Garage Files: Time For A Suspension Refresh

Suspension Refresh

1. Many of “The Garage Files” procedures can be done the old-fashioned way, either by flipping the bike over on its handlebar or leaning it against anything that’s not covered by your apartment’s security deposit. But for this one, it’s much easier with a proper repair stand. One of our absolute favorites is our Feedback Sports Pro Elite stand. We’re using that today, along with Feedback’s Team Edition toolkit and Range adjustable torque wrench.

Your rear suspension takes a beating. It carries you over roots, blasts over rock gardens and trudges through miles of singletrack with aplomb. Those precision parts will usually work flawlessly for a while, no matter what, even if they are ridden hard, put away wet and neglected. But don’t expect them to work like that forever.

Most suspension bikes should have their fork and shock serviced at least once a year, and even more often if you ride frequently in harsh or wet conditions. That service involves disassembling the fork or shock and changing the internal oils that make those precision parts work. Suspension bikes can benefit from this service whenever parts get gritty and creaky from the elements.

This is the “suspension refresh,” and it’s a procedure that GooseWorks Mobile Bike Tuning  recommends to their riders. It doesn’t involve special tools or computer diagnostics. All it requires is a little know-how and gumption to get in there and clean it out. If your suspension is feeling creaky and tired from all those hard miles, this “Garage Files” is for you.


2. We are working on the suspension linkage, and it’s best to do that with as little weight on the bike as possible. Start by putting the bike in the repair stand and removing both wheels.


3. We are going to work with this Santa Cruz Hightower’s upper link for this procedure. Santa Cruz uses two different types of fasteners for this one link, both of which are used on many other types of full-suspension bikes.


4. The lower link pin is a Collet style, which uses a bolt and conical expander wedge to hold it in place. To remove the whole pin, start by removing the bolt and expander wedge. This particular bolt is a 5mm Allen head, and the wedge piece came out with no problem.


5. If you have removed the bolt and the conical wedge is still in there, you can use the end of the Allen wrench to free the wedge. Set these parts aside for now.


6. Now that the wedge is removed, the larger Allen head on the main pivot is exposed. Use the correct Allen wrench to turn the pin counterclockwise as far as it will go. This bike uses an 8mm Allen.


7. With the pin unscrewed, you should be able to use the Allen wrench to free the pin and remove it. If the pin is stuck, you can gently tap it out using a punch.


8. Most bikes use some type of spacer between the rocker and the frame. This pin uses two specially shaped washers that cover the bearings. Remove them and set them aside.


9. The upper rocker mount uses a simpler bolt system. To remove, simply unscrew the 6mm bolt on either side.


10. When removing the rocker, these two spacers will want to fall out. Before they do, take note of whether or not they are directional, and remember which way to put them back in if they are. Be sure to remove them from the rocker and set them with the rest of the small bits.


11. Now it’s time for some elbow grease. Pick your favorite degreaser and spray some on a clean rag or towel. We like to use Maxima’s Suspension Clean because it doesn’t leave any residue to contaminate the clean grease we’re going to use later.


12. We also like to use a cloth rag instead of paper towels, because they do a better job cleaning without the paper waste. Spend some time cleaning the bearing surfaces and getting all the grit off.


13. Do the same with the frame surfaces, and remove as much grit and grime as possible. The cleaner you can get these areas, the less likely they are to creak when reassembled.


14. With all your bolts and rocker clean, it’s time for reassembly. We have arranged the parts roughly in order to make sure we haven’t misplaced anything in the cleaning process.


15. For replacing spacers, we like to “dip” them like a chip in a bowl of guacamole. The goal is to get enough grease on the spacers so it will hold them in place during the reassembly.


16. Use your small dab of grease as “adhesive,” and position the spacers in the rocker on the bearings. Some spacers, like these, have a directional shape. Be sure they go back in the rocker the same way they came out.


17. With the spacers situated in the rocker, carefully position the whole assembly in place and prepare to reinstall the rocker bolts.


18. Put a dab of grease on the rocker bolt threads, and use the correct-size Allen wrench to start the threads. Do not fully tighten them just yet.


19. Now, use a dab of grease on the lower spacers and put them in place over the lower rocker bearings.


20. Now, situate them in between the rocker and the frame, like so. Be sure, once again, to install the spacers in the correct direction, the same way they came out of the frame during disassembly.


21. Use a liberal amount of grease on the shaft of the bolt and threads to prepare for reassembly. Some frame manufacturers require the use of a thread-locking compound to keep the pins in place. Check your owner’s manual for specifics on your frame linkage.


22. Reinstall the pin and tighten using the correct-size Allen wrench. Since this is a Collet system, tightening the pin is a two-step process. This first step only preloads the bearings and doesn’t require much torque.


23. Using our Feedback Range torque wrench and an 8mm bit, we tightened this pin to 3 N/m of torque. For reference, that’s just over half the torque you should use on your stem bolts, which is not very much.


24. Prepare the Collet wedge and bolt for reassembly. The wedge piece should be greased, as should the threads of the bolt.


25. Reinstall the Collet, and then use your torque wrench to finish tightening the bolt to hold the pivot pin in place. This 5mm Collet bolt should be torqued to 8 N/m, which is more than a stem bolt but much less than a crank bolt.


26. Finally, tighten the upper rocker bolts with a torque wrench and finish the job. Your linkage is all set and ready to ride!


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