Let’s picture this, you are shopping for a bike and notice that there are some bicycles that have suspension on the front or even rear, regardless of the price of the bike. You then wonder to yourself “Should you buy a bicycle without suspension?”.
There are tons of reasons for and against owning a bike with suspension. One major upside is the addition of comfort. However the major downside is the added weight to your bike, meaning you need to use more energy to pedal that bike.
I’m hoping in this article to go in depth to reasons for and against owning a bike with suspension, so that you can decide for yourself if the trade-offs are, or are not worth you owning a bike with suspension.
Upsides of suspension
There are two major reasons that people will end up wanting suspension on their bike, let’s see what those reasons are.
This is the most obvious benefit, and likely why most people will go with a bike that has suspension! I personally have a hybrid bike that I use, and it has a front suspension. I moved over to it from my cruiser because of the addition of that suspension.
If you ever intend on going off-road, on gravel, or have roads with lots of cracks and potholes, that suspension can really save you, and make the experience that much nicer.
Better for downhill
A bike with front suspension (aka a hardtail), is great for going downhill.
You are able to handle some of the impact that you normally would feel by allowing the suspension to absorb some of that impact, instead of your arms and body.
Downsides of suspension
There are actually considerably more reasons that people may not want to opt for a suspension on their bike. However keep in mind, that for many, many people, having a suspension will still outweigh the many reasons you may not want a suspension.
The suspension absorbs your inertia
For a while, I was using a cruiser bike that did not have a suspension, and then I switched to a cruiser with a front end suspension.
The first thing I noticed was that my inertia was just not the same. When you first get started, it takes a lot more power to get up to speed.
This is because that front fork suspension is taking some of that downforce inertia, and not allowing your full power to push you forward.
Suspension is a heavy component
This is the other major reason many, many people opt for not having a bike with suspension. These components easily become some of the heaviest items on a bike.
The heavier a bike is, the more work it takes to move forward, the more work it takes, the less distance you are going to want to cover, and the less you are going to enjoy your bike.
In the end, you have to decide with each component on your bike (like fenders), what is worth it, and what is not worth it when it comes to weight savings.
More things to maintain
Something many people don’t think about when buying a bike with suspension, is that you have to maintain these components.
You generally want to take your bike into a shop and have them tune up these forks on a semi-regular schedule, otherwise they will break, or just not work at their optimal ability.
Just like on cars, the more features there are, the more likely it will break down.
We talked a little bit about this with the inertia issue. When you are going uphill on a bike, you want every little bit of energy to be going towards your forward momentum.
When you push down on your pedals on a bike with a suspension, you tend to lose a little bit of that energy to your front forks, leaving you with the need to pedal more to get the same amount of speed and distance as if you didn’t have front suspension.
A bike that doesn’t have suspension is going to tend to be less expensive than a bike with suspension.
Why is this? Because suspension components are moving parts that require engineering, parts, material, and manpower to produce.
This drives up the cost of the bike, meaning the customer has to pay more.
Do you need suspension on your bike?
Suspension by no means is necessary for you to ride or own a bike!
There are plenty of bikes out there that do not have suspension, that many people would highly prefer due to the reasons we discussed above.
What types of suspension are there?
There are four major types of bike suspension, front, rear, seatpost and the saddle suspension.
This is the most popular suspension on a bike, and you likely have owned a bike, or seen a bike with it on a regular basis.
This front suspension is on the front forks of your bike, and gives you that soft ride.
This suspension type isn’t quite as popular, but it allows the rear end of the bike to bend and soften the ride even more-so than just the front suspension allows for.
This cool suspension type is located on the post that your seat attaches to. It have just a little bit extra give so that potholes don’t hurt you.
Most bikes that I have found tend to have this type of suspension. These are those little springs that you see on the underside of your bike seat.
What do you call a bike without suspension?
Bikes are referred to in 3 different ways when it refers to the suspension.
If your bike does not have suspension, it is called “Rigid”. This is because the bike doesn’t flex on either side due to the suspension.
Suspension on front only
Bikes that only have suspension on the front are referred to as a “Hardtail”. These hard tail bikes may have suspension, but their rear end is not flexible, earning that hardtail name.
Suspension on both front and back
These bikes don’t have quite as cool of a name… if a bike has suspension on the front and rear they are called full suspension or dual suspension bikes. Yeah, I know, disappointing names.
Why do road bikes have no suspension?
Road bikes are meant for one thing, to get from point A to point B in a quick manner. So one of the major reasons that road bikes don’t have suspension is because of the added weight.
Suspension is a heavy component on a bike, and those added pounds just aren’t conducive to what road bikes are meant to do.
Thankfully road bikes really only stay on the road, meaning they don’t end up hitting many bumps or gravel, which is why most people will want a bike with suspension on it.
Can you mountain bike without suspension?
Many people actually prefer mountain bikes without suspension.
While I personally would prefer one with suspension, many people prefer the weight savings and the control that not having that suspension is able to give them.
Can you add suspension to a bike?
Did you buy a bike that doesn’t have suspension, and later on regret that decision? Well you are in luck, you can always add a front fork that has suspension onto your bike.
While in the long run, this will add more expense to your bike, you can rest easy that you are able to do this.
It really isn’t hard to add a front fork, and can be done with a couple tools you likely already have.
Suspension vs No Suspension: Which are you going to buy?
So you have heard everything from this article, and are still wondering if a bike with suspension is right for you. Here are my thoughts.
If you are never planning on needing to have high speed, or care that much about keeping your bike lightweight, I would recommend you getting a bike with at least a front suspension. I think the comfort that it allows for gives so much, and makes your riding experience much more enjoyable.
On the other hand, if you are wanting to get extremely serious about bicycling, or need your bike to go high speeds, then having suspension just may not be for you.
Well there you have it, I hope this article has taught you everything you want to know about if you should have suspension on the bike you are looking to buy.
Of course there are so many details that go into suspension, and how you can fine tune it for your experience, but we will leave that for later articles, when you are ready to make your bike exactly the way you want it.