The Best First Mod: Suspension
Updated: Jul 7, 2020
Modern dirt bikes have come a long way and without mixing in personal biases and sentimental value we can all agree all the major manufactures produce good machines right off the show room floor. Dirt bikes now are far more reliable and powerful than a 1973 Hodaka Combat wombat- not disrespecting the Hodaka gang! But we are lucky to be living at such an awesome time for dirt bike technology. Now how can you make your dirt bike truly unique to your riding style and skill level? Suspension.
You can be fast, slow, small, big or whatever in between but getting your suspension done should be on every riders short list. The factories have a tough job when it comes to making a bike suitable for the grand majority when it comes to suspension. We all enjoy twisting the throttle and reliability so for the manufactures to hit that it comes easy. The curve ball is setting a bikes suspension to work well for a 140lb hot shot as well as the 225lb novice rider just starting out.
I have been blessed with friends who have skill levels ranging from pro to weekend warrior and the consensus is always to get your suspension done first. I decided to take my WP AER forks and shock to Pro Circuit to get it done. One of the reasons is because when it comes to suspension you get what you pay for. If you know, then you already know Pro Circuit makes excellent products and their customer service is great. Another reason is because I decided to make it a quick day trip with my family. We got out of town and headed south for 3 1/2 hours. I dropped off the suspension at the shop personally and got to see the championship bikes in the front lobby. Every motocross fan should make the trip because there is a lot of moto history in the building and I was glad I could enjoy and share it with my daughter. My wife was also very impressed with the shop and bikes on display. I feel for her because she had to hear me go off about each bike and the rider who rode it to a win.
So now for the meat and potatoes of the story. I dropped off my suspension and filled out rider information sheet. This sheet asks for information such as your weight, height, skill level and what you compete in. I went with 200lbs, 5’8, novice and motocross. A week and a half later I had a box at my front door with my freshly re-valved and re-sprung suspension. When I opened the box it was absolutely glorious seeing the suspension with a new spring, color and Pro Circuit fork decals. The best part is that there was no need to set sag as it was already set by Pro Circuit to bolt on and get going. Within an hour of opening the box I had the suspension mounted as I was very eager to see it all together.
One of the big issues I had with my KTM 250 SX was the front end never wanted to bite and it felt like it would constantly push. Turns out this was because I weighed my shock down too much and therefore it wouldn’t put enough weight on the front to bite and track well. Now this can also happen with bad riding form but after a few coaching lessons and tips from friends I knew suspension would be the move to cure it. Now initially the suspension felt stiff but after breaking it in, it was awesome. I really enjoyed the fact that the compression and rebound were already set and if needed, I just had to make a few click adjustments. A lot of people have hate for the WP air forks but I also believe many of them don’t play with their clickers enough. Not only that but they don’t take the time to adjust their air pressure and make the slow and time consuming adjustments to find the sweet spot.
Before going with Pro Circuit I did some research on forums and a lot of people were complaining that their suspension runs on the stiff side. I honestly don’t understand the complaining when, with some adjustments, you can move things around. This brings me to my next point. You must be honest with yourself when getting suspension done! You are not going to impress anyone by saying you need pro level suspension when you are intermediate at best. It's for you and worst case scenario you have to take it off and send it back to get re-valved which will just cut into your riding time and wallet (a la shipping).
You can’t go fast without feeling comfortable and with comfort comes confidence. Suspension is a great first modification for your dirt bike and its also a very personal modification. Everyone can have the same pipes, head work, and tires but suspension is unique and set to your skill level and weight. Do adjust your settings on your bike as they are free and read your manual and become familiar with moto terminology. Remember they are dirt bikes and get beat up; it comes with the territory.
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