Maintaining your MTB can be tricky. There are so many different moving parts that all require specific skills to service.
You know how to fill and replace your wheels, tune your spokes, and oil the drive. But, you have absolutely no idea what to do about your suspension.
How often should you be serving your suspension? How much does it cost to service it?
Keep reading to find out!
How To Know if My MTB Suspension Needs To Be Serviced?
Here’s what to look out for to tell if your MTB suspension needs to be serviced.
It’s not as easy to see wear and tear on a suspension, so it can be difficult to recognize the tell-tale signs that your bike is in dire need of some TLC.
Let’s go over a few things to keep your eyes (or ears!) out for that will let you know it’s time to get your bike’s fork suspension serviced.
Do you hear high-pitched squeaking noises emanating from your fork suspension while riding your bike? Are these noises particularly loud when you jump or ride off a small step?
If so, then your MTB suspension probably needs to be serviced, as this sound may be coming from the fork’s tubes scraping against each other. You may also hear the sound of bubbles of air sliding around the tube.
These sounds could be a result of a dry inner tube that desperately needs to be oiled.
As the name suggests, suspensions are meant to suspend the rider, absorbing the impact of their falls.
However, a suspension in need of some servicing will likely fail to do its most important job. So, you may feel the impact of landing on the ground after a big jump, jolting you off your bike.
In order to ensure your suspension’s effectiveness, keep it well-oiled and clean, and replace the necessary components regularly.
Releasing Air and/or Oil
A fork’s seal helps to keep its inner oil and air balanced, allowing it to keep the rider suspended.
So, when the fork’s seal (which looks like a small foam ring) is loose, torn, or worn, then it must be replaced the next time you service your MTB.
Sometimes, you may only need to replace the seal if you’ve recently serviced the rest of your suspension.
Scrapes Along Inner Tube
Observe your suspension’s inner tube. Does it have vertical scrapes against it?
If so, then your fork may be too dry, causing it to lose effectiveness and scrape against the fork’s outer tube. Alternatively, someone could have incorrectly reassembled your fork the last time it was serviced.
If this happens, you may even notice some awful scraping sounds while cycling.
Some shallow scrapes may not cause that big of a problem, but if you’ve put off servicing your suspension for several months, you may find some irreparable damage and need to replace your fork’s inner tube.
Debris is Caught in Fork
If you frequently ride through rocky or muddy terrain, some debris (e.g. grass, dirt, small pebbles) could become lodged inside your fork!
This could stop the fork’s inner tube from moving smoothly and it could even be scratched by sharp stones or pebbles that have gotten lodged between the tubes.
Dirt could also seep into the suspension’s oil, contaminating it. You may notice your suspension feels dry and is losing effectiveness.
Dry, dusty climates will also cause your suspension to dry out quicker by coating the oil in a thin layer of dirt, causing it to squeak and scrape.
Watch the video below, which does a great job summarizing how you can know if your MTB suspension needs to be serviced.
How Often To Service My MTB Suspension?
How often you need to service your MTB depends on your riding frequency and environment.
There’s no set rule for how often you should service your MTB suspension since it can vary greatly depending on if you ride in a dry or wet environment and how often you cycle.
Riding in dry environments may result in more frequent services.
Some people may have to service their suspension every 50 hours of riding time, while others may only have to do it once a year.
Additionally, every bike is different, and which suspension fluid, grease, and lube you use can affect how often you need to service the fork.
You may also frequently go on very intense rides with tall jumps, which means you have to pay extra attention to your suspension to ensure it’s in good shape.
So, instead of counting your riding time or marking an annual suspension service day in your calendar, we recommend checking your suspension regularly and being mindful of how it feels and sounds during rides.
How Much Does It Cost To Service My MTB Suspension?
It could cost up to $200 to get your MTB professionally serviced.
Depending on your fork’s build and how worn it is, you could spend up to $200 to get it professionally serviced.
While this may seem steep, it’s important to remember that the technician will be replacing certain parts along with the suspension fluid. So, you’re also paying for the cost of parts.
Of course, it is possible for you to pay less if you go to a locally owned bike shop.
However, many companies that make suspensions also offer suspension servicing.
This is a great opportunity to have your bike professionally serviced by its manufacturers who know exactly how your fork is built and what it needs to work flawlessly. That said, it can come at a pretty hefty price.
What To Expect From an MTB Suspension Service?
You can expect a few different things from your MTB suspension service.
When you bring your MTB suspension to a bike shop to be serviced, you can first expect them to release the air from the fork and empty the old oil. Afterward, they’ll carefully clean the tubes, getting rid of any grime or old oil.
They’ll also inspect the tubes for any damage and maybe recommend replacing them if they’re badly scratched.
You can also expect them to replace the seals, lube up the tubes, and coat them with suspension fluid.
The whole process shouldn’t take more than an hour, though you may have to wait a week or more if you’re sending it back to the manufacturer to be serviced.
Can I Service My MTB Suspension By Myself?
Yes, though it requires some skill.
Servicing a MTB’s suspension isn’t rocket science, but it does take a little practice.
Incorrectly disassembling or reassembling your suspension could damage it, causing you to have to replace it later on.
Also, using the wrong suspension fluid or lube for your bike could offset the desired tension, making it ineffective.
You will also need a variety of specialty tools that are specifically used to service suspensions, like a 2mm Allen key and a rubber-ended mallet.
These tools can be quite expensive and you might find it’s cheaper to just pay a professional to service your bike for you.
That said, if you already own the necessary tools (or have the means to purchase them), then servicing your bike yourself is a great learning experience and will teach you more about how fork suspensions work.
GMBN Tech on YouTube has a video demonstrating how to service an MTB suspension and walking you through all the tools you need and the steps you should take. Watch it below!
Wrapping Things Up
It’s important to get your MTB suspension regularly serviced, especially if you hear any squeaking noises or notice it’s not working as smoothly as it once was.
Most suspension services will cost you, at most, $200, but you may be able to find a cheaper price at local bike shops.
There, the bike technicians will remove and replace the suspension fluid, check for any damage, and replace the seals.
This process isn’t extremely complicated and you can learn to do it by yourself with some practice and the proper tools.
When was the last time you serviced your MTB suspension? Do you service your suspension yourself or bring it to a bike shop instead?
Let us know in the comments below!