Let's talk Suspension | Some insight on what you need to know before you lower your dirt bike!

 Photo by Genevieve Davis

Photo by Genevieve Davis

For some of us ladies, we find stock dirt bikes can be a bit too tall to be comfortable on. Lowering your dirt bike and getting the suspension properly set up for your height, weight and riding style will most definitely improve your experience on the bike! We felt it was time to address the issues that we hear so much about from so many Babes in the Dirt!

The first thing you should know is that any high performance motorcycle is set up to have 12”-13” of suspension travel which is why they are so tall. Stock bikes are set up for the average rider which is (you guessed it) a dude that, on average, is taller and weighs more than most females. For some female riders and the riding style they plan on participating in the most, the stock suspension is ideal. To determine what is best for YOU, there are some key things you need to take in to account and a few recommendations we have.

  1. LEAVE IT TO THE PROFESSIONALS. Once you start playing with the suspension in your garage you are majorly messing with the geometry of the bike. The linkage and ratio pressure of the shocks are set up that way for a reason and if you don’t know what you’re doing then you are doing you and your bike a disservice! Shortening the front forks and rear shock requires disassembling delicate components and requires specialized tools. This is definitely a task best performed by a trained suspension technician that understands how to lower a motorcycle properly.

  2. DO NOT USE A LOWERING LINK. Don’t listen to your friends that say “just throw a lowering link on there” by doing this you completely throw off the balance of the bike and all that engineering that took years to perfect goes right out the window. The linkage system is a crucial part of the rear suspension. It is important that the front forks and rear shock act together. When you add longer lowering links, it changes the leverage ratio, which can cause all sorts of problems. Think about it like this; the shock has the same travel but less distance between the wheel and fender which can result in bottoming out.

  3. An important question to ask yourself is: What type of riding do you plan on doing? Mostly trails? Moto X Track? Enduro cross? Fire roads? Dualsport? Different types of riding require a different suspension set up. For example: If you plan on launching your bike off some sweet jumps on an MX track, you are going to need that suspension travel when you land. If you are mostly riding smooth trails, desert riding and fire roads you probably don’t need quite as much travel.

  4. Height is not the only factor when figuring out how much your bike needs to be lowered (or not). Your weight (with all of your gear on) is important to factor in as well. We recommend bringing your gear with you when you drop off your bike to get set up. You will need to jump up and down on your bike to see how much your weight compresses so that they can properly set the sag. Sag is the name given to the amount of suspension travel used up when the bike settles with a rider on board.

  5. Do not over lower you bike just so that you can touch the ground better. Yes, touching the ground is important but not as important as ground clearance. Ideally being able to touch with the balls of your feet is very comfortable but it all goes back to what type of riding you plan on doing.

  6. You can also look in to simply get a lower profile seat so that you can reach the ground better but this does nothing in terms of setting up your suspension for you and your riding style.

Not having your motorcycle set up specifically for you can result in some very frustrating situations. Trust me, I have been there. I am guilty of impulse purchasing a bike that was way too big and heavy for me and had suspension set up for a dude that was twice my weight and about a foot taller. It was not a pleasurable experience once I ended up on some tight single track trails in Kennedy Meadows. In fact, now that i think of it, that was the last tie I cried on a motorcycle. Yep, thats right, I cried! Out of sheer frustration and exhaustion from trying to battle the beast on some pretty technical sections. I call this experience PH (pre Husqvarna) Everything changed for me once me Husky came in to my life.

When I got my Husqvarna FE 250 I wanted to make sure that I got it set up just right for me. I was determined to take my riding to the next level. I am 5’6” 125 pounds and do mostly trail riding that can involve some more technical terrain like single track, rock quarries, and an occasional log and river crossing. I had my bike professionally lowered 2 inches and I can touch on the balls of my feet which I am very comfortable with. Getting my bike dialed was a complete game changer and I credit that (and the overall superiority of Husqvarna engineering DUH) with my progression as a rider these past few years. I highly recommend that riders spend the money and do it right! You wont regret it!

Here are some places that I recommend having your suspension done.

Northern California:

http://www.santacruzsuspension.com/

Southern California:

https://gbcapodieci.wixsite.com/espsuspension

Thanks you to Suspension Guru Rich Dandalo of #SantaCruzSuspension for helping to go over the technical details and consult on this blog!