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Suspension Fork: Everything you need to know about a Bicycle Suspension

If you know very little about a suspension fork and want to get your head wrapped around the basic concepts and definitions, this is the article for you. This Bicycle Suspension 101 article defines the components that make up a suspension system, from the fork to the pivot, and also lays out some of the basic differences between the various types of suspensions.


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 — A 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’re pedaling, your efforts actually make the bicycle move forward.
Mountain bicycles basically come in three types: Full Suspension, Front Suspension, and Rigid. A Full Suspension Bicycle has a suspension fork as well as a rear shock. A Front Suspension Bicycle (usually called Hardtail) has a front suspension fork, but no rear shock. Rigid Bicycles don’t have suspension fork or rear shocks.

Suspension Fork: Everything you need to know about a Bicycle Suspension-1
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50-80mm Travel: Hybrid/Entry Level MTB

The smallest amount of suspension that is commonly available these days is around 50-80mm. Most entry-level MTBs, Hybrids come equipped with these suspension forks and some of them also have suspension a lock-out for smoother rides on flatter surfaces.

100-120mm Travel: Trail/XC MTB

From there, suspension steps up somewhat incrementally. Around 100-120mm travel is what most brands would call a “Trail” MTB. These are generally designed for all round trail riding. They climb pretty well, and they descend pretty well. 120mm is also about the longest travel fork that you will commonly find on a hardtail.

150mm – 160mm Travel: All Mountain MTB

Around 150-160mm travel is generally what Bicycle brands are calling All Mountain MTBs. These are designed to go down rough trails quickly, while still maintaining at least some degree of uphill friendliness.

200mm Travel: Downhill MTBs

Most downhill MTBs come with around 200mm of travel. While pedaling efficiency is still important, most downhill MTBs aren’t built without any amount of uphill in mind—the frame and suspension designs are focused on making the Bicycle go down rough trails as fast and as smoothly as possible.


Adding a 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 enough, and reliable enough that, for many people, the benefits of suspension outweigh the downsides.


The weight and complexity issues are fairly straightforward with more shocks, pivots, and bits of linkage you have on a Bicycle, the harder it will be to keep the weight down. Those pivots and shocks also require regular maintenance to keep everything running smoothly, so that’s just one more thing you have to pay attention to.


The efficiency issue largely has to do with travel in the suspension always working. With most frame designs, force on the drivetrain will have some effect on the suspension. Basically, when you mash on the pedals, part of your power is going into making the bicycle go forward, and part of it goes into making the suspension compress. Generally speaking, this is not a good thing—you want all of your power going into making the bicycle move forward.

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Bicycle suspensions provide improved control, traction and comfort on rough trails, rocky tracks or potholed roads. It is one of many factors that contribute to your riding enjoyment. It is important to choose the type of suspension you want according to your riding needs. We hope this article will help you make an informed decision when buying your new bicycle, especially with choosing the type of suspension.


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