Front shock, rear suspension.
How much travel do you need?
How big do you hit? (or plan on hitting this season)
And be real about your answer.
Remember: even too much of a good thing can sometimes be bad.
Which shock is best for you?
Well, that can only be determined after a lengthy conversation about you, your bike, your bank account and, of course, your riding habits. Give us a call or stop in for more info on what might be the right shock for you. Until then, here’s a rundown on almost everything you ever wanted to know about shocks in general:
Shock Sag: The amount the shock will move when the rider normally sits on the bike (usually 1/8-1/4″)
Damping: A variable which controls how fast the shock can move during rebound and/or compression. Many shocks do not have the ability to change damping but rather use inherent qualities of absorption materials.
Preload: The starting point that the spring is at. Almost all shocks have an ability to change this force through adjuster knobs.
Spring: The medium used to control the shock when the shock becomes active.
Spring rate: The amount of force needed to compress a spring one inch.
Crown: Piece that connects upper legs to steerer tube.
Spring materials: Spring materials can consist of steel springs, elastomers, air, and a combination of any of these three.* Steel Spring offer the advantage of a very responsive shock, which ultimately helps keep the wheel on the ground. The downside is that they are very heavy.* Elastomer makes the shock a little slower in the rebound and compression stage, but is a lot lighter than a steel spring. It is, however very much effected by the air temperature and has less “feel”.* Finally, air. Air is in between steel and elastomers in its responsiveness. However with air, the natural compression qualities it offers makes it ideal for a shock. Air is also the lightest medium for a shock to use.
Setting Sag: (sag is a requirement used in the rear shock not front) A shock for the rear should have 1/8″ to 1/4″ of an inch of travel. Some shocks offer an O-ring placed on the inner body or shaft, this makes setup a breeze. Otherwise it is necessary to measure the length of the shock from eyebolt to eye bolt and subtract the difference when you sit on it.* With an air shock, it is a simple matter of using more or less air to achieve results. * With the spring system, turning the spring’s cullet will make this happen. If the spring is turned more than four whole turns, then it is a good idea to get a heavier or lighter spring. Some rear shocks offer the benefit of both systems and you can then fine tune the other characteristics of the shock as well as sag through this manner.
Damping: Dampening simply means a shock is being slowed in it’s upward or downward travel by a force other than the main spring system. Dampening a shock’s movement can really change a bicycle’s behavior.Dampeners for the most part use an oil sent through a tiny valve deep inside the shock to control how fast the shock is allowed to move. In rebound dampening, the return movement of the shock is affected. In the compression stage, the downward stroke of the shock is affected. Many shocks use a inert gas like Nitrogen to compress the oil or send the shock back up so it is NOT A GOOD IDEA to open the shock up yourself. Shocks use dampening to change how a bike response over a given terrain. Many single pivot designs like the Gary Fisher Level Betty and F series really benefit from dampening- especially compression. There are high-end shocks that allow the user infinite adjustability for the compression, including locking out the shocks downward movement- in effect turning a full suspension into a hard tail.
Service/Upgrades: Servicing your shock is critical to keeping the performance and inner-workings of the shock up to par. Most people don’t realize that a shock on a bike is not like that of a car- you must service the damn thing a lot! A shock should be looked at before every ride. An air shock should be closely checked and not ridden if it has lost air. Shocks are, in some cases, very complicated, so do not do an in-depth breakdown unless you like doing a lot of head scratching and “oh shits”. We like to check the wiper seals and get the crap off them in addition to lubing the shock with a non-Teflon based lubricant. I said non-Teflon based because the internal of some shocks use a Teflon coated or based whatever, that can swell and wear out quickly when more Teflon is introduced to the mix. Try it on a frying pan and see what happens (just not mom’s good one). I’d rather use a plain oil or grease and be safe. Some shock companies say every eight hours a breakdown of xxx parts is required. Checking bolts to the specified torque is always good as is popping off the wipers and cleaning in and around them. Cycle Dynamics rebuilds more shocks from lack of service than from heavy riding. If you read one of your shocks manuals, it’s a good bet that the company has covered its ass and the shock has no decent warranty. So, we change oil and put new seals in and do all the other crap ourselves because it’s a lot quicker and cheaper then sending the shock back to the manufacturer for servicing. Companies use gasses like Nitrogen sometimes because it is not affected by temperature. We use air unless the person races because the forces encountered in most riding do not need gas but do just fine with O2. Unless, when you bought your bike, you opted for the best of everything, your shock can always be upgraded. And chances are, that even if you did buy the best you could get then, there is something much cooler and well suited to you on the market now. In upgrading your existing shock, you can get dampeners, new progressive rate steel springs or air kits to change elastomers to air. For the rear, I’d suggest you drop $200-$300 and get a really nice shock that will not only change your outlook on riding, but quite literally “save your ass”.
Still need more info? Give us a call anytime, 203-226-3790, or send us an e-mail. We’d love to hear from you.