Riding a road bike down trails allows for a feeling of freedom that people rarely experience otherwise. However, if the trail or road is very bumpy, riding a road bike can become a jarring experience. One way to mitigate this problem is to add suspension to a road bike.
However, do you need suspension on a road bike? The answer to this question is no, suspension is not needed on a road bike, but it will make the ride easier on the rider’s back because suspension decouples the wheels from the rest of the bike, allowing for a smoother ride.
This article will take a closer look at suspension on a road bike and weigh its necessity versus the convenience.
Is Suspension Necessary on a Road Bike?
To understand whether suspension is a necessity for a road bike, it is vital to understand first what suspension does. Suspension allows for the wheels to bump up and down on irregularities on the trail or road independently, maintaining a forward momentum and making riding easier.
Buying and installing suspension on a road bike is a personal preference and not a necessity. Road bikes are fine for riding without suspension, although it will be harder on the body of the rider.
In other words, road cyclists who are healthy would have no problem riding a road bike without suspension, but if the rider has a bad back or wishes to avoid forming one, suspension should be considered.
5 Characteristics of Good Suspension on a Road Bike
Suspension systems function as shock absorbers to allow the wheels of a road bike to hug the curves of the road without much movement to the rest of the bike. Suspension allows a flattening out on larger terrain bumps and hollows by compressing and expanding as the tire runs across the road or trail.
A suspension system doesn’t jump down and back like a pogo stick, but rather the gradually expand back to the preset position.
There are five features of a high-quality bicycle suspension:
- It has a good preload adjustment. That means how much the suspension compresses under the weight of the rider sitting on the bike.
- It has quality dampening adjustment. Meaning, how strongly and quickly the suspension expands back after being compressed.
- It has high compression adjustment. This measures how much the suspension resists compression.
- It has a low weight. Meaning it doesn’t add much mass to the bike.
- Superior quality craftsmanship. This measures how durable and strong the suspension is and the availability of spare parts to fix it should it break down.
Purchasing a quality suspension system can make the difference between getting only a year or two of good use from it and then not being able to find parts or the reverse.
The Advantages of Having Suspension on a Road Bike
Better control. With a suspension system, the road bike glides over uneven pavement without the sudden jerking in the handlebars that can lead to running off the road.
Faster speeds. Because the bike is gliding rather than struggling over rough terrain, the bike is easier to maneuver and, therefore, can go faster.
Better cornering and braking. Depending on whether the road bike owner has installed stem or seat post suspensions (seat post suspension offers comfort only), the bike will corner and brake better and more safely.
A more Comfortable to Ride. A road bike that isn’t continually jarring the body of the rider is invariably more comfortable.
The Disadvantages of Having Suspension on a Road Bike
There would seem to be more disadvantages listed below than there are advantages listed above, but that is misleading. Even though it appears there are more cons than pros, the important part of deciding to buy a suspension for a bike or not depends also on other factors such as the amount of money in the budget a person has and the type of terrain they are anticipating riding upon.
So, here are the greatest disadvantages of suspension on a road bike.
Adds more weight. Although some types of suspension is lightweight, it still adds a significant amount of weight over no suspension at all.
Costs More. A quality suspension system costs several times more than not having one.
Requires regular maintenance. Suspensions require services including oil changes, replacement of rubber seals, dust wipers, and more. These services add to the cost of the suspension over not having one.
Slows the bike down. Quality suspensions come with a lockout option, meaning it will lock the bike into a rigid position, which takes away some of the speed one can go on their road bike.
Downhill rides are tricky. Using a suspension system on a road bike downhill is beneficial but not so when going downhill on a paved surface.
Choosing the Type of Suspension That is Right for You
There are three distinct types of suspension systems for a road bike, and choosing the one that is right for you is vital for comfort and endurance.
The three types of suspensions are as follows:
- The front-wheel – suspension forks
- The rear wheel – the rear triangle of the bike is connected to the rest of the frame via a rotating joint with a shock absorber
- Bars – stem with an in-built shock absorber
- Saddle – seat post with an in-built shock absorber
While there are other types of suspensions, they are exotic and do not add more quality in comfort. The four suspensions listed above are the best when it comes to improvement in a road bike’s comfort and handling.
The Comfort and Convenience of Suspension on a Road Bike
There are characteristics that have been touched on but needs more concentration in this piece. These characteristics involve:
There is no doubt but that having suspension on a road bike adds an enormous amount of comfort. Riders do not suffer from as much fatigue, and their joints do not take a beating that can lead to lifelong problems in the future.
Having the ability to ride farther and faster leads to it being more convenient than riding a road bike that does not have suspension.
The aesthetics of suspension on a road bike cannot be forgotten. It simply looks nice to have suspension on a road bike and adds a sense of professionalism to the rider.
The Final Decision: The Cost of Suspension for a Road Bike
The cost for suspension for a road bike can be prohibitive as compared to buying a nice bike and not using it. For instance, a front suspension fork can range from $70-$400 depending on the brand and style needed.
Many people argue that the price paid for the purpose of comfort on a road bike isn’t worth it and that living without suspension is the way to go. They also remind whomever they are speaking to that suspension is just another moving part that can fail.
Others, however, argue that spending $400 up front will save on medical bills, pain, and suffering later.
The bottom line is that deciding if one needs suspension on a road bike is a personal choice, and taking all things into consideration will aid in that decision.