Learning how to align dirt bike forks ensures your dirt bike front suspension is performing at an optimal level. The forks can get out of alignment when crashing or when incorrectly tightening the front fork legs in place.
Ever wonder why the front fender is not aligning with the front tire? Typically this happens right after a crash or when dropping the dirt bike on its side. The front fork alignment is off and needs to be reset to the original position.
Realigning dirt bike forks after a crash is a simple process. First, lift the dirt bike on a center stand. Loosen the lower triple tree bolts and the front wheel axle crimp bolts. Take the dirt bike off the center stand, push the front of the dirt bike down several times, then lift the dirt bike back to the center stand. Finally, use a torque wrench to tighten all bolts back to specification and the dirt bike fork alignment is complete!
Let’s take a closer look at the front forks. Next, we will explain how misaligned dirt bike forks, sometimes called twisted forks or binding front forks usually happen, and how to diagnose and fix it.
What Does Aligning Dirt Bike Forks or Fixing Binding Forks Mean?
The front forks are connected to the frame via upper and lower triple trees. They hold the forks in place with clamps that wrap around the shock upper housing. The moving suspension parts and the fork oil is inside the outer upper housing.
Each manufacturer has a recommended torque specification for the upper and the lower triple tree bolts to avoid overtightening. This is important especially for the lower triple tree since it can cause significant friction for the moving parts inside the fork. It is very important to fix binding or any sticking inside the fork legs caused by an incorrect installation.
If you drop your dirt bike or take a hard hit that rapidly moves the front tire to either side, this motion can cause the forks to slightly move within the triple trees.
Sometimes it also causes a slight movement in the front wheel axle crimp bolt area. This slight movement causes a misalignment in the front for geometry and basically affects how smoothly the front fork inner parts move inside the outer housing.
This course of events is known as binding front forks, sometimes also called as twisted forks, which will affect suspension performance.
Falling, crashing, or dropping the dirt bike are by far the most common causes for binding front forks. Another reason is an incorrect installation—more specifically the tightening and assembly order—of the forks after regular maintenance such as a tire change or a fork oil service. Twisted motorcycle forks are a fairly common issue and can cause permanent damage to the suspension components.
How To Diagnose Incorrectly Aligned Dirt Bike Forks
Usually after a crash, you can tell something feels different right after you get back on the dirt bike. This is an indication that something is not aligning up. You may have bent the handlebar or the front forks may have moved slightly.
After checking the handlebars for obvious bends, check if the front fender and wheel are aligning center.
You can look over the fender while sitting on the dirt bike or put the dirt bike on a center stand and step in front of the dirt bike and check the alignment. If the fender is clearly misaligned with the wheel and the fender is otherwise ok, you likely have moved the forks out of alignment.
The other method for diagnosing binding front forks involves analyzing the front fork performance.
After crashing or doing some maintenance, if you feel like the front end is suddenly stiffer or doesn’t want to move as quickly as before the event, you likely have moved or installed the forks out of alignment.
Read also: How to adjust the front fork height and why
How To Align or Straighten Dirt Bike Forks
You can align or straighten binding front forks easily. No special skills are needed. You can even align dirt bike forks trailside with normal tools (although a torque wrench is highly recommended). It should take around 15 minutes to complete.
Step 1: Lift the Dirt Bike on a Center Stand
Position the dirt bike centered on the center stand, so that the front end is not carrying too much weight.
Step 2: Loosen the Lower Triple Tree Bolts
Loosen the lower bolts on the triple tree on both fork legs. Make sure you loosen them about halfway out.
If the forks are binding or out of alignment, you can usually hear cracking or clicking noises as you start loosening the bolts. This is a sure sign of tension in the front forks and means that the forks are out of alignment.
Step 3: Loosen the Front Axle Crimp Bolts
Next, loosen the front wheel axle crimp bolts. Again, loosen the bolts halfway out. These bolts hold the front forks in place sideways to the front axle.
If you have taken a hit from the side, sometimes the forks slide in or out slightly causing tension.
Step 4: Align Dirt Bike Forks
Take the dirt bike off the center stand. Next, stand on the side of the dirt bike and push the front fork forcefully down holding the front brake.
When you push the fork legs in, the movement aligns the forks to the triple tree and slides the forks sideways on the front wheel axle to a neutral position.
You should repeat the process several times to ensure forks are aligned and squared.
Step 5: Realign the Forks on the Wheel Axle
Carefully lift the dirt bike back on the center stand avoiding excessive movement of the front wheel and forks. Position the dirt bike in such a way that the front wheel is off the ground. Alternatively, you can use a wrench and stick it under the skid plate in the front to lift the front wheel off the ground.
Grab the front wheel and spin it as hard as you can. While the wheel is spinning, quickly apply the front break to stop the wheel. This will make sure that the front brake caliber is aligned and not binding with the fork movement.
Step 6: Tighten the Bolts to Complete the Dirt Bike Fork Alignment
First, tighten the front axle bolts back to specifications using a torque wrench. Next, tighten the lower triple tree bolts back to specifications again with a torque wrench.
Using a torque wrench prevents from overtightening the bolts, which can cause fork leg sticking and damage to the fork leg housing.
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A torque wrench is a great tool and it is extremely important to use it in suspension related work.
If you overtighten the triple tree bolts, you may cause significant damage to the fork itself and also slow the suspension down altering its designed performance.
A torque wrench (check the current price on Amazon.com) is a handy tool for making sure you’re not damaging parts or stripping bolts. Additionally, it is easy to set the desired torque setting by twisting the handle to the desired torque setting.
It is a good practice to align dirt bike forks regularly. Simply because the forks get out of alignment fairly easily in crashes and can cause other issues affecting the riding performance.
Learning how to correctly install and tighten the front forks in place after a regular service is important for a correct suspension performance. The correct procedure will ensure correct suspension movement.
The procedure described above can be used to check, adjust, and correctly install front forks for example after changing the front tire.
Make sure to check out our other posts related to front forks:
See you out on the trails!
Last updated: August 31st, 2022