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Old 04-29-14, 10:05 PM   #1
Robert P
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Why do some dislike suspension forks?

I find some seem to feel disdain for suspension front forks. Not clear to me why.

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Old 04-29-14, 10:15 PM   #2
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Well...

-If you're riding on the roads (even crappy ones) or other improved surface, they aren't needed.
-They rob power while pedaling, so you don't go as fast.
-Added weight, so again slows you down- especially when climbing.
-One more moving part to maintain.
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Old 04-29-14, 11:08 PM   #3
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Well strictly speaking for mountain biking rigids make the same old trails interesting. I have a nice full suspension bike and just picked up a nice steel rigid last fall. I wouldn't give up my FS bike but it is nice to have something completely different to ride. You have to use a different riding style and hit things differently with the rigid where you can just plow through things with the FS. A lot of the people I ride with ride rigids single speeds and I think a lot of it is because they are way faster riders and the rigid single speeds slow them down and makes it more fun for them to ride with us normal people lol. The lower maintenance and less weight are also a bonus. There is also a tad bit of elitism from riding a rigid, the look at me and how hard core I am aspect.

Any disdain comes down to people that buy a bike with suspension when there is really no use for one.
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Old 04-29-14, 11:14 PM   #4
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If you are off-road riding OK.
If not, there is really no 'need' for suspension
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Old 04-30-14, 01:44 AM   #5
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depends on context

I don't like cheap suspension forks because they are heavy, ineffective, add slop to handling, etc
especially the case on hybrids that don't need it in the first place

good forks (500$+ range) have their use on mtb
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Old 04-30-14, 02:51 AM   #6
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Terrible for most road riding. Why not save 3-4 lbs and ditch the sloppy front end.

I tried an old Manitou Spider on my Mongoose for a while but didn't care for it much, figured bumping front tire from 1.95 to 2.3" worked way better
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Old 04-30-14, 03:13 AM   #7
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I have a nice rockshox tora uturn on my tourer. Its very useful. On rough roads after 200km I can reach down and unlock it. Makes the ride more pleasent. Also means it makes a pretty decent mtb with the right tires. I also like the way it allows me to alter the front end geometry 4cm up or down depending on where and how I want to ride.
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Old 04-30-14, 05:02 AM   #8
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They add cost and complexity to a bike that doesn't really need it. At one point it was almost impossible to buy a hybrid, city bike or trekking bike without one. Most of the ones installed on bikes for that market were cheap and relatively ineffective. They were put on there as a marketing ploy. My 3 most ridden bikes DON'T have suspension forks. I do have them on my MTB for trail riding. IMHO they also lead to bad riding technique, as in plop your butt down and let the suspension do all the work, rather than being an active rider and using your body to adjust to the terrain. And as pointed out they rob energy that you have put out pedaling.

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Old 04-30-14, 05:03 AM   #9
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Well...
-They rob power while pedaling, so you don't go as fast.
Can you explain the physics on this? If the power is being transferred to the chain/rear wheel via the pedals, how does a slight movement of the front fork have any effect? I.e. the rear wheel is still going to rotate the same for one revolution of the crank, the front wheel is just as free to roll so how would the front fork impede this?
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Old 04-30-14, 05:07 AM   #10
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Can you explain the physics on this? If the power is being transferred to the chain/rear wheel via the pedals, how does a slight movement of the front fork have any effect? I.e. the rear wheel is still going to rotate the same for one revolution of the crank, the front wheel is just as free to roll so how would the front fork impede this?
If the suspension is set so it's soft, as the back wheel pushes you forward some of the energy goes into bouncing the fork. I remember the first time I rode my (then) brand new MTB up a hill - I was fat and desperately unfit and really noticed how as I struggled up a hill I could actually see the fork bouncing. The trail wasn't particularly bumpy, but some of the energy that I wanted to be pushing me forward was just bouncing the fork.

A suspension fork with a lockout seems like a handy compromise, but if the closest you're ever going to go off-road is when you cycle on the pavement/sidewalk you don't need it.

ETA: If the suspension is firm it seems reasonable to assume some effort still bounces the fork even if it's not quite so visible.
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Old 04-30-14, 05:12 AM   #11
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If the suspension is set so it's soft, as the back wheel pushes you forward some of the energy goes into bouncing the fork. I remember the first time I rode my (then) brand new MTB up a hill - I was fat and desperately unfit and really noticed how as I struggled up a hill I could actually see the fork bouncing. The trail wasn't particularly bumpy, but some of the energy that I wanted to be pushing me forward was just bouncing the fork.

A suspension fork with a lockout seems like a handy compromise, but if the closest you're ever going to go off-road is when you cycle on the pavement/sidewalk you don't need it.
I'd have to try a rigid fork on the same road and see if I can tell any difference.
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Old 04-30-14, 06:33 AM   #12
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I'd have to try a rigid fork on the same road and see if I can tell any difference.
Tell the difference means a bit of subjectivity. Not acceptable in the physics world. Ask Sheldon Cooper.
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Old 04-30-14, 06:46 AM   #13
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Yes, they do make the ride more pleasant, and take shock away from wrists, shoulders, backs............. Yes, the lockouts do work well for when you are climbing or are on a really smooth road. Yes, they may make it possible to keep riding longer.

No they are not all junk, and maintenance has been zero for the last 5 years. No, it doesn't wiggle, shake rattle or roll. No, I don't notice the weight, as my bike is pretty utilitarian almost always with rack, fenders, tail trunk, panniers, lights, pump, various tools and locks, etc. It ain't a lightweight. But it will do almost anything I ask of it.

If you want it, don't be afraid of it. Almost all name brands are really decent trekking suspension forks. I ride 6,000 - 9,000 miles per year.
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Old 04-30-14, 07:25 AM   #14
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Yes, they do make the ride more pleasant, and take shock away from wrists, shoulders, backs............. Yes, the lockouts do work well for when you are climbing or are on a really smooth road. Yes, they may make it possible to keep riding longer.

No they are not all junk, and maintenance has been zero for the last 5 years. No, it doesn't wiggle, shake rattle or roll. No, I don't notice the weight, as my bike is pretty utilitarian almost always with rack, fenders, tail trunk, panniers, lights, pump, various tools and locks, etc. It ain't a lightweight. But it will do almost anything I ask of it.

If you want it, don't be afraid of it. Almost all name brands are really decent trekking suspension forks. I ride 6,000 - 9,000 miles per year.
+1

This is true.

However, unless you have some kinda medical condition, or you're mtbiking, or riding the war-torn streets of Beirut, you don't really need a suspension fork.

Of course, they most assuredly can add to the comfort of a cyclist. However, if speed is of primary concern, a suspended fork will impede it. A suspended fork will assist a cyclist in rebounding from an uneven surface and it will dampen most road vibrations, but it's weight and irrelevant movements will absorb valuable forward energy output in the process of performing these functions. Energy output that would normally go towards producing speed. That's one reason that we never see suspension forks on road racing, or touring bikes. It's because with road racing bikes, speed is the primary objective. On touring bikes, efficient coverage of distance is the objective. Tourers can't afford the wasted energy presented by a suspended fork.

Last edited by WestPablo; 04-30-14 at 07:36 AM.
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Old 04-30-14, 07:55 AM   #15
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As others have said, it probably depends on the fork's design. Most cheap sus. forks do not have oil or friction rebound dampening. Such non-dampened types are often called "pogo stick" forks (and for good reason).

Then there are those who tend to dislike anything that differs from past engineering designs...
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Old 04-30-14, 08:04 AM   #16
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However, unless you have some kinda medical condition, or you're mtbiking, or riding the war-torn streets of Beirut, you don't really need a suspension fork.
Some of the bike 'paths' in and around Seoul are badly maintained and I most definately do notice the difference between my roadie and the mtb tourer when they suddenly turn into seas of cracked concrete that jar the heck out of you on a stiff road bike frame. Some days I'll ignore it but others its nice to have the option of not turning your body into one big shock absorber.
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Old 04-30-14, 08:30 AM   #17
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I agree about the additional weight, and energy stealing bounce... Mine robbed power especially when climbing hills (due a bit to the weight, but mostly to the pogo stick action).

When I switched to a suspension corrected rigid fork, I noticed better climbing as I expected. However, what surprised me was the handling felt more crisp and precise as well. As I thought about it, it made sense, because of no fork compression while turning.

My suggestion is for road, path and rail trail use, a rider should avoid suspension. However, if you desire suspension, the bottom line is do whatever keeps you riding. If one opts for suspension, I suggest springing (pun intended) for a fork with a lockout in order to gain some of the benefits of a rigid fork when you lock it out.

Even with paths in poor condition, I prefer a good quality wider tire, and lower pressure (if your weight allows) to help to reduce the bone jarring impact of the rough surface.
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Old 04-30-14, 08:47 AM   #18
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Maybe it is because their experience is with a crappy bike with crappy suspension like those you find sold at the mass merchandisers which I hold in great disdain. I've never ridden a full suspension MTB but do own an older Balance 450 MTB dating back to the early 1990s. It has a Manitou front shock and buying it allowed me to continue to ride off-road occasionally for a few years thereafter. It replaced a Specialized Rockhopper entry level MTB with no shocks which would beat up my hands and elbows on a rough trail. Eventually I got old enough that nothing made off road riding worth the discomfort.
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Old 04-30-14, 09:04 AM   #19
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Eventually I got old enough that nothing made off road riding worth the discomfort.

That's a bummer, Vegas. I guess I better get in all the trail rides I can, while I can. I didn't care for my mid-90s Manitou Spyder.

My turn of the century Rock Shox SID Race is the bee's knees, comparatively.



I still run rigid for many STXC races.
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Old 04-30-14, 09:50 AM   #20
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Not clear to me why
It's a lot about Price ... a really good suspension fork costs more than what most people want to pay for the whole bike..
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Old 04-30-14, 11:38 AM   #21
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Well...

-If you're riding on the roads (even crappy ones) or other improved surface, they aren't needed.
-They rob power while pedaling, so you don't go as fast.
-Added weight, so again slows you down- especially when climbing.
-One more moving part to maintain.
All this plus suspension forks add a layer of needless mechanical complication to a low speed transport.
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Old 04-30-14, 11:50 AM   #22
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The purpose of suspension systems is to keep your tyres in contact with the ground by responding to irregularities in the terrain, damping reduces vibration.

On a bicycle that lives on the street, the tyres should be able to do this without need for a suspension with some exceptions.

My Moulton runs 16 inch tyres at 90-100 psi and has a low travel front suspension and rear damper to keep these wheels firmly planted and the ride quality is rather exceptional... one would have difficulty running such small high performance wheels at high psi without it.

On a hybrid running higher volume tyres of larger diameter, a suspension just becomes added weight.

On a mountain bike suspension has great benefits as they see some really challenging terrain and keeping your wheels in contact with the ground and not having your fillings knocked out is a plus.

Bicycles like the Surly Pugsley run very high volume tyres that are 4-5 inches wide and don't need suspension systems either although I am seeing fat bikes with suspensions now and this really does not make a lot of sense.... it seems more like a marketing ploy than anything else as my Pugsley would go places a hardtail or full suspension bike would struggle with.
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Old 04-30-14, 12:12 PM   #23
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I find some seem to feel disdain for suspension front forks. Not clear to me why.

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If you are hammering over head-sized rocks at 20mph, then suspension is useful. Most responses have correctly identified the following negatives about suspension forks:
  • excess weight for a feature that is unnecessary for the vast majority of riders
  • results in energy-sapping suspension bob
  • extra cost and mechanical complexity. Extra stuff to break
  • Sloppy steering that gets worse as the stanchion bushings wear
  • If ridden in the rain, the fork may fill with water and then rust-out and seize-up

Here is another big negative - the almost universal addition of cheap suspension to all mass-market bikes made from say 1995 to current means that there will be a whole generation of bikes missing from the resale market. Used to be that you could buy an old rigid fork mountain bike, put on slicks and have a great beater/commuter bike. Not any more. The first thing that goes on the newer bikes is the cheap suspension forks. Then it is too expensive to change them out for rigid forks, in terms of materials and labor. So they get thrown into the landfill.

Such waste due to a fad requirement.

But then the bike industry is a slave to fads. In 1995 you could not sell a bike unless it was a "mountain bike". At that time it was funny to see old 10-speeds and even older English 3-speeds being retrofitted with knobby tires and trying to be sold on Craigslist as rad and gnarly mountain bikes.

15 years later, every bike had to be marketed as a road bike. So now we see 45 pound full suspension rigs fitted out with 1.5" high pressure slicks and being flogged on Craigslist as "road bikes".
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Old 04-30-14, 12:34 PM   #24
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However, if speed is of primary concern, a suspended fork will impede it.

As a Social Security eligible but enthusiastic rider, speed is not my primary concern. I've been riding my old Epic (Fox Float RL100 fork) on the streets, with 100 psi slicks. The suspension makes for a very comfortable ride, and hitting curbs, etc., hasn't damaged the tires or rims - the suspension handles it. No pinch flats either. The Epic has a rear Fox Brain shock that is locked out unless one hits a curb, dropoff, etc., so it doesn't bob while climbing.
As to energy loss to the fork while climbing, it's likely miniscule. In effect the entire bike (minus front wheel & lower fork legs) is rotating around the rear axle as the fork bobs. Especially while standing, some of the pedal downstroke energy goes to fork extension, only to be fed back thru the rear axle as the fork compresses between pedal downstrokes. The rider's energy pulses are smoothed out. Energy loss is to friction within the fork, and weight, practically speaking, and I have found it to be tolerable. I climb the same hills in the same gears at the same speeds as on my steel non-suspender bike, and it seems I get just as fatigued.

I wouldn't recommend spending $2K or more for an Epic for the street! I've ridden this bike for 8+ years off-road but, like Vegas, I've limited myself to the road/bike trails. I tried it w/street slicks on the road, and was pleasantly surprised. Who'd a thought? There are some pretty nice benefits for some of us.

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Old 04-30-14, 02:20 PM   #25
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Bombing down a rocky single track is not the same as riding on the street , which did you have in mind?
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