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Old 06-26-09, 08:34 AM   #1
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Why touring bikes usually don't have "shock absorber"?


First of all, English is not my native language, and I couldn't discover what's the name of this thing in English. I am talking about the thing that will absorb the impact. Google translate said it's called shock absorber... Anyway, it's something that could be in the front (in the fork) and/or in the back. I'll be calling it shock absorber for a lack of better word.

All I do is daily commute to university (around 12km/day), and my knowledge of bike parts is quite small. I want to start touring and I am going to buy a bike. Having done a little research, I noticed that most bikes don't have a shock absorber. Considering comfort is a key factor in a touring bike, it puzzles me why there aren't shock absorbers. For an example, the Surly Long Haul Trucker ( - the bike I'm considering to buy. Why is it so?
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Old 06-26-09, 08:50 AM   #2
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Shocks are usually found on mountain bikes because they will be used on trails where cyclists encounter rocks, logs, ditches, stumps and other obstacles. The shocks cushion the impact. However, it is rare that you encounter such obstacles on the road and, if you do, it's a simple matter of riding around them.

Shocks also have some key disadvantages for road bikes. First, they are very heavy and add more weight that you will have to pedal up the hills. Second, they make it harder to attach front racks for carrying gear. Third, you lose a fair amount of pedaling efficiency and energy with your front wheel bobbling up and down.

Finally, you simply do not need a shock absorber for riding on 99.999% of the roads. Even if the pavement is bad in an area, you can achieve just as much comfort by using larger tires with lower air pressure.
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Old 06-26-09, 09:28 AM   #3
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To add to tarwheel's response... Touring bicycles are made to be as maintenance free as possible. Shocks often require maintenance.
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Old 06-27-09, 01:44 AM   #4
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Hi. I agree with what`s already been said for the most part, but if you`re planning on a lot of riding over dirt roads or very rough pavement you might consider using a mountain bike. Many people use them for rough terrain touring. For a bike that doesn`t come with any kind of suspension, besides fat tires, you can also add a seat with springs or a suspension seatpost in most cases. And there used to be shock absorbing stems, but I don`t know if anybody still makes them since suspension forks have gotten so popular.

About the vocabulary, "shock absorber" is perfectly understandable. Generally, you`ll hear "shock" for the rear suspension and "suspension fork" (but I think they say "catalyst" in England) for the front suspension. If you`re looking for a bike with front suspension only, those bikes will often be listed as "hardtail" or "HT".
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Old 06-27-09, 05:08 AM   #5
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There a a some touring bikes designed with full suspension (front and rear). The difficulty is getting the luggage racks to work with suspension.
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The best reason to use suspension is if you are riding on trails with a washboard surface: regular waves that stop you rolling smoothly.

Most tourists find that they can ride shorter sections of trail without suspension so we dont need the weight, expense and complication of suspension.
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Old 06-27-09, 05:48 AM   #6
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YOU provide the shock absorber, your body. People have been going over all sorts of terrain long before suspension were put on bikes. Who wants the weight and high maintenance of shocks?

Don't be a wimp, ride your bike wherever you want to go.

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Old 06-27-09, 07:55 AM   #7
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Touring Bikes Have shock absorbers -there called pneumatic tires, knees, elbows, sprung seats and chrome molybendum steel frames with just the right amount of flex when loaded. It's amazing how comfortable they can be.

These traditional, passive, low maintenance shock absorbers are highly evolved and work quite well.
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Old 06-28-09, 02:29 AM   #8
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Yes, you can get by without suspension pretty much any place you might be that you`d want it. Still, if it makes the trip more enjoyable, springs, pivots, air cartridges, what-ever other kind of mechanical add ons are welcome. Why not? My first "longer than a weekend" tour was on my front suspension equiped mountain bike and I was awful glad to have the suspension to cush things out for a few hundred miles of dirt road. The same route COULD be done with a rigid bike and as fat a set of tires as will fit but that doesn`t mean I did it wrong. If any of you want to ride a few hours or a few days of cobblestones or nonstop washboard on a rigid bike, go right ahead- it`s plenty possible to do.

Last edited by rodar y rodar; 06-28-09 at 02:34 AM.
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Old 06-28-09, 09:41 AM   #9
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I started long distant touring (over 1000 mile trips) on an old 18 speed rigid-frame mountian bike that I had up-graded with higher gearing and mid-size tires. The roads that had rough pavement or tarred cracks (which are like sharp speed bumps) I simply would lower the tire pressure. I now ride a hybrid 27 speed rigid frame but have installed an adjustable suspension seat post and a "soft-ride front suspension system" between my steering post and handlebar. This allows me to reduce the fatigue to my arms and butt over a long day while still carrying full panniers front and back on the bike and using narrow tires with high air pressure to increase mile per hour efficiency.
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