What You Should Know About Bike Suspension
As you know, strong and durable bike suspension encourages you to enjoy wonderful riding moments. This is considered as the essential part of a bike to determine the comfort, traction and bike control on different types of terrains. It is quite challengeable for riders to select the most suitable suspension for their bikes. In our article, we gladly show you the basics of a bike suspension. They are very helpful for bicycle shoppers or riders who want to upgrade their new bikes. Keep on reading our article and explore what you can get benefits from useful information below.
Types of Bike Suspension
Two main types of bike suspension for you to easily choose from, including full suspension and Hardtail. Full suspension is defined as the system which equips both front and rear gears.
To contrast, Hardtail means the bike with front suspension. It is popularly equipped in most of mountain bikes and some hybrid and comfort bikes. Feel free to make different adjustments to the suspension on a mountain bike. They could be listed here, including the amount of travel, types, absorption method and robustness. If you ride hybrid or comfort bikes, they offer basic functions without adjustment.
Top well-known brands of bike suspension include Marzocchi, Fox, RockShox, Manitou, DT Swiss, X-Fusion and SR Suntour. Normally, a bike often has 1 or 2 shock absorbers in its suspension to reduce the terrible impact of rough surfaces. Here are some differences between these types of bike suspension:
Rougher surfaces with rocks,
roots and drops
Double track, smoother single-track,
pavement, fire roads
Difficult rides on rough places;
people with back or joint injuries;
rough and high speed
Various uses on trail and pavement;
effective hill climbing; relatively smooth paths
Ways to Upgrade Your Bike Suspension
If you are looking for another better replacement of your bike suspension, let’s consider 4 important factors: travel, axle compatibility, steered tube and brake type.
- Travel: The best options for replacing 80mm fork of an older mountain bike are 100mm fork or 120mm fork. One fact is that many bike frames equip specific suspension fork for suitable amount of travel. This feature will decide the handling ability of a bike. Ask the manufacturers if you are not sure about your suspension replacement
- Axle compatibility: The axle compatibility of the front wheel varies indifferent sizes, from 9mm to 20mm in diameter. Measure the size of your wheels to give right final decisions.
- Steered tube: While old bicycles come with 1 inch in diameter tube, the standard steered tube offers 1to 1/8 inch diameter. Then, make sure that your new fork has appropriate steered tube.
- Brake type: Brakes are very necessary for you to stop safely and confidently. It requires you to choose suitable brakes with your fork suspension. You could pick disc brakes for your mountain bikes and rim brake mounts for other types of bicycle.
Suspension quality will determine the cost of a bike. Its performance is expressed through weight, adjustments, build quality and ride quality. People often look for the light-weight hybrid bike due to the compact design, it helps improve better rider control on different surfaces. Compact design is resulted from the movement of a coil to an air spring. Moreover, a bike associating with multi adjustments brings more safety and comfort to users. Thanks to compression and rebound adjustments, it helps you control the suspension to match your weight, terrains and riding style. When you select adjustable travel, overcoming rough surfaces is much easier than ever before. Pay attention to high build quality of the suspension because it requires less maintenance. This is because top high-end models feature excellent construction as well as technical design. By enhancing the bike durability, it offers a great amount of cost savings to users. Ride quality is another essential element for you to consider. Effective suspension system is a great choice for long travels. Normally, expensive models often come with better performance than the less expensive ones.
Components of the Bike Suspension
Different components of the bike suspension work well with each other in boosting its excellent performance. The crown is responsible for connecting2 stanchions together, whereas, steered tube helps connect the fork to the frame. Stanchions include a variety of parts, such as oil, valves, damper rod and air chamber. In order to hold the wheel axle, it equips efficient dropouts. Besides, the brake mounts are designed for disc, rim or both of them.
Travel indicates the amount of moving distance before fully compressing. Specific travel distance is expressed in the chart below
Type of Bike
1 to 2
30 to 50
20’’ or 24’’ kids’ bikes
2 to 3
60 to 80
24” of hybrid bikes and kids’ bikes
4 to 5
100 to 120
Cross country and mountain bikes
5 to 6
120 to 160
All mountain bikes
7 to 8
180 to 200
Downhill and Free ride mountain bikes
The short travel suspension comes with less than 120mm, which smoothly rides on smooth surfaces or uphill. With more than 120mm, long travel suspension provides the special ability to across rough places with better control. For more versatility, you had better choose adjustable travel. Have a look at short travel bike if you often go downhill. Moreover, long travel bike is a great recommendation for descending with high stability.
- Stanchion Diameter
The stanchion diameter affects the control of a bike. There are differences between a narrow tube and the larger one. Larger tubes are heavier and difficult to absorb impacts on rough terrains. Don’t worry if you are overwhelmed by a great number of forks available in the market. Manufacturers will attach the appropriate diameter to the bike model.
Type of Bike
Stanchion Tube Diameter (mm)
Bike for Kids
Cross country and Trail
34 to 36
Free ride and downhill
38 to 40
- Spring System
Many people use spring to successfully absorb impact. The first option is coil spring. Coil spring comes with a variety of resistance rates to match different sizes of riders. When your coil spring is too firm or soft, you need to replace it by a new one. On the other hand, air spring is a good choice for uphill with effortlessness. It provides effective compression rate in different cases. The benefit of this type is light-weight design for the great ease of use
- Fork Adjustments
It is simple for users to purchase a standard fork without adjustability or multi dials and knobs
- Lockout: In order to reduce the travel, many forks equip a stanchion top lever. This part plays an essential role in saving your energy when climbing on dirty surfaces. If you prefer remote control through a cable, let’s pay attention to the fork associated with a handlebar-mounted lever.
- Preload: Making the spring increase or decrease is so simple thanks to a knob on top of the stanchions. In case the fork is too weak, you actually need to increase the preload.
- Air pressure: The air pressure is adjusted through a useful Schrader valve, which is located at the bottom of a slider or on top of a stanchion. There is no need of regular tire pump in producing air pressure. The “shock pump” appears to control the air pressure in a right way.
Damping: Fork contains different components for doing multi tasks. In addition to these parts above, it also has a damper rod for easy adjustment of both compression and rebound. Incorrect damping may cause to the consequence of losing rider control.
- Rear Suspention
This part can be found in full-suspension mountain bikes. Its main function is reducing rider fatigue, improving rider control and the touch between tire and ground. Like front fork, the rear suspension makes impressive by various adjustments, travel or spring. A rear suspension often comes with triangle frame and a number of pivot points for easy travelling. Two ends of the shock are respectively located in the main frame triangle or the pivoting rear triangle. There is a variety of pivot structures and designs for you to choose from. Each model features both advantages and disadvantages that put an impact on the quality of rides. All of them perform perfectly and it is hard to distinguish each type of pivot.
- Wheel travel: It has same features in comparison with the wheel travel in the front wheel. You may find it different with the stroke travel in some characteristics. Depending on the type of bike, you will have specific number of wheels. Finding the appropriate travel to front and rear wheels is very significant in a full-suspension bike.
- Stroke travel: This travel indicates how much a rear shock could compress. Located at the short end of the frame lever, the stroke travel is quite short from 1.5” to 3”.It implies that the actual wheel travel is much bigger than the rear wheel.
- Spring system: The spring system becomes extremely common in All mountain bikes. in this bike style, it combines both air-sprung shocks and coil-sprung shocks together. Spring system refers to the air or coil. While air-sprung shocks appear in trail and cross country bikes, coil-sprung shocks are found in most of downhill or free ride bikes. Cost is an essential element in deciding the quality of fork. One fact is that a cheap coil-sprung fork doesn’t provide similar quality as a higher-priced model.
- Adjustments: You may have to deal with pedal bob in old models, which cause to the less efficiency in pedaling. However, this issue is solved with advanced models. There is a variety of settings for descending, ascending or common riding.
Guides to Setting Up the Suspension
Read carefully recommendations from manufacturers to have correct ways of setting up the suspension.
First and foremost, it is very necessary to adjust the sag of rear suspension. Sag determines the amount of compressed suspension to be suitable with the rider’s weight. It allows wheel to be more flexible in different terrains, even depressions in the trail. Sag varies from one bike to each other. Softer rides need the combination among various sags. Based on the suggestions from manufacturers, you could decide the number of sag in front and rear suspension
Type of Mountain Bike
80 - 100mm
15 - 25%
Trail, all mountain
100 - 160mm
20 - 30%
Free ride and downhill
160 - 200mm
25 - 35%
Another vital requirement in suspension setting is rebound damping. All you have to do is backing the rebound out and gradually adding till the suspension compresses.
Then, it requires you to set up low-speed compression damping. Low-speed compression keeps the suspension higher for reserving compression. To contrast, high-speed compression damping has effective application in many cases, except for landing jumps.
Bike Suspension Maintenance
Because the bike suspension moves a lot, periodic maintenance is a compulsory requirement. This helps you save a lot of money from high cost for replacement and lengthen the suspension lifespan. For people often spend much time on cycling, annually having suspension serviced is very important. It is advisable for you to provide maintenance service after 100 hours of riding.
- You had better avoid scratching or hitting the stanchions. If the stanchions are damaged by a rock or tool, it will destroy seal and reduce the suspension performance.
- Regularly clean the stanchions by a soft cloth and mild cleaning detergent. Flossing stanchions around the tube and down to the seal for complete cleaning task. This duty should be done after every ride to get the best result.
- Check the instruction from manufacturers. Some suggest that you should add a light lube on the dust seal for smooth rides.
- Ask the mechanic staffs for more help if you find that disassembling or inspecting the stanchions are too sophisticated. Other difficult issues for professional examinations include excessive oil leak, unusual collapse, losing air sprung unit or knocks between the stanchions.