BARE BONES: DEALING WITH COMBO SETTINGS
By Bones Bacon
If you’re one of those riders who likes to ride a little motocross and a little Supercross, or engage in motocross play racing and desert riding, then hopefully you’re willing to sacrifice some suspension performance. Using your motocross setup for the desert is like taking the big four-wheel-drive Jeep that you use for off-roading and entering a rally with it. You can do it, but you would be better off with a Subaru WRX.
People ask me all the time to just set their suspension up somewhere between the two types of riding they like to do. I have to explain that if I do that, they won’t have the best performance for either type of riding. The suspension will be too soft for motocross and too stiff for offroad. If you’re a rider who likes to spin laps on the local Supercross-style track one day and then take your bike to an outdoor track the next day, you risk getting hurt because of the bad setup on one track or the other. An in-between setting will be too soft for Supercross, even if you do every jump perfectly—and who’s perfect anyway? The first time you make a mistake in the whoops and drop the front end, you are going over the bars. Even worse, if you over-jump the big triple jump only to find out that there’s not enough compression damping to keep the suspension from crushing through its stroke, your ankles and wrists are not going to be happy.
Conversely, if you take this in-between setting to a high-speed motocross track, the bike won’t soak up the chop and braking bumps like it should. Eventually, your arms will pump up and feel like baseball bats, making it hard to hang on.
“THE BEST SOLUTION, IF YOU CAN AFFORD IT, IS TO HAVE TWO BIKES.”
What’s the solution? The best solution, if you can afford it, is to have two bikes. That will give you the luxury of a plush offroad setting and a stiffer motocross setting without having to compromise. And, the compromises are not just in the suspension settings but with the tires, air pressure, gearing, wheelbase, engine spec and other elements.
The second solution is to get another set of suspension and just swap it out whenever you go to different tracks or riding areas. This isn’t as expensive as it sounds if you buy used parts from riders who have upgraded to new suspension.
The third and the most common solution is to set up the suspension for the type of riding you do the most. This way, you will at least be happy with your bike for one type of riding. Then, when you take your bike out to do something else, you will be aware of the sacrifices you made in performance. I must caution you, however, that when you’re out having fun, it is easy to forget that your suspension is going to be way too stiff or way too soft for the obstacle ahead. Don’t worry too much, though, because when you’re into a major swap and your life is flashing before your eyes, you will suddenly remember, “Oh yeah, I was supposed to be taking it easy out here.”
Our Pro Circuit team riders are as guilty of this as anyone. We often do Supercross testing at our private track at Glen Helen at the same time that the National track is open for practice. Before we know it, one of our riders will go missing, and we’ll find him out on the National track doing laps with the locals. The rider usually comes back right away saying what a bad idea it was.
The moral of this story is, don’t enter your mom’s Camry in the Baja 1000; take your dad’s F150 instead.