person gets a tape measure and measures from the ground to the mark you made on the frame, make a note of the measurement for example (as in photo) 42cm.
Then sit down on the scooter as you normally would for riding, taking all your weight and balancing with just the lightest touch of one foot on the ground (or hold on to a wall instead). You can also get your pillion to sit on the back if you ride with a passenger more often than solo. It’s worth making two measurements anyway, one with and one without a pillion, so you can write them down and quickly adjust between the two.
Your second person then needs to measure from the ground up to the mark and make a note of it. It will be less than the original measurement. If for example it’s 40cm, down from 42cm your ‘sag’ is 2cm, or 20mm.
I live on the Isle of Man and my personal setting for riding the TT course is around 15-20mm, this also works for me two up with luggage.
To alter your rear shocker you go to the top of the spring (where the lock ring is located), undo the tiny locking bolt, this can be quite hard to find.
Note: On this shocker the nylon locking bolt had fallen out, due to extreme scootering! So I replaced mine with an old bolt I had lying on the shelf.
Now the locking bolt is loose, to compress the spring turn the top ring down with the tool provided. Winding down gives you less sag, winding up gives more. You have to repeat the process and hop on and off the scooter until you get your desired sag. Once you have your desired “sag” tighten the locking bolt up.
Alter your ride height
The rear shock (above) is a Readspeed one, however a BGM shock is very similar and setting them up is pretty much the same on any adjustable shock.
Handy tip: I snipped a bit off an aerosol straw and stuck it down the hole where the locking bolt goes. Because it’s nylon, when the locking bolt is replaced it prevents damage to the thread on the shocker when tightened.
Ride Height adjustment
Ride height adjustment is basically altering the length of the shock, this can be useful if you’re swapping a shock from a Series 1/2 on to a series 3, or vice versa but it can also be used to alter the characteristics of the scooter. ‘Jacking up’ the rear means the scooter will turn quicker but may feel less stable, lower it and it’ll feel more planted but turn in slower.
Shorter riders may also benefit from lowering the ride height.
Increasing the ride height can give you better clearance for your exhaust and rear runners. Also if you run a cylinder with a reed-valve it can foul the frame if the ride height is set too high.
Remove the shock
Fig 5: The shocker has to be taken off the scooter for this bit. The ride height adjuster is located on the bottom of the shocker. Wind the bottom eye hole out if you want to increase the ride height, or ‘jack up’ the rear.
Fig 6: Note the amount of thread visible with the ride height adjusted. I find a good personal ride height is 2 turns out from fully in, this gives a good setting for me but once again it’s personal to you. Once it’s set lock it off using the locking nut.
Rebound is how fast your suspension ‘rebounds’ to it’s starting position after a bump, its nothing to do with hardening the shocker up.
Note: As a general rule of thumb, if you press down on the rear of the seat to compress the suspension, then let go, your shock should rebound to it’s original position in about a second.
The rebound setting on this shocker needs a spanner to adjust it, on some shocks they have an easier knob adjuster and on an R1 rear shock you’ll probably need a screwdriver. As you adjust it you’ll usually feel or hear a click for each adjustment, hence the phrase ‘I just knocked two clicks off…’ Before you start messing around find out what setting yours is on by winding it until the adjuster stops and counting the clicks, then wind it the other way until it stops to see how many clicks your shock has. Write down where it was to begin with so you can put it back if need be.
My shock was set at 6 clicks from slow (S) I knocked this down to 4 for a slower rebound, then took it for a ride to try it. I suggest after making any shocker adjustment to proceed with caution and just take it around the block and then check there is no fowling of exhaust/cylinder etc.
I find spending time setting your rear shocker is time well spent as the results can make for an amazing difference.
Words and photos: Nick Prince
Editor’s note: Very few scooter shock absorbers also have Compression damping settings (which control damping in the first part of travel when the wheel hits a bump). Don’t get Compression and Rebound damping settings confused. Really high-end scooter shocks also have separate compression and rebound settings for high-speed and low-speed bumps but if you’ve spent less than £500 per shock you don’t need to concern yourself with that…
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