How to The Journey

Stuff I don’t know: suspension settings

Random unrelated cool motorcycle picture

I may have mentioned before that I am a fourth-generation journalist. My great-grandfather was editor of a newspaper in Concho County, Texas, my grandfather was a sportswriter in San Antonio, my father was an anchorman in Austin, and I have worked just about every side of the field imaginable from North Dakota to California to Wales.

One of the little tricks you pick up with such a pedigree is the automatic ability to speak/write with an authoritative voice. When I talk about something — pretty much anything — I have a tendency to make it sound as if I really know what I’m talking about. Even when I really, really don’t. I once managed to convince a friend that Jimi Hendrix was the original lead guitarist for Metallica.
It’s a useful little trick that serves me well in job interviews or managerial situations, but it can backfire at times and result in my being totally ignorant about something that, really, would be helpful to know. A person will hear me speaking on a subject and assume I’m already aware of whatever fact they might have to contribute. Or, worse yet, I’ll start to buy into my own nonsense, start to think I really am as knowledgeable as I sound, and I’ll forget to ask questions.
I think the latter happened to me just a little bit in the past few weeks. I’ve been writing gear reviews and broad overview posts about given classes of motorcycle (eg. ADV bikes), and that has somehow accidentally given voice to that deep, dark Wes Siler that lurks within all of us and says: “I Know All The Things.”
But then Bob Skoot happened to make a comment about his DL650 burning oil when being run at high RPM and I suddenly thought: “Oooooooooh. My bike does that, too.”
Not too long ago I had discovered the CBF600 was a quart shy of oil. I filled it back up but I didn’t take the time to ask myself why it was a quart shy. There are no signs of oil leaking from the bike, so where did it go? That is a good question to ask. If oil just sort of disappears from your bike, you really, really should understand the reason. You should understand why it goes and how fast it goes. Failing to do so could result in it being gone and your standing on the roadside in the middle of nowhere.
We could all stand to learn a little more…

But I didn’t even think to ask those questions. Perhaps because, with the swagger of a whopping 2,700 miles of riding under my belt and a head full of words, I had unintentionally told myself I was a Knower Of All The Things.

I’m not. Not even close. I’m a newbie, and it’s quite possible I will never know even as much as someone like Steve Johnson has forgotten (and I’m pretty sure he would tell you he doesn’t know all that much).
The underlying purpose of this blog has always been about learning. So, I’d like to get back to that right now and ask you guys a question:
Suspension. What’s the deal with that stuff?
According to my manual, the rear monoshock of my CBF600 has seven different settings. And the bike comes with a nifty little tool to allow me to adjust those settings. But I’ve never messed with them because I have no idea what I’d be trying to achieve. Nor how any given setting is supposed to affect the ride. When I try to read up on suspension settings I too quickly get lost in technical lingo and talk of sag and suggestions of having three blokes sit on my bike and blahblahblahblah white noise, and I end up needing a nice cup of tea and a sit down.
I am stupid, but I at least understand the concept of hard and soft. So, I’m hoping you can help me fill in the blanks:
– When I’m riding a typically uneven, pot-hole-laden British road my suspension should be _____.
– When I’m riding on the motorway at speeds up to 90 70 mph, my suspension should be_____.
– When I’m riding on a really curvy road my suspension should be _____.
– When Jenn joins me on the bike and we carry luggage my suspension should be _____.
I’d appreciate your help. Thanks.