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Are Shock Absorbing Components Gimmicks?

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Are Shock Absorbing Components Gimmicks?

Old 04-14-20, 02:33 PM
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ericcc65
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Are Shock Absorbing Components Gimmicks?

Unfortunately, I'm not ready to get a new road bike yet. But I like to keep an eye on what's out there. I currently have a CAAD9-1, and I like it well enough. But the type of riding I do really suits itself to one of the "endurance" type bikes. I like the road bike feel, I just want a little more comfort and stability. I don't really like the gravel trend, I have no interest in riding on gravel and the big tires don't appeal to me.

In light of that it's interesting to me to see manufacturers like Specialized (and I think Giant, maybe Trek) put elements in these road bikes that absorb some shock. Specialized has it in both the seatpost and in the steerer tube/stem area. Can anyone speak to these features and if they're useful or not? Just gimmicks? Can't live without it? How would it compare to just a traditional but excellent carbon frame? What about a really nice steel frame (I have a thing for metal)?
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Old 04-14-20, 02:55 PM
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Originally Posted by ericcc65 View Post
In light of that it's interesting to me to see manufacturers like Specialized (and I think Giant, maybe Trek) put elements in these road bikes that absorb some shock. Specialized has it in both the seatpost and in the steerer tube/stem area. Can anyone speak to these features and if they're useful or not?
The skinny-tire road bikes that use them are designed with very rough racing in mind, like the cobbled classics. They are quite effective at softening larger bumps. How much this matters to you will depend on the quality and consistency of the roads you're riding, and to you as a rider.

The really relevant issue is what your discomfort on the bike is caused by.

How would it compare to just a traditional but excellent carbon frame? What about a really nice steel frame (I have a thing for metal)?
I've never ridden a traditional rigid frame that isolates stuff like cracks and large bumps anywhere near as well as something like FutureShock.
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Old 04-14-20, 03:19 PM
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I can only speak to the IsoSpeed (front and rear) on the Trek Domane - no, not a gimmick. If you're looking for comfort and stability, it's the ticket.

I usually run 28mm or 30mm tires and they do a nice job on muting some of the road texture, but the IsoSpeed does a fantastic job of absorbing the cracks and seams and taking the edge off of those big hits that you didn't see coming. Many that haven't ridden an IsoSpeed Trek will say that bigger tires will offer more compliance than a frame ever could, etc, etc. That's incorrect, in my experience. My gravel bike, with 38/40mm tires, and running at half the tire pressure, doesn't take big jolts as gracefully as the Domane with 28s. With good tires, the Domane is a magic carpet ride that's not bouncy or obtrusive.

That said, I recently bought a Cervelo R3 Disc - it is excellent. It's lighter and more responsive than the Domane (same wheels/tires) and provides great feedback without being harsh. I haven't had an opportunity to take it out for a 100+ mile ride, but I've gotten in a few in the 50-65 mile region. No, it's not as comfy, but it's comfy enough and the more nimble ride is a lot of fun.

I don't think that I'll keep both the Cervelo and the Domane - there is some overlap between the two of them and though the Domane would be more comfy for the 8-10 times per year that I do 80+ mile rides, the Cervelo isn't exactly a slouch, either. If I did more long rides, or longer long rides, I probably wouldn't think twice about keeping the Domane around, but as it is, I'll probably let it go. On the flip side, if I didn't do as many spirited group rides, I'd be happy with just the Domane.
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Old 04-14-20, 03:57 PM
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I just recently purchased a 2019 Roubaix and I was a bit skeptical on how much the future shock would do but I'm a big fan now. I don't generally ride trails or gravel but I do ride on very rural roads that have not had a new layer of pavement in 40 years or more. Compared to my old 09 Roubaix and even compared with an old steel mountain bike with 1.75 tires at low pressure, the new bike excels in comfort.

As mentioned above, I think the larger tires help to smooth the roughness while the FS and rear shock absorbing features help with the cracks, ridges, and potholes, that are unavoidable on many of the roads I frequent.

If you ride generally good pavement, you can probably do fine with any quality endurance frame.
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Old 04-14-20, 04:11 PM
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I think any active suspension mechanism is going to trump the "magical ride properties" of any frame material. Despite the endless blather about "laterally stiff, vertically compliant" frames, the only suspension component in any standard road bike is the 1-1.5" of compressed air between the rim and the ground. My LS Vortex has curved seat stays which, if the ad copy was to be believed, smoothed out the ride, but I don't believe that this frame is any more compliant or forgiving as an equivalent straight-stayed frame. The stays look pretty though. Different frame material, thicker bar tape etc may affect road buzz or chatter, which is not insignificant, but when it comes dealing with actual uneven pavement, tires trump frame material, and active suspension trumps both.
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Old 04-14-20, 04:52 PM
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I love my gimmicky ride. I wish they still made them. I think the best thing to do would be to try one and see if you like it?
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Old 04-14-20, 05:05 PM
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As much as I hate the idea of putting active suspension on a road bike, I have to admit that it works. If you tune it properly, it doesn't detract from the ride, it enhances it. I'm a FutureShock kinda guy; I already have Domane-esque bikes (old steel with box section rims).
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Old 04-14-20, 05:29 PM
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How would something like a RedShift stem and a Canyon flexy seat post compare to the active suspension bikes?

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Old 04-14-20, 05:31 PM
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I bought a Roubaix explicitly for the futureshock as I have bursitis that vibrations through the handlebar exacerbate. I wasn't disappointed, the futureshock has helped immensely. It works best at certain periodic frequencies. As an example, there is a bridge on a downhill with slats that would vibrate my carbon gravel bike's bars so hard it would nearly wrench them out of my grip. The Roubaix just glided over them. I guess they are at the same frequency as cobblestone Anyhow, not a gimmick, but not for everyone.
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Old 04-14-20, 05:32 PM
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I think the Redshift stuff is legit (and put my money where my mouth is).

How would something like a RedShift stem and a Canyon flexy seat post compare to the active suspension bikes?
Active suspension has dampening. Leaf-spring (Canyon seatpost) or elastomers (Redshift stem) or elastomer/spring combos (Redshift seatpost) don't dissipate via dampening, so they can pogo if you set them wrong.
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Old 04-14-20, 05:40 PM
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Originally Posted by ericcc65 View Post
Unfortunately, I'm not ready to get a new road bike yet. But I like to keep an eye on what's out there. I currently have a CAAD9-1, and I like it well enough. But the type of riding I do really suits itself to one of the "endurance" type bikes. I like the road bike feel, I just want a little more comfort and stability. I don't really like the gravel trend, I have no interest in riding on gravel and the big tires don't appeal to me.

In light of that it's interesting to me to see manufacturers like Specialized (and I think Giant, maybe Trek) put elements in these road bikes that absorb some shock. Specialized has it in both the seatpost and in the steerer tube/stem area. Can anyone speak to these features and if they're useful or not? Just gimmicks? Can't live without it? How would it compare to just a traditional but excellent carbon frame? What about a really nice steel frame (I have a thing for metal)?
I would call them gimmicks but a lot of people like them and who am I to criticize their choices?
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Old 04-14-20, 05:44 PM
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Not a gimmick. I enjoy my Roubaix and Diverge.
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Old 04-14-20, 06:04 PM
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Originally Posted by RiceAWay View Post
I would call them gimmicks but a lot of people like them and who am I to criticize their choices?
Do you have any significant experience with any of the aforementioned? If you do, then your opinion has some merit, though it would likely be in the minority, and I'm sure that others would want to hear more details. If you don't, then your opinion is of no consequence.
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Old 04-14-20, 06:16 PM
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My wife has the Specialized Ruby with the future shock and I have the Trek Domane with ISO Speed. To both of us they are not gimmicks and really work. My Domane is by far the most comfortable bike I have ever ridden. There is a small trade off with added weight and some complexity over a bike without but the trade off is still better. If my bike got stolen tomorrow, I would buy the same one to replace it. Is it for everyone? Don't think so. It really depends on the type of riding you do and what you want out of a bicycle.
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Old 04-14-20, 06:32 PM
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Originally Posted by GnipGnop View Post


I love my gimmicky ride. I wish they still made them. I think the best thing to do would be to try one and see if you like it?
How long did you have to wait for the trailer to go by with that "Air Ride" decal?
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Old 04-14-20, 07:08 PM
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Wider tires vs frames:
see that the Trek Domane with the IsoSpeed frame also has 32mm tires.
How much of the shock absorbtion is the wider tires and how much is the frame?

It would be interesting to mount 25mm and test ride it. But I expect that it also has the wider rims, so even 25mm would be effectively wider.

My HED Ardennes Plus rims are 25.5 mm wide outside, 20.6 mm inside. So my 25mm GP5000 measure 28 or 29mm wide. I run them at 65-70 psi front, around 80 psi rear. Very smooth, and just as fast as narrower rims at much higher pressures. I was running 23mm GP4000 that measured 26mm, but the 25mm tires are only 15-20 grams heavier, and are fast and plush.

I've put 38mm supple smooth tread tires on my other bike, at 38 psi front and 45 psi rear. These just float over new, chunky chip seal and tar joints, quite amazing. They still roll very fast and ride efficiently. But these big tires weigh around 400 grams vs 215 or so, and need heavier tubes.

Last edited by rm -rf; 04-14-20 at 07:11 PM.
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Old 04-15-20, 01:06 AM
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If you're showing 8" or more of seatpost, and it's non-proprietary, ie round, get a really light carbon post in there. On an old Tarmac, with 23mm tyres, I went from an ally post, which felt pretty firm hanging off the 1.2kg carbon frame, to a flexy FSA post, and it was a while before I learnt to stop checking if my tyre was flat. Felt like 28s at 60 pounds.

On the front end, a light aero bar has the same effect; 230g of carbon in that shape is going to have appreciable vertical compliance. It'll feel like a noodle when you stand on it if the stem is also flexy, but with something beefy connecting it to the bike, it's a great balance.

Considering the amount of complexity and extra material involved in doing it the MTB way on a road bike requiring a degree of magnitude less give, IMO the lightweight elegance of strategically underbuilding at the contact points wins hands down. It's still a road bike, instead of some tainted mutant
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Old 04-15-20, 04:22 AM
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I have had a 2017 Domane and a 2019 Defy.
I prefer the ride of the Defy. The Domane did have a slightly plusher ride but I like the overall feel and handling of the Defy more.
Either is still very comfortable with 30mm tyres.
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Old 04-15-20, 04:31 AM
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Shocks are NOT for a smooth ride. Shocks are to reduce wear and tear caused by bumps and ruts. Your seat is better on your rear end.
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Old 04-15-20, 07:01 PM
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Originally Posted by WhyFi View Post
How long did you have to wait for the trailer to go by with that "Air Ride" decal?
hahaha I was all set up to take the shot, and I noticed a big transport rolling by, so I timed the shot just as it drove by to get some motion blur in the background. the air ride was a happy little accident. haha.
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Old 04-15-20, 07:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Rollfast View Post
Shocks are NOT for a smooth ride. Shocks are to reduce wear and tear caused by bumps and ruts. Your seat is better on your rear end.
Weirdest take on suspension I've ever heard.
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Old 04-16-20, 04:49 AM
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Back in 2017 I bought a carbon Trek Domane with front/rear "ISO Speed" vibration damping. It was noticeably smoother on typical pavement I ride on here in Maryland, which is rarely fresh, smooth ashpalt but not a lunar surface either. Hit a pothole, it still feels like a pothole but the little bumps/buzzes are definitely smoothed out.

My previous bike was a steel Trek 520, that was the baseline I was comparing to. Both bikes are runing 32mm tires.. The Domane came with padded bar tape - that also makes a difference up front.

Last year I did the Seattle to Portland STP ride, 200 miles over two days. I rented a Fuji aluminum road bike that had geometry pretty close to my Trek and I brought my own seat, so using the same seat. The first ride I felt like I was back on the 520 from a bumpy road point of view. A few hours in and I didn't notice it anymore.

So, noticeable - Yes. Does it really make any measurable difference in speed/efficiency/fatigue? I sorta think it does - but hey, 30% of the time placebos work, too.

All my training for the STP was on the Domane and I was in pretty good condition but still carrying 225 lbs of me around. I did 122 miles on the first day on that Fuji (my one day high) without any of the fancy vibration damping. and felt great. YMMV.
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Old 04-16-20, 06:49 AM
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I have two bikes -- a 2010 and a 2019 Specialized. The latter has the FS 2.0. Both have good wheelsets, with 32mm Roubaix Pro tires run at the same pressure. Fit set-up is the same on both.

The 2019 is very noticeably smoother than the 2010 over rough pavement, square-edged bumps, etc. etc. When riding, one can see the constant movement in the FS -- more or less, depending on where I set the adjustable damping. If I 'lock it out', the ride quality is pretty much the same as that of my 2010, including over the rough/broken stuff.

So, no ... in my experience, the FS is not a gimmick.
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Old 04-16-20, 06:58 AM
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Originally Posted by badger1 View Post
So, no ... in my experience, the FS is not a gimmick.
Oh sure, it works, and it's pretty elegant for something that isn't based on flex, but what's this I hear about a life of 500 hours? Then you've gotta hope a replacement is available...

Proper suspension is spendy business.
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Old 04-16-20, 07:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Kimmo View Post
Oh sure, it works, and it's pretty elegant for something that isn't based on flex, but what's this I hear about a life of 500 hours? Then you've gotta hope a replacement is available...

Proper suspension is spendy business.
You are right: proper (damped), lightweight, active suspension on a bicycle isn't inexpensive. However, this (FS) does not take the heavy use/abuse that suspension components can endure on an mtb, and it is well-made by all accounts, and well-sealed. We'll see how it holds up.

So possibly spendy, but I really don't care. As long as Specialized maintains availability of replacement cartridges in the event I need one, I'm happy.
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