This week’s installment deals with maintenance. Superficial maintenance. Which is perhaps the easiest kind of maintenance, which means it’s sometimes overlooked or undervalued. Or maybe it doesn’t matter. We wondered if you needed to clean and lube your fork stanchions, or if the sliders and built in oil sponges beneath them provided all of the care your fork needs.

For answers, we reached out to a number of suspension manufacturers and lubrication companies who make aftermarket care products to see what they’d say. Here are responses from Rockshox, MRP, Muc-Off and Wet Seal, which don’t necessarily agree with each other. So, take it all in and use your judgement as to what works best for your riding conditions and maintenance routines…

BIKERUMOR: Should you lube your fork stanchions? Why or why not?

ROCKSHOX: At RockShox, we recommend cleaning and inspecting your stanchions every ride and performing your lower leg service after every 50 hours of use.

Cleaning the stanchions removes any dirt and debris from the surface that the dust wiper seal keeps out of the fork with every compression. This extends the life of your dust wiper seals, minimizes damage to upper tubes, and minimizes lower leg contamination.

Applying lubrication to the stanchions will attract dirt and debris, which the wiper seal will wipe away upon the next compression, creating a ring of oil and debris that will need to be cleaned before your next ride. With routine 50 hour lower leg service, the fork will provide the necessary lubrication to the stanchions to perform properly until the next service interval is reached. Routine service combined with proper cleaning and inspection can extend the life and performance of your suspension product.

MRP: We don’t recommend lubing your stanchions or rear shock shafts simply because it shouldn’t be necessary. If doing so results in a noticeably better feel to either, they’re likely overdue for service and running dry internally. It’s like treating a symptom, not the underlying illness. Furthermore, lube applied externally is likely to attract dust.

WET SEAL: Yes. One can imagine their stanchions are penetrating their lowers. Given it’s a tight fit, lube will reduce the heat on your forks’ seals as the result of friction. Without using lube, seals prematurely wear resulting in dirt/grime finding it’s way into the bath system. The space between the seals and the stanchions is extremely minute to prevent foreign particles from entering your lowers. Seals are the major line of defense for keeping them out. Ensuring that stanchions/seals are properly lubed will extend the life and performance of your fork.

MUC-OFF: Keeping your fork stanchions well lubricated is vital as it reduces the stiction between the wiper seal and the stanchion, which improves small bump sensitivity and trail buzz as the stiction is dramatically reduced. It also helps to keep dirt off the stanchion and seals as the silicon repels dirt and grime to the surfaces cleaner and hence reduces the risk of contaminants getting into the wiper seal (and in turn your fork oil).

how to clean your suspension fork stanchions and dust wiper seals

BIKERUMOR: If so, how often?

ROCKSHOX: You should clean and inspect your stanchions and dust wiper seals before or after every ride.

WET SEAL: This depends on how often you ride, where you’re riding and the manufacturer of your fork. We recommend applying Wet Seal once every three rides. If you ride in a dry desert/dusty climate, you may find it beneficial applying before every ride. Seals in dry climates are prone to cracking if not looked after.

MUC-OFF: Re-apply before each ride for best results and maximum protection.

BIKERUMOR: What’s the best way to clean them first?

ROCKSHOX: Clean your stanchions and dust wiper seals before or after every ride with a clean, lint-free towel and isopropyl alcohol as necessary. In addition, if your suspension product has a sag measuring o-ring, it is recommended to keep that clean and free of dirt and debris as well.

MRP: We recommend cleaning your seal areas with a mild soap and water mix periodically, sooner rather than later if there is significant dirt build up.

WET SEAL: A clean, dry Micro-Fiber rag works best. If you’re having trouble getting heavy grease off the seal or stanchions, we recommend using a little bit of water on the micro-fiber rag. DO NOT USE SOAP. Soap will break down the good oils and grease inside your fork which can result in needing an entire rebuild.

MUC-OFF: Start by hosing down thoroughly to remove any dirt but do not force water into the seals. Our Nano Tech Bike Cleaner can be used to remove any stubborn grime and then rinsed and dried with a clean cloth. You can then apply a light coating of Silicon Shine around the stanchion/wiper seal and you are good to go.

Rockshox suspension fork rebuild and cleaning tips

BIKERUMOR: What product or type of lubrication should you use?

ROCKSHOX: For 50 hour lower leg services, our service manuals communicate the proper procedures and the specific grease and oils, including quantities, necessary for each model of fork. These can all be found at sram.com/service. The specific grease and oil requirements for each fork are also available in the Front Suspension Specifications documents available for each model year.

MRP: In addition to cleaning the stanchions, regularly changing the bath oil in your lowers, lubricating your seals internally with Slick Honey, and replacing seals as needed should be all you need to do keep your suspension feeling fresh.

WET SEAL: Our product Wet Seal was the first lubricant introduced to the industry specifically for suspension forks and this article. In 2014 we had the Suspension Experts in Asheville run a serious of tests on every fork to make sure our formula was 100% safe.

MUC-OFF: We recommend our Silicon Shine.

BIKERUMOR: Is there any product/type of lube you should NOT use?

ROCKSHOX: Only use the RockShox branded oils and lubricants that are specified for your fork, unless another brand is specifically communicated. These oils and lubricants have been created, tested, and confirmed to be compatible with the seals and components in RockShox forks. Other non-specified oils and lubricants may not be compatible with RockShox suspension components and could cause damage, voiding the product’s warranty.

WET SEAL: There are Fork Stanchion lubricant “sprays” on the market. We do NOT recommend using sprays or aerosol cans as an applicator. It’s difficult to regulate the amount of liquid that’s extracted- BUT far worse is the risk of the liquid spray getting on the brake pads or brake rotor. If the liquid gets on brake pads, they will have to be thrown out. The brake rotor will also have to be submerged into a bucked of dish washer soap, cleaned, then submerged into a bucket of rubbing alcohol. -Even then, we’d recommend replacing the rotor.

We don’t recommend using water based lubes. Water dries and tends to leave a residue. They’re cheaper to make and in an effort to make the water based lubricant last longer, manufactures will use Paraben (a wax) so the water binds and holds the other ingredients. However, this wax is known to grab outside particles because of its “sticky” nature. It also won’t be long lasting.

Typically you want to use a lubricant that has a similar composition of what’s found in the bath system.

MUC-OFF: We would not recommend using any other kind of lube apart from a Silicon-based specific formula, which has been designed for suspension systems. Many other lubes could actually attract more dirt and grime and their thicker viscosity could actually make the stiction a lot worse!

BIKERUMOR: Does the same apply for rear shocks?

ROCKSHOX: Yes. Clean and inspect the shock damper body before or after every ride with the same procedure; use a clean, lint-free towel and isopropyl alcohol as necessary. This will extend the wiper seal lifespan, minimize damage to the shock damper body, and minimize air can contamination.

Applying lubrication to the damper body will attract dirt and debris, which the wiper seal will remove upon the next compression, creating a ring of oil and debris that will need to be cleaned prior to your next ride. The wiper is designed to keep dirt and debris out, not pull lubrication in. Performing the routine 50 hour air can service will provide the necessary lubrication for the shock to perform as designed until the next service interval is reached.

WET SEAL: Rear shocks are a little different. The mechanism uses smaller parts and less internal oil/air then a fork, therefore it needs fewer applications of Wet Seal. That’s not saying that seals won’t dry up on a rear shock, but they will dry up less because of the configuration of rear shocks. The seals on rear shocks are also larger and does a better job of dissipating heat. We recommend applying two drops of Wet Seal to the rear shock seals once every dozen or so rides.

MUC-OFF: Yes, our Silicon Shine is ideal to use on both the front and rear shocks.

BIKERUMOR: Anything else you’d like to add on this subject?

ROCKSHOX: Performing routine service at the scheduled intervals will have the greatest impact on maintaining suspension’s performance and extending life span. The above cleaning procedures and 50 hour service intervals also apply to the Reverb seatpost. All of RockShox’s service intervals can be found here: RockShox Service Intervals. Riders who frequent bike parks, extreme terrain, or encounter severe environmental conditions will benefit from more frequent service.

MRP: One tip we do recommend is to occasionally flip your bike over to allow the bath oil accumulated in at the bottom of your lowers to wet your bushings and seals. If there is a sufficient amount of oil in there, it should splash around as the fork cycles anyway, but to expedite that process and make your fork feel fresh on the first hit, do the above.

WET SEAL: Our Wet Seal also works great on Dropper Posts. If you find that your dropper post is slow to rise or won’t rise at all but has proper air pressure, Wet Seal will have that post popping up like a hen at sunrise. Similar when applying Wet Seal to your fork, clean the dropper stanchion and seal with a micro-fiber rag before applying our product. Once applied, drop and rise the post 3-4 times and clean off the remaining liquid and grime with a micro-fiber rag.

MUC-OFF: Yes! You can’t beat regular cleaning of your whole bike to reduce wear and tear and use a good protectant all over your bike! We wash our bikes after every ride, little and often is better then waiting and turning it into a hellishly big job!

Your suspension fork is typically the most expensive component on your bike, so cleaning the bike each time you ride makes bike cleaning a quicker task than waiting until your bike is grinding itself to an early death and the dirt is much harder to remove! If you also spray Silicon Shine on your frame and components (covering braking surfaces!) it will mean cleaning is so much faster as the surface tension between the dirt and the surface is drastically reduced while you are riding and cleaning so the dirt is removed with much less effort!


The fun never ends. Stay tuned for a new post each week that explores one small suspension tech, tuning or product topic. Check out past posts here. Got a question you want answered? Email us. Want your brand or product featured? We can do that, too.

46 COMMENTS

    • Sooo the fork manufactures sell more rebuild kits…? Been using wet seal on my fox talas for two seasons (well over 50 hours) and haven’t felt the need to rebuild fwiw.. Interesting read though thanks for sharing!

    • Word for word what I came here to type out, even the “soooo” part. Look, if stanchion lube was a thing you can bet (spend) your bottom dollar the fork manufacturers wouldn’t leave that money on the table for aftermarket companies.

      • I’m pretty sure they make more bottom dollars selling rebuild kits every 50 hours as compared to a $10 bottle of lube/year. Fork companies aren’t in the lube/bottling business, they’re in the hardgoods/manufacturing. The same reason why SCRAM doesn’t make chain lube. They’d rather have you buy another chain instead of maintaining it.

        • A fork maintained properly for a year vs. a fork maintained with stanchion lube for a year won’t even be on the same planet performance-wise (unless you never ride either). It’s true, you can run your fork into the ground over a few years and just buy a new one for the same cost as maintaining it but you have to ride a trashed fork the whole time. If you just keep up with the maintenance it’ll still run like new at the end of a few years and it’ll have been an enjoyable ride to boot.

          • What? My point was fork manufacturers aren’t in the lube business. Not sure what yours was. But to digress, according to the fork manufactures, a properly maintained fork means the seals were wiped down before every ride. If you’re applying silicone lube to the seals and then wiping it down afterwards, whats the difference? I’d rather moisturize the seals and keep my stanchions greesy then the latter. You can maintain your fork however you want, breh.

  1. The opinions seem biased towards how each respective company makes their money. I am gonna hedge my bets and go with the suspension manufacturers

  2. So in real life, what do people do? Lube your shaft or run it clean and dry?

    Also what’re fork manufacturers’ and your thoughts on inverting bike upside down to get oil in lowers to move to the bushings/seals?

    • Lube with bath oil identical to original. Cycle fork/shock a few times, wipe, and make sure it’s *nearly* dry before riding. You won’t manage to get any lube in the lowers, this only lubes the wipers.

      Best case scenario–perform bath service every couple months during peak season(it’s easy!). That’s assuming you’re riding plenty. No need to replace the wipers *every* time, but at least replace the foam rings and clean out the lowers. If you clean the fork externally beforehand, you mitigate the chance that you’ll bump dirt into the lowers when removing them.

    • At the end of a ride, wipe down the fork/shock stanchion to get rid of most of the crap, then put a few drops of oil around the wiper seal, let it sit for bit, then push the fork/shock down and let go. The oil will pick up all the very tiny bits of crap on the edge of the wiper seal and pull it back up the stanchion. Wiper that off, do it a couple of times until no fine debris comes up with the oil. If it dries in place that fine debris will murder your fork or shock, other than that lubcricants go in the fork, not on the fork.

    • It’s worth noting that Rockshox (and possibly others) foam rings are dry from the factory. I always drop the lowers, soak the foam rings, and load up the wiper seals with slick honey or something comparable.

  3. I think MRP hit it in plain language in the first question. Rockshox says the same thing, but in a Company Spokesperson sort of way. I had the same reaction as ELEVEN

    • Do you remember the Seinfeld episode where Jerry is getting the insiders deal but then Elaine breaks up with the salesman Putty and as a result, Jerry’s deal gets progressively worse. I think Putty charged him for the undercoating. Also a key fee… “how are you gonna start the car?”

      • I don’t remember that one, but I remember the one where Kramer went out for a test drive and they were running our of fuel but he wanted to see how far they could go… they may still be out there somewhere.

      • We (MRP) haven’t tested that specific product, but I don’t have reservations about it. Maxima and Dirtlabs know their stuff! Keep your seals clean and service your fork (or have it serviced by pros like Dirtlabs) on a regular basis to both get the best performance and most life out of it.

  4. I might have missed it but did SRAM say to service at 50 hours? I didn’t catch that on every single response. lol.

    I like to rub a little Slick Honey on the fork and shock shafts a few times a year. It pulls some of the dirt from the wiper seals and gives them a little lubrication. If we had inverted forks we wouldn’t have to do that at all. I still ride my Maverick Duc32 occasionally.

  5. Rock Shox rep just keep repeating the same thing again and again…. Wonder if he/she was actually reading a piece of paper with no clue of the meaning. It sound about right for Sram.

    MRP was the opposite with honest advices…

    My advice:
    Maxima SC-1 once in a while.
    Take a zip tie and gently push it into the seal, as far as it goes. There may be some air in there.
    Put bike upside down once in a while for a day.

          • Not that I expect anyone here to remember my stance on things, but I (deleted) hate SRAM, and make that known regularly. I just happen to think that the engineers and manufacturers who make the stuff might know a little bit more than some guy trying to sell you some suspension (snake) oil.

            Unless you think that Stan Day’s big plan all along was to bilk riders with suspension rebuild kits.

          • I was just saying some people in the comments might have a good idea about what they are talking of! no suspension or sram parts for me 😀

    • Putting your bike upside down for a day will have all the dirt and air bubbles in your brake lines get into your brake lever reservoir. I would not recommend doing this for someone who hasn’t bled their brakes in awhile….

  6. Maybe not in every circumstance, but I can say that at least once I noticed a distinct improvement, with finish line fluoro oil on enduro wipers.

  7. Servicing a fork every 50hrs is Totally impractical!!,
    That would amount to almost twice a month.

    Keep it clean, soft cloth or light brush after every ride, bit of lube, wiped off so as not to form grinding paste.
    Motorbike shock runs for many hundreds of hrs with no service.
    I think we may need to apply rule 5. and go rigid or Lauf.

  8. “MRP: One tip we do recommend is to occasionally flip your bike over to allow the bath oil accumulated in at the bottom of your lowers to wet your bushings and seals. If there is a sufficient amount of oil in there, it should splash around as the fork cycles anyway, but to expedite that process and make your fork feel fresh on the first hit, do the above.”

    This is what I do on my personal bike. I’ll use some spray occasionally on customer bikes after cleaning off their wipers well, but its a very light spray to help them get through the week.

    • We’ve been using Wet Seal on tune-ups at my shop in AZ for about a year. . It’s super dry out here and rubber seals crack because they never see moisture. It’s the only product we’ve found that can be directly applied onto the seals. I personally like the new bottle w/ pipette, the cap they used before was lame.

  9. I know it’s challenging on free media because money comes from companies, not readers. But wouldn’t it be the whole point of that kind of article that the journalist helps the reader make up his mind ? Instead of just forwarding manufacturer’s fog screen speech ? Of course they all had to answer same question, which is kind of a good start, but…

    It is obvious here that lube manufacturers have all interest to support external lubing. Yet it does not mean they are wrong. Often great products come out from an actual need.

    On the other hand, forks manufacturers position is less clear : selling rebuild kits is part of the business, but too much maintenance is a clear drawback and does not help selling expensive piece of Asian manufacturing (meaning big margin). Plus : internal fork design has a big influence on this subject (eg. as mentioned above, inverted forks are much better lubed), so there is most likely no gold rule.

  10. If you are a cheap ass that neglects his suspension and doesn’t rebuild it at minimum once a year, you probably want to use external lube to mitigate the damage you are absolutely causing.(Looking at you Midwest, I know you)

    If you rebuild your fork every 50 hours like you should(I did my single speed fork 3 or 4 times last year), it probably doesn’t matter.

  11. The coatings on the stanchion are porous, they hold a small amount of oil to lube themselves during use.
    The oil level slowly drops until you do a lower leg service at 50 hours or whatever interval experience says you need it.
    Spraying crap on your stanchions that are specifically designed to work best with the lubricating oil in the fork and will do nothing but hide the lack of oil inside while you destroy both our bushings and stanchions due to lack of proper maintenance.
    The Rockshox guy was absolutely correct to say just do a service at 50 hours.

    I suppose some folk here just pour a little oil additive in their car engine when it rattles instead of changing the oil at prescribed intervals.

  12. Direct from Sram fork manual: “Every ride: Clean the dirt and debris from the uppertubes, check air pressure, inspect uppertubes for scratches, and lubricate dust seals and upper tubes.” I lube them every ride because the manual says to. Does this mean something different?

What do you think?