How to Adjust the Shocks on a Bicycle

How to Adjust the Shocks on a Bicycle
Mountain bikes are designed for smooth and rocky terrain. Whether you are planning a mountain bike race or just want to head to the mountains for a day of cycling, you'll want a bicycle with spring tension in front and a shock in the rear. You have to buy the best springs for your bicycle and weight, but making adjustments when necessary will ensure proper suspension when you ride.


Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Things You’ll Need:
  • Bike manual
  • Tape measure
Step 1
Adjust the "sag," the amount of compression that occurs when weight is applied to a bicycle. Sit on your bike, but do not allow your feet to touch the ground. Have a friend measure how much sag occurs when you get on or off the bike. Normal sag should measure about one-quarter of the shock's travel length. (Review your manual to determine what your bike's travel length is.) If there is 4 inches of travel, sag should measure 1 inch.
Step 2
Adjust the front spring tension. Rotate the screw knob on the top of your fork in a clockwise direction to increase tension and reduce sag.
Step 3
Adjust the rear shock. Rotate the threaded spring collar on the shock in a clockwise direction to reduce the sag.
Step 4
Adjust your rebound damping, the mechanism that controls how fast your shock re-extends after it is compressed. Rotate the rebound damping adjustment so that it is all the way out. Test the adjustment by riding the bike over a series of bumps. Pull the adjustment back one-half turn until the rebound rate keeps up with your hands when you push down on the front fork and then quickly release it.
Step 5
Prevent your suspension from compressing too quickly when riding over difficult and rocky terrain. If you do not ride on rocky terrain, turn your damping knob in a counterclockwise direction until it is fully open. Increase the damping by turning the knob in or clockwise.
Step 6
Test your bike. Your individual level of comfort will dictate when an adjustment is right. Test your bike by alternately riding over smooth and rocky terrain. Stand on the pedals and bounce the bike up and down with your weight centered over the cranks. The shocks should feel even; an observer would also notice an even response if standing nearby.

Tips & Warnings

Make all adjustments to your preference.
Always consult your manual before making any adjustments to your bicycle.

Article Written By Charlie Gaston

Charlie Gaston has written numerous instructional articles on topics ranging from business to communications and estate planning. Gaston holds a bachelor's degree in international business and a master's degree in communications. She is fluent in Spanish and has extensive travel experience.

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