All you need to know about Bicycle Suspensions

If you know very little about bicycle suspensions and want to get your head wrapped around the basic concepts of it, you have come to the right place.
By Vishnu Sharma on Nov 10, 2016 at 20:00:00

The idea behind Suspension

The basic premise behind suspension is three-fold:

(1) It makes things more comfortable; the shocks absorb bumps so that your body doesn’t have to.

(2) It helps you keep your bicycle under control—suspension helps your wheels accurately track the terrain, rather than bouncing and deflecting off of it.

(3) It helps the rear wheel stay planted on the ground so that, when you are pedalling, your efforts actually make the bicycle move forward.

Suspensions are most commonly found on Mountain bicycles (MTB’s). There are also hybrid bicycles which come with front suspension for extra comfort and they mostly use the most basic suspension forks. If a bicycle offers suspension, then it has 1 or 2 shock absorbers designed to soften the impact of rough terrain by compressing and rebounding.

Front Suspension

Almost all mountain bicycles are equipped with front suspension, as well as some hybrid or “comfort” bicycles and kid's bicycles.

  • Suspension on mountain bicycles offers a range of adjustments to fine-tune the riding experience. Variations include the type, amount of travel, robustness and method of bump absorption, as well as the adjustments that can be made.
  • Suspension on hybrid and kid's bicycles offers basic functionality with minimal or no adjustment.

The most common type of front suspension is the “fork.” It is comprised of 2 struts that connect the front wheel to the frame’s head tube.

ncnpreps

Travel

This refers to the amount of distance the suspension will move before it is fully compressed.  Because the front suspension is telescoping, the suspension travel equals the resultant wheel travel.

Travel Distance

Millimetres

Type of Bicycle

30 - 50

20" and 24" kids' bicycles

60 - 80

24" kids' bicycles, hybrid bicycles and entry level mountain bicycle

100 - 120

Cross country and trail mountain bicycles

120 - 160

All mountain terrain bicycles

180 - 200

Freeride and downhill mountain bicycles

 

Fork Adjustments

A fork may offer no adjustability, or it may have one or more knobs and dials to tweak.

  • Lockout: Many forks have a stanchion top lever to lock out the fork, which eliminates the travel. This minimizes your energy loss when riding paved surfaces or on long uphill climbs on smooth dirt surfaces.
  • Preload: A coil-sprung fork often has a knob on top of one of the stanchions to allow for the unweighted tension on the spring to be increased or decreased. Increase the preload if the fork feels too spongy.

Rear Suspension

Rear suspension is only found on full-suspension mountain bicycles, and is commonly referred to as the rear shock, or “shock” for short. The shock allows the rear wheel to soak up impacts, helping to keep the tire in contact with the ground, increasing rider control and decreasing rider fatigue.

The rear frame triangle, which holds the rear wheel, will have one or more pivot points to enable the wheel to travel through a range of motion. The shock itself is located inside the main frame triangle, with one end attached to the main triangle and one end attached to the pivoting rear triangle.

ncnpreps

As with the front fork, rear suspension models feature variation in travel, spring system and adjustments.

  • Stroke travel: This is how much a rear shock compresses. It is comparatively short: 1.5” to 3”. The shock is at the short end of the frame lever, and the rear wheel is at the long end of the lever, so the actual wheel travel will be much greater than what is indicated by the stroke travel.
  • Wheel travel: In contrast to stroke travel, the actual wheel travel will be similar to that found on the front wheel (the amount depends on the type of bicycle). On a full-suspension bicycle, expect to find similar travel for the front and rear wheels.

Adding suspension to a bicycle is always a trade-off. You get increased comfort and control, but it adds weight and complexity, and it can make the bicycle pedal less efficiently. That said, modern suspensions are efficient enough, lightweight and reliable that, for many people, the benefits of suspension outweigh the downsides.

Suspension units are expensive to replace. Suspension lifespan can be extended by having periodic service performed by a professional bicycle mechanic. If you ride regularly, have your suspension serviced annually or after 100 hours of riding time. Regular service will also prolong the life of your bicycle frame.

We hope you get all the information you need to know about bicycle suspensions. If you have any doubts or if you need more information regarding suspensions, write to us at info@choosemybicycle.com or leave a comment below.

Previous Story
Next Story
Latest on ChooseMyBicycle.com
comments powered by Disqus