Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Northern Nevada
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I have an old Trek tourer that's lived about six lives--it was my main ride for four or five years, then got cyclocross tires and lower gears, then upright bars and a tall stem as a town bike, and I've ridden it a lot on fire roads and doubletrack in the desert. It's a singlespeed now, with mustache bars and 41mm tires. It's also had a suspension post off and on, and for awhile I used a suspension stem with elastomer bumpers, called a Flexstem, I think (that was a long time ago). Never tried a supension fork on that bike, though I have on others.
As several other posts have said, different setups do different things. The Flexstem didn't do much at all, maybe a little relief from the buzzies on chip seal. The post (a cheap one, not anything good like a Thudbuster) helped a little on moderate bumps, but I learned my skills on mountain bikes a long time ago, before suspension was even a rumor, and I reflexively stand up for bumps anyway.
Biggest all-around difference, and certainly the best bang for the buck, was larger tires at lower pressures. There's plenty of room on that bike, and I like at least 35mm, maybe fatter, at 80 psi or below (NOTE: I weigh 240, so YMMV). On my Atlantis, my main bike these days, I run 37mm Paselas at 75 or so, and it's nice. I've used the same bike with 25s at 105, and it was much less comfortable without being significantly faster.
Probably I'd make a different choice for racing or full-on dirt, but for all-around riding, that works for me.