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So, I am in a peculiar situation - due to an injury, shaking in any direction leads to pain and my condition is improving very slowly. I'm looking to find/customize a bike so that it offers me the smoothest possible ride on the unfortunately poorly maintained roads in my city.

Today I have a Cirrus Cycles suspension seat post and low pressure on my tires (which I also exchanged for fatter ones) and that helps to an extent, but my current bike is a hybrid with no suspension.

I think that a full-suspension bike would greatly help, but wonder what I have to look for to make sure I can tune it to smooth out road irregularities as opposed to the harsh falls of mountain biking.

Do you have recommendations as to what kinds of bikes or kinds of shocks I should be looking for? Or anything else? Thanks!

edit from comments:
First the road conditions. The following types of irregularities exist:

  • concrete slab roads where over time slabs have settled at varying heights. sometimes the change in elevation from slab to slab is as much as 2-3 inches, which is similar to falling off a small curb.
  • potholes and cracks in the pavement with a depth of up to 4 inches as well. some are avoidable, some are not.
  • gradual dips in asphalt road surface - sometimes parts of the road sink without an abrupt edge, like a soft pothole
  • raised linear sections caused by tree roots under asphalt pavement
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    Give a fat bike a try, On full suspension the higher end are adjustable. – paparazzo Feb 24 '16 at 4:33
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    Can you plan your route to avoid the bad roads? Another possible (but pricey) solution is a recumbent bike. Do you qualify for any medical/insurance/palliative care to help fund the bike? – Criggie Feb 24 '16 at 6:33
  • Can you describe in more detail the road conditions. Are we talking about open chip seal and high frequency vibration, or big potholes and upturned pavement? – Rider_X Feb 24 '16 at 17:24
  • Do you stay seated when traversing a bump or do you unweight the seat and put your weight mostly on the pedals? Do you use your legs as suspension or does that hurt ? – Criggie Feb 24 '16 at 22:12
  • Thank you all for all the amazing answers. This has been very helpful. Based on my research of bikes with adjustable air forks / shocks it looks like I can spend $2k for a bike with 29 x 2.2 " tires or $4k for one with 26 x 4 " (basically the lowest end Slasa Bucksaw is the only option) and in both cases the weight is about 33 lbs. So I am probably going to go for the more expensive option in some time. Indeed I am not biking at the moment until the symptoms calm down. Thanks again for your time! – Anton Feb 29 '16 at 4:50
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Based on your requirements I would say full suspension fat bike
A few manufactures make them

buskshaw

That bike is $6500 retail but you did not state a budget

Not worth switching out tires as they are expensive but when you wear them out go with more street (will less knobby) tires

If you are on a budget I think I would go with lower end fat bike before a full suspension. But I am not saying full suspension would be wrong.

I know I usually post a Salsa if I post a bike but I am not associated with Salsa. I own 2 and it is a brand I am familiar with.

  • That is a good option. I did find some other full suspension fat bike: * Maxx Huraxdax * Alutech Fat Fanes * Foes Mutz * Carver Trans-Fat * 11Nine Epicyon * Gravity Quigley * even an e-bike exists - Haibike SDuro Fatsix Now, the cheapest is the Gravity Quigley but that's a strange brand. The website where I found it (bikes direct) seems to be selling off-brand only. The lowest end Salsa Bucksaw is $4k and is the cheapest high quality full suspension fat bike I found so I think I'll go for that in some time. Thanks! – Anton Feb 29 '16 at 5:19
  • @Anton If this is the solution you have selected then you can indicate so with a check. – paparazzo Mar 1 '16 at 9:50
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Whilst you will never eliminate vibration completely it should be possible to greatly improve your comfort with correct setup and component choices.

The starting point will be a full suspension frame (I would choose a 29er for your application) with a good quality adjustable air fork and shock. Usually, for MTB applications one would set a sag of 15-20% to provide a balance between shock absorbsion, grip, brake dive and power transfer. However, riding on roads with the primary goal of comfort you could set this to 30-40% to give you a much more plush ride. Next would be the compression and rebound damping. Again, whilst we would never do this in mountain biking, you could set your compression damping to minimum and rebound damping to maximum to really smooth things out.

Next up would be tyre choice. For your application I would be looking at 2.2" race tyres setup tubeless. Race tyres feature lightweight compliant casings that are designed to provide lower rolling resistance whilst sacrificing durability, but for your application, these properties also add comfort. A tubeless setup adds further comfort by allowing you to run lower tyre pressures. Depending on your bodyweight you could quite possibly run pressures between 20-30 psi.

Finally, select use of carbon components (seatpost and handlebar) are widely considered to damp vibration, along with foam or silicon grips.

  • Even fatter tyres would be better if you can find a bike that takes them and so on. But the usual max for suspended bikes is about 60mm, and a lot of fat bikes aren't suspended at all. – Móż Feb 24 '16 at 20:34
  • Agreed, something like the Salsa Bucksaw posted by @Frisbee would offer even more comfort, but there is very limited choice, and I felt considering the application was road riding then full fat tyres might be a step to far. A few manufacturers have launched full suspension 650b+ bikes this year which might be a good compromise. – Andy P Feb 25 '16 at 9:38
  • This has been very informative as suspension component adjsutability basically limits what bikes I choose from. It looks like most full suspension fat bikes come with higher end components (RockShox Bluto + RockShox Monarch R/RT3). – Anton Feb 29 '16 at 5:18
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Not everyone can ride a bike unfortunately, and with bad roads, it may not be possible to get enough comfort.

Most full suspension is setup for mountain biking and stuff so that you can keep control and likely won't be adjustable enough to add comfort (you can only adjust things so much). There used to be a bike in Giant's line called the Sedona DS which used full suspension for comfort, but I don't think it has been made for over 15 years now. Most comfort oriented hybrids or cruisers use some or more of: relaxed geometry, big tires, a big seat, front suspension and a suspension seat post. I'd look for a bike with these features (esp. front suspension if you don't have it).

If the movement is lateral that causes pain, a recumbent trike may be a good option. There are ones with suspension, but this is not an area of my expertise.

Frisbee also notes in the comments that Fat Bikes exist. These have massive tires (over 4 inches in some cases) with insanely low pressures. These might be difficult to ride, but thats a lot of cushioning.

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    A recumbent bike might work, but the problem is that if the bumps exceed suspension capability it's really hard to get off the seat so the rider tends to suffer. With a trike it's worse, you get tossed from side to side as well. Until you get into the Crank-It four wheeler the multitrack bents don't have enough travel to do more than take the edge off normal smooth-ish roads. – Móż Feb 24 '16 at 20:33
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I think that Frisbee's answer is excellent, but I would like to post another alternative.

I think that you should look for a low travel, full suspension mountain bike. Relevant keywords:

  • Full suspension
  • Low travel
  • XC (cross country)

I think that something with 100mm of travel would be sufficient.

One example of such a bike is the Giant Stance 1 - This rings in at $2100 Canadian ($1551.82 USD).

enter image description here

Advantages of a low travel, XC bike over a fat bike:

  • Much more nimble
  • Lighter
  • Easier to speed up/slow down
  • Cheaper price
  • Tires are much cheaper
  • Suspension will not bounce the same way that tires will because suspension has rebound control.

Disadvantages to a fat bike

  • Suspension requires maintenance

Depending on the extent of your condition and sensitivity to vibration, I think I would encourage you to put slick tires on the bike and let the suspension do the work. This will give you low rolling resistance and still give you good vibration protection.

  • I can still remember the days when 100mm of travel were considered hardcore downhill stuff. Times are a-changin... – Benedikt Bauer Mar 1 '16 at 9:48

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