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.
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 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.