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I live in an area with brick roads. This means it's really bumpy and sometimes with small potholes that hurt when I dip into them. I'm looking to buy a new ebike but I can't afford anything expensive. Should I look for a front Fork suspension, or one with a seat post suspension? I don't know much about bikes. Is front Fork mostly for off road or does it absorb vibrations to my arms? It seems like a seat suspension would be ideal for me since it hurts my bum the most. Thanks for any help!

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    Do try to go round the potholes as well - but that's hard with many small ones and traffic can make dodging them almost impossible. If you can't dodge holes, go over them with your weight on your feet. It's more secure than with the weight on your bum, and your legs make good suspension.
    – Chris H
    Nov 18, 2023 at 9:25
  • There's so my dips and holes it's hard to avoid. The side walks unfortunately don't continue all the time so the road is usually the only option. Weight on my feet is hard cause I have a bad left ankle that makes me have to peddle with my left heel.
    – Marls
    Nov 18, 2023 at 22:32
  • Round here, riding on the sidewalk is illegal unless it's been designated for shared use, so I didn't even consider that (and shared paths are often in a worse condition than the roads anyway). Hard-edged potholes are harder on you and the bike than deeper but less vicious ones, if it's a matter of choosing. And for dodging them on roads with traffic, a handlebar-mounted mirror is helpful as it allows you to keep an eye on what's coming up behind without turning away from the road ahead. Some mirrors don't stay in position over rough roads, Zefal and Busch und Müller have been good for me.
    – Chris H
    Nov 19, 2023 at 8:47

4 Answers 4

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Probably neither.

Instead learn to stand up when expecting bumps. Your legs will comfortably take the force of the impact, and it makes you more stable on the bike as you can adjust your position to balance.

A good seat suspension will help, especially if you have long periods of riding over rough stuff and you don't want to stand for that long. But the simplest and cheapest solution is just to use your legs.

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    thank you for the reply! This may sound kinda silly, but I have a bad left ankle that makes it hard for me to stand on my bike. I have to peddle my left side with my heel so I don't move my ankle too much. I think I will go for the seat suspension. Thank you again!
    – Marls
    Nov 18, 2023 at 22:20
  • @Maris, ah that would change things! Nov 19, 2023 at 7:39
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    @Marls IMO you should update your question to include this physiological detail since it precludes some of the obvious easy fixes like just standing up on the pedals.
    – SSilk
    Nov 19, 2023 at 20:06
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    I beg to disagree. On uneven ground, even just badly maintained tarmac, a combination of a seat post suspension and gel saddle with springs worked very well for me. The three different cushioning effects probably absorb different parts of the frequency spectrum; either one alone is not sufficient. Nov 20, 2023 at 16:40
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Maybe both.

If you're worried about rough roads causing numb hands or sore wrists, front suspension is what will give the greatest benefit. For smaller, higher frequency, vibrations, the biggest tyres that will fit, run quite soft, will be more effective. Cobblestones could need both, though the brick paving in my street is fine with neither. I don't much like the short travel front suspension used on a lot of e-bikes and some hybrids, but this is where it's useful. With a motor you won't really notice the extra effort it demands compared to a rigid fork.

A suspension seat post doesn't help your arms, but it helps your backside, and back. These are easy to retrofit on most bikes - just match the seatpost diameter (perfectly) and length (roughly). I've fitted one to the back of my tandem, as the stoker can't see to anticipate small bumps or time them right if warned by the captain. Note that they're generally, even the simpler sort with a spring in a tube, adjustable for rider weight. Only the most basic have no adjustment at all - avoid those.

You note that your bum is uncomfortable. Skin discomfort (chafing) is often caused by a saddle that's too wide and soft, so it presses against you and moves. A bruise-like feeling can be caused by a saddle that's too hard, but also by one that's too soft - you sink into it and pressure builds up on tender parts rather than the sit bones. Saddle shape plays a part too. A (deeper) recess or a slot in the middle can be a big help, and some people get on better with a flatter saddle while others prefer a more curved top.

To make your neck and shoulders more comfortable on rough roads, both sorts of suspension, soft tyres (Silca's calculator is designed for efficiency but is good for comfort - but watch your minimum tyre pressure), and a fairly upright riding position all help.

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  • Wow this website is fantastic! Thank you all so much for the replies!! The detailed information from everyone is Very helpful to me!!
    – Marls
    Nov 18, 2023 at 22:27
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    Here's the tyre pressure calculator I mentioned: silca.cc/pages/sppc-form - note the warning at the bottom about the manufacturer's limits. It sounds, with the extra details, like you do need both, and big soft tyres
    – Chris H
    Nov 19, 2023 at 8:52
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Before answering strictly the question, two very important criteria:

  • tires: large supple tires require less pressure at equal rolling resistance than narrow and rigid ones, and that can make a huge difference in comfort. Entry-level bikes often have rigid tires (only notable exception are Schwalbe Big Apple/Big Ben ranges). If you puncture protection is not a priority in your area, you can also compromise on that.
  • saddle: saddles are highly personal, so if you plan to use the bike on shortish rides/utility cycling, a saddle on the plush side can also make a big difference.

But that would deserve separate questions.

To answer the question now: seat post without hesitation, but not all of them. There's a common understanding that suspension needs to damp a vertical motion, but the shock that are coming from the saddle is actually a rotation around the front wheel axle: there's a vertical and an horizontal component. A good suspension seat post needs to damp an oblique motion, not a vertical one. It's then better to have a "parallelogram" design, such as the CaneCreek Thudbuster (given for reference, there are other brands that do that as well - Redshift, Suntour, XCM). Their price may seem high, but if you value comfort, it's a good investment. Very compliant carbon seat posts work also surprising well. I also noticed that such suspension also lower wrist pain, what would be logical if shocks are transmitted from the saddle through the back and arms. I recommend this article if you want to learn more about seat posts.

As you mention, front suspension are mostly useful offroad, and are not good at damping small and fast vibrations - especially the entry level ones. Also another point: good suspension need regular maintenance to keep their efficiency.

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    "front suspension are mostly useful offroad" - I've ridden rental hybrid bikes with front suspension that worked very respectable specifically for small vibrations. Pretty sure those were not expensive forks - coil forks with short travel and low rate, meaning they'd bottom out at any larger impact, and completely undampened or so it appeared. They would be quite useless for off-road but perfectly appropriate and useful specifically for cobbles etc.. -- What you're saying about shocks being "rotation around the front wheel axle" is confusing and seems dubious to me. Nov 18, 2023 at 17:11
  • @leftaroundabout I added a link in the article that will clarify what I mean. I won't deny that with a rigid seat post, a front suspension is better than none, but my experience is that unless you are off-roading on technical stuff, I would choose the seat post over the suspension for comfort, all other things being equal. Also, the best suspended seatpost will still cost a fraction of a mid-range suspension, and requires less maintenance.
    – Rеnаud
    Nov 18, 2023 at 18:24
  • Wow this website is fantastic! Thank you all so much for the replies!! The detailed information from everyone is Very helpful to me!! I'll start with a basic ebike, upgrade the seat post, then slowly when I get enough money, the others! Thank you again!!
    – Marls
    Nov 18, 2023 at 22:29
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A suspension fork is likely not what you want here. They tend to be very well designed to deal with hard impacts of the front wheel (such as going off of a sudden drop or landing from a jump), but are poorly designed to deal with vibrations. They also tend to eat some of the power you would put into pedaling (the physics behind this are a bit complicated to explain, but the short version is that part of the energy goes into compressing the suspension a tiny bit), and require a nontrivial amount of routine maintenance.

A good suspension seat post is probably a worthwhile investment for you though, but the good ones are not cheap. ‘Good’ in this case generally means a parallelogram design (Redshift’s Shockstop suspension seat-post is a good example of a very good design, I’ve ridden them before and can attest that they work excellently). Other designs generally only move parallel to the seatpost, which is decent for dealing with hard landings, but almost worthless for dealing with the type of things you’re having issues with.

Aside from that, you may also want to consider:

  • A proper bike fit. If you’re already looking at getting a new bike, spend a bit of extra money to go through a proper bike fitting. This sounds kind of stupid, but it actually can provide a huge improvement to comfort. Even just getting the saddle and handlebars in the right place for your body size and shape has a huge impact on how it feels to ride a bike.
  • A good saddle. Just like a proper fit, the saddle has a huge impact on how the bike rides. A lot of bikes come with either generic saddles that don’t really fit anyone very well, or with oversized ones with excessive cushioning that are absolute crap for any kind of serious riding. Good saddles are not cheap, but if you can find one that works for you, it will be zero maintenance long-term and will likely significantly improve how you feel after a ride.
  • Better tires. Larger volume with lower pressure is generally preferable here, as well as less rigid tires when possible. Wider tires (which is how you get higher volume) also have a secondary benefit of handling better in poor (wet, muddy, icy, etc) conditions, so they may be worth investing in for other reasons as well. Better tires will almost always be less expensive than most of the other options here, though may not be as effective. Ask at your LBS and they can probably point you at some good tires to help here.
  • In addition to suspension seat posts, you can get suspension stems. These let the handlebars flex up and down enough to dampen vibrations, but unlike a suspension fork they don’t generally require lots of maintenance and they also don’t really eat too much out of your power output. Just like good suspension seat posts, these are generally not cheap though, and it may also be challenging to find one that isn’t designed for a very hunched-over riding position.
  • A carbon-fiber seat-post and/or carbon-fiber handle bars may help significantly. Carbon-fiber parts flex and deform a more than aluminum or steel, so they actually can absorb a surprising amount of vibration before it gets to you. They’re not cheap though.
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    It's not true at all that suspension forks are mainly for absorbing landings. (In fact, trials bikes do not have suspension despite the prevalence of massive drops >2m.) Nor do they seep much power, except when pedalling hard out of the saddle. What is true is that particularly strong air forks are maintenance-heavy (and have quite some stiction particularly when not serviced for a while), but for a budget coil fork that's not such an issue either. Nov 18, 2023 at 20:15
  • Wow this website is fantastic! Thank you all so much for the replies!! The detailed information from everyone is Very helpful to me!! I'll look for an inexpensive bike without either and just upgrade the seatpost and then eventually the saddle from what I've read. Again thank you everyone!!
    – Marls
    Nov 18, 2023 at 22:26
  • I support suspension stems, I added one to my bike which already had a reasonably expensive suspension fork, and it made a difference over the small rough stuff, like cobblestone (not sure if that is the right term, small stone combined for a pavement for example).
    – Arsenal
    Nov 20, 2023 at 16:20

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