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Suspension stem? Wider tires? What else?

Old 09-29-21, 08:04 AM
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jbwbrooklyn
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Suspension stem? Wider tires? What else?

Hello! I'm a not very experienced but not total novice biker in NYC. My new commute is short but ROUGH. And I don't have the best back. I need a new bike, and I suppose I'll get another hybrid. I got one years ago that was not very good from the start. But I'm wondering what are all the embarrassing granny-biker things I can do to the bike to make the ride smoother that will actually make a difference. In the past I've gotten a super cushy seat and worn padded gloves to absorb some of the shock from the handlebars. What else? Do suspension stems make a difference? How wide are hybrid tires normally and what width would be cushier? Any specific bikes you'd recommend? What's a good bike shop in NYC where they won't laugh at me for my questions and will be thoughtful and helpful? THANK YOU!!
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Old 09-29-21, 09:04 AM
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My wife's upright comfort bike has a suspension stem, a suspension fork and a padded seat with big springs. It does a pretty good job of isolating the bumps except the tires. While the tires are 26 x 1.75 they are stiff and sturdy even when inflated to the minumum psi.]. I put supple WTB Slick 26 x 1.85s on my MTB-based commuter and those would cushion even more, just remember to not inflate too much.

I also have been padding my bars with foam pipe insulation to help with "crampy" hands.

But FWIW, I myself do not ride upright bikes or suspended bikes. I commuted 9 miles each way for 28 years and found that riding on the brake hoods of a drop bar bike works best for me. Not so far forward that all the weight is on my hands, but a good balance between hands and butt. Also, using my hands and feet to support my weight and provide biomechanical suspension using my knees and elbows, like a jockey.

Even before I converted my MTB to drop bars, I used slightly up-swept bars and threw them forward to give me a more "road" posture. The only reason I converted to drops is that my hands no linger like straight bars.

Also, riding in a more forward position builds "core" muscles that help support the back. Twice a day for 28 years, and I rarely had back issues. Of course everybody is built differently and has different physical issues, but leaning forward and using my own legs and arms to cushion the ride works best for me.
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Old 09-29-21, 06:44 PM
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There are lots of comfort products and which or whether you shop will just have to depend on your pain. Good fit and just being used to saddle time helps most of all. Being fit also helps - this is something I definitely notice right now when I'm dieting, my pressure on the seat is just less.

Big soft seats are fine for shorter or infrequent rides. Really! You don't have to be shamed into buying a small firm seat that hurts even though you will never do enough seat time to "just get used to" it.

Some hybrids and some comfort bikes come with suspension forks. They can take a hit but on bikes under $1000 usually have no damping, just coil springs. They are pretty much just pogo sticks. Much is made of them being inefficient or heavy. The minimal loss in energy is what you take to get suspension, and the weight is about +3 lb at equivalent price level. Front suspension bikes also tend to have higher handlebars, to give the suspension room to work, so they sit a little easier.
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Old 09-29-21, 08:58 PM
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Wider tires go a long way. Finding the ideal pressure helps a lot, too. It might be lower or higher than you think.
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Old 09-30-21, 03:08 PM
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I got a new bike for commuting this year (and because I wanted a new bike) and I went with a gravel bike for commuting. Wide tires, not so aggressive cycling position, enough gears to deal with hills but not so many that I either confuse myself or feel like I'm racing. I got my bike at King Kog in Brooklyn; they were great.
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Old 10-01-21, 09:22 PM
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Originally Posted by jbwbrooklyn View Post
Hello! I'm a not very experienced but not total novice biker in NYC. My new commute is short but ROUGH. And I don't have the best back. I need a new bike, and I suppose I'll get another hybrid. I got one years ago that was not very good from the start. But I'm wondering what are all the embarrassing granny-biker things I can do to the bike to make the ride smoother that will actually make a difference. In the past I've gotten a super cushy seat and worn padded gloves to absorb some of the shock from the handlebars. What else? Do suspension stems make a difference? How wide are hybrid tires normally and what width would be cushier? Any specific bikes you'd recommend? What's a good bike shop in NYC where they won't laugh at me for my questions and will be thoughtful and helpful? THANK YOU!!
Use your body as the suspension! Lean forward a bit, keep your elbows bent and loose, get in the habit of lifting your butt out of the saddle when a particularly rough part of road is coming. These will all help keep your back and neck from taking direct hits.
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Old 10-02-21, 09:06 AM
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Not just wide tires, But good quality supple tires. The cheap 2" (50 mm) tires on my comfort bike are OK, but probably no better then supple 35mm tires.

Most of our weight is on the seat, so it is the next most important area to address. Start with a comfortable seat, then the seat post. A long small diameter carbon fiber unit goes a long way to reduce road vibration and small hits. Of course we often don't have a choice there, But there are some suspension seat posts that can make a big difference and are easy to install on most bikes. Some aren't cheap but might be worth every penny in the long run.

Suspension forks are the next step, But like seat post diameter may not be an option worth pursuing. Those suspension handlebar stems might be of benefit too, But I'd be careful they don't comprise handling or safety. I like the concept though and might check into them myself. Good handlebar grips and gloves could help too.

I like Giant's Roam hybrid bike for a situation like yours. It has 42mm low pressure tubeless tires , a suspension fork, and their D-Fuse vibration obsorbing seat post, as well as being a fine all-around hybrid bike. If you could even get one.

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Old 10-02-21, 05:55 PM
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Layering helps a lot in absorption. Obviously a full suspension MTB is going to provide the smoothest ride, but however bad the roads are I think 100mm travel is a bit overkill on a commuter bike, but my roads are that bad.
The wider the tire, the more volume, and if you keep the psi lowish, it takes the edge off road imperfections like small cracks and undulations in the tarmac. I run 50mm/2" as a max for road/single track commutes, a good compromise of comfort, grip and speed. For larger/deeper hazards like pot holes, I have the Thudbuster G4, which is great for a comfy ride on the tush, especially when combined with a good cushioned saddle like a Selle.
I also use the RedShift shockstop suspension stem which works pretty well. However, all these add weight to the bike, which may be an issue. I do think my carbon bike is also comfortable, but nothing like a full suspension bike!
Originally Posted by jbwbrooklyn View Post
Hello! I'm a not very experienced but not total novice biker in NYC. My new commute is short but ROUGH. And I don't have the best back. I need a new bike, and I suppose I'll get another hybrid. I got one years ago that was not very good from the start. But I'm wondering what are all the embarrassing granny-biker things I can do to the bike to make the ride smoother that will actually make a difference. In the past I've gotten a super cushy seat and worn padded gloves to absorb some of the shock from the handlebars. What else? Do suspension stems make a difference? How wide are hybrid tires normally and what width would be cushier? Any specific bikes you'd recommend? What's a good bike shop in NYC where they won't laugh at me for my questions and will be thoughtful and helpful? THANK YOU!!
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Old 10-04-21, 04:29 PM
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When I started riding again after maybe 15 years of not riding, my hands and bum got mighty bruised on a 3 mile round trip commute. After maybe 2 months, my hands and bum were conditioned enough, and I was better able to absorb road shock with my body instead of having all be delivered to my contact points.
Padded handlebars, suspension fork and suspension seatpost will really smooth out those rough streets for you. I wouldn't recommend an overly padded saddle, it can cause problems by simply being too much everywhere.
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Old 10-04-21, 11:41 PM
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I had a bike with a suspension stem and I hated that stem. Whenever I hit a big bump the stem made it feel as if I was about to go over the handlebar. I got rid of it. I think that a decent suspension fork, especially one with adjustable travel, is a far better choice. However that might require a new bike frame at least.

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Old 10-05-21, 10:54 AM
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My advice depends on how long your commute is. If you've got a short commute, it almost doesn't matter what you do, as long as you're happy with it. If you've got a somewhat longer commute (say, 5 miles each way or more), efficiency becomes more of a factor. Fat, cushy saddles get in the way of efficient pedaling, and an upright position (like on a hybrid) actually makes it harder to unweight the saddle and use your limbs as springs when you're riding over rough stuff—which is the right way to deal with choppy asphalt, IMO.

Suspension stems are all over the place. I've got one from Redshift, and the effect is subtle. It's great on textured pavement. It won't help with bigger pavement imperfections.

High-quality fat slick tires would be your best bet for smoothing out bad pavement.
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Old 10-13-21, 11:10 AM
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Thanks so much for your response! I also have bad forearms due to past repetitive stress injuries. I'll try some of your suggestions. Take care!
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Old 10-13-21, 11:11 AM
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Originally Posted by BobbyG View Post
My wife's upright comfort bike has a suspension stem, a suspension fork and a padded seat with big springs. It does a pretty good job of isolating the bumps except the tires. While the tires are 26 x 1.75 they are stiff and sturdy even when inflated to the minumum psi.]. I put supple WTB Slick 26 x 1.85s on my MTB-based commuter and those would cushion even more, just remember to not inflate too much.

I also have been padding my bars with foam pipe insulation to help with "crampy" hands.

But FWIW, I myself do not ride upright bikes or suspended bikes. I commuted 9 miles each way for 28 years and found that riding on the brake hoods of a drop bar bike works best for me. Not so far forward that all the weight is on my hands, but a good balance between hands and butt. Also, using my hands and feet to support my weight and provide biomechanical suspension using my knees and elbows, like a jockey.

Even before I converted my MTB to drop bars, I used slightly up-swept bars and threw them forward to give me a more "road" posture. The only reason I converted to drops is that my hands no linger like straight bars.

Also, riding in a more forward position builds "core" muscles that help support the back. Twice a day for 28 years, and I rarely had back issues. Of course everybody is built differently and has different physical issues, but leaning forward and using my own legs and arms to cushion the ride works best for me.
Thanks so much for your response, BobbyG! I also have bad forearms due to past repetitive stress injuries. I'll try some of your suggestions. Take care!
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Old 10-13-21, 11:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
There are lots of comfort products and which or whether you shop will just have to depend on your pain. Good fit and just being used to saddle time helps most of all. Being fit also helps - this is something I definitely notice right now when I'm dieting, my pressure on the seat is just less.

Big soft seats are fine for shorter or infrequent rides. Really! You don't have to be shamed into buying a small firm seat that hurts even though you will never do enough seat time to "just get used to" it.

Some hybrids and some comfort bikes come with suspension forks. They can take a hit but on bikes under $1000 usually have no damping, just coil springs. They are pretty much just pogo sticks. Much is made of them being inefficient or heavy. The minimal loss in energy is what you take to get suspension, and the weight is about +3 lb at equivalent price level. Front suspension bikes also tend to have higher handlebars, to give the suspension room to work, so they sit a little easier.
Thanks for responding, DarthLefty! Yes, I'm working on losing weight too, which should definitely help....lots of things. I chatted with one bike store guy and he was very nice about my questions even though he looked kinda grumpy. LOL. My husband had a front suspension added and feels like it doesn't do anything. And yes, I've heard a lot about added weight, but my plan is to never lift my bike. I'm going to rig up some kind of cover for outdoor storage. Anyway, thanks and take care!
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Old 10-13-21, 11:16 AM
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
Wider tires go a long way. Finding the ideal pressure helps a lot, too. It might be lower or higher than you think.
Thanks noglider! Appreciate your response.
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Old 10-13-21, 11:18 AM
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Originally Posted by fixietogravel View Post
I got a new bike for commuting this year (and because I wanted a new bike) and I went with a gravel bike for commuting. Wide tires, not so aggressive cycling position, enough gears to deal with hills but not so many that I either confuse myself or feel like I'm racing. I got my bike at King Kog in Brooklyn; they were great.
Thanks so much, fixietogravel! I'll check out King Kog. I can't tell whether to get a gravel bike or hybrid or mountain bike, but I'll ask the shops. Take care!
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Old 10-15-21, 11:28 PM
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Can't really add much from what other have already said. If slight vibration roads you could probably get away with flex stem and flex seat post. If you riding through/around major pot wholes from 3rd world country I would get the lightest full suspension bike with 32+ road tires on it.
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