Here’s a safe and effective way to protect, lubricate and clean your mountain bike suspension and it only takes two minutes of your time. All you need is a damp cloth, a dry cloth, some Fork Juice (or fork/shock oil) and a couple of plastic shopping bags.
Perform these steps after every ride, straight after you’ve done at least a basic bike wash and drivetrain clean and lube. In return your suspension will perform better and last longer for you.
How to clean and lube MTB suspension in 5 Easy steps
Step 1 – Clean Use a damp cloth to wipe the fork stanchions and shock shaft clean. At the seal areas hold the folded damp cloth at each end and wipe it around the seals in a horizontal fashion, parallel to the seals (as shown in the 5 step video below).
Wiping horizontal to the seals removes that dirt and grime without risk of pushing it under the seal lips and compromising the suspension. If you’ve got some super stubborn dirt and grime in that hard to reach place between the fork bridge and the stanchions, use the wet cloth again, or a wet cotton bud, to soak up and remove that crud.
Step 2 – Compress Once you’ve removed all the crud you can see using step 1, compress the suspension then wipe off any last little ring of grime that the seals have pushed up the stanchions and shaft.
Step 3 – Dry Use a dry cloth to wipe any water off the stanchions and shaft that was left by the damp cloth. Wipe over the seals in that same horizontal fashion.
Step 4 – Cover Use plastic shopping bags to cover the front and rear brake rotor and caliper units completely so you don’t get any of the fork juice spray settling on your brakes. The 5 step video below shows how to do this. If your suspension lubricant isn’t a spray you can skip this step. Rim brake riders will need to cover the whole wheel with an old towel or sheet.
Step 5 – Spray Spray the fork stanchions and shock shaft with a complete cover of fork juice.
If your lubricant is a fluid and not a spray you’ll need to hold your bike so the wiper seals are vertical as shown in the video. Then apply a drop or two on the seal lips at their uppermost point and let gravity run the oil all the way around the lips. Lastly, use your finger to spread a few drops of oil over the entire stanchion and shaft surfaces to provide protection similar to the Fork Juice spray. Wipe off any drips with a cloth and dispose of the plastic bags.
The 5 step video:
Super Tips – More essential MTB suspension maintenance tips
Wash it before it dries – Gently wash your bike immediately after each ride, so that crud and mud doesn’t have a chance to dry on your suspension. No hose around? Use whatever drinking water you have left to remove the mud from the fork stanchions and shock shaft, so that it doesn’t get a chance to dry hard during your drive home from the trail carpark.
Know your maintenance schedules – A quick google search is all it takes to find out the recommended maintenance schedules for your suspension. You might be surprised how often your suspension should be maintained. Some manufacturers recommend internal maintenance every four hours! So you’d better check. Here are the Fox and Specialized maintenance schedules.
A leak means it too late – If your fork or shock is leaking then it’s already too late. Bite the bullet and take your suspension to a qualified repairer as soon as possible. The longer you leave it, the more the repairs will cost.
Low pressure washing – MTB suspension seals are designed to take a splash – a splash from a creek crossing, or rain from above. But that’s all. Don’t spray high pressure water directly at the seals, pivots and schraeder valves or you’ll cost yourself big money. And no dunking your bike in the river! Only wash your suspension using indirect low pressure water and cleaning products designed specifically for mountain bike suspension systems.
What the Experts say:
Aaron from NS Dynamics, Australia’s leading MTB Suspension Clinic, which has mail order customers throughout Australia and New Zealand, suggests the following 3 rules to keep your suspension in top working order and avoid costly repairs:
- Check pressures or set desired sag frequently
- Clean your suspension units after each ride and check thoroughly for wear and damage
- Adhere to manufacturers recommended service intervals