By Bones Bacon

I took a little time off over the week off and headed up to the Sierras, my favorite place in the world to relax and recharge my batteries. I was standing there fishing a stretch of the Upper Owens on a beautiful sunny day, looking up at Glass mountain on the right and Bald mountain on the left. There were some deer grazing only about 100 yards from me, and I was thinking that the only way this could get any better is if I could actually catch a fish. Just then, the suspension guy in me came to the realization that I had the wrong setup for this type of water. This setup worked well at the last spot where I fished, but the water was much slower flowing and shallower, with fewer weeds and grass on the bottom. And the next spot I was headed for would have even faster, deeper water, with more obstacles like big boulders and logs. It’s kind of like when you need a different setup for motocross than you do for offroad riding, or even Supercross.

Offroad racing, like the fishing spot where I just was, requires a unique setup. You generally need your suspension to be softer, looser and freer so it can soak up all the choppy bumps at much higher speeds. There are usually fewer sharp turns, so you don’t have to worry so much about that. Spring rates are usually the same as for motocross or just a shade lighter, but you can get away with a setting that allows you to open up the clickers a little more than in motocross. Seldom are there big jumps with a lot of air time where the bikes have to slam into jump faces, but there are times when you’ll drop into gullies or big ravines that G-out the bike pretty hard due to the higher speeds. For the most part, though, you want a comfortable and plush ride because you’re on the bike for much longer periods of time.


My current fishing spot was like motocross. Overall speeds are slower. Turns are tighter. Obstacles are bigger. This setup requires more damping control, and the clickers have to be turned in more to control the oil flow better. The spring rates may have to be increased to supply the additional firmness required to handle the steeper-faced, bigger jumps. Internally, the rebound damping will need to be a little slower to allow the bike to settle into the turns and stay planted a little better.

My final fishing spot today would be more like a Supercross track. This setup is somewhat like the motocross setup but needs to be drastically stiffer because of the incredibly aggressive nature of Supercross tracks. The speeds are slower, yet the turns are tighter and the obstacles are bigger. Supercross valving is a lot firmer and slower than motocross valving for control on the steep faces of the jumps and landings. A Supercross bike has to stay on top of the massive whoops they build on the tracks. Spring rates are pushed to the limits to handle the damping chores. The challenge here is to have a bike that is stiff enough to do all this but doesn’t beat the rider to death. It still has to be able to settle into the corners and turn accurately. This may require different chassis parts.

So, unlike my first fishing spot, where my setup was dialed in, I had to change things up just a little for the spot where I was standing when I had my epiphany. I needed to add a little weight to my line, go to a bigger fly and change up my casting technique. At the final spot of the day, where the water was even faster and deeper with a lot of obstacles, I would need even more weight on my line. I also needed to switch to a thicker line and to change up my chassis a little by going to a shorter and firmer fishing pole that flexed less. This would help me maneuver around in the tighter sections more easily.

The moral of this story is don’t be afraid to change your settings for the different types of riding you do. It might not change your results that much, but it will keep you safer. Also, you will end up having more fun for the type of riding you are doing. And no, I didn’t catch any fish that day, but I did have a great time.

Jim “Bones” Bacon has tuned the suspension of the biggest names in motocross, including Jeremy McGrath, Ricky Carmichael and Ryan Villopoto. Bones has a rehular column in MXA every month—where he hands out valuable advice. If you have a suspension question, send it to [email protected].



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