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I'm putting together a bike that will allow me to go to work. I work in a warehouse outside of the city I live in, and I want to avoid roads trucks take because I haven't ride a bike for about ten years. So my road will be bumpy, a bit off road.

I was planning to get a suspension fork with air shock absorber, one that can be locked from the handlebar. I'm on a budget and it was on ~30% sale, but the seller can't find it. Like, literally isn't sure if he has it in his warehouse. He has a similar one, slightly cheaper, but lock is on the fork itself.

I never had a fork that was anything more than stiff steel or aluminum, I'm ten years behind, or more, when it comes to riding technique and bicycle construction. You may well assume I know nothing. So, how much should I care about having suspension locking on my handlebar versus on the fork? Both in terms of money and time spent looking for something in my budget?

My usual route would be half by paved roads, and other half by unmaintained roads, dirt track, mud, stones and a shortcut thorough the woods. I could, in theory, ride asphalt, but I will not dare to use the same road big trucks are using. And I want to be able to take it sightseeing in Bieszczady, Polish low mountains with woodlands paths.

Please don't advise me a stiff fork here. That may be a sound advice but it would be outside of the scope under this question.


Thank you for your answers. I managed to get one with lockout on the handlebar for a price of the one with lockout on the fork - the piece seller couldn't find was put away due to imperfectly printed manufacturer name. Win-win, I got a "nice to have" feature for free, seller does not need to send it back for repainting.

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    Doesn’t it all boil down to how often your terrain changes? If you are going from smooth uphill to rough downhill every minute a remote lockout is much more important than on a constantly bumpy (or smooth) ride. – Michael Aug 5 at 11:30
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    @Michael perhaps? If that's the case, it would be a part of a good answer. – Mołot Aug 5 at 11:46
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My MTB has lockout on the fork, and recently I've been using it on a mixture of road and trail, unlocking/locking the fork several times.

On smooth surfaces without traffic, it's easy enough to operate the lockout without stopping (it's on the right fork leg for me, and I'm right handed; I'd rather do it with my left hand but that's a little far to reach). With a bit of forward planning that's fine on my regular route. If I forget and end up on a trail, even one that doesn't need suspension, unlocking going over bumps is more trouble than it's worth and I either stop or do without.

Having lockout on the bars seems nice to have, but not worth saving up for.

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Any fork lockout per-se is a sign of suspension design limitations, one would argue. An ideal suspension system would tune the closed/open states by its own, and there are attempts to achieve that (Specialized Brain, Magura Elect etc.).

Rider's mental energy spent on making lock/unlock decisions translates to lost joy of the ride. Unless every second counts, i.e. one is racing against the clock, and needs all the efficiency all the time.

An always open suspension fork will not turn a ride over a smooth surface into suffering. A little loss, not unlikely unmeasurable, of pedaling efficiency will happen, and that is it.

Similarly, a proper fork, even when locked, will have a blow out valve to open up by itself when a rider encounters a bumpy segment. However, this situation is more dangerous than leaving the fork open all the time. It is better to foresee the need to open the suspension than to rely it to happen on its own.

The difference between lockout control placements manifests itself in how much time the cyclist needs to spend to switch it. When commuting, touring or leisure riding, lost seconds to slow down, find a knob on the fork and turn it are really not that critical. When racing, slowness is of course unacceptable and a lockout placed on the handlebar is preferable. Not that it does not have its negatives: 1. One more knob on the handlebars to mess with; 2. One more cable and housing to periodically replace; 3. Additional weight of additional components.

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A good quality fork from the likes of RockShox or Fox will have the lockout (which is always on the right, damper side of the fork) designed to be upgradeable to remote. The lockout switch on the fork is on top of the right fork leg--very easy to reach. It takes minimal pressure to turn the lever about 180° right to lock out or back left to open. It's fairly unnecessary for the casual rider to 1)require the lockout feature at all and certainly not often or urgently enough that a remote would be beneficial 2)benefit from the energy savings derived from locking out the suspension. Especially one well tuned to the rider style and environment being riden in.

Skip the remote for now. Invest the money saved into getting a higher quality of fork, and, if you must, take 2 seconds to reach down with your right hand and flip the suspension on or off.

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My personal perspective on this is as follows. I have two bikes, (n+1 rule I guess) one with a remote lock out and one on the fork. I do very little riding on paved roads. Originally I used the non remote lockout option only on the steepest climbs. While first riding the bike with the remote lock out I found myself using it much more often, long smooth straight sections locked it out, moderate climbs,locked it out,etc. As I got more miles on the bike I found myself using it less and less. Now I am back to using it only on the steepest climbs. If all things were identical, same quality of components but 20% more for just the lockout I would pass on the remote. Things however aren't always that simple. The bike with the remote lockout likely has better quality components. In theory the better components should last longer and perform better. So the real issue is are you willing to pay more for better components.

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    It's only about fork, and it's the same manufacturer, the same "level", only different position of lockout. – Mołot Aug 5 at 21:49

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