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I've recently bought myself a new mountain bike (my first since my schooldays...) and it has front suspension with a lock-out function. Suspension is new to me and I'm not sure how to use the lock-out. It seems I have to stop and take my weight off the bike to lock-out the suspension - is this correct? Or should I be able to operate the lock-out whilst sat on the bike and I'm just not turning the lock-out hard enough? As I'm not really sure, I've avoided turning it too hard in case I do some damage.

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3 Answers 3

Less expensive forks have a mechanical lockout. This type of lockout is only usable when the fork is unweighted. Think of it like trying to deadbolt your door when it's still ajar.

Higher end forks- coil or air- use a hydraulic lockout. There's a lot going on inside them but to simplify things a bit, there are two valves in the damper of most mid-high end forks that allow oil to pass through and both only work in one direction. One allows oil to pass through when you hit a bump, the other allows oil to pass through on the rebound from that bump. When you engage the lockout on one of these forks it basically closes the valve that allows oil to pass through when you hit a bump, however the rebound valve stays open allowing the fork to return to it's original position.

So back to your original question-
No, there is nothing wrong with your fork. The lockout is working as expected and don't force it or you might break it!

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As a small addition: forks with a hydraulic lockout normally are still absorbing hard bumps even when locked. This also means that it is okay to ride them in locked state on ways that are not totally smooth. Forks with fixed lockout in contrary can be damaged when they hit a hard bump while locked, as their locking mechanism is somewhat similar to the bolt of a lock. –  Benedikt Bauer Mar 6 '13 at 19:21
    
Thank you everyone for the responses, happy now in the knowledge that I was right not to try and force the lockout whilst I'm sat on the bike. Will have to see whether its worth stopping to lock-out for the big hills I have to cycle up or whether i'm just as well just carrying on with the suspension active - some test rides will have to be done!! –  Schoie81 Mar 8 '13 at 14:01
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With an inexpensive coil sprung fork the lock out is often only usable with no weight on the fork. So yours is probably working normally.

Lockouts are most useful for sprinting and climbing, when your weight moves forwards and your putting in more effort that you don't want to waste.

More importantly, don't forget to free it again if you get enar anything bumpy, you can damage a fork like that.

(Personally, even with a remote lockout I rarely use it, except on perfectly smooth tarmac.)

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The forks are Suntour XCT V3. I don't use the lock-out too often as even when i'm not 'off-road', the roads I do use aren't great and I end up hitting lumps and pot-holes so keep the suspension active at the expense of a bit more effort when heading uphill. But if i knew how to use the lock-out properly, maybe i'd use it more...? –  Schoie81 Mar 6 '13 at 15:49
    
While I don't know these forks personally, I've had similar ones where the lockout was only usable unweighted. I think you're fine. –  alex Mar 6 '13 at 17:26
    
"With a coil sprung fork the lock out is often only usable with no weight on the fork. So yours is probably working normally." This is not true. Please see my answer. –  joelmdev Mar 6 '13 at 18:48
    
@jm2 But it also not completely wrong as coil sprung forks are more common in the lower end price segment than in the higher end one. And as you write in your answer a fixed lockout is more likely in the lower price segments. Therefore chances aren't that bad that a coil sprung fork might have a fixed lockout. On the other side this is only the half story, as one can see from your answer. –  Benedikt Bauer Mar 6 '13 at 19:14
    
Nah, his is a much fuller answer. –  alex Mar 7 '13 at 3:05
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If in doubt leave the fork locked out. If it's a bolt action mechanical cheap version, then I'd take the switch off so it can't be locked on. If it's not hydraulic lockout then don't bother. Work on your smooth high-torque cadence and the lockout won't matter. A good rider will be smooth and not bob up and down.

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