The Golden Wrench

A blog about bicycle repair and maintenance by the mechanics at Freewheel Bike.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

How do I tell if my fork/shock needs service?

This is like asking a dentist how often you should brush your teeth. Most suspension manufacturers recommend having your components serviced once a year, minimum. For most people that's enough to ensure your fork/shock has a long life of solid performance.

Ruined fork stanchion. Don't wait this long!

But if you're the kind of person who waits until something is broken before you have it serviced, here's what to look for:

1) Does the fork/shock hold air? Rapid air loss is a sign that your air piston seals are damaged or worn. Or worse, that the metal sliding surfaces which those seals contact are damaged. Time to have it worked on.

2) Do your external adjustments make any difference? Turn your rebound adjuster all the way one direction, compress the fork and watch the speed of the rebound stroke. Now turn the adjuster all the way the other direction and do the same. There should be a noticeable difference. Try the same thing with your lockout or platform adjuster (see below for more on lockout issues). If you don't see a difference, either oil is sneaking past damaged seals or has broken down to the point where it can't do its job.

Scratched rebound shaft
3) Does it make any unusual noises? Grinding, clunking and slurping sounds are signs that you're way overdue for service. This is like waiting for your car to start smoking before you change the oil. In a rear shock, swishing or slurping (or in some cases squeaking or barking) means that the damper oil is cavitated (full of emulsified air), in which case it needs to be overhauled.

4) Does the lockout work? On some forks the first sign something is wrong is that the lockout gets soft or won't engage until part way into the travel. This is because of oil loss or degradation and is a good indication that the fork needs service.

5) Are you still getting full travel? If your damper seals or shafts get so worn out that oil is leaking out of the damper into the lowers, it will eventually be so full of oil that it can't compress all the way. This can feel like a metal-on-metal bottom-out. Typically this means your rebound shaft is scratched and needs to be replaced. In this case you should go back in time and have it serviced earlier. Or just have it serviced and expect to need to replace some parts.

So if your suspension is acting/sounding funny OR it's been over a year since your last service OR you've been riding at Cuyuna, give Shockspital a call or email and we'll figure out what you need.