BARE BONES: QUESTIONABLE PRACTICES CAN'T BE TOLERATED
By Bones Bacon
This is one article that is going to be a little difficult to write, but I feel it has to be done. I know I am going to offend some people, but that is not my intention. I believe I have a responsibility to help guide riders into making the right decisions about their suspension. I don’t want anyone to have suspension problems that may lead to them being beaten up or, in a worst-case scenario, crashing.
“LOTS OF RIDERS ARE SUSPENSION SHOPPERS WHO JUMP FROM TUNER TO TUNER IN SEARCH OF THE MAGIC SETTING. I’M SURE THAT MY SUSPENSION HAS ENDED UP ON SOME OTHER SUSPENSION SHOP’S RE-DO LIST. BUT, THAT’S NOT WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT.”
Over the years I have seen a lot of messed up suspension—broken parts, parts put in wrong or just sloppy workmanship. But, as of late, I have noticed that a lot of riders are sending me stuff that has been worked on by another suspension shop. This isn’t unusual. Lots of riders are suspension shoppers who jump from tuner to tuner in search of the magic setting. I’m sure that my suspension has ended up on some other suspension shop’s re-do list.
But, that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about shoddy work from local suspension shops—things that are so egregious they could cause a rider to get hurt.
Here are some examples: When taking the valving off the end of the shock shaft or a fork piston-holder assembly, there is some delicate grinding or machining that has to be done to get the ends of the shafts un-peened. All manufacturers peen over the ends to make sure the nuts don’t come loose. After aggressive grinding, there may not be enough threads left to securely put the nut back on. On fork shafts, sometimes a tuner needs to make a new piston holder with more threads so that the new locknut will be fully engaged. On the shock, it is very critical to grind or, as I do, machine the peened-over area on the shock shaft so the nut can be removed and still have enough threads left for a new nut to be reinstalled after the re-valve has been done. I’m shocked at the number of components I get in my shop that have nuts that are barely held on by a couple of threads.
Another common problem are shocks that have been reassembled with too much oil volume inside the shock body. Most modern shocks have a bladder inside the reservoir that isolates the oil from the nitrogen. If there is too much oil in the shock, the nitrogen bladder will stay in a collapsed shape. When this happens, the collapsed bladder cannot respond to the oil being displaced into the body as the shock compresses. This can cause the shock to hydraulic lock, which can rupture the shock and cause it to break at its weakest point. It’s bad, dangerous and very expensive if this happens.
When I take a fork or shock apart and find that questionable practices have been used by whoever worked on it before, I get angry. I am not talking about their valving, spring rates, oil viscosity or setup choices; it’s more about their knowledge, experience and passion to do a good job. I don’t like suspension shops that take shortcuts—out of ignorance or negligence.
When picking a suspension company to send your components to, it should not be about who can do it the cheapest. It should be about who has the experience, knowledge, concern and funding to make the necessary replacement parts and do the job correctly. Most important, they should take pride in their workmanship.
Think of your suspension shop in the same way that you think of the clinic that is going to do Lasik surgery on your eyes. Are you going to go with the doctor who can do it for the cheapest price? Or, are you going to research the doctor’s credentials, get references from previous patients and check his tech equipment? Trust me; not every suspension shop is perfect or flawless, including mine. But, if the desire and passion are there to do the best job possible, then that is your best investment.
Jim “Bones” Bacon has tuned the suspension of the biggest names in motocross, including Jeremy McGrath, Ricky Carmichael, Ryan Villopoto and Adam Cianciarulo. If you have a suspension question, send it to [email protected].