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Lockable suspension is very handy on every ride. But I have witnessed a few cases where they break way too soon, in comparison with other types of suspension. The locks fail to be effective, or the shock travel decreases.

I recently upgraded my suspension with a good quality lockable front suspension. And I want to know how to make it last longer?

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I have a lockable suspension (Manitou Black) and have never used it locked. My rationale is: I got the fork because I want the suspension. Besides, if you get some surprise in your way, it is better to have it working. But of course it is very personal. –  heltonbiker Mar 20 '12 at 16:20
    
@heltonbiker, I dont mind using it open, my concern is to make it last longer. –  Starx Mar 20 '12 at 17:35
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2 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Suspension forks with lockouts are the norm on any bicycle of quality in the current market.

Most really good quality forks or rear shocks which are equipped with a lockout are also equipped with a blow off valve which release the lockout when it hits a bump which exceeds the pressure the lockout valve can support. This is designed to save your shock in an emergency.

More basic forks, or older forks may not have this blow off feature, and may therefore sustain damage if more than very minor obstacles are hit, at speed, while the shock is locked out.

Even if you have a very good fork, it is advisable to use the lockout for its intended purpose, which is to increase efficiency when there is no need for the suspension, and that means that you should avoid riding rougher terrain with the lockout engaged.

Also, if you do force the blow off valve to trigger, you often need to service the shock before riding again.

Suspension is one of the more sensitive components to proper maintenance and tuning. If you treat you fork right, it should last just fine.

One thing many people fail to realize is that suspension warranties are conditional on you doing the required maintenance. For most shocks that means rebuilding them once a year. Check your manual if you need the maintenance schedule for your particular shock.

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So, Should i lock the suspension by default and open it when I need it, or open by default and lock when i need? –  Starx Mar 20 '12 at 10:04
    
Safest course from a maintenance standpoint is open by default, but it depends on where and how you ride. If you ride on the road 90% of the time, then locked by default makes sense. If you ride it off road most of the time, then open by default makes sense. –  zenbike Mar 20 '12 at 11:32
    
@Starx I'd say: open by default. Sometimes you are just riding, and the suspension won't bob at all. Sometimes you are on smooth asphalt trying to keep the pace with some strong friends with lots of sprints. That's the typical situation where lockout makes a TRUE difference. –  heltonbiker Mar 20 '12 at 16:22
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Regarding the "last longer" part, there would be two approaches:

  1. The suspension wears out while it works, due to friction;
  2. The suspension, when locked, suffers from impacts and vibration, both of which mechanically stress the whole structure, and specially the lockout mechanism.

I think the first reason might not be right on good-quality suspensions which have good washers/O-rings to auto-clean the mud and dust away, and in these cases keeping it locked for too long might actually make the dust build-up even greater than a free-moving suspension.

So, it seems to me the worst thing you could do to decrease the life of your fork is to use it locked when it should be actually open, that is, everywhere except very very smooth asphalt roads, or during long climbings, or during sprints.

As for myself, like I said previously, I never lock the suspension because I cannot feel any disadvantage from riding it open, but lots of discomfort and even risks from riding it locked. BUT, I think it depends on preload (my fork is relatively firm), and with softer suspensions, where the bobbing might be too much, locking might be even necessary.

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Pretty close. The suspension is designed to be used locked. That's why it has a lockout. But it is designed to be used locked when there are no major obstacles. Which leaves it to the rider to ensure the fork doesn't get damaged by riding it in the wrong setting for the wrong terrain... –  zenbike Mar 21 '12 at 6:27
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