Gravel bikes are advertised as the all-around adventure bikes that everyone needs in their life. In recent years gravel bikes have developed something of a cult following.
Their stylish design, combined with their versatility on and off-road, has propelled them into one of the most popular bike types.
They look like a road bike, but are supposed to be handle like a mountain bike off-road, so why don’t gravel bikes have suspension? The main reasons are because suspension can steal acceleration, hurting their on-road performance, and of course adds weight. Finally, it makes the bike need more maintenance, and for a bike meant for adventure, that isn’t a good thing.
Why do bikes have suspension?
Suspension can make your ride feel smoother because it dampens the feedback of the surface you are riding on. This is great for serious offroading where the surface is continuously bumpy and uneven.
However, there are some serious side effects of having suspension. Gravel bikes, like a hybrid bike, are the best of two worlds. They are a cross between a road, mountain, and CX bike.
By adding front suspension, you are overcomplicating what is designed to be a lightweight all-terrain speed machine.
Reduction in acceleration
Suspension on a bike causes a bobbing movement. This flex is wasted energy when it comes to converting your pedal power to acceleration. The suspension absorbs the bob without helping the wheels turn faster.
In addition to the movement, both front and rear suspension systems are heavy, which means you have to carry extra weight up hills.
Not so much a problem on shorter rides or the flats, but on inclines, this can make a big difference.
Mountain bikes are designed to glide over rough terrain seamlessly, and the decreased acceleration and increased weight is a trade-off you make in return for improved comfort and control on technical trails.
However, gravel bikes are made to be fast.
Having suspension on the bike adds a whole new level of maintenance.
Gravel bikes are relatively simple compared to full suspension mountain bikes, and in the long run, that is a good thing.
Good suspension is expensive, so if gravel bikes were going to try to fit ‘entry-level’ suspension to a gravel bike, they would just create more work and hassle than they’re worth.
A gravel bike with suspension?
If you are still set on getting a gravel bike with suspension, I might recommend you take a look at hybrid bikes!
While both the hybrid, and gravel bikes mix mountain and road bikes, the hybrid bike has more mountain bike features, including suspension.
A bike does not have to have suspension to be comfortable.
Gravel bikes wide tires, long wheelbase, and relaxed riding position combine to make riding a gravel bike over rough terrain a lot more comfortable than they may look.