Confidence with Compression: Adjusting your fork
Confidence with Compression – sort of a vague title right? Am I gaining confidence on trail from compression? Am I confident adjusting my compression? Well, both.
The abridged back story: I had a chance to move further south. BikeCo’s website has been growing at a rate that I can now work remotely mostly and come up to the shop a couple times a week. Anyhow – for the first time since I started bikes I’m consistently riding trails I don’t know. This presents some really fun challenges particularly as I tend to ride solo most the time.
Now I didn’t move and decide I was one of our pro riders looking for the most ridiculous lines possible. Nor did I move and decide I was going to find every gravel trail to take my SB130 on. I’m riding the same basic level of trails but the unknown adds quite a bit to riding.
Confidence with Compression – On Trail
Adding a couple clicks of compression slows your fork driving through travel. It costs you a bit of small bump compliance generally. So how can compression increase confidence? Support.
Slowing the fork running through travel keeps the front end riding higher. This keeps your grips in a position you’re going to have more power. It also minimizes your body being thrown around. Let me give you a couple examples.
San Diego’s trail network is reminiscent of a lot of what I’m used to in Orange County. I’ve noticed a few caveats though.
First, they love rail road ties. It seems to protect the trail well from weather so it’s no knock.
Second they seem to love switchbacks too. Again, no knock. The trails I’ve ridden so far have been in really amazing shape considering the year we had. I think that the frequency and spacing of switchbacks also helps keep total speed down a bit. I’ve found few places that you can open up quite like you can in Laguna or Santiago Oaks networks. But, all the trails I’ve enjoyed down here have had super fun flow.
Between being new to the lines as well as new to trail personality I’ve found myself well off the ideal line a handful of times.
Imagine coming around a corner, crossing the rail road tie on the wrong side and whoops – what was an axle height drop for 75% of the width is nearly a wheel where you choose to drop it. That extra compression keeps your bars taller with more support available for your body weight pushing down on the fork. Keeping your upper body “taller” or “higher” on trail in relation to your bottom half definitely minimizes the over the bars chances as well. It also minimizes the amount of momentum your upper body generates “falling” until the fork pushes back. Staying taller in the travel the air spring generates less PSI on the piston. This means there’s less chance of the pogo stick return yanking the bars from your grip.
Modern fork’s low speed compression control is particularly useful for this. The current generation of Fox forks enable riders to confidently run more compression than ever before for the tuning benefits.
Compression is a control that is used to fine tune your setup. Typically air pressure and ramp (through volume spacers) are dialed in while compression is used to slow or speed the fork’s shaft input. (We have more data coming on air pressure / ramp / volume spacing coming soon!)
The Fox Fit4 circuit provides riders with a low speed compression control. It is the black knob located inside the 3 way adjust control on the damper side. Fox Fit4 dampers are available on 32, 34 and 36 stanchion forks.
The Fox GRIP2 damper provides high and low speed controls for both compression as well as rebound. The GRIP2 damper is available on the Fox 36 chassis. The GRIP2 damper can be purchased as an upgrade for FIT4 as well as Performance GRIP Fox 36 forks as well. Contact our team for more details!
Confidence with Compression – Adjustment
I’ve been spoiled for many years running BikeCo Pro Tune Suspension on all my personal bikes. Even with the 2020 advancements to the Fox lineup they are still designed for a wide range of riders. A 300lb inexperienced rider who’s going to bash on the system has to be accommodated for differently than the silky smooth, super high ground speed 175lb local ripper. But with a BikeCo Pro Tune each rider’s on trail experience will be better.
Pro Tune suspension shifts your damper’s performance window inline with your riding style, size and speed. This means that each adjustment is more finite allowing you improved tuning.
Do yourself a favor – check out our Pro Tune Suspension. Chat, call or email our staff. It will change your riding for sure. Our expert team’s after sales service will help you continue to dial in your settings for that “oh man, this is good” moment!
OK – back to being confident when you adjust your compression.
If you’re in the neighborhood on setup with air pressure and volume spacing a couple clicks of low speed compression really shouldn’t be a tooth rattling shift. You’re looking to keep the front end riding taller in stair steps or fast turns – not eliminate all the travel!
It can be easiest to feel it on the trail but a soft or middle bounce in the pedals should provide you the feeling of slowing the front end a bit. Remember – the front end is never softer than the rear end of a full suspension setup. As you get faster the front end will get stiffer so it has more to “punch back” with keeping you out of holes, etc by providing support. As you get faster you’re going to look at air pressure, volume as well as compression settings.
If you like where the bike is generally and just want a touch more support – that’s when you turn up a couple clicks of compression.
So when I headed out for my first afternoon ride and saw the rail road ties and chunky rocks my first thought was: well, more compression today! I went from 5 to 7 clicks on my GRIP2’s low speed compression. This really didn’t compromise the amount of travel I’m using – it’s still been appropriate. As the shaft accelerates into the high speed compression settings the performance is where I’ve generally kept it.
In theory the extra compression takes a bit away from the initial suppleness of the fork. That said, as you ride faster the fork will become more plush again so it’s not like it’s trying to rip the bars out of your hands smashing through that rock garden. It might feel a bit less supple on the slower speed rock garden crawls – but, that extra support really will help you stay balanced and in control of both wheels.
Questions on suspension? You’re not alone. What can seem like a simple change might modify a wide range of performance. That’s why at BikeCo we offer unmatched after sales service for any bike, suspension or pro tune service. Work with our team of experts to help define what’s going to give you the most confidence on trail.
After all, the more confidence you ride with the better time you’re going to have!