Having your suspension setup right can make a huge difference to how you can ride a bike on the trail.

In this guide we’re going to look at the common mistakes we see out on the trail in the way that people have their bikes setup.

>>> Five tips for setting up your new mountain bike (video)

1. Setting your sag without your full riding kit

Don’t set your sag in shorts and a t-shirt, then put your hydration pack on laden with tools and a 3 litre reservoir full of water. The settings will be all wrong.

Always wear your full riding gear. Not only will your riding weight be accurate but where the weight is distributed will be factored in as well.

2. Using the same settings for all types of terrain

Different terrain can require different suspension settings. A day out at the bike park concentrating on descents will mean you’re out of the saddle and over the front of your bike a lot throwing it around. A day out pedalling across hills will see you sat down and much more sedate.

This is especially relevant when setting sag. Check out our recent How to set your sag video.

3. Not making notes

Once you’ve found some settings that you like the feel of, right them down somewhere. On your phone, on a notepad, on a computer, scrawled on your garage wall – anywhere really.

This makes it far less daunting to fiddle again with your settings (for different terrain, for example) for fear of losing where you are with it all.

4. Never experimenting with damping

Not spending the time to explore the settings back-to-back on the same section of trail. Don’t ride a trail and think the suspension is a bit weird, fiddle with the settings and move on to another trail. The next trail could be completely different – steeper, muddier, off-camber, rougher.

Instead, spend a few hours riding the same trail over and over with different air pressures and damping settings. Try maximum rebound, minimum rebound then somewhere in the middle. Do the same for compression. Try 20% sag, then 30% sag and see which feels best. Invest the time in getting set up and it’ll pay off on every ride thereafter.

5. Never changing your spring progression

Sag is important but it doesn’t factor in how aggressive you are on a bike, or your riding style. If you’re a heavy hitter or aggro rider you will benefit from a more progressive spring rate, where the suspension gets harder to compress the deeper it goes into the travel.

You can often change the spring rate progression of your air fork and/or rear shock by adding volume spacers. More spacers = more progressive feel.

6. Not looking after your suspension

Fork and shock performance will degrade gradually over time. It’ll be so incremental that you probably won’t notice the difference until your suspension feels awful.

Keep it in tip-top performance by cleaning and lubing the seals after every ride, servicing the lower legs or air can every 3-6 months, and treating them to a full service once a year.