Why do you need it? How do you know to service them?
As a lifelong cycling enthusiast, I have found that nothing changed my cycling experience more than the advent of suspension. The early suspension forks had rubber elastomers that offered little other than some vibration dampening, but even then it was obvious that this was a revolutionary step forward for offroad riding. Control became a real thing instead of pinballing down rocky trails.
Fast forward to today and most places you ride off road the majority of bikes are full suspension. This has been a huge step forward for comfort and rider control, but it does add new levels of complexity to machines that were already often neglected by all but the most dedicated owners.
The problem with suspension is that like drivetrain it gradually wears and loses efficiency. This makes it so you might not even notice the decline in performance. What most riders don’t realize is that even if you barely ride your bike, its performance is not going to be optimized unless you have your suspension rebuilt yearly.
Fox Racing Shox has a simple formula for all their current shocks and suspension forks. Suspension components should be rebuilt every 200 hours of use or once a year, whichever comes first.
This means that no matter how little you ride your bike the suspension should get a basic rebuild once a year. This isn’t as severe as many riders would make it out to be though. A basic rebuild involves changing fluids and inspecting the seals, shims stacks and other parts for wear or damage. Then replacing anything that needs it.
On the extreme other end of the spectrum, cross country riders who put a lot of time in the saddle might need their suspension rebuilt every month or so. Some aggressive DH riders find that they need their shocks rebuilt after every race weekend.
Ask any mechanic and they will likely tell you that the suspension components are the most likely part of any vehicle to have its routine maintenance neglected. Unless you have the sensitivity of a test pilot it’s pretty easy to miss the gradual wear till something stops working properly. No one wants to have to finish their ride by walking home because a fork or shock is blown out.
There are numerous things you can do to help ensure that your bike’s suspension stays functioning at full capability. Some of them are as simple as following your suspension component manufacturer’s recommendation for periodic maintenance.
When you know your bike is due for a suspension service you can make an appointment with your tuner to drop off your bike when you know you will not have time to use it, or you could even dismantle it for them and bring in your suspension components to save time. Some suspension tuners even provide services during race weekends at events. Dropping it off during a race weekend can be a great way to get it back right away.
The worst thing you can do is ignore your suspension. Any misalignments or damage is only going to get worse over time and the more damage that is done before a rebuild the more expensive and potentially longer it is going to take to get back up and running.
Check in with your local shop and see what their schedule is for suspension rebuilds or if they send them out, then you will know how long you can expect to be without your ride, and you can schedule a time when they have less work orders competing with yours. If you fall into the once a year rebuild category this would probably best be done during your local off season.
Thankfully full suspension bikes are here to stay and their current state of reliability is quite impressive. With a little bit of consideration and planning you can keep your bike riding like new for years to come.