Get your suspension set up, do it now!

One single thing you can do to improve your bikes performance by 100% all for just £99

Things are coming along nicely in the Speed Triple camp. I’ve finally removed my gaffa tapped heated jacket controls from the tank, and fitted a pair of Bridgestones sticky but durable BT-16’s. Last week a huge box full of R&G crash protection stuff arrived so that will be fitted at the weekend for peace of mind, just as well really because the Triumph now feels like a finely tuned scratcher thanks to a recent new discovery.

I love that as with life, ‘biking’ is a process of continual learning. As you mix with other bikers you find new inspiration to try new things. At the moment for me this statement specifically applies to suspension set up. I have discovered that all those little anodized nobs and screws that you find on most bikes suspension can actually, if moved around correctly, make a cataclysmic difference to how your bike performs.

P&H Motorcycles in Crawley run a suspension setup service run by qualified in-house Öhlin’s technicians. If you buy a bike from them they encourage you to get the suspension set-up for your body weight and riding style. My experience to date with bike suspension consists of fiddling with the rebound screw because the bike doesn’t turn in very well, finding out that I’ve buggered up the handling completely, then putting it back to standard and never touching it again. On spending some time with engineers Sam and Darren it transpires that I’m not the first.

Watching the guys measuring and marking things then scribbling down notes on a crisp ‘suspension set up sheet’ I began to realize how technical this all is. Most standard suspension nowadays is adjustable in three ways both at the front forks and the rear shock and every adjustment you make on each of those has a positive or negative impact on the other. In my case the Speed Triple felt very high at the front, Sam and Darren’s calculations showed this to be true so the rear was raised by some 10mm. This meant the rebound needed to be adjusted because of the reduction in compression on the rear spring so that was adjusted to…one click at a time. We also found that even with my body weight on the bike the front could be a fair bit firmer thus helping the front end to turn in sharper.

In a nut shell the aim is to get the front and rear wheel doing the same thing at the same time and this can only be achieved by adjusting the suspension to suit your exact weight. Most of us probably understand that a particular model of bike is set up at the factory to suit an “average rider”, but who is that average rider? And where is he when he’s doing his “average riding”?

With more than 10 clicks of adjustment across a minimum of four different parts of the bike it’s highly unlikely that you are in fact Mr Average. Enduro racing technician Darren talked about how he feels sorry for all those Ducati Multistrada owners riding their new bikes around with 'ultra wallowy front suspension'. They recently adjusted one for a customer and he thought he was riding a totally different bike - such was the extent of the improvement. He had been trying to get used to the really soft front end that he was never going to make use of because he never went off road and was finding that a draw back of what could be an overall brilliant bike for his needs.

I cant begin to explain exactly what changes were made and how much “static sag” was removed, from that statement alone you can probably tell that I still have no idea what-does-what. What I can tell you though is that the new 2011 Speed Triple turned into corners better than last years model but still not to the extent I would have liked. I can also tell you that it felt almost Enduro bike high at the front and that it was noticeably more bumpy than the older model. After an hour of set up the improvement in the stability and eagerness of the bike is immense. The confidence the bike feeds to you is drastically improved, the suspension now works with the bumps and doesn’t let the front end trail when feeding into a bend. Great for the old heart that.

If you have a bike with adjustable suspension and you have £99 to spare, get your suspension set up and tailored for what you actually use the bike for. And if you don’t like the results I’m told P&H will give you your money back, no questions asked. You can reach the guys here.

As with changing the exhaust, getting the suspension set up will now become a bog standard part of the initiation process whenever I throw my leg over a new bike.