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Hey guys,

I am still new to mountain biking and bought my first bike back in mid October, a '17 Specialized Fuse Comp. It has a Manitou Machete fork with 120mm travel. I set up sag at my LBS, but didn't have any riding gear on/with me, so the tech added a bit of extra air to the fork to compensate. I have ridden a bit over 100 miles now on my local trails and have noticed that I seem to only be using slightly more than half of the fork's travel. I am absolutely loving the bike, but I often see videos of people where the fork will almost bottom out on features, using the full travel. Should I visit my shop and have the tech take some air out of the fork even though I'm having fun with how it's currently set up? I don't have a shock pump.

For what it's worth, I ride fairly mellow trails in the metro Detroit area of Michigan, so I'm not riding any crazy downhills or sending big drops. Is it possible I'm not utilizing the full capability of the suspension just because the terrain is so mild?

Thanks!
 

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If you're riding fairly mild terrain, it's normal to not use all of your travel. You could soften up the fork to use more travel, but you might find that it's too soft.
 

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Get a shock pump.
let all the air out. Measure actual travel.
Set sag between 20-30%.

If you only ride smooth trails, you should still use about 3/4 of the travel. Measure this, since the exposed stanchion is longer than fork travel.

If you start to ride harder or start to ride rougher trails and bigger drops, you will need to add air.
 

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If my fork is bottoming, I add spacers/tokens and perhaps compression damping and use whatever pressure is necessary to keep the sag the same. If I have it set up for the biggest hits I might take on a given ride, I won't use all the travel on rides that don't have hits that big.
 

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You fork should come very close to bottoming out on the biggest hit you ever take of any ride you do. 1mm close to bottom is perfect.
 

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There is a good chance that your suspension is set-up correctly but you aren't riding hard enough or your train isn't hard enough to use all the travel.

You should do a sag check. See video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dh2Q7Fu2pfA

If you sag is in range then don't change your set-up. As you develop as a rider you will find that you use more and more travel.

Don't be temped to soften your suspension so you are currently using all of it. There is nothing that destroys a bikes handling as quickly as suspension that is too soft.
 

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You fork should come very close to bottoming out on the biggest hit you ever take of any ride you do. 1mm close to bottom is perfect.
I've heard this said before and I don't understand it.

Let's say you set up your fork to work perfectly on a rocky trail with a few small jumps and drops, using most of the travel. Then you ride the bike along a very smooth trail with no big hits. The suspension will not move much at all, nowhere near full travel. If the rule above were to be followed you'd let air out to use more travel, but on a very smooth trail a firmer fork would work better, maybe even a rigid one.

If you ride a tame trail and run the fork really soft so that it uses all the travel, in my opinion, it feels horrible. I go by what the suspension feels like, nothing else really. I like to be able to feel the trail, know how much grip I have, but other people prefer a magic carpet ride. There is no right or wrong, if you like it then it's right.
 

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I meant set it for the biggest hit on the biggest ride you'll typically do. Dont drop pressure for a casual ride, just leave it set for the big hit.
That makes a lot more sense than the old line about using all of your travel at least once.
 

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That makes sense. I am totally dialed in and I never change my pressure settings, unless I have lost pressure and I need to add some.
 

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I spent some time talking to a pro enduro racer a few months back, and she totally changed my thinking on this.

I used to set my fork up to use about 95% of my travel on the roughest, fastest trail around. My thinking was "what's the point of having 160mm if you're not going to use it?". Save the extra 5% of travel for a particularly rough hit, and I was happy....except I wasn't, because I always got to the bottom of a hill feeling like I had been riding a jackhammer.

This racer's point was that if your shock is set up to use that much travel, then you're pretty consistently in the 70-90% of travel range where damping is harsh.

At the time I was using 1 large volume spacer in my Fox 36, and she suggested going to 2 large and 1 small token to keep me higher in my travel. I made the changes and lo and behold, my biking has improved dramatically. I'm consistently in the 50-70% range on a normal downhill with occasional spikes up to 80%, and rarely 90% travel. My downhilling speed has increased a lot because my bike's geometry isn't so frontward-biased all the time. More importantly I don't feel like i've been riding a jackhammer when I get to the bottom.

Anyways, it was something I had never considered before, hope you find it as useful as I do.
 

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I had the same experience. wondered why I had a 160 fork if I did not use all the travel. Kept stopping in shops asking about it. They lowered my pressure, increased the sag and removed the tokens. Never felt confident on the rocky steep downhills. Finally went into a shop where the mechanic did the opposite. He increased my pressure from 45 to 70, decreased the sag from 35 to 23%, and replaced my token. Never came close to using all the travel but the bike felt great.
 

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I had the same experience. wondered why I had a 160 fork if I did not use all the travel. Kept stopping in shops asking about it. They lowered my pressure, increased the sag and removed the tokens. Never felt confident on the rocky steep downhills. Finally went into a shop where the mechanic did the opposite. He increased my pressure from 45 to 70, decreased the sag from 35 to 23%, and replaced my token. Never came close to using all the travel but the bike felt great.
Also my exact experience. Setting up my fork to be able to use the travel feels like crap to me. It feels like it robs me of momentum and its just overall slower and harsher. Firmer both in pressure and more progressive seems to work better for me. I feel a bit silly never using that last 1" of travel but if I set it up softer to use it feels worse in almost every situation.
 

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I spent some time talking to a pro enduro racer a few months back, and she totally changed my thinking on this.

I used to set my fork up to use about 95% of my travel on the roughest, fastest trail around. My thinking was "what's the point of having 160mm if you're not going to use it?". Save the extra 5% of travel for a particularly rough hit, and I was happy....except I wasn't, because I always got to the bottom of a hill feeling like I had been riding a jackhammer.

This racer's point was that if your shock is set up to use that much travel, then you're pretty consistently in the 70-90% of travel range on a run where damping is harsh.

At the time I was using 1 large volume spacer in my Fox 36, and she suggested going to 2 large and 1 small token to keep me higher in my travel. I made the changes and lo and behold, my biking has improved dramatically. I'm consistently in the 50-70% range on a normal downhill with occasional spikes up to 80%, and rarely 90% travel. My downhilling speed has increased a lot because my bike's geometry isn't so frontward-biased all the time. More importantly I don't feel like i've been riding a jackhammer when I get to the bottom.

Anyways, it was something I had never considered before, hope you find it as useful as I do.
Yup, mid-stroke. Forks should spend most of there time in it. Tokens should be used not to prevent bottom out but to provide a good mid-stroke.

To the OP. You answered your own question: "I ride fairly mellow trails in the metro Detroit area of Michigan, so I'm not riding any crazy downhills or sending big drops. Is it possible I'm not utilizing the full capability of the suspension just because the terrain is so mild? "

Ride harder and faster and start jumping sht. Go insane and have fun.
 
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This has me thinking... the terrain here in Colorado is, generally speaking, quite rocky / rough. I don't consider myself to be an aggressive biker by any means, I think despite my trepidation, something like the Fox 32 120 might not be enough, and put me to high in the range. In my demoing thus far (and I didn't tweak the suspension), the fox 32 generally felt rougher to me than a bike I rode with the RockShox RS-1. Again, I didn't ask or setup the fork specifically for me. Anyway, not sure 120 is going to be enough.

Have fun building your rig! I've learned a ton in the way of components etc... in the last 4 months, and I've only scratched the surface :)
 

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I'm going to buy a full suspension bike. My choices are Trek Fuel EX 7(130mm), Trek Remedy 7(150mm), Specialized FSR Stumpjumper 29(150mm), or Specialized Camber 29ers(120mm). Basically I'm doing light to medium duty trails around here so I was thinking 120mm travel is enough. But I'm 235 lbs so should I shoot for more travel? I also want to travel and hit some other trails in my state so I'm thinking more is better. What do ya'll think I should aim my travel at?
 
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