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I ride an eBike in New York City. About 80% of the roads I ride are relatively smooth and 20% pretty bumpy. On my non suspension bike the 80% is great but the 20% is a bit painful.

I understand the cons of suspension (expensive, brittle, slows you down, heavy) but having some way to smooth out those bumpy roads would be very nice (on a new bike).

Are there certain types of suspension options that would minimize the cons while allowing you a break on the bumpy surfaces?

The biggest con I would like to avoid is the slow down of speed on smooth surfaces!

  • 2
    The best solution for city use is probably a suspension front fork with lock-out and a suspension seat post. – Michael Aug 15 at 9:06
  • Not sure about an e-bike, but from my (little) experience with bikes I'd say that the slowing down from suspension may be important in a race but hardly noticeable for commuters. – Pere Aug 15 at 9:54
  • out of curiosity, what is brittle about front suspension? – maf748 Aug 15 at 16:32
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    Can't imagine a street-legal retail e-bike would really be slowed down much by a heavier fork or fatter tire? Every one I have ever used is quite easy to operate on the threshold of the speed limiter with knobby tires and quite a lot of extra weight on the rack. – Affe Aug 15 at 18:12
  • Is your motor powerful enough (depending on your route, hills, riding style, how hard you want to work, etc...) that "slows you down" and "heavy" aren't particularly relevant? – Zach Lipton Aug 15 at 21:35
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Apart from going the high-tech route of a front suspension with lock-out, you can also try to get wider tires. The slow-down of wide tires is not that big, but they naturally even out high-frequency bumps. The wider the tire, the smoother your ride gets on the rough roads. Maybe, that's all you need.

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    It's worth noting that if possible a change to higher quality tyres can also smooth the ride as the casing deforms around the imperfections more easily. – Andy P Aug 15 at 8:40
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    can confirm - I have a hardtail mountain bike with 3.0" tires, and the lack of rear suspension isn't an issue, even off road, until things get really rowdy – maf748 Aug 15 at 16:32
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    Also, don't overinflate your tyres - they don't need to be pumped up to the maximum pressure it says on the sidewall! As ever, Sheldon Brown's site has a page with a useful table. – nekomatic Aug 15 at 23:21
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Better suspension has a "lockout" which basically clamps them in one position, leaving you with a heavy rigid fork for the 80% of your ride.

Of those, some have a lever on top of the fork crown, and the fancier ones have a remote lockout as a lever on your bars (which means yet another cable going up).


Your second option is to change something else - either find better quality surfaces on other routes, or change the way you ride by going around the bumpy bits and not through/over.

You can also get off the saddle and use your legs as suspension for those short bumpy bits, which will also give you more control.

4

If you're looking to avoid replacing the front fork, it depends on where the discomfort is for you. Here's a few things to look into:

  • Discomfort at the seat: a seat with thicker / softer padding, or even a seat post with suspension.
  • Discomfort in hand and arm: a better grip often makes a huge difference. Also wider handlebars makes it easier to control, therefore less tiring on the arms.

If you're willing to spend the money to replace your front fork, some forks with suspension allow the spring to be locked, achieving pretty close feel to no suspension.

  • Unfortunately on ebikes changing the grips often isn't an option if one of them operates a throttle. Seat posts are also often custom-made to allow access to the battery. – Chris H Aug 15 at 8:35
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    In my jurisdiction an e-bike with a throttle is considered a motorcycle - must get license plates and are forbidden in the bicycle lanes. – Paulo Scardine Aug 16 at 2:18
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You might want to try a suspension seat post. It might take the edge off on rougher roads. If you only need a little bit of help, you might look a saddle with an elastomer insert. It won't do a lot, but it might help enough if the roads aren't too rough.

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