Author Topic: Mountain bike forks  (Read 6207 times)

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Offline BobOnABike

Mountain bike forks
« on: April 05, 2012, 05:55:52 pm »

I have a question about mountain bike forks.  Specifically, are suspension forks bad for touring?  I ask because I've searched and read what I could about touring on a mountain bike.  All of the articles that I've found on touring on a mountain bike have some form of the line, "on some suspension forks, it's easy to lock the suspension so that it doesn't move, or if you can't lock your suspension, it's easy to swap out your suspension fork with a rigid fork."  I'm paraphrasing, but that's the gist of it.  The thing is that none of the articles I've found explain WHY a suspension fork is bad.  It's just assumed that everybody knows that suspension forks are bad for touring and they're doing you the service of telling you how to correct the problem.

I have no idea WHY a suspension fork is bad.  I'm sure it's something simple.

FWIW, I'm planning a week or two loaded tour through Kansas this summer.  We'll be riding on roads, although it's likely that many of them will be gravel or dirt.  I like the mountain bike option because a) we have them, b) I like the low gears, and c) I like the wide tires for dirt and gravel roads. 

There are two of us going on the trip.  We have one MTB with a suspension fork, one without.

I'm not sure if we'll need front panniers or not.

Thanks In Advance,

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Mountain bike forks
« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2012, 09:20:03 pm »
Well, if you're going to use front panniers, your only rack choice is Old Man Mountain with suspension.  There's lots of other choices with a rigid fork.

The main reason to avoid suspension for road riding is pedaling efficiency.  I've never ridden a sus bike loaded, but a lot of pedaling energy with just me goes into making the bike go up and down, instead of forward.  At the end of a long day, you might wonder how much further you could have gone if you had been just rollin' instead of rockin' and rollin' all day.

BTW, some of the best roads I was on in Kansas were dirt roads (but carefully maintained for efficient wheat transport), and some of the worst were allegedly paved (going west from Hutcheson towards Larned, for example).  None were quite as bad as eastern Colorado's expansion joints, which were enough to make me wish for a fully suspended bike.

Offline patrickstoneking

Re: Mountain bike forks
« Reply #2 on: April 05, 2012, 11:32:20 pm »
I have no issue with using a hard tail mountain bike (with a front suspension) for touring.  I've done it several times on the White Rim Trail in Utah and it was fantastic for going off pavement.  My bike, a 15 year old Breezer Lightning with a Marzocchi fork, was the perfect tool for this 100 mile trip.  There are front racks that can be made to work with a front suspension fork.  However, I just used panniers on the back to hold my gear and left the front unracked.  I sensed no issue with peddling efficiency.  If fact, the comfort factor alone probably enabled me to pedal at a more constant cadence.

I have never tried my full suspension bikes and probably never will.  Not for any reason other than the fact that I have what I need in my hardtail.

Offline BobOnABike

Re: Mountain bike forks
« Reply #3 on: April 06, 2012, 01:03:18 am »
Thanks for the prompt replies.

pdlamb -  I assumed that it was something to do with efficiency.  Now I know.

Patrick - It's also good to know that you toured successfully with a front fork.


Offline JayH

Re: Mountain bike forks
« Reply #4 on: April 06, 2012, 06:45:49 pm »
I see no reason why one can't tour on pretty much any bike, if it fits and is comfy for you, why not. As mentioned, OMM makes racks for suspension forks. I did some tours on my old Marin team hardtail with a marzocchi Bomber Z2 fork, without even a lockout.   You do risk a greater chance of major failure with the complexity of a fork but for a week across Kansas, probably not to major a deal if you are aware of the risk and enjoy the adventure..