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Suspension on everyday bikes - nonsense, comfort or more safety?

Suspension on everyday bikes - nonsense, comfort or more safety?

Thursday March 1, 2018

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[pd ‑ f / hdk] A suspension fork is not only found on mountain bikes today, but also on many bicycles for everyday use, leisure and travel. Only a few have full suspension, but wouldn't that be best for comfort? The press service bike checks: What springs on the bike, why and what makes sense?

The most important suspension can be found twice on every bicycle: The tires, depending on their size and air pressure, provide the decisive driving characteristics of a bicycle in terms of comfort and grip. "The main thing is to find the right air pressure for the tire and its application," says Doris Klytta from the manufacturer Schwalbe. The wider and softer the tire, the greater the contact surface on the ground and the greater the comfort. "However, when the pressure falls below a minimum, driving becomes spongy," continues Klytta. That is why minimum and maximum are written on the sidewall of quality tires.
“The larger, ie more voluminous, the tire, the lower the pressure required and the more comfort it offers. Because it simply 'rolls over' small bumps, ”explains Stefan Stiener from touring bike specialist Velotraum. So-called balloon tires, which are between two and three inches wide, are very popular on low-maintenance everyday and touring bikes. The editors of the magazine “aktiv Fahrrad” recently noticed that more and more manufacturers are relying on the suspension and damping of tires: the density of suspension forks in the test field of trekking bikes will decrease in 2018. And even with racing bikes, the realization is slowly gaining ground that narrow, bulging tires are not ideal for speed. Suddenly tires with a width of almost 40 millimeters are right at the front of the test field.

Suspension fork and Co.

Suspension forks are installed on many trekking and touring bikes today, mostly telescopic forks with suspension travel between 40 and 80 millimeters. “Often the tire is sufficient as a suspension. When we use suspension forks, we use high-quality air suspension forks that can be adjusted to the rider's weight. This is the only way they can master their task well: offer comfort by absorbing unevenness on the ground and thereby reducing stress peaks on the wrists, ”explains Volker Dohrmann from the bicycle manufacturer Stevens. On the other hand, suspension forks have an effect on driving safety, as Tobias Erhard, Marketing Man at Sram / Rockshox, explains: “The suspension has the task of always keeping the tire on the ground, for example to bounce it in with curbs or potholes.” So the road grip of the wheel is maintained evenly. This shortens the braking distance and can make the difference between falling and driving, especially when cornering.

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Care vs. comfort

The downside of suspension forks, however, is that they require more attention than rigid forks. They must be adapted to the driver's weight and driving style and their internal lubrication must be checked at regular intervals and renewed if necessary. This “fork service” is only carried out by very experienced hobby screwdrivers. “In any case, a sprung wheel has to be inspected more often than an unsprung wheel,” explains Sram technician Ulrich Henz. "How often actually depends on the frequency of use, the weather and the maintenance in between," says Henz. He recommends removing dirt from the flexible tubes of the suspension fork regularly with a soft cloth and paying attention to the air pressure in the fork. He strongly advises against lubricating the fork with agents other than the oil used in the fork.

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For some applications, a plastic shock absorber known as an elastomer is optimal for maintenance reasons. Riese & Müller installs it on the front and rear wheels of its “Birdy” folding bike (from 2,299 euros) and offers different degrees of hardness depending on the rider's weight. The small wheels of the child trailer also benefit from the elastomer suspension, for example on the “Kid plus” from Croozer (from 749 euros). The Dutch manufacturer Koga uses elastomers in its “Feathershock” forks, which are designed as rigid forks with the spring element between the fork crown and the head tube and offer 35 millimeters of spring travel. “In addition to the low maintenance requirement, another advantage is the comparatively low weight,” says Koga man Harald Troost.


In theory, suspension forks can also be retrofitted to bicycles. "The exclusion criterion here is often the installation height of the forks," says Carsten Schabacher from Stevens, referring to the distance between the front wheel axle and the lower control bearing. "Because suspension forks are usually taller than rigid forks and can therefore massively change the handling characteristics of a bicycle," continues Schabacher. A frame must therefore be designed for suspension forks, regardless of whether one is installed. You should also make sure that the necessary mounting options for brakes, mudguards and lighting are available on the fork. Suspension pioneer Rockshox, for example, offers two versions of the “Paragon Gold” model from 266 euros for everyday and trekking bikes, which have the necessary eyelets and the light cable runs under a protective cover. In-depth advice and the conversion should definitely be done in specialist shops.
Retrofitting a spring-loaded seat post on an unsprung frame is another tried-and-tested route to greater seating comfort. Manufacturer Cane Creek from the USA offers the parallelogram spring support "Thudbuster" from 199 euros with spring travel of 33 or 76 millimeters. Here, too, the suspension is provided by elastomers, which are available in five degrees of hardness to match the driver's weight.


With electrified bikes, the arguments in favor of suspension apply all the more, since the motor, battery and peripherals add noticeable weight. "Although the average speed of e-bikes is only slightly higher than that of non-motorized bicycles, the kinetic energy increases the square of the speed," explains Anja Knaus from the Swiss manufacturer Flyer. The driving dynamics reserves of the suspension are therefore used sensibly here. With the latest generation of e-bikes, it is not without reason that, apart from active suspension, they are often equipped with significantly wider, so-called plus tires (see the flyer "Upstreet 5", from 3,199 euros, on the Winora " Yakun ”, from 2,999 euros, both with suspension fork, and on the full-suspension Riese & Müller“ Delite ”, from 5,199 euros).


The recumbent bike achieves its ergonomic advantages through extensive contact with the vehicle provided by individually adjustable mesh and bucket seats. For those who frequently travel on rough ground, suspension is very advisable, explains Alexander Kraft, spokesman for the manufacturer HP Velotechnik, "because you can't get out of the saddle and cushion a pothole with your legs." That is why the manufacturer offers this full-suspension reclining trike “Scorpion” (from 3,990 euros), in which the rear wheel is sprung via a central damper and the two front wheels via independent wheel suspensions with MacPherson struts, as are common in automobiles.

Suspension on the children's bike

"If children want to go off-road with their MTB-enthusiastic parents, a suspension makes sense for the same reasons as with the grown-ups," describes Vincent Stoyhe from bike builder Nicolai and himself father, from personal experience. However, in order to keep the weight of the spring-loaded bike low for the child's low weight, high-quality and therefore expensive technology must be attached to the bike. The spring-loaded children's MTB can quickly scratch the 1,000 euro mark and therefore remains a piece of sports equipment for the passionate Young bike riders. Guido Meitler from the children's bike manufacturer Puky takes a more pragmatic view: "Well-regulated tire pressure is still by far the most universal means of suspension."

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