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  1. #1
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    touring on MTB: front suspension fork vs. rigid fork

    Hi,

    Re: MTB used for touring, fork selection?

    Background:
    I am about to purchase my very first MTB, beside the usual commuting, part of the intended purpose is also to use the bike for some loaded touring (3-4 weeks at a time). So, I'd say 70% of the riding would be on usual road conditions and the rest as off road (trails and gravel roads)

    I have narrowed my bike selection down to either:

    05 Marin Bear Valley U.S model: Steel frame, front suspension, mostly shimano Deore

    or

    the Marin Bear Valley 'German edition' (don't ask me the story behind it, it is advertised like that):
    Steel frame, steel rigid fork, mostly shimano Deore

    So, the main difference is the fork, I don't have any experience using suspension, and I would like to know for my style of riding, touring, is front suspension needed? Or is it something nice to have just in case?

  2. #2
    imminent danger
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    I took a front sus MTB on tour through France Belgium and Holland. The only time that it became an issue was on the one proper hill of the ride. Leeched the power out of me quite badly.

    On the other hand it was a godsend on the European love of cobbles and the occasional but of track riding that we did. Think about the terrain of the ride that your doing and then decide on knees or wrists.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Jed19's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by erli
    Hi,

    Re: MTB used for touring, fork selection?

    Background:
    I am about to purchase my very first MTB, beside the usual commuting, part of the intended purpose is also to use the bike for some loaded touring (3-4 weeks at a time). So, I'd say 70% of the riding would be on usual road conditions and the rest as off road (trails and gravel roads)

    I have narrowed my bike selection down to either:

    05 Marin Bear Valley U.S model: Steel frame, front suspension, mostly shimano Deore

    or

    the Marin Bear Valley 'German edition' (don't ask me the story behind it, it is advertised like that):
    Steel frame, steel rigid fork, mostly shimano Deore

    So, the main difference is the fork, I don't have any experience using suspension, and I would like to know for my style of riding, touring, is front suspension needed? Or is it something nice to have just in case?
    Suspension fork is not needed on a tourer that will be used exclusively on-road. The bump-dampening aspect of a suspension fork will just serve to rob you of straightahead speed, and some of the energy that you apply to your pedals will be dissipated by the suspension fork. Also a suspension fork is not light and thus mean more weight on your tourer than you should tolerate. In other words, get the rigid-forked bike, if you do not plan to spend a lot of your touring time off-road.

    Regards
    Regards,

    Jed

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by LUCAS
    Suspension fork is not needed on a tourer that will be used exclusively on-road. The bump-dampening aspect of a suspension fork will just serve to rob you of straightahead speed, and some of the energy that you apply to your pedals will be dissipated by the suspension fork.

    Regards

    Thanks, this is a point I did not consider. Is there a way to swich off the supspension when riding on asphalt and turn it on again in off road riding? Stupid question, but I never had a MTB or suspension before.

  5. #5
    Too Much Crazy
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    ^^some forks come with a lockout feature that reduces travel to 5-10mm or so. Basically a no travel setting.

    some forks come with a lockout feature that you don't have to switch on or off, they just do it automatically.

    Achtung erli,

    I would stick with 'german' rigid fork model for your anticipated riding. Don't believe people when they tell you you need a suspension fork for xc riding. you don't. I think you be happier in the long run with a rigid fork than a low end suspension fork, which is what Marin put on that 05 bear valley.

  6. #6
    Hooked on Touring
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    You never say how you plan to load your gear. Suspension forks make front panniers difficult to use. There are some special racks for shock forks out there but I am suspicious about how stable they are. Trailers cost more and usually cost extra to ship.

    I have found that a standard fork with a stem shock works great in taking out just enough of the bumps. I ain't no youngster and I ride a lot of serious dirt/gravel loaded for touring. Buy whichever bike you like best regardless of fork and then get a standard fork if you choose the bike with the shock.

    I agree that front shock forks will reduce your climbing power significantly because you use your upper body thru the handlebars.

    Best - J

  7. #7
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by unsuspended
    ^^some forks come with a lockout feature that reduces travel to 5-10mm or so. Basically a no travel setting.

    some forks come with a lockout feature that you don't have to switch on or off, they just do it automatically.

    Achtung erli,

    I would stick with 'german' rigid fork model for your anticipated riding. Don't believe people when they tell you you need a suspension fork for xc riding. you don't. I think you be happier in the long run with a rigid fork than a low end suspension fork, which is what Marin put on that 05 bear valley.
    You don't "need" front suspension for xc riding but it sure makes the ride better. Control is improved also. Having ridden many, many miles off-road (single track to dirt roads), I'd suggest a front shock for a mountain bike - if you are using it as a mountain bike! If you plan on riding it as a touring bike, Erli, you can and should get by without the suspension. Or buy another bike for touring. There are lots of good touring bikes out there that would do the job far better than a mountain bike. And get a mountain bike for fun riding
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  8. #8
    Senior Member Sebach's Avatar
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    I love suspension, but I don't really think it's needed for loaded touring as long as you're not going too hard off road. I did a 500km MTB tour with about the same 70on/30off ratio you're planning and it was fine with a rigid fork. Thinking about it, there were far more hills that would have really sucked to have suspension on than sections of trail where I missed having squish. Off road in gravel and dirt without any suspension, I was fairly surprised by how much "suspension" I got out of my frame and wheels when my bike was loaded. It wasn't as harsh as I expected it to be.

    I would put suspension in the "would be nice sometimes... but not nice most of the time" category.

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