I'm trying to decide which 29er bike I want to purchase and one of them has lockout. I know what lockout does but I'm not sure what it is used for and if I will need it.

Thanks

Update: We're good now. It's been 6 years (Holy crap) since I've posted this. I'm definitely fully aware of lockout. I've also realized my Rockshox Recon Silver lockout is actually 100% lockout since there's a buffer.

up vote 28 down vote accepted

You turn it on when riding on smooth surfaces or going up hill to improve pedal efficiency. It's hard to know if you will need it in advance because without riding the bike you won't know how well the suspension design handles pedal bob (the energy lost by the bike suspension compressing under pedal forces), try and get a test ride.

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    Nice answer. Also, one never knows when an obstacle will come out of nowhere while the suspension is locked. That is a thing to think about (specially some systems have a "blow-off" feature that automatically unlocks the suspension in case of a harsh bump). As for myself, since the roads I ride are not so smooth and pedal bob is not so terrible, I end up never using the lock feature of my fork, since I want the suspension to always work when I need it (that's why I installed in the first place). – heltonbiker Oct 29 '12 at 12:30
  • A friend of mine a few years ago had to spend about £200 on having his Fox rear shock rebuilt, after forgetting to turn off ProPedal before hitting some big downhilling runs... I'd like to think blow-off mechanisms are more prevalent these days, but I haven't checked! – cmannett85 Oct 29 '12 at 12:55
  • On a 29'r you will be surprised how big the obstacle can be before you need the shocks unlocked...... – mattnz Oct 29 '12 at 20:18
  • So, I guess I shouldn't spend an extra $60 to get the Trek Marlin instead of the Trek Wahoo. – Macuser Oct 29 '12 at 21:19
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    @macuser - Assuming you don't have the option of a test ride - unless you do 90% or more off road riding, get the one with lockout. If you have it and don't need it (assume the more expensive bike has lockout), you 'lost' 60 bucks. If you don't have it and need it, you need a new bike.... – mattnz Oct 30 '12 at 3:30

I disagree with all this talk of "wasting a lot of energy". When I am riding with constant pedal force, the suspension compresses very little, if any. The severe loss of efficiency occurs when power peaks to the pedals occur - sprinting or hill climbing. IMO the effect is very roughly up to 30% when sprinting. With climbing it depends on the terrain and your willingness to adjust gears. Keep a stable, high cadence* (as if riding on a road) and there will be no unnecessary compression at all.

Now, locking the fork is useful for road biking, right? If you ride at a constant, high, boring cadence on the flat, boring road - no unnecessary compression. In my country, even in the capital, most roads have mean distance between road holes in the order of tens of meters.

So I do not lock my fork. I suffer in sprints (sprints are bad for your knees), but ride more comfortable through road defects.

Note: I have not used high quality forks with suspension lockout(nothing over a hundred bucks) - so it could be that my answer is irrelevant.

* high cadence == low pedal force (for the same power output)

  • The answer provides richful information, but the first senstence is not so necessary. For cycling, the scale people concern is at the 1%. A bicycle weights 7kg and 7.2kg can differ hugh in price. The suspension when riding pave uphill or sprinit indeed eats a lot of energy. – Cray Kao Apr 19 at 1:23
  • @CrayKao IMHO at that price point lockout is completely replaced with (remote) compression adjustment. – Vorac Apr 20 at 14:03
  • Haha, it is right. Back to the answer of the question, it depends on the type of road. For pave roads, 29er tyres will be "soft" enough for most pave roads and suspension with/without lockout is not so much necessary, but for cross trials, suspension with lockout is still a good choice. – Cray Kao Apr 24 at 5:34

When you're riding on roads you, generally, have close to no need of suspension, but because you've got it you'll be wasting lots of energy which will be going into the shocks and not into the pedals and cranks.

If you don't need the suspension, it's going to be much more efficient to be able to disable it.

If you know that you're never (or close to never) going to be riding the bike on paved surfaces then you probably won't need the lockout, but if that's not the case, then you almost certainly should favour the lockout.

Lockout gives the rider blow-off valve adjustment options (how loose or stiff the compression force is on bike) not only helps pedaling efficiency while climbing/flat trail mode, but also gives the rider options to unlock when riding DH. High end forks have abilities to lock out/adjust blow off, also adjust travel on the fly while riding, like a swiss army knife for ALL conditions, and gives the rider advantages for racing, all mountain, casual non competitive riding too. Non-lockout forks are either for DH (200mm travel), or cheaper alternatives where efficiency in pedaling isn't important.

If my bike didn't have suspension lockout, I could live with it. On single track, I never use the lockout. When on pavement, or, on relatively smooth fire/service roads, I use the lockout. Under these conditions, locked out, or not, there isn't much difference while pedaling seated. However, I believe there is a big improvement in performance when standing on a climb with the suspension locked out. Some riders never lock the shock out, others, only occasionally. The decision to lock out, or not, depends on terrain, riding style & ability, as well as simply personal preference.

  • Yeah, I've since discovered that my lockout is a hoax. I have a RockShox Recon Silver fork and after noticing that it wasn't locking out I had my shop send it to RockShox for a repair/replacement. After getting it back, same thing. So now I just ride without it. I would like to have it for singletrack hills and pavement/gravel, but not on my current bike. – Macuser Jan 23 at 23:13
  • @Macuser I have the same fork and learned that there's no full lock out on the fork to avoid damage from air pressure , it should have a minimum float setting and a max, though – gaurwraith Apr 19 at 2:21

Back to the part of the question :

What it is used for and if I will need it.

The answer depends on the types of roads to ride.

For a 29er, the tyre itself has provided some level of the suspension function.

Since that, for paved or unpaved roads, you might just need a hardtail. Suspensions with/without lockout is not so necessary. A hardtail 29er mtb will also be lighter and thus suitable for uphill riding, too.

But, for gravel or x-trial, suspension with remote lockout is still good to choose. It provides flexible riding experience just like the description in other answers.

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    I'm kind of embarrassed I never marked a solution on here... I'm gonna go edit the main question now giving an update. Thanks for your reply. – Macuser Apr 24 at 13:05

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