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When you start to compare your MTB suspension options the main thing to remember is that dampers have the biggest effect on how well a fork or shock performs on the trail.  

Entry-level dampers  
Entry-level suspension dampers have most of their damping bult in and usually only have adjustable rebound and sometimes a lockout switch to help make flat pedalling and climbing more efficient. 

Mid-range dampers 

Mid-range forks and shocks will have more refined dampers that react faster, stay more controlled over uneven terrain, and give you a plusher ride over jarring rocks and roots. Mid-range dampers often don’t give your much more adjustability than entry-level options, however they might let you fine-tune low-speed compression damping independently of the lockout switch.  

High-end dampers 

Where high-end dampers score is the extra high- and low-speed adjustability they give you in compression and rebound. You’ll mostly see high-end dampers on long-travel downhill-oriented forks and shocks where they can make the most difference to the quality of the ride. 

Should you upgrade your MTB suspension?  

For the vast majority of riders, the simpler is generally better, because it saves you cost and complexity. Setting your sag and rebound in the way we explained in an earlier article on suspension set-up (read it here) will get you most of the way to good ride quality.  

On the other hand if you’re a more advanced rider looking to progress and regularly tackle higher rated trails on rough ground, a mid-level damper will do a lot to help you handle the gnarlier terrain, more comfortably and safely. 

High-end dampers with adjustable high- and low-speed damping are the holy grail if you’re seeking that last 5% of performance or are happy to spend heaps of time going down the endless rabbit hole of making minute adjustments to perfect your set up. Having said that even that top-of-the-line XC and short-travel trail bike suspension don't come with high- or low-speed damping adjustment, because the less travel your bike has (say less than 130mm) the less high- and low-speed damping matters.  

So you can see there’s a lot to consider and even more to know if you want to make the best decision for you. Luckily there’s nothing more the team at Outside Sports bikes love to do than help riders get the right set up for where they ride.  

We’re in Wanaka and Queenstown – either drop in or give us a call. We’re here to help. 



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