So what is a "custom tune"?
Our custom tuning involves us tuning the shim stacks of your damper to better suit you, your riding and your bike. We also make sure you have the spring or volume spacers we'd recommend, before testing and setting up your adjusters with our recommended settings. Where possible, we'll also make modifications to reduce friction levels and also use higher grade oils with advanced low friction additives. After all, there's no use having a great shim stack tune when excessive friction is completely masking the benefits of the shim stack tune.
How do we know which shim stack/spring/volume spacers will work best?
We've been gathering data from different bikes and riders since 2010 and have experience with tuning MTB suspension dating back to 1998. By using this experience and data gathered, we have quantified the forces required to make a bike work for any type of rider, riding type and ability level, by validating that data on our damper and spring dynos in the workshop. Using software that analyses frame kinematics and our own force simulation software, we can transfer what we've learned to any combination of rider and bike, with more accuracy than ever. This all enables us to fast track what would be a lengthy testing process, so all that's left is for you to fine tune adjusters to your preference and/or terrain/conditions. Most feedback we get though is "I've not had to touch anything!"
Do we use manufacturer's shim stack tunes?
Yes and no. We always test them first, but if they're not giving the performance we'd like/think the damper is capable of, then we'll develop completely new shim stack arrangements. This can be a very lengthy and time consuming task, but we keep testing and developing shim stack tunes until we're happy we've got all we can from a damper. On the flip side, if they work great, we'll use them - Ohlins and EXT are spot on with their shim stacks and offer a wide range of shim stack configurations to use, we select the best for the application using our systems mentioned above.
What do we use to measure all these things?
Damper Dyno - this allows us to measure damping forces and friction forces. We use this to validate data gathered on track after testing, as well as develop damper tunes, develop friction reduction modifications and just test dampers to diagnose issues/confirm settings.
Spring Dyno - not to be confused with a spring tester - this machine can measure the total spring force of an assembled shock/spring or fork. It will measure the full stroke of the item, right from the start to the end of the travel. It's a great tool that allows us to see the sum spring rate curve. So on a fork, this is not just the spring curve of the spring system itself, it's also the pressure build up in the lowers and the damper too, not to mention bump stops. It'll compress anything up to 300mm stroke length, so more than enough for any MTB suspension product! This machine has saved us a lot of time calculating forces - we can now measure the affect of a spring/pressure/volume spacer/oil level/bump stop change in just minutes!
Data Loggers - we have 3 currently, from Paray Electronique and BYB Telemetry. These are indispensable in being able to understand what works and what doesn't work for a rider. We can measure and analyze what's happening at any given moment by giving us suspension position, velocity, wheel speed, lean angle, g-force, brake position, GPS position and more. Along with rider feedback, we can make changes, map those changes and work towards an optimal setup.
How do we reduce friction?
We use tools and techniques we've perfected over the years to resize bushings. Where necessary and practical, we'll change o-rings/seals to reduce friction, without reducing reliability. The latest trick up our sleeve, in addition to higher quality oils, is the use of a hi-tech low friction additive that uses micro ground Teflon particles that are negatively charged, to allow them to adhere into the microscopic pours in the surfaces of the sliding parts of your suspension. We've tested reduction of friction of up to 11% with this additive alone! Being able to reduce friction levels is crucial to damper tuning, as any benefits made in the damper would be almost completely masked by excessive friction in the rest of the system.
Check out this video that Pinned TV did with us to see what goes into a custom tune...