Are you happy to be called "average" or how about "middle of the road"? Are you little? Or big?. Do you race xc or enduro, or just cruise along the trails looking at the scenery and the cute little birdies? Maybe you have big bollocks and like to huck to flat off every trail feature possible? How can your fork be set up right for you? Those funny little knobs on top that change your LSC or HSC or both, or maybe you don't even have a knob? What about that red one that makes your fork extend at different speeds...I hope you have one of those?
Here's the drill. Fork manufacturers have to decide on a base tune that will suit MOST people. Generally this means you need to be average. ie about 75kgs and ride sort of fast and can jump a metre or two forwards and maybe half a metre up or down. Sure you have those knobs (maybe) to change things a little but most of us don't really know how they work or what they should be set at. If you are much lighter or heavier than 75kgs and/or ride bigger/smaller/faster/slower than I just described then there is a very high possibility that you have a fork that will never be the best it can be.
I've always been very frustrated with my Pike fork. Arguably the best MTB fork ever produced, but it still doesn't do what I want it too. I'm not sure why Rockshox thought we wanted a too firm High Speed Compression (HSC) setting then an impossibly too firm second setting and then a concrete like lockout setting and then a Low Speed Compression (LSC) switch that only works in the open setting.
I was reminded of this exasperation once again when I fitted a Shockwiz (shock tuning tool with a phone app) to my Pike, only to learn that even with everything backed off and running as little air as possible, the Wiz was telling me the same thing my wrists did....to back it off even more.
So I got on the blower to Dougal from Shockcraft Suspension and asked for help. I sent my fork to him for an "unharsh my ride" tune that he developed for the Pikes Charger damper. He sent me a form to fill out with my details, at which I lied a little about my weight and riding style "yeah Dougal, I'm a svelte, athletically ripped, bad assed mofo that rides hard and fast"... so pro tune I got.
Dougal is a bit lighter than me and rates his riding a bit more conservatively (i.e. slower) so took my fork out for a burn while he had it. Result was a good firm feel for a hard charging rider packing a few more kg's. High speed spiking completely gone, HSC and LSC adjusters now divorced (but still on speaking terms). With decent LSC dialled in it had enough resistance to maintain traction and chassis control. Almost starting to feel like the Mattoc I had recently reviewed. Almost.
"With HSC and LSC fully closed I could still slam it through the travel" said Dougal. Sweet. Sorted and off back to me the fork flew
Riding the fork again after the tune I immediately got better readings from the Shockwiz but It was still a harsher ride than I was really after. Back on the blower to Dougal and after a reality check "A fast riding fork is not a smooth riding fork" , some education about sport vs. race tunes and some honesty on my part (overweight and average riding ability) we decided on a "pamper tune" that would better suit a middle aged man who still likes to shred weetbix with the young folk occasionally. Now I have the best fork I've ever had and funnily enough has very similar adjustability to the new 2018 Pike that is hitting the shelves about now (yet tuned perfectly for my weight and riding style). I had to give the Shockwiz back and didn't get to check the new damper tune but I'll try and get it back for more testing.
What's different? Dougal has done a bit of secret material removal that improves oil flow at the choke points. This prevents "spiking" -when the force of the hit exceeds the speed that the oil can flow through the damper causing the fork to "jam up". Sort of like trying to push the plunger down too fast on your morning coffee. It also greatly improves tunability and reliability. The damping is now happening where it should instead of accidentally where it shouldn't. It doesn't pull a vacuum and suck in air on fast hits.
He also re-worked the compression shim stack (flexy metal washers that bend to allow faster oil flow) and divorced the HSC and LSC adjusters so I now have three usable HSC settings. They feel the same in the carpark (place where you park cars but also test your mates bikes settings and say things like "that's sick"), but at compression speeds far faster than your mates bunnyhopping the shims start to move. In the 2nd position a spring rests lightly on the stack so they crack open at the same point but the fork resists hard hits better. The 3rd setting has about 6mm of extra spring preload for a strong blow off valve effect that takes a lot of punishment, great for jump trails or smashing G-outs and berms.
Also now my LSC is seperate so I can change my fork bob and dive in each of these settings. It also now acts as a blow off valve so I can get the fork behaving how I like. 3 x HSC settings x 3 x LSC settings is 9 completely different fork behaviours with multiple LSC clicks to fine tune it all.
Now, if I'm confusing you with all this LSC/HSC dribble, then don't despair...I'm confused too. I hate it when I have to listen to obviously smart dudes harping on about fork damping. I still have no idea what I'm doing. Set and forget...that's me. if you are a generic rider as stated above, then go back to whatever you were doing and have a lovely day. But if you are outside the box, or just want the best that the industry can offer, then FFS (for Pete's sake) get your forks the schizzle. You even get a sticker to say that you are RAD.
It's best that you give Dougal a call to discuss your requirements. But be warned...Dougal is a suspension engineering nerd, exactly the sort of guy you want fettling with your forks and shock, be prepared to get more than confused about damper tunes. Pricing starts from $215 for a Pike or Lyrik RC if you send him your damper already removed from your fork.
He can work wonders on your rear shock too.
Click here on Shockcraft to see your options then contact Dougal and see what he can do for you.