This keeps me wondering. I normally see front and rear shocks on downhill bikes, but when it comes to touring, road, or mountain bikes, almost every one has only the front shock.

What is the reason for this?

  • @ttarchala, @Neil Fein, @M. Werner, So you guys are saying that If I can afford and maintain a good rear shock, it does not hurt having a rear shock.
    – Starx
    Commented May 16, 2011 at 7:00
  • 1
    For what it's worth, touring and road bikes should never come with shocks. They're unnecessary, reduce your speed and efficiency, and add weight to the bike. Commented May 18, 2011 at 16:46
  • @StephenTouset the exception being lockout and platform dampers. Commented Oct 22, 2012 at 19:35

3 Answers 3

  1. Price - a suspended frame is much more complicated and expensive to make, and a good shock alone can cost more than a decent rigid frame.
  2. Maintenance - both shocks (due to gaskets/seals, lubrication, cleaning) and elements suspended frames (additional bearings) are relatively high-maintenance and short-lived, compared to rigid frames. This also translates into less reliability, especially important in touring/trekking trips.
  3. Cost-effectiveness and weight-effectiveness - especially in road biking or touring, it's not such a big deal. Much better to put wider tires or suspended saddle.
  4. Pedalling efficiency - even the best suspension systems rob some of the user's energy. In mountain biking, it's more than offset by less energy expended by the rider, who can spend less time out of the saddle on uneven terrain, but in road cycling it's absolutely unjustifiable.
  • 1
    No one mentioned "Control". Even on my downhill bike I prefer a rigid rear because I know exactly how it will respond in all situations. I have ridden rear suspension and I was able to get used to having it, but there is just something irreplaceable about having that rear-end stay put when you are torquing Gs on a turn and happen on a situation that you need to get out of NOW and don't have time to preload your shocks.
    – BillyNair
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 9:17
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    @BillyNair - Perhaps that is true for you, and for the particular type of biking you do (dual/4cross XC?). But in general - control is considered as one of full suspension's advantages, not disadvantages. The large majority of downhill races competitors use full suspension bikes, the bigger shocks, the better. Personally I also find that I can descend much faster on a FS bike.
    – ttarchala
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 15:26

Some pro racers have successfully campaigned full-suspension bikes. However, pro racers have big budgets and team mechanics to keep everything ship-shape. A good rear shock absorber can cost more than an entry-level bike...

For most off-road riders, they are simply not necessary; let your legs be the suspension.

  • 3
    My legs can't pedal and absorb shocks simultaneously.
    – z7sg
    Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 22:03
  • @z7sg, Better start learning that :P
    – Starx
    Commented Oct 23, 2012 at 2:34
  • 1
    @Starx I have a fully and I love it. I wouldn't go back. For me, the ride quality more than makes up for the additional maintenance.
    – z7sg
    Commented Oct 23, 2012 at 13:46

Efficiency: On a suspension bike, some of the energy from the rider's pedaling is translated into the bike bouncing up and down on the suspension, so that's a strike against it.

In addition, weight is a factor: Suspension makes a bike heavier, and this is a particular concern with road bikes.

It's much harder to fit racks on a bike with suspension. Although it is possible to do so, such frames are more expensive and can be somewhat finicky to attach: Do a search on any touring forum for "rack" and "suspension" and you'll find many threads asking how to do this.

Cost is also a factor. Good suspension systems are expensive, bad ones are cheap and ubiquitous.

Also, suspension is just one more thing that can break down. It would be difficult to repair a hydraulic suspension system at the side of a road or in a SAG wagon.

(Personally, I hate suspension with a passion because it makes it harder for me to "feel" the road. Ironically, one of the reasons steel is favored among touring cyclists is because it absorbs bumps better than Aluminum, which is said to be "stiffer" than steel, so a group that mostly avoids suspension favors a frame material that has some of the same qualities.)

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