Guess what my topic is today? That's right! Annual fork service. Annual suspension service, really. In all my work with suspension components, I occasionally see horrible, terrible, preventable things like this:
...and it breaks my heart. This fork is essentially ruined, simply from neglect. Just look at all that dirt on the wipers and foam rings! And see how that dirt put huge scratches in the stanchions!
The job of those gray wipers (which you can see on your fork where the upper legs, or stanchions, disappear into the lowers) is to keep the dirt out and the oil in. But they can only do so much, and over time dirt works its way past them into your fork internals. If left there long enough, it can cause damage to the stanchions themselves, as seen above. Even with new wipers and a lot of cleaning, this fork will leak oil and ingest dirt at an accelerated rate because the wipers can no longer form a tight seal against the stanchions. Had this fork received regular maintenance (annual service!) it would be full of fresh oil and back out on the trail already. Instead it's going in the scrap heap.
So please, people, bring me your forks (and shocks) so this doesn't happen to you. Different manufacturers recommend different service intervals, but let's go with something simple: have your suspension components serviced once a year. They will last a long time and work like they're supposed to. And it will be good.
Speaking of which, the other week I got the chance to work on a fork that you don't see a lot of around here. One of our customers brought in a Rock Shox Lyrik complete with Mission Control damping and 2-step (travel-adjust) air spring! With the twist of a knob this big boy goes from 160mm of travel (for descending) to 115mm (for climbing), and back. Think of it as Rock Shox's version of the Fox TALAS fork. Check it out:
...and that's just the air-spring side! On the damper side we have separate low- and high-speed compression adjustment and position-sensitive rebound damping. Fun stuff.
So remember: Annual service. Annual service. Annual service.