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Is a commuter/city bike without front suspension comfortable?

  • Keep in mind there's a thing called a lock-out front fork, sometimes with remote control on the handlebar, which lets you switch between suspended and non-suspended fork. This could be a good choice, depending on your circumstance. – compton Feb 26 '18 at 12:36
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    Without more information, this is essentially unanswerable and/or a duplicate of existing questions. If you commute on half-decent tarmac and can ride round holes in the road, you don't need suspension. If there's a farm track that just happens to run from home to work, suspension would be more comfortable though still not absolutely necessary. But we don't know. – Chris H Feb 26 '18 at 16:54
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    For a comfortable commuter, fat tires are simple and effective without the without the complexity, cost and maintenance requirements for suspension. (Fat can be anything up to 4.5", for a commuter 'fat' is probably best at around a 38mm road/touring tire, but the fatter you go, the more comfort you get att he expense of weight and rolling resistance.) – mattnz Feb 26 '18 at 20:04
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    Every diamond-frame bike has suspension already - the tyres are your first line, and your legs and arms are the second line of suspension. Adding a suspension seatpost might be another option. – Criggie Feb 26 '18 at 21:25
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    you could elaborate your question. – kifli Feb 27 '18 at 7:54
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Commuter or city bikes are designed for paved surfaces. A suspension fork on such a bike is not going to add much comfort, except perhaps when riding over potholes or kerbs, which are avoidable.

Suspension forks add weight, which brings a different type of discomfort as you have to exert effort to move that weight around.

This gets worse the more inexpensive the bicycle is. Low end suspension forks are heavy and have poor performance.

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    agreed on all accounts. a low-end suspension fork is worse than useless, since it will almost inevitably lock up early in its life, rendering it an especially heavy rigid fork. big supple tires, and learning to avoid the worst of the roads or post over bumps when they're unavoidable is the best medicine for bad roads. moreover - many suspension forks preclude the installation of full-coverage fender, which is way more useful than the suspension IMO. – Nathaniel Hoyt Feb 26 '18 at 15:42
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    The biggest problem with suspension forks (and suspension bikes in general) it that, absent a lockout, they burn a lot of the cyclist's energy. – Daniel R Hicks Feb 26 '18 at 18:25
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    Potholes and curbs are avoidable if it's not too busy. I used to find shock forks really useful around London because the roads can be pretty bad, and the traffic (both bike + car) pretty intense. These days there are a lot more cycle-only paths, which tend to be in better condition (although also tend to be narrow, so hard to overtake slower people - inviting a curb-hop onto the road and back again). I definitely agree with the weight thing though - I definitely noticed than when I swapped the fixed forks out. – Ralph Bolton Feb 27 '18 at 16:22
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    This is complete BS. I disagree on all accounts. Any suspension fork will provide a completely different level of comfort on potholes and curbs than a rigid fork. To say that these are avoidable is just preposterous. A kilo or two make no difference on a commuter. – Ondrej Sotolar Jul 26 '19 at 7:05
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I find the ideal commuter bike is: lightweight, reliable, and inexpensive.

Reliable: A commuter bike can’t fail or you’ll be late for work.

Light weight: it has to be lightweight as you’re navigating it around bike stands, carrying it up stairs, taking it over curbs, and putting it on bus racks or in the trunk of a car that’s come to pick you up when and if your bike breaks by the side of the road and you can’t fix it before being late for work.

Inexpensive: your commuter bike often has a shortened lifespan. It either gets stolen, hit by a car, or damaged by the elements.

If you’re buying new, the bike you’re looking is likely inexpensive but likely fails in terms of reliability and weight if it has front suspension. Most bikes that are inexpensive and have front or full suspension are what we call on this forum somewhat derisively [Bicycle Shaped Objects] or BSOs.

A used steel-frame road bike or hybrid with no suspension that can fit panniers is often a much better choice for commuting.

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  • I kindof object to "cheap". Of course the price is a (depending on your financial situation primary, secondary or irrelevant) factor, but it is not a criteria concerning the bike as such (weight, reliability, or looks, if you want). And since there is a strong correlation of price with quality and riding fun you may actually want a more expensive bike. – Peter - Reinstate Monica Feb 27 '18 at 14:43
  • Noted, I changed it to “inexpensive” – RoboKaren Feb 27 '18 at 15:10
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    Inexpensive is also important because you will feel more comfortable putting it in questionable places, riding it in less than ideal circumstances, exposing it to elements when bringing the bike indoors is not an option, etc. It shouldn't be cheap, but think of it as your Camry, not your Porche. – Trevor Feb 27 '18 at 19:50
  • Think "frugal" or "fiscally-responsible" and not "tight-fisted" or "poor" – Criggie Feb 28 '18 at 0:43
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The drawback of the suspension is that it can swallow energy, i.e. if you stand up to push the pedals harder, you can not exert the same force, plus I find the motion of the suspension annoying in this situation.

I used a bike without suspensions for more than 20 years, and I was happy with it both on paved and dirt roads.

In my opinion a good seat and well adjusted handlebar adds much more comfort, than a suspension.

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I think a big impact of with/without suspension is maintenance. Suspension brings more movable parts, which means more maintenance and repair costs.

Suspension can feel comfortable when it works, because it absorbs some shocks. But one other thing it does, is to absorb energy you might want to use for speed, not bouncing. Imagine standing on your bike and pedaling really hard; you want that energy to drive you forward, but with suspension some of that energy goes into bouncing you up and down.

Sometimes you need suspension, like if you're going offroad or riding on roads with lots of holes. But in a city you might prefer not to have suspension, as you'll get lower maintenance and more energy efficiency.

For a commuter bike, I'd recommend something dead simple. Fewer bells and whistles that will eventually break.

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3

It depends.

If you are going to ride with your commuter bike on roads where a front suspension benefits your riding or comfort, it is better to have a front suspension.

If, however, you are going to ride on roads where a suspension fork does not bring you any benefits, it is better to have a rigid fork.

There is a caveat though: If you like or dislike front suspensions for other reasons, e.g. you like or dislike the looks of it, you have to evaluate above decision considering these other reasons.

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Basically depends on commute, trade off of comfort over efficiency.

My commute is full of speed bumps. I prefer the ability to ride at speed over those bumps without having to keep doing 'brace-brace-brace' to avoid jarring to bits. Maybe its because I'm on old side.

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  • My commute has speed bumps and potholes, both in narrow and deep styles. So I tend to bunny-hop them at speed. – Criggie Feb 28 '18 at 0:38
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I would add that while I agree with the above answers, the conditions of the road on your preferred route might have a big impact on this decision.

I opted for a fixed fork for both ease and cost, but now regret it as the roads I ride on are extremely pitted and bumpy near the edges (approximately 1-2 cm irregular ridges / patches where the top surface has broken away).

I've yet to try padded gloves or raising my handlebars to take some of the vibration out, I mention it as I assumed that main roads that feel perfectly smooth where my car tyres are positioned are not necessarily so nearer the edges where you'll be riding.

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  • The huge inertia of cars compared to bikes (something like a factor of 15 including the mass of the rider/driver) means they're always going to have a much smoother ride. – David Richerby Feb 27 '18 at 15:59
  • Car lanes are generally better quality than the sides of the road where bikes get to go, in terms of surface quality and the level of debris around. The joy of cycling. – Criggie Feb 28 '18 at 0:41
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    It's generally not a good idea to squeeze yourself into the side of the road. This tempts car drivers to overtake you without any safety distance, whatsoever. You have a right to sufficient safety distance, you are a vehicle, you take your lane. Whoever wants to overtake has to wait until the other side of the road is free. – cmaster - reinstate monica Dec 15 '18 at 16:45
  • While I agree wholeheartedly with cmaster, it does kind of depend on where you're riding - do that on some of the streets around my home town and the car WILL come past, and they're far more concerned with the space between them and incoming traffic and them and you. It shouldn't be the case, but unfortunately it sometimes is. – Bob Carolgees Jan 29 '19 at 13:53
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If you can afford it, for the average fun-loving , sociable person, suspension is a must!

There will be times when instead of doing the commute, you may want to do a social ride with friends along riverbanks and other areas where the path will be less than smooth. Fixed forks will limit you options for comfort in these situations and in fact the shaking handlebars can be seriously annoying along with any unstable traction.

Bikes don't have to be taken too seriously and should be a staple part of the fun of a normal life.

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I live in Fort Worth, Texas, and I find that a suspension fork works well for my commuter bike. My morning commute finds me riding on roads where there are: no bike lanes, bad roads, distracted drivers, or drivers in a hurry to get home for their morning sex. There are times on the commute I am forced to quickly ride off road in order to avoid that aforementioned bad drivers. "Suspension fork is good," I say to myself. Halfway to work I eventually reach an upper - income area where there are some bike lanes, and connected streets that lead me to work. Also, at five a.m. most of the homeowners in this residential area are still asleep, so the dangerous drivers are still in bed. The suspension fork does help because I am not forced to stop and wait until the bad drivers have gone away.

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