What is Preload Adjustment on a Mountain Bike?

Christine H. Groce10 Apr 2022

Mountain biking is a fantastic activity that you can do with the whole family to get some exercise and fresh air. But to get the most out of your adventure, you must ensure that everything is set to the tee. It is also a nice way to avoid injury and enjoy a smoother riding experience. One of the most confusing aspects for riders is preload adjustment. What is it, and what does it do? In this blog post, we tell you all you need to know about preload adjustment on a mountain bike!

What is the preload adjustment on a bike?

The initial compression of the spring inside your fork is referred to as preload adjustment. The more it's compressed, the stiffer the bike will feel under rider input. A higher preload setting is perfect for heavy riders or people who want a more rigid feel in their fork. Meanwhile, lighter riders will fare better on less preload. The preload adjustment on a mountain bike is used to alter the stiffness of the suspension. It's located near the bottom bracket and can be adjusted by turning a knob or screw.

What does preload adjustment on a mountain bike do?

Your suspension should respond optimally to all kinds of terrain, so the fork and shock absorber must compress when you hit an object to ensure your bike doesn't keep moving. To avoid losing traction, forks and shocks should be able to both absorb impacts and maintain their composure. Your bike's suspension needs to extend to fill holes as you ride over them while also staying extended enough so that the tires on your bike are never too far from being on the ground. For the suspension to function correctly, not only does it need to compress but also extend. The amount of sag is the amount at which the bike's suspension will sag when you sit on it. Too little sag will lead to poor grip as the tires cannot extend into compressions, while too much will create a bike that lacks high-speed stability and is less responsive to repeated impacts.

How to adjust the preload on your new bike

The preload on your new bike is the amount of air in the front and rear suspension. The higher the preload, the more resistance there is to bumps and shocks. The right preload will depend on your weight, riding style, and terrain. Increasing the pressure in your tire will make your bike handle better. The following steps are a guide on how to adjust your preload on your bike: 1. Find out the recommended pressure for your specific tire size.  2. Put the bike on a stand and ensure that the tires are inflated to this pressure.  3. Adjusting the preload can be done by adjusting two screws at either end of the fork or adding or removing air from an air chamber via an air valve (for example, Schrader valve). on the front fork. 4. To stop, use a pump and remove some air to return the pressure to normal levels.

Why should I adjust my mountain bike's preload?

The suspension of mountain bikes is adjustable to deal with different terrain. One way to adjust the suspension is by adjusting the preload. A preload adjustment changes how much pressure there is in the spring, affecting how quickly it compresses and rebounds. It also affects how much sag there is in the bike's fork and shock. If you are riding a mountain bike on a smooth, flat surface, you should adjust your preload to avoid sag in your suspension. When you are riding on rough ground, you should reduce sag so that the bike can handle bumps better - this will also make your ride smoother overall. Also, a well-balanced suspension will ensure that you have a level playing field for traction. This comes either from the surface of the terrain or your momentum.

How do I determine the proper preload for my bike?

When you're setting up your bike, you need to ensure that there is enough preload to provide adequate suspension. The correct preload for your bike depends on a few factors, including:


The terrain you are biking on can affect the preload setting. For example, if you are going to be riding off-road, you may need more preload than someone who only rides on paved roads. The rough off-road surface will require your suspension to provide more shock absorption than on a smoother street.

Rider weight

Rider weight is an essential factor in determining the preload settings for a mountain bike. The heavier the rider, the more preload needs to be applied to the front fork and rear shock to compensate for the increased weight. This is because as a rider's weight increases, more force is exerted on the mountain bike components, which can cause them to wear down faster than they would if lighter riders supported them.

Riding style

Riding with a more upright position means you are sitting on top of the bike, rather than being leaned over it. The more upright position means less weight is on the front wheel, which reduces traction and increases the risk of wheel spin when climbing steep inclines. In this case, a higher preload will be needed to compensate for the reduced weight on the front wheel.

How do you know if you have too much preload on a bike?

Preload is a measurement of the distance between the front and rear axles in relation to the suspension. A bike with too much preload will have a lot of space between the two axles, leading to instability, poor handling, and increased wear on parts like brake pads or chains.


Before you head out on your next MTB adventure, you want to ensure that the preload adjustment is optimal for your weight, riding style, and the terrain you're riding on. The guide above will help you make the right adjustments for a smooth and fulfilling ride!

Christine H. Groce

Christine H. Groce

Christine formed a passion for cycling back when she still had training wheels as a kid. She wants to write about her adventures, along with tips and tricks for beginner cycling fans.

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