Tips to maintain your mountain bike suspension and make it last.

Fox and RockShox forks for service. Photo: Aaron Chamberlain

Dropping nearly 5 figures on a mountain bike is not out of the realm of possibility. Visit most any trail and you will see many bikes above that mark. Adding frame protection, cleaning the drivetrain and lubricating the chain after each ride are great ways to care for a mountain bike. Regardless of whether you should spend that much money on a mountain bike, one thing is clear: your mountain bike is an investment worth taking care of.

Talking shock with Specter Suspension

Suspension is one of the most expensive components on a mountain bike, and it undoubtedly receives the most wear and tear. Some riders extend their service intervals or ignore them altogether.

Of course, this not only damages the suspension, but also makes the bike look terrible as well. Trevor Elson of Specter pendant lamp see too often.

“You’d be surprised how many problems stem from poor suspension performance,” said Elson, “Service the suspension, and many creaks and cracks disappear.”

Elson spent years working in bike shops, where he specialized in suspension. After recognizing the need for local suspension techniques, Elson started Spectre.

“A lot of shops don’t have a guy on hand who does the suspension,” noting that often, forks and shocks have to be sent to RockShox or Fox, which can have very long delivery times.

Shops in the area began outsourcing their complete suspension service work to Elson. He also works with clients on an individual basis as well as sponsored and professional athletes. With Elson’s expertise, we connected with him to learn a bunch of mountain bike suspension maintenance tips to make it last.

A shock service interval ignored for too long. Photo: Specter Suspension

Don’t: Neglect your suspension service intervals

“A lot of people just ride their suspension until it breaks,” Elson said. “So they get service, then they complain about the cost.”

Elson compared servicing suspension to regular car maintenance, like changing the oil every 3,000 miles. Mountain bike suspension also has manufacturer recommended service intervals and should be followed as closely as possible.

Do: If you can, serve forks and shakes first

Fox recommends 125 hours between suspension services. RockShox recommends servicing mountain bike suspension every 200 hours. Elson recommends not waiting until the recommended hours for your next service. Make the hours early.

“People think 125 hours can be all summer,” Elson said. “Most Fox shocks I see do about 75 hours.” And while the RockShox intervals are longer, Elson does not recommend taking them to their recommended 200 hours.

Also, the type of terrain you regularly drive on can make a big difference in the recommended service interval. A more frequent service may be required if you regularly ride to the bike park or through dusty terrain.

If your suspension needs service, you may be experiencing some of the symptoms in this article.

Muc-off produces a pressure washer made for mountain bikes. Photo: Gerow

Don’t: Use a pressure washer to clean your bike

Elson sees this all too often. Car washes with the pressure washer area are common culprits. Even from a distance, that pressure blows water past the seals.

“You could be destroying the seals, and you’re just pushing more soil over the seals,” Elson said. “Everything inside is aluminum, which corrodes from water if the soil scratches it.”

Elson recommends removing dirt and dust after wrinkles with a microfiber cloth and a non-corrosive suspension cleaner, which many brands do.

Do: Use the proper fluids for mountain bike suspension service

Sitting alongside dry and wet chain lubricants in many bike shops is a similar product, but for suspension cleaning and lubrication. The oily substance is applied to the tires and cycled through the suspension, pulling dirt and grime. At least, that’s the claim.

“They’re a placebo,” Elson said about these products. Elson explained that the seals that are good for not letting too much dirt into your suspension don’t let things in.

“That’s why people do the zip tie trick,” Elson said. “They put a tie through the cleaner to get the lube in there.” Elson warns that doing this will not have a significant impact and could damage the dust cleaners. Taking the suspension is the only way to clean and lubricate properly.

If you perform a suspension service yourself, Do not use engine oil in place of the recommended bicycle suspension oil. You might think it’s obvious, but Elson saw it.

“People will dig down the rabbit hole and find a motor oil with a viscosity index that is the same,” Elson said. “But it’s not. It’s not lubricating your fork equally … your fork is not reaching a high enough temperature.”

Suspension oils, however, are pretty ubiquitous, but it’s always best to stick with your recommended brand. For example, maybe a suspension manufacturer recommended a 5wt oil at one point, but now they call for a 10wt. Using the 5wt suspension oil you have is usually fine, especially if your other option is motor oil.

Use Strava or an app like it ShockPro to track your service intervals. Photo: Matt Miller

Do not forget to follow your service intervals

For many of us, getting out on the trails is a chance to disconnect from our devices, including tracking apps like Strava. While this may be great for your mental health, it could be disastrous for your suspension.

Recommended mountain bike suspension service intervals often come as hours of riding on the suspension. Many of us follow this as rough estimates at best. If you don’t mind recording and sharing your rides on social media, bragging about your new PR, it’s a good idea to use an app like Strava to track how many hours you’ve driven since your last service .

Do: understand what constitutes a suspension service

The phrase “suspension service” is thrown around a lot, and people may have a different understanding of what their bike shop does. Quite often, an advertised “suspension service” is only a replacement of the wipers and oil, while a complete service may consist of an inspection and cleaning of the shock absorbers, and checking the condition of the bushings . To completely rebuild on the air shocks, it may often require special tools, and recharge the internal floating piston with nitrogen.

Some bike shops are limited by expertise, tools and time in their suspension capabilities, Elson said. Time is crucial, and trading may not be worth it for many shops. “Servicing a shock can take an hour,” explained Elson, “and in that same hour, you can do an entire tune-up on a bike.” Basically, shops need their employees to spend that hour on a healthy bike, not a shock or fork.

Try taking your bike to a suspension technician, like Elson, for your next suspension service.

Don’t: Be afraid to try to serve your suspension

As mentioned, the opening of its suspension is the only way to clean the dirt and grime. Elson encourages people to do some of the simpler parts, leaving complete services and rebuilds for technicians like him. “You’re going to make a little mess at first, but you’re going to get the shot,” Elson said.

Don’t be afraid to break your suspension for a basic service. Photo: Specter Suspension

Do: Also consider servicing a new suspension

“Your new fork that you buy in 2023 was assembled last year. It sat in a box on a container that traveled around the world. Then it sat in someone’s warehouse, on the side, where the oil it settles in,” Elson explained.

Also, manufacturers do not put enough oil in the suspension for fear of leaking during transportation. Others may have too much grease, clogged ports and valves.


Elson talked at length about how neglecting your suspension can cause your bike to hurt. He also sees people neglecting their bike and trying to diagnose a suspension problem. Headsets, pivot bearings, and hubs, just to name a few of the culprits. Keep an eye on everything, and use a torque wrench.

Indeed, these lists could go on. Elson shared a lot of interesting tidbits that we often need to pay more attention to the suspension. In addition to service suspension, Elson helps customers set up their suspension. I firmly believe that a properly installed and regularly serviced suspension will change your driving experience.

3 thoughts on “Tips to maintain your mountain bike suspension and make it last.”

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