The concept of after-market fork and shock customization is not new in the motorcycle world; but it is relatively new for mountain bikes.
Currently only one company in the U.S.A., PUSH Industries, offers this service for dirt riders looking to optimize performance.
The company was formed in 2004 by Darren Murphy. Darren was intimately familiar with the after-market customization of motorcycle forks because he worked in that industry. An avid motorcyclist and mountain biker, Darren was frustrated because he couldn't get the performance he expected from his mountain bike fork. He knew performance could be improved.
In a small facility in Irvine, California, PUSH Industries opened and began working with elite mountain bike racers to collect data about mountain bike fork and shock performance. In 2005, PUSH moved to Northern Colorado for a more centralized U.S. location, quality of life and for the proximity to good trail systems.
I've heard about PUSH for a few years now, so I decided to investigate further when my local bike shop recommended PUSH for a fork rebuild. The reason my shop would send fork rebuild business to someone else is because they thought I could have improved performance with a rebuild combined with tuning.
Making Your Equipment Right for YOU
So what does "rebuild combined with tuning" mean?
First, you have to know that fork and shock manufacturers build products that can be sold to the majority of customers so those products can be affordable. In the case of the fork that I own, this means building a product that can be used by someone weighing an average of 185 to 220 pounds. Additionally, manufacturers typically build in safety factors so that the product can support someone weighing over 220 pounds (e.g. 250 to 280 pounds) and survive use in certain extreme riding situations.
In order to help any fork or shock be more acceptable to a wider range of rider weights and riding styles, manufacturers add adjustability to the products so that items such as air pressure, compression and rebound can be customized. Some forks and rear shocks come with an option to lock out the system, making the bike feel more like a rigid frame system.
While all of this adjustability is good, it does come with a certain amount of compromise. The first compromise is rider weight. Take me for example: I weigh around 125 pounds for most of the year. Manufacturers simply do not build products that maximize performance for someone in my weight range.
The second thing to consider is riding style. When PUSH inquires about custom design for riding style, they want to know how you approach your riding:
- Plush — Propedal or lockout firmness is NOT as important as bump sensitivity
- Trail — I don't race, but like to have the ability to firm-up my suspension with external adjusters
- Race — Propedal or lockout firmness is VERY important to me
- Big Hit — A little sacrifice in small bump sensitivity to gain control on drops and jumps is good
- Downhill — Fast and flowy is my style. I hit drops and jumps but prefer transitions
Finally, technicians at PUSH consider the frame you're riding when they customize your fork. They know that the overall bike design and geometry of your ride needs to be factored into the equation of making your fork work optimally for you.