Is a commuter/city bike without front suspension comfortable?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.