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I've been riding a new set of air forks on a hard tail for a couple of weeks and have decided they're a bit too hard without any preload (riding xc). They were pumped to roughly the setting for my weight. A work colleague said there was a way to fine tune them using a cable tie over a number of rides, I can find some MX information but nothing MTB specific. Does anyone have further information on the best way to do this?

I get the idea, but want further detail on such as should I set at the mid range of pre load so I can go softer?

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What is the make/model of your fork? What is your weight? – WTHarper Dec 17 '12 at 19:37
Manitou Minute Expert - 75kg or 165lb – DWGKNZ Dec 17 '12 at 19:54
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Are you riding too light on the front wheel? Have a look at you riding style - are you loading the front wheel into corners? If you are not, then the shocks will feel too hard (front wheel will bounce). Maybe this is the problem. If you get a chance, get someone who rides a lot to have a look at your riding, ideally get some coaching. If your style is correct and you do ride "light" on the front then softer may be for you.

Attach a cable tie around the staunchen and slide it down a low as it goes. head out for a ride. At the end of the ride see how high it has traveled. The idea is that you use the full range of travel.

Don't be scared to soften them up. Note that suspension setting is not a science, each rider has preferences and styles that dictate you set the forks how you like them. The suggestions in the book are just that - suggestions. If you are 75kg, super fit and ride hard, fast and "heavy", you might need higher compression / damping, if you are 75 kg, and an unfit and slow and timid- lower might be better.

However, for XC you may decide to trade travel for efficiency - particularly on smooth, fast groomed trails - and stiffen the forks. I ride some local groomed trails with lockout because there is no advantage in having 50mm, let alone 100mm travel.

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+1 for don't be scared to soften up. If it's hard, forget the manual and find a pressure that you like, as long as you don't bottom out too easily. – heltonbiker Dec 17 '12 at 21:29
Thanks Matt. I do lack confidence in corners with loose gravel and don't commit too much into the turns. It's at these lower speeds I'm finding the control issues. – DWGKNZ Dec 18 '12 at 20:08
One thing I have notices in 20+ years of riding is that people don't hesitate to spend thousands on a better bike so they can go faster, and measurements like $1/gram saved become important. The smarter way to spend money is on you - especially coaching. As a guide - After I did one a day session (my first) with a professional coach, one ride I did regularly went from 52-54 minutes to 47-49 minutes (10% faster). Try getting that improvement by spending $200 in bike bits!!!. There can be an added benefit - your ego loves it when you kick bu.. against a guy who's bike is worth 10x yours... – mattnz Dec 18 '12 at 20:27

You should set the preload to to give the correct amount of sag on the fork when you are sat on it (usually 20-30%) - and then there shouldn't be a reason to touch it again (unless your weight changes dramatically of course).

Now if your forks feel hard, it means the compression is too high. Your fork's damping cartridge has an 'Absolute+' feature which means you have a 5-position knob on the top of one of the legs which allows you to tweak it somewhat.

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