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Suspension or no suspension? Cycling novice buying folding bicycle

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Suspension or no suspension? Cycling novice buying folding bicycle

Old 07-24-17, 03:31 PM
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abl292
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Suspension or no suspension? Cycling novice buying folding bicycle

Hi Everyone,

Following up on previous posts I've made on the forum regarding folding bike recommendations, I was hoping to get some feedback from a health/injury perspective. One thing to note is that I am going with a folding bike because I have no place for bike storage other than the trunk of my car at this time. I've included relevant background info below and then the main questions/issue after that.

______________________________________________________________________________
Your level of experience with cycling
Very minimal. I know how to not fall over but I'd definitely call myself a novice. A few years ago I had a lumbar spine injury at L4-L5 and L5-S1. The nerve impingement is better now but my core and back muscles are weak, plus I have tight hamstrings and hip flexors from sitting at work all day.

What's your intention with the bike - commuting, fitness, touring, sport, etc?
At first, weekend leisure riding in my neighborhood -- streets (some good/flat/smooth, some rougher urban terrain) and maybe some paved bike paths if I feel like going exploring. Later on *maybe* bike commuting to work, or combination of biking and public transit. I work in downtown Los Angeles and currently take the LA Metro from the Hollywood area. For what it's worth, I may find that bike commuting is too difficult for me, so I don't want that to be the sole factor determining which bike I select.

How far will you be riding, and how often?
Since I'm such a novice, I figure I would maybe ride a couple of times a week, likely less than 5 miles.

Riding conditions: roads, pavement, trails, single-track, off-road? Flat or hilly? Traffic and weather.
Los Angeles - residential neighborhoods and city streets, so pavement but probably less-than-ideal, rougher road conditions in some places. Sometimes hilly depending on area. I don't have the experience or strength to attempt bigger hills, and I figure small hills would also be a struggle at this time.

Your location (even approximate) can help other locals familiar with your conditions, too.
Los Angeles metro area - primarily Hollywood, Los Feliz, Silverlake, Echo Park, and DTLA.

Other details
I'm 6'1 and 170 lbs. As I mentioned earlier, I'm trying to become more active as well as prevent future injuries (lumbar disc herniations and nerve issues a couple of years ago).
______________________________________________________________________________


I'm now deciding between suspension or no suspension -- the last piece of the puzzle. It's especially tricky as a novice. Here's where I currently stand:

Protecting against further injury, having the ability to change between a more upright riding position or a slightly more forward position (by adjusting the handlebar and seat), and possibly making future comfort modifications are the top priorities. Bike weight is next on the list, but--realistically--I may not end up commuting with the folder. If that's the case, I'll just have to be responsible for getting the bike in and out of my car trunk as opposed to worry about hauling it around town with me.

So...that would make the riding experience itself the primary focus and not the weight of the bike or its portability characteristics. If I'm not adept at standing up out of the saddle as a safety measure, does having suspension become an important, super necessary feature? Or does the heavier weight of the suspension bike negate the benefit in terms of putting extra stress on the body?

  • Downtube Nova - my top choice for a 20" non-suspension folder; probably weighs ~26-27 lbs
  • Downtube 8FS - my top choice for suspension folder; offers full suspension at $339 but probably weighs ~33lbs or a touch more; The 9FS would be lighter but I don't think I can spend the additional $200 at the moment.
  • Open to other bikes or suggestions

Perhaps I'm overthinking it, but I figure all you gurus are the best people to analyze with. I sincerely appreciate everyone's help!

Last edited by abl292; 07-24-17 at 03:59 PM.
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Old 07-24-17, 07:12 PM
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I'd say go with no suspension for a folding bike. Lighter weight, less risk of back strain lifting the bike.

I went through a somewhat similar situation a couple of years ago when I got back into cycling. My back and neck were broken in six places in a car wreck several years ago, and I'll always have chronic neck pain from a permanently damaged C2. And while my legs are strong I'm limited by how much I can lift or carry.

So my first bike was a heavy suspension fork comfort hybrid. Helped ease me back into fitness. I still use it as an errand bike for groceries. Great bike for that purpose and riding on rough paved and gravel roads. But it weighs nearly 40 lbs. That's awfully heavy for an all purpose bike.

While it may not seem like much, when you're tired or on a day when your back is acting up, you'll feel the difference between lifting a 26 lb and 33+ lb bike.

And you can soften the ride with the right choice of tires, saddle and handlebar grips. Makes a huge difference on my rigid frame/fork hybrid and road bikes. I carefully chose tires that feel soft riding without being sluggish. Thicker, dense foam handlebar padding. Saddles with dense foam and Lycra fabric for a good compromise between comfort and efficiency.

You probably won't be riding really rough bombed out pavement or gravel utility roads on your folder -- they're not really designed for that, although some folding bike owners have ridden on really rough stuff and mountain bike trails. That's where my heavy comfort hybrid's suspension fork shines -- it's still more comfortable than my rigid frame bikes. But that's rarely an issue on normal roads. In my area and rural rides, I'm talking craters, not potholes, and chipseal. The "gravel" is more like railroad ballast, fist sized chunks of gravel. That's where a bike with big tires and suspension can help. But even most bad city roads aren't that bad.
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Old 07-24-17, 09:27 PM
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
I'd say go with no suspension for a folding bike. Lighter weight, less risk of back strain lifting the bike.

I went through a somewhat similar situation a couple of years ago when I got back into cycling. My back and neck were broken in six places in a car wreck several years ago, and I'll always have chronic neck pain from a permanently damaged C2. And while my legs are strong I'm limited by how much I can lift or carry.

So my first bike was a heavy suspension fork comfort hybrid. Helped ease me back into fitness. I still use it as an errand bike for groceries. Great bike for that purpose and riding on rough paved and gravel roads. But it weighs nearly 40 lbs. That's awfully heavy for an all purpose bike.

While it may not seem like much, when you're tired or on a day when your back is acting up, you'll feel the difference between lifting a 26 lb and 33+ lb bike.

And you can soften the ride with the right choice of tires, saddle and handlebar grips. Makes a huge difference on my rigid frame/fork hybrid and road bikes. I carefully chose tires that feel soft riding without being sluggish. Thicker, dense foam handlebar padding. Saddles with dense foam and Lycra fabric for a good compromise between comfort and efficiency.

You probably won't be riding really rough bombed out pavement or gravel utility roads on your folder -- they're not really designed for that, although some folding bike owners have ridden on really rough stuff and mountain bike trails. That's where my heavy comfort hybrid's suspension fork shines -- it's still more comfortable than my rigid frame bikes. But that's rarely an issue on normal roads. In my area and rural rides, I'm talking craters, not potholes, and chipseal. The "gravel" is more like railroad ballast, fist sized chunks of gravel. That's where a bike with big tires and suspension can help. But even most bad city roads aren't that bad.
Really helpful input and personal experience. Thank you!
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