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I have a 1990s Saracen PowerTrax. Is there a way I can install a suspension fork, or will that muck up the bike somehow? I'm actually interested in ways to raise the bars with respect to the seat, so that wouldn't be a problem. My toes rubbing in the wheel, in the other hand, would definitely be a problem.

  • 1
    A 30 year old bike might not be ideal. Consider N+1 and find a second bike that is a bit newer to compliment your existing bike. – Criggie Jul 22 at 4:14
  • Maybe try a bigger tire with more air volume to add some cush. Can you fit a wider tire in your frame? – Bob Jul 22 at 13:21
  • Many bikes have toe overlap. It really isn't a problem: you just have to be more careful when riding very slowly. Once you're much above walking pace, you won't be turning the wheel enough to hit your feet. – David Richerby Jul 22 at 16:18
  • Why a different fork when you can get a different stem? – Maarten Fabré Jul 26 at 16:51
  • Why not both? I want suspension without buying a whole new bike, I'm just saying that if it raised the bars a bit in the process I wouldn't mind. – Neil Barnwell Jul 27 at 5:01
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You might be able to fit a suspension fork on your bike, depending on frame geometry, but I think it’s likely you will not be able to.

Frames designed for suspension forks locate the head tube higher to allow for the extra length of a suspension fork, and to provide somewhere for the top of the wheel to go when the suspension compresses.

In the early-mid 90’s rigid bike’s either had no provision for suspension forks or a ‘suspension corrected’ frame and longer rigid fork that would allow for swapping in a suspension fork. If you have the former you obviously can’t fit a suspension fork. If the latter, there is still a problem because even a suspension corrected frame only allowed for a contemporary fork with something like 50mm of travel. Modern forks have twice to three times that amount.

If you fit a fork that is is longer than the frame was designed for you effectively rotate the whole frame around rear axle and change its geometry. The head tube angle is increased which can negatively affect the steering, especially of an adjustment in fork offset is not also made. See here for some more information in this. The seat tube angle is also increased pushing the seat rearwards, and the bottom bracket is raised which can affect stability.

Some very inexpensive forks have low travel and may fit, but they are not very functional and mainly add mass.

It's not a good idea to try to raise the handlebars by installing a longer fork (for reasons above). A riser stem or steerer tube extension are simpler, cheaper and safer ways to do that.

  • I was afraid this would be the case. I'm not a mountain biker, I just still have my perfectly good old bike from when I was in my late teens, that I looked after very well and was for the time quite a nice one. I was hoping that now I'm cough carrying a bit more weight, and obviously quite a bit older, that I might be able to make it more comfortable (on my wrists, mostly). If buying another bike, it'll be some sort of folding e-bike thing I imagine. Though I'll have to save up for that. – Neil Barnwell Jul 22 at 9:27
  • Depending on how stiff the Saracen frame + fork are, even for a suspension corrected frame it may not be worth while to fit a suspension fork. I'm riding a suspension corrected steel frame from mid of the 2000s (not sure when it was introduced, the same model is still in production, and it was not sold as a novelty) which takes supension forks with 100 mm travel. When I was thinking about upgrading to a suspension fork, the bike mechanic at the store told me that I'd probably need the >750 € (nowadays maybe >1000 €) class of suspension fork to make a noticeable difference to my steel fork. – cbeleites Jul 22 at 9:27
  • @NeilBarnwell Have you considered padded cycling gloves? – Andrew Morton Jul 22 at 9:38
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    The one's I have don't do anything to relieve the pressure of my bodyweight on my wrists. I might try raising the bars with a new stem and see if that helps. That was going to be my first attempt, anyway, and @Argenti Apparatus confirmed it for me. The suspension thing was just to take the vibrations away; I'm not planning on going downhill racing or anything. – Neil Barnwell Jul 22 at 9:56
  • -1 for dogmatism. “You absolutely do not want to try to raise the handlebars by installing a longer fork” – there may well be good reasons not to do that, but if so you should list them. Of course this will raise the BB height and laxen the steerer tube angle as a side-effect, but none of that is per se a bad thing. – leftaroundabout Jul 22 at 11:09
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I totally agree with @ArgentiApparatus that installing a suspension fork won't do anything to raise the handle bar in itself as installing a too long fork will mess up the behaviour of the bike.

  • Of course, a new fork (whether suspension or not) that has not yet been cut off will allow for more spacing rings below the stem.
  • If you are not only looking for the height but riding comfort is also part of the consideration behind the question about suspension fork, and you are currently riding a stiff aluminum fork, a steel fork may help (will also somewhat change riding behaviour because different offset/rake will change the trail).
  • You can also experiment with stem with shorter extension and/or longer + upward angle stem.
  • Last but not least, another handle bar may give you more comfortable riding position. A butterfly handle bar may be a good choice to find out what handle bar geometry you actually like.
  • You can also experiment with different bar ends, and also with the direction in which you put them (more or less straight up + turned around will give you a nice upright position).

  • Last but not least: a more upright position will take weight off your hands without the need to pedal hard. However, without pedaling hard, you'll also get more bumps along your spine with a more upward position: don't be surprised if the next thing you want is a suspension for the saddle.

  • +1 for bar ends. Having different hand placement areas should help with hand/wrist problems. – T_Bacon Jul 25 at 14:32

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