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Suspension locked or unlocked?

Old 10-23-15, 08:59 PM
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Suspension locked or unlocked?

I do virtually all of my riding on the streets or sidewalks in my neighborhood. The roads are a little lumpy with an occasional jolt.
I have arthritis in my neck and that is why I bought a suspension hybrid. My crosstrail comp has a remote lockout and I have been playing around with locking and unlocking the suspension. I really don't feel any difference on typical surfaces. I know that the suspension lock is for road use, but locked or unlocked the bike feels the same and handles the same. I decided to keep it unlocked so when I do hit a bad spot it doesn't put me in a neck brace.
What am I supposed to be missing by not locking out the suspension fork when riding on the road?
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Old 10-23-15, 09:02 PM
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I have a suspension lockout on my Ebike. If someone told me I had to choose lock or no lock or you die, I would choose lockout. Suspension forks are overrated. The tire size and pressure do more than lockouts for comfort to me. That being said the my suspension fork is just average stuff, I suppose the ones that costs thousands might have you feeling you are on a Mercedes Benz kind of ride.
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Old 10-23-15, 10:55 PM
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Its not much but I do notice the difference on sharp bumps and rough stoney trails at better than the average speed. Much more noticeable riding over tree roots and rocks. It seems to help significantly over rough terrain. Anytime I leave the asphalt the fork is unlocked. More comfortable and there seems to be a bit more control/traction.

When unlocked I get close to an inch suspension sag. It seems that lately I use the lockout more to adjust riding position. When I want a more upright riding position I lock the fork, otherwise I leave it unlocked. I believe the preload from the factory is set near the high limit, and my LBS adjusted it down before delivery. You may want to play with the preload a bit.

The comp does not have as much fork travel as most other bikes, which perhaps contributes. It is also a light bike. Tire pressure has an effect for sure, but its a different kind of effect than riding unlocked. The fork seems to clean up what the tires leave behind.

Last edited by ColdCase; 10-23-15 at 11:03 PM.
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Old 10-24-15, 12:59 AM
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My new-to-me hybrid bike has a simple spring suspension fork and long wheelbase. After six weeks on all kinds of road and unpaved paths, I wouldn't want to ride without it. I have a permanently damaged C2 vertebrae and occasionally experience severe neck pain that can radiate to the head and shoulders. But so far even our rough red brick roads and occasional encounters with rutted unpaved paths haven't caused any more than usual aches and pains.

The only way to minimize my profile against headwind is to drape my forearms across the upright bars - the wide, soft rubber palm rests make this rather comfortable, although I don't do it in traffic since I can't quickly reach the brakes or shifters. Once in awhile I'll climb out of the saddle for short hills, but not often since it strains the knees. Those are situations when I can feel a bit of squishiness on decent pavement, but not enough to matter. I'm not fast, and the upright style of the bike defies much sustained speed anyway.

I might consider a bike without a suspension fork to save weight, but it would need a long wheelbase and generously raked fork, probably a cromoly frame or at least a steel fork, along with soft riding tires, to compensate for giving up the suspension fork. But it would need to save a significant amount of weight to make it worthwhile - well under the 30 lbs of my current bike.
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Old 10-24-15, 07:11 AM
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If you've chosen a suspension fork I think the only time it needs locking is when standing to pedal, the front will bob up and down. The disadvantage with suspension is the extra weight over a rigid fork but if your only a casual rider it doesn't make a difference in my view.
Having said that though the suspension fork on my vintage Sakae is lighter than the original alloy rigid fork which makes me wonder if hybrid forks have any advantage over vintage mtb forks. The old fork doesn't bob doing a standing sprint and the initial travel gives a beautiful smooth ride with good bottoming resistance.
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Old 10-24-15, 08:44 AM
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Lockout is most useful to eliminate bobbing, like when you're hammering out of the saddle on a smooth surface. If you're bobbing under normal seated riding, you need to adjust your spring rate, preload, and pedaling style. If your fork feels the same locked out or not on various surfaces, you most likely need to adjust your spring rate, preload, and check for stiction. OEM forks come with a one size fits all spring. If youre not bobbing, you dont need lockout
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Old 10-24-15, 08:19 PM
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Interesting replies. I do not experience bobbing or any type of 'play' in the front with the suspension unlocked.
The preload on mine is fairly firm, but it is not stuck. When I hit a bump it does it's job very nicely. I like the tauter preload. It enables me to handle the bike around curves or even sharp turns with confidence and agility, yet has that insurance of cushioning the jolt to my neck when a sudden hole or irregular feature is encountered.
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Old 10-26-15, 09:45 AM
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Q: What are you missing by not locking the suspension?
A: By your description nothing. Sounds like you are a fairly easy relaxed rider so just leave it unlocked.
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Old 10-26-15, 01:47 PM
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I ride with my suspension lock open all the time, except when I want to make sure all my pedal effort goes to the rear wheel. Going up hills or standing to pedal...
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Old 10-27-15, 08:20 PM
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Originally Posted by 350htrr
I ride with my suspension lock open all the time, except when I want to make sure all my pedal effort goes to the rear wheel. Going up hills or standing to pedal...
^This!

Lock it when climbing a steep hill! Major difference. I also lock mine when I'm wanting all the speed I can muster. Perception or reality, I feel like I'm a bit faster. But all other times, I'm enjoying the softer ride of being unlocked.

Last edited by one4smoke; 10-27-15 at 08:23 PM.
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Old 10-28-15, 08:02 AM
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Originally Posted by one4smoke
^This!

Lock it when climbing a steep hill! Major difference. I also lock mine when I'm wanting all the speed I can muster. Perception or reality, I feel like I'm a bit faster. But all other times, I'm enjoying the softer ride of being unlocked.
LOL...I do the same thing. I go from leisurely touring mode to Ninja badass just by flipping the switch!!
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Old 10-28-15, 09:44 AM
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Shortly after I got it, last year, I did a test on my DS 8.3; I rode the same route for a week with the suspension locked and then another week with it unlocked. There was no measurable difference in my average speed. However, my 47-year-old wrist, elbow and shoulder joints were definitely feeling the bumps with the suspension locked. Now, I keep it unlocked all of the time.
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Old 10-28-15, 02:26 PM
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Originally Posted by ColdCase
When unlocked I get close to an inch suspension sag. It seems that lately I use the lockout more to adjust riding position. When I want a more upright riding position I lock the fork, otherwise I leave it unlocked. I believe the preload from the factory is set near the high limit, and my LBS adjusted it down before delivery. You may want to play with the preload a bit.
I also get an inch or so of sag when I get on my bike. However, if I lock it before setting on it, and go for a long ride. When I get off and release it, it pop's up that inch of sag. Obviously this shouldn't be happening. My bike is a fairly new 2016 Trek DS 8.6 with an Suntour Folk. Anyone got any thoughts, advice. Be much appreciated.
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Old 10-29-15, 12:30 AM
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Originally Posted by bald
I also get an inch or so of sag when I get on my bike. However, if I lock it before setting on it, and go for a long ride. When I get off and release it, it pop's up that inch of sag. Obviously this shouldn't be happening. My bike is a fairly new 2016 Trek DS 8.6 with an Suntour Folk. Anyone got any thoughts, advice. Be much appreciated.
There's nothing wrong with your forks. A fork lock is never really 100% locked and rigid it will still move a little. When your riding in the locked position and your going over bumps it's slowly being pushed down that inch and holding it there but your not noticing that while riding.
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Old 10-29-15, 07:44 AM
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Originally Posted by jbchybridrider
There's nothing wrong with your forks. A fork lock is never really 100% locked and rigid it will still move a little. When your riding in the locked position and your going over bumps it's slowly being pushed down that inch and holding it there but your not noticing that while riding.
May be normal for some forks, just saying that mine does not operate that way. It stays solid at full extension when locked. Then again I only have 600 miles on it.
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Old 10-29-15, 08:39 AM
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My Scott P1 Sportster has a SR Suntour NCX fork with a remote lock on the bars the bike is barely used. If I lock it fully extended it'll drop about 10mm over the course of a ride. If I push really hard to compress the fork locked it'll move up and down that 10mm.
The topic has been discussed before here and most people have noted the same thing with many brands of fork.
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Old 10-29-15, 09:13 AM
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Hmmm, it seems there may be a design difference in the suspension on the high end version of the Specialized Crosstrails. My 2015 Comp does exactly as ColdCase describes above, when locked they stay put with no visible deflection. Under the feature heading on the Specialized Crosstrail Comp page it says this about the forks:
"Custom air sprung fork features our Multi-Circuit Damping technology to eliminate any "pogo" effect over its 50mm of travel. This means that its hydraulic damped suspension and rebound will effectively smooth out bumpy or rough terrain."
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Old 10-29-15, 10:34 AM
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I leave mine locked about 80% of the time. I ride in Oahu, mostly on paved paths and roads. However, the roads and paths here are in terrible condition (potholes, roots, etc.) so having the option is definitely worthwhile. When I know I'm coming up to a rough patch, I unlock the suspension and when I'm past it, I relock. When I lived and rode in Washington, I would keep it locked most of the time simply because of the amount of hills I had to climb. As previously mentioned in this thread, locked forks make a ton difference when climbing.

It's really all about comfort and that is a relative term. Do what makes you feel the most comfortable.
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Old 10-29-15, 12:05 PM
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Roads, I leave locked since I'm going up and down hills. I do like the suspension for the many long trail rides I have taken. Plus am planning on taking next year.
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Old 10-29-15, 04:36 PM
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Originally Posted by trainchaser
Hmmm, it seems there may be a design difference in the suspension on the high end version of the Specialized Crosstrails. My 2015 Comp does exactly as ColdCase describes above, when locked they stay put with no visible deflection.
My spouse's "Specialized women's tuned" Suntour nex-i in the lower end Ariel sport disk does the same thing. It doesn't have the remote lockout, but switch it to locked and there is no give in the suspension. Unlocked will sag 2 inches or so with my weight. If you don't get the lever the whole way over to the locked position it will sag, you don't have to miss by much.

Not saying other brands operate differently, these are the only two suspended bikes we've owned.

There does not seem to be much, if any, pogo effect on my crosstrail comp when unlocked, even when pedaling hard, dunno about the Ariel (it has more travel). When unlocked, mine will soak up a 2 inch pavement root rise nicely (at some speed) and I'm able to transverse really rough trails much faster and with more stability. But the tire pressure makes more ride difference feel on smoother surfaces that the fork lock/unlock. Perhaps thats why the OP sees not much difference in ride over moderate surfaces, locked or unlocked.

So I guess I'm hearing forks can be tuned differently and that the same brand fork on different models can operate differently

Last edited by ColdCase; 10-29-15 at 04:47 PM.
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