Learn how to get the most out of your bike with set-up tips from Niall Mackenzie
I’m a simple man with simple logic so I’d like to start with tyres as, after all, they are what connect us to the tarmac. Think of it this way, you could be sitting on £5,000 worth of Öhlins suspension but if your tyre pressures are 10psi out you’ll never get your bike to handle properly.
I always start with manufacturer’s recommended pressures both for riding on for the road and for track days and you should check these weekly, or daily should you be doing back-to-back track days. As the standard pressures are given for a wide spectrum of rider weight and road conditions there is no reason why you can’t experiment by lowering the pressures, but only a few psi at a time. I do this regularly as I test many different bikes and tyres, but I always like to get a good feel of things by doing plenty of miles on the stock pressures first.
On track days I start off on standard pressures but as I begin to work the tyres harder I’ll monitor the hot tyre pressures after each session and lower them accordingly. Generally I find 32psi front and 34psi rear (hot) works well on track days, however for the road I find a few psi under the recommended manufacturers pressures works well, but set these when the tyre are cold. I find never going below 30 and above 40 psi is a safe working range. If it happens to be wet I would never lower pressures as this only lets the tread fold in, reducing the tyres ability to shift water.
Remember different tyres can completely change the feel of your bike so ask around and do plenty research when you’re ready for new rubber. And its worth remembering that if your bike is fitted with OE (original equipment) tyres, the aftermarket replacement might be slightly different. OE tyres developed for new models can, for example, sometimes have more endurance but slightly less grip than their replacement as they are designed for wide performance parameters. A little homework can pay off here.
Next on my list is suspension. Your front forks and rear shock are constantly hard at work so at some point they will need attention.
My rule is if the bike is over three years old, or you know nothing of the history of your suspension, then it is time to service or replace. Any rear shock linkages should also be cleaned, checked and lubed.
If you have a sports bike and fancy upgrading your suspension then I would start with a fork kit which will not only give you better suspension but a greater range of adjustment. Budget permitting then next would be a new shock with an Öhlins being the one l’d choose should I have the cash.
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