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Technical & Maintenance

Bicycle Base Tunes | More Than A Supporting Role

A look into bicycle base tunes with Sram’s Torben Borrowy…

From Dirt Issue 124 – June 2012

Words by Steve Jones. Photos by Steve Jones.

Not much more than a tin full of oil and washers but never have so many done so little for so much. Opinions will vary. Being the heart and soul of the party comes with it overwhelming responsibility, but rear shock absorbers carry the burden of weight and expectancy of thousands of riders worldwide. Opinions will vary, that’s why it’s big business. Everyone loves damper chat.

Fortunately we don’t get as many shitters as we used to, the bikes we get are largely fairly good in suspension design and with the correct shock tune. It’s rare that a howler of a bike comes through the door in need of urgent shock therapy. Yes it does happen, but given the wide range of dampers/tunes offered, particularly by RockShox and Fox, it’s surprising that it happens at all. And let’s face it, over a certain price–point tailor made dampers should come in the price of a bike.

Opinions vary, different riders will have an alternative take on things depending on many variables, environmental, physical or skill based. Even a mood will alter how you weight/load your bike on a certain day. Some product managers (PM’s) might have bad days too, yet ultimately it’s that person’s personal preference, together with his perception of who and how he feels will be riding the bike and under what conditions, that ultimately determines what type of tin you have.

Largely they do a grand job, more often than not they get it on the nail leaving us muppets to drive it home. Ideally however a shock absorber should allow you movement above and below a mean setting, allowing you softer for wet days and harder for dry days. Maybe it’s unfair to expect a PM to make everyone happy, they simply do the job of getting a base tune, but that certainly doesn’t mean it will be the correct one for you. For many riders the first port of call after purchasing a bike will be a call to one of the many shock tuners. This is especially true for trail bikes that are sometimes weak on the compression tuning compared to downhill bikes.

When it goes seriously wrong or if a product manager can’t get it right it goes back to someone like SRAM’s Torben Borrowy. We were lucky to catch up with Torben when he had his tins out. We had a look inside and he prepped us some gems.>>

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