Suspension Set Up And Maintenance With Faith Mata From Jenson USA

If you have a mountain bike, you need to pay attention to your suspension. (Unless, of course, it’s a rigid mountain bike).

This means setting it up properly, but also maintaining it. If you’re like me, you probably neglect your suspension way more than you should.

In this episode, I chat with Faith Mata from Jenson USA about setting up your suspension and getting it serviced.

Whether you choose to use Jenson or your local bike shop, or maybe you even learn to do it yourself (which would win you major bonus points in my book), make sure you’re giving your suspension the love it deserves. And also spend a little bit of time to make sure that your suspension is set up correctly. That can make a big difference in how well your bike performs for you.

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Learn More About The Jenson USA Suspension Service

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About The Host

kristen bonkoski

Kristen Bonkoski is the founder and owner of Femme Cyclist.

An avid cyclist for a few decades now, she took to cycling during her late teen years — a time when she needed something to help boost her self-esteem and confidence.

Mission accomplished, the sport has become an important part of her life.  Kristen’s favorite disciplines are mountain biking and bike commuting, although you can also find her cranking out a century on her road bike and touring with her husband and son.  If it has to do with two wheels, she enjoys doing it.

Kristen is a certified USA Cycling coach, and she runs Rascal Rides, a website about biking with kids.

IG: @femme_cyclist

Full Transcript

Kristen
So today, we’re gonna chat about the new Jenson USA suspension service and just about suspension in general. But before we dive into all of that, Faith, can you give us a little bit of background on you? Who is Faith Mata, and how did you get into biking?

Faith
It’s kind of an interesting story. I was not at all interested in mountain biking. And my husband, he was he wanted to get us into something together, you know, for health reasons. So he dragged me into a bike shop, I had no idea where we were going. And I think I was like, age 40. About 4 years ago. So I’m 44 now. And he’s like, “Pick out a bike.” And I’m like, “Wait a minute, no.” this is – I’m not about the gears and everything. I was used to BMX when I was younger, and what not. And so I picked like, you know, something that looked kind of cool. And I was like, “Alright, I can live with this.” And he got a bike. And we went out the next day, we did nine miles, and I was hooked. Because we were in some little back area I never would have seen with a car or, you know, I was getting to see things you just wouldn’t see off, you know, unless you go off the beaten path. And it fascinated me so it hooked me right away. And he never expected that to happen. And now like he’s off fishing and doing stuff, but I’m, I’ve been obsessed ever since.

Kristen
I love to hear, like somebody who got into it for some, you know, like a spouse or a partner and it ends up being their love.

Faith
Yeah, it was so funny. He expected it to wind up in the garage with dust. You know, he didn’t really think it was going to take and now – it’s he can’t get me off it. It’s all I ever do.

Kristen
And how did you end up working at Jenson and what’s your role there?

Faith
Um, I just went through a series of bad jobs, toxic atmospheres and with all the bike riding that I do. That’s, you know, quality of life is more important to me than money. You know, especially as you get older I think it’s that becomes a thing. So I just decided I want to work around people that understand what I do have the same kind of passions. And, you know, they’re, I mean, it has to be a schedule that allows me to do my riding. So I’m just like, wow, why not? So I applied and sure enough, they picked me up and it’s it’s been the best thing that ever happened to me.

Kristen
How does it feel to be a woman inside of like this very male-dominated industry?

Faith
It’s, it’s different. You get a little more attention, you know? Okay, um, yeah, it’s you don’t you don’t see a lot of women on the trails, and especially me, I tend to ride more with men. So it’s, you know, I’m usually one of two or maybe just only female. Yeah, when I’m out riding. Yeah. And I tend to do more of the advanced trails and the crazier stuff, so yeah, there’s not many of us at all.

Kristen
Yeah. Speaking of crazy trails, I heard you have a YouTube channel?

Faith
I do. Check that out. Thank you.

Kristen
Yeah. For anybody listening who would like to check it out, what’s that YouTube channel?

Faith
It’s Faith Mata. Just my name.

Kristen
Yeah. Very good. Um, so diving into the suspension service. Jenson USA has just launched this brand new suspension service. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

Faith
Um, yeah, basically, you take your fork or your shock off, you mail it in, and we try to get it back to the customer. 72, at least within 72 hours from when it gets to us. So usually, the turnaround time is much quicker. But um, you know, as business picks up, it’ll probably be closer to the 72 hours.

Kristen
Okay. Yeah. I mean, I think probably for a lot of women listening that the thing that sounds a little intimidating about the suspension service is taking off your fork. And yeah, to send in how difficult is that really?

Faith
Um, it’s, I mean, like anything else, it’s going to be a little bit of fumbling along as you go. But there’s some videos up on the on the website, the Jenson website with the suspension page, that shows you how to do that. Our technician Casey walks you through that. So it shouldn’t be too difficult.

Kristen
And what’s the I guess, what would be the attraction of sending it into Jenson, as opposed to go into a local bike shop and not having to take off your fork or your shop or doing any of that yourself?

Faith
I mean, you can also do that you can also come in with the bike. But what it is, is, we have more services that we that we can typically offer because being a bigger shop, we have the specialty tools for each different type of a brand. So we have things that we can do that some other local bike shops can’t because we have more of the equipment.

Kristen
Yeah, I think the other thing that may be an attraction is just that turnaround time that you mentioned. Yeah, it’s pretty quick. Yeah. So like when I recently took my fork in to be serviced, it took a long time, because bike shops right now we’re in like very, very short staffed. And so even though you might want to support your local bike shop, you might just might need a quicker turnaround, and that’s very attractive to me.

Faith
Yeah, we have a lot better chance of getting that back to you quickly. Yeah.

Kristen
Okay. Very good. And there are two different services. Can you differentiate between the two of those?

Faith
Yes, one is a mid-level service. And that’s kind of like your seasonal refresh. And that’s about every 50 hours or so of right time. It’s where the fork on the fork, they replaced the seals in the bath oil, and they do an air can service on the shock. And then the factory level service that’s about every 100 to 200 hours, you know, kind of per your, your shocks, the company’s recommendations. On the fork, they replace the seal’s bath oil, they do the air shaft damper. And the rear shocks they do the air can service, the damper service, the nitrogen recharge, and the vacuum bleed if that’s applicable. And every time they do the service, either one, the shock gets cleaned, it’s inspected for damage. They do the functionality testing and all your settings are restored to what you had when you came in. They put them back.

Kristen
Got it. Oh, I want to ask more about that in a minute. But first, that 50 hours. That’s like almost shocking to me because –

Faith
Yes, I’m terrible. I’m the worst. Yeah.

Kristen
So let’s say you’re going over your 50 hours. Hey, what are some signs that it’s probably time to send it in?

Faith
You’ll notice that your suspension is not functioning correctly. It’s just, you know, the compression or the rebound is not what it should be or it’s sagging too much when you get on it. There’s, you can have leaking oil. Sometimes with you, if you push down on the suspension, you can get a squelching noise, which that’s caused by like a gas charge bleed off, and it causes cavitation in the oil. So those are some good signs. Yeah.

Kristen
What are at what point does it not make sense anymore to service your suspension and just replace it or get a new bike?

Faith
Um, if it’s getting older, sometimes you want to upgrade to something, you know, that’ll give you some – what’s the word I’m looking for? Give you some options you didn’t have before. You know, especially if you have an older bike. And sometimes the cost of you know, fixing whatever’s damaged. It doesn’t make sense. It’s just better to buy a new one.

Kristen
Sure. Yeah, sure. And in terms of older forks or older shocks, I think I saw that was like five years old is what our limits are?

Faith
Probably about that. Yeah. Yeah.

Kristen
Um, what brands or what products do you work on? And is there any that you do not?

Faith
Well, we tried to stick with anything 2018 and current. Okay. So we do Fox Shocks, Rockshox, Olins, Cane Creek, Manito, DVO. And we are in progress to do the SunTour as well. We don’t do the MRP, though.

Kristen
Okay. And is your suspension service only for like maintenance? Or are you helping with setup as well?

Faith
They can advise you with setup, we can walk you through some of the steps in our like, we’ll call department too or we can get you know, the technician to come over and talk to you if you need a little bit of help setting yourself up.

Kristen
Okay, but you’re not doing any kind of custom tuning like –

Faith
Nothing like shimming or anything like that. We don’t do that. But we can, you know, do volume spacers things of that nature.

Kristen
Awesome. So you’d mentioned earlier when you’re servicing suspension, putting it back to factory settings. So when that happens, you’re gonna have to do all the setup again?

Faith
No, no, no, no. We will get back to your settings, your personal ones.

Kristen
Okay. Yes, yeah, that wasn’t clear to me. Yeah, sorry. Let’s move on. So let’s say we are buying a brand new bike. What should women be -I think a lot of women buy a brand new bike and just go ride, then they don’t spend the time to set up their suspension correctly, what are some of the things you should be doing when you get this new bike or a new fork?

Faith
Well, the three things you want to set up are the SAG, and that’s the well, the compression and the rebound. And SAG is just how much travel your bike uses when you’re just sitting on it in a natural riding position. So you want to make sure that’s not too much, or, you know, you need to air it up to about rider weight, and like half of the rider weights in the back. And then the compression, when you’re out riding. You know, when the tire comes up, the fork compresses down, that’s your compression. And rebound is when the fork extends back from that compression. So if you don’t set those correctly, if you’re going over a bunch of rocks, you can get bounced right off the bike. Or if you do it jump, you can get blocked off. So it’s very important that your settings be correct. Especially lighter-weight riders like women. It’s more important, I think that those things are very fine-tuned.

Kristen
And so how do you go about fine-tuning them?

Faith
Um, they’re on the fork itself. There’s compression settings down at the base and rebound on the shock there’s a dial and it gives you the charts for what you should air your fork and shock up to and there’s also usually like a QR code or something on the modern shocks that you can scan and it’ll walk you through everything explains what everything is. So it’s pretty helpful.

Kristen
Perfect Yeah. And then I always really recommend like also like writing down your settings. My husband is so good, luckily, because I’m not. But he has like a spreadsheet with all of our bikes.

Faith
Wow. I like that that’s a good idea.

Kristen
Yeah. Exactly, because you do it once, then you don’t want to have to deal with it all over again later on. Yeah.

Faith
Another thing is to, to kind of tune it in as you ride. You can leave it wide open or closed, and you go out, you do a little bit of riding, see how it feels, and then turn into clicker to do some more riding and dial things in that way. Yeah. And that might be better for a lighter rider, because it can be very little increments.

Kristen
Yeah. And yeah, I would just really encourage women to be willing to experiment and try out too, I think that men are much more generally much more willing to experiment and play. And women are like, so afraid, “If I touch something, I’m going to break it.”

Faith
So yeah, it’s not the case, I’ve even had to dial it in a little bit on the trail too. I was getting bucked on a very, very rocky trail. And I had to, you know, slow my rebound a little. So it’s, you know, it can change per trail. Yeah, can’t so you know, you can always switch it up if it’s not working at that moment.

Kristen
Yep. So we see a lot of the women’s specific brands like the ones coming to mind are Liv and Juliana, that they actually market the fact that their suspension is tuned for women or for lighter weight riders. Yes. What is what specifically? Are they talking about there?

Faith
Um, I don’t, I don’t know suspension? Well, I mean, the suspension is the suspension. It’s not particularly male or female. But, um, I think it would just yeah, I’m not really sure what it means on the suspension, I understand the bike itself. The bike itself can be woman-specific. And what that is, is they’ve done a lot of research of women, the riding styles, their weight, their heights, you know, how our bodies are proportioned and everything, and how we ride. So what they do is they market, a bike that’s maybe a little bit shorter reach, maybe the handlebars that they include are a little less wide. The seat will be more specific to accommodate, like the female genitalia, you know, with cutouts and things to protect the soft tissue. So it’s, you know, it’s not a bad idea. I mean, that can be really helpful. But you know, whatever bike a woman is comfortable on, that’s what matters. Doesn’t have to be female-specific, but it is a good concept.

Kristen
Absolutely. Yeah, that some of those, like brands like Juliana and Liv, they are actually like changing the tuning on the suspension from factory settings. Yeah, so if you are a lighter-weight rider, that might make sense, but like you’re saying, it’s not like a gender-specific, a weight issue. So you –

Faith
It’s just a matter of fine-tuning it and you could do that on the bike, whether that’s catered toward a man or not.

Kristen
Yes, absolutely. But that’s also I mean, I think something even for smaller men or for like my son, he’s getting about ready now for adult-sized bike. So that makes sense to consider your weight as well. Yeah, I think so. In addition to weight, what about your rider style? How does that affect your suspension setup?

Faith
Oh, yeah, definitely. Some people like a very plush feel on their suspension, other people like it a little bit stiffer. If you lock out your suspension, or have it a little stiffer, it makes for better climbing. Something a little more plush, that’s going to be better and gives you more comfort on like really intense rock gardens, big drops, and jumps. You know, things like that. So it really depends on what you like, a stiffer or more plush suspension.

Kristen
Very good. Um, what else? Is there anything we’re missing that we should be thinking about or knowing about our suspension?

Faith
Um, I just think, don’t be afraid to play with it. You know, make sure you get that tuned in and it can change who you are as a rider and how you ride. Like I said, sometimes on one trail, I was getting bucked off and I realized I needed to slow my rebound down as soon as I did that, the bike was a little bit of a different machine, and it was what I needed for that particular trail. So don’t be afraid to mess with it. And mess with it on the fly. You know, it can definitely help.

Kristen
One question, I am coming back to you on the suspension service. When you figure – go watch these videos – you tear off your fork, you tear off shock. How are you actually packaging this to send it in?

Faith
Um, you’re, you’re gonna put it in a box that’s kind of you know, similar to the shape if you can make sure there’s plenty of like bubble wrap or something like that. You really want to protect those forks because you know what the price is on those. Right but yeah, you want to make sure it gets to us intact.

Kristen
Okay, and then it’s gonna come back home and the same packaging that was sent in?

Faith
Yes, it should unless so we can’t preserve it when we open it, but we will definitely repackage it very well for you.

Kristen
Got it. And then it might make sense to hold on to it for future for sending it back again in the future. Yes. Another 50 hours, which is gonna come around real fast.

Faith
I know. I don’t think most of us do that even. It’s just like, it’s just like changing the oil in your car, you know, the more that you service it and take care of it, the longer you’re going to extend its life.

Kristen
Absolutely. Yeah. So if people would like to go out and learn more about the Jenson suspension service, where can they go do that?

Faith
Oh, jump on our website. There’s right in the beginning, the banner that flows across the screen there, and there’s the suspension service, you can get on there and you fill out whatever it is that you, you know, the information on your shock before you send it in. That’s how we do it. That way, we know what we’re getting when the shock arrives. And but it’s there’s videos on the site, how-tos, things like that. So yeah, it’s just the Jenson USA website.

Kristen
There you go. I encourage everybody, especially if it’s been more than 50 hours since the last time you did it, to consider you know, taking your bike into your local shop or sending it to Jenson, and this is a great additional option we have so yeah, yeah. Before we go, I’ve got three final questions for you. And the first one is what bike or bikes do you ride?

Faith
Well, I have the 2022 Ibis Ripmo that’s the main one I ride. My prior one was a Trek Fuel EX 8. But the Ripmo that’s yeah, that’s an amazing bike. I’m on it all the time. I kept the other one just in case as a backup, but I’m never on it anymore. Yeah. Because the Ripmos just too awesome.

Kristen
I have the Mojo and I love it. Yeah. So yeah, yes, I love it. Yeah. Second question is: What is your favorite place you’ve ever ridden your bike?

Faith
Um, it’s kind of a secret trail over here. I mean, it’s not totally secret anymore. It’s called Skidmarks. That’s a favorite trail of mine out here. And my kind of backyard playground where I’m always at those Sycamore Canyon, right behind Jenson USA.

Kristen
Ah, lucky you.

Faith
Yes, I get to ride and then go to work.

Kristen
Do you ever get to test out bikes?

Faith
I don’t I don’t. We don’t have a demo fleet right now. Yeah, no.

Kristen
And last question is: What is your favorite thing about riding your bike?

Faith
Um, I think it’s, for me, I’m a very, very anxious person. And I you know, had a tendency towards depression and not doing anything with my life. So getting out there, it gets me exercise. When I’m on the trail that I have to focus all my thoughts, my effort, my energy on to paying attention to what I’m doing or you know, you’re going to have an accident. So for that time that I’m out there, I’m relieved of all that depression, all that anxiety, because I don’t have time to think about it. And so it’s just I’m really living in the moment. I’m living free. It’s the adrenaline rush. It’s, I don’t know the sunrises, the sunsets, everything nature, it’s peaceful. So it just the mental health aspect of it. I cannot stress enough. That was huge for me.

Kristen
I’m the same way. I totally relate to that.

Faith
I completely think mountain biking saved my life.

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