After over 30 years in the motorcycle industry and manufacturing, supporting and guiding race teams out to win and individuals who just want to have the enjoyment of the occasional track day, I would like to share my guide to suspension settings that will help anyone embarking on their first track day or even an experienced rider that wants the ultimate set-up for their machine.
- Sag is the amount of suspension travel your bike takes up just supporting its own weight. It should be around 10-15mm for racing. Increase the pre-load and the bike will sag less.
- More pre-load wil raise the ride height, which will make your bike steer quicker and change direction faster, but too much will make it unstable
- Increasing: More pre-load stops the forks diving under braking but be careful as too much makes the front likely to lock up under heavy pressure. It also pushes more weight onto the rear of the bike, which gives better traction and allows you to get on the throttle harder in a corner. Overdo it and the bike will not turn as well or as quickly as there's less weight on the front tyre
- Decreasing: This gives more sag at the front end and puts more weight over the front tyre. You will achieve more feel from the front when turning into corners, especially under braking. Go too far and the forks will dive too much under braking. You might even find yourself doing an accidental stop!
Front Rebound Damping
- Increasing:Turn up the damping will firm the bike up for a track day, but you need to steady rise from the forks otherwise the front end could wash out. Too much front rebound will cause the front tyre to hug the road and not let the forks react to bumps. Overdoing it will also cause the bike to be slowly turning, as it can't recover from bumps quickly enough.
- Decreasing: Back it off too much and the forks will spring back too fast, unloading the front tyre too quickly under braking. Too little rebound damping will cause the bike to jump around at the front and may lead to 'tankslappers'. it can also cause the bike to run wide in corners and make it harder to hold a constant line through bends.
Rear Rebound Damping
- Increasing: Turn it up a little and the bike will be better suited to track days, but too much will cause it to run wide. Too much rear rebound will overload and chew up the rear tyre when riding hard. It will also make the bike unstable, with the back end kicking up over bumps.
- Decreasing: Backing off the rear rebound damping too far will cause the back of the bike to bounce around. It will also mean the rear tyre isn't being worked hard enough, so it will take longer to reach the optimum temperature for maximum grip. Lower the rebound damping too much and the bike will push the front end wide under power.
Front Compression Damping
- Increasing: Wind it up a bit and your bike will dive less under braking and work much better on smooth roads and track days with much more feel from the front tyre. Too much compression will firm up the ride and turn a bike from a smooth ride into a 'boneshaker'. Overdo it completely and forks won't compress quickly enough, causing instability especially over bumpy roads.
- Decreasing: Back the compression damping off and the bike will cope with bumps better and use more of its travel to make things smoother. Turn it off too much and the front tyre will load up under braking and the forks will move too freely. The forks may also skip over bumps rather than soaking them up.
Rear Compression Damping
- Increasing: This controls the rate at which the shock is squeezed - wind it up too much and you'll be bouncing out of the seat over bumps. Too much rear compression will put the tyre under too much stress as you put the power down. Get it spot-on and the bike will track straight and hold a tighter line.
- Decreasing: Back the rear compression off too much and the rear of the bike will squat down, causing under steer. It will also cause the front tyre to go light. The result is that you will run wide in corners. Wind it off too much and the bike will bottom-out over bumpy roads and wallow around under pressure.