When it comes to selecting the right bike for your road ride, one of the most important choices you have to make is whether to have a bike with suspension or without. Suspension absorbs bumps and keeps the rider in control and more comfortable, but can add extra weight and cost. The type of road cycling you plan on doing, your budget and the types of terrain you’ll be riding will all contribute to the decision whether suspension is necessary for your road bike.
In this article, we’ll discuss why or why not you would need suspension on a road bike, what types of bikes would benefit from it and tips for choosing a suspension that best meets your needs. We’ll also touch upon popular modern components that are designed to give your road bike better performance without adding any extra weight or taking up too much space:
- Modern components
What is Suspension?
Suspension is a system that helps reduce the impact of bumps, jumps, and other obstacles on your bike. It consists of the combination of springs, dampers, and linkages that absorb forces and provide a smoother ride. Suspension is most common in mountain bikes, but can be found in some models of road bikes too.
Let’s explore the pros and cons of using suspension on a road bike:
Types of Suspension
Suspension refers to a bike’s ability to absorb bumps and jumps as well reduce jarring over rough terrain. The most common suspension components are front forks, rear shocks, and full-suspension frames. The type of suspension system chosen will depend heavily on the kind of riding you plan to do.
Front Forks: These are the most common type of suspension on road bikes. They consist of two shock-absorbing pivots that stiffen when you pedal and soften when encountering a bump in the road or trail. There are multiple types of front forks depending on their intended use – such as cross country, trail or all-mountain riding – and these will determine their travel length, spring rate, air pressure settings and rebound damping for tuning purposes.
Rear Shocks: While not as common as front forks due to their added weight, rear shocks have become more popular with gravel riders seeking extra cushioning off-road. Rear shocks allow for finely tuned adjustments to your suspension setup including preferred spring rate, sag settings, air pressure settings and rebound damping features that adjust how quickly they re-energize after hitting a bump or jump on the trail.
Full Suspension Frames: These are mostly found on mountain bikes where dual suspensions both at the front (fork) and back (shock absorber) help absorb the impact forces from different terrain like jumps, rocks or other obstacles found in technical trails. Some full suspension frames even offer adjustable travel lengths between 80mm to 180mm allowing riders to choose how much flexibility they would like while riding off-road.
Benefits of Suspension
Suspension systems on a road bike improve the overall riding experience by absorbing shocks, providing a smoother ride and distributing weight more evenly so the bike’s grip is better. It also allows for better power transfer as bumps in the road won’t cause your pedal stroke to be interrupted. Even on smooth roads, suspension helps make your ride more comfortable, resulting in improved performance.
Depending on the model, suspension components can vary widely in terms of size and complexity. Suspension road bikes may include full-suspension frames or just a rear shock absorber, or nothing at all. The options mostly come down to price: you can get basic suspension features for less than $500 or advanced ones for up to $3,000.
The main benefits of having suspension are:
- Improved Stability: The suspension system will absorb most of the bumps and humps you encounter while riding. This increases your control over the bike while also reducing fatigue during longer rides.
- Reduced Stress on Your Body: With less energy being absorbed due to shocks coming from uneven roads and terrain, your body is under less strain while riding a suspension bike as compared to one without it. This decreases joint pain as well as hand numbness which are common issues with rigid bikes.
- Better Grip and Traction: Suspension systems make any mud or terrain easier to tackle by allowing your wheels to grip onto any surface better than solid frames do since it softens bumps that would otherwise push you off balance.
- Better Power Transfer: The movements of your pedals become smoother which results in enhanced control over speed and efficiency when transferring power from pedals to wheels.
Do You Need Suspension on a Road Bike?
When it comes to buying a road bike, one of the main considerations is whether you need suspension or not. The answer to this question really depends on the type of riding you’re planning to do. On one hand, suspension can provide more comfort and better control when riding on rough terrain, while on the other hand, it can also add extra weight and complexity to the bike.
In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of adding suspension to a road bike so that you can make an informed decision:
- Pros: Increased comfort and control when riding on rough terrain.
- Cons: Can add extra weight and complexity to the bike.
The terrain you will be riding plays an important role in deciding whether or not suspension is necessary. Generally, suspension may not be necessary on a road bike if it is used in flat and smooth terrain. On the other hand, mountain bikes are ideal for terrains with hills, uneven surfaces or off-road riding. Suspension can also help reduce fatigue and make the ride more comfortable.
If you’re planning to take your road bike on routes with plenty of potholes, unpaved roads or steep hills, then consider adding some suspension to help you maintain control and keep your body from taking such extreme impacts against the ground. This will also help protect your frame from damage caused by these obstacles. Additionally, this will give you greater stability when navigating sharp turns at higher speeds.
For less challenging rides with few obstacles and chance of going very fast along smooth roads, opting for a non-suspension road bike would be the better option as it is typically lighter than a bike with suspension and easier to pedal and accelerate over longer distances due to its lessened weight component in comparison to its alternatives.
Generally speaking, if being fast over longer distances without much difficulty is your priority while leaving out rough terrains, then going for a non-suspension road bike should fit your needs; but if encountering any kind of difficult terrain that includes hills and obstacle ridden paths are frequently common in your journey then do consider getting some sort of suspension added onto your road bike as it can increase safety significantly.
When it comes to deciding if you need suspension, the main factor is weight. Adding suspension components to a road bike increases its overall weight, which will slow your acceleration and climbing capabilities. Depending on the type of riding and terrain you do, this could be an acceptable trade-off. If you’re tackling steep hills with loose rocky surfaces, extra stability might outweigh the penalty of extra weight.
On the other hand, cross-country mountain biking (XC) often relies on lighter weights and faster speeds which requires a minimum amount of suspension components (like just a front suspension fork). If you’re looking for an XC racing bike or an everyday bike that won’t weigh you down but won’t skimp on comfort either, you may want to consider a hardtail dual-suspension model where only part of the frame has additional shock-absorbing materials as compared to full dual-suspension models with additional shocks built into both front and rear wheels.
Though the purpose of a road bike is often geared toward speed, many cyclists also seek comfort when riding long distances. Without question, poor seat and handlebar set-up can cause discomfort no matter how fit and strong the cyclist is. Yet some riders may be surprised to find out that the addition of suspension on a road bike may enhance their ride comfort.
For many years, suspension was considered to be unnecessary on a road bike due to its extra weight and complexity. But in recent years, there has been resurgence in suspension stem designs as well as full suspension forks for road bicycles built for commuting or gravel adventure cycling.
- Suspension stems are available from several companies now with many being adjustable from between 50-70 millimeters of travel.
- Suspension forks have also become prevalent with longer travel options up to 100mm available from Fox Racing Shox and others that have additional features like remote lockouts for optimized performance when used with rigid-framed bikes.
- Additionally, there are even full-suspension folding commuter bikes ranging from 20″- 24″ wheels if you’re looking for softening up bumpy terrain without sacrificing portability or storage space.
Ultimately, if you’re looking to maximize your comfort while riding your road bike over rougher surfaces, considerations should be made towards purchasing lighter components than heavier alloy ones as well adding suspension when appropriate (particularly if competing in a gravel race). Remember that comfort while cycling can help to reduce fatigue induced by vibration due to bumps on the roads or trails – enabling better performance over longer rides and reducing potentially dangerous impacts caused by hard landings that may otherwise injure cyclists who don’t take precautions against these eventualities.
In conclusion, most road bike enthusiasts will agree that suspension is generally not a necessity for riding on smooth pavement. Suspension can add comfort and extra shock absorption in rough terrain, but it also increases the cost of your bicycle and adds weight. More technical riders require more specialized components to withstand tough terrain, but these bikes are typically not suitable for light recreational use.
Unless you need the comfort and control that comes with suspension or if you’re going to be riding off-road often, it would probably be better to save money on a rigid frame that can handle more bumps and potholes than what you’d experience on ordinary roads. Whatever type of road bike you choose, make sure it fits as well as possible so you’re most comfortable while riding.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1: Do you need suspension on a road bike?
A1: No, you do not need suspension on a road bike. Road bikes are designed for riding on smooth surfaces, so a suspension system is not necessary.
Q2: Are there any benefits to having suspension on a road bike?
A2: Yes, having suspension on a road bike can provide more comfort and control while riding, especially on rougher surfaces.
Q3: Is it possible to add suspension to a road bike?
A3: Yes, it is possible to add suspension to a road bike. Suspension systems are available for road bikes, and they can be installed with some modifications.