More people have started to discover the joys of off-road riding and, in the process, garnered great appreciation for cyclocross bikes that are safe, comfortable, and great for commuting. New riders are often seen asking, do cyclocross bikes have suspension?
Cyclocross or cross bikes are designed for slight off-roading. They are suited for short, fast races and often require riders to jump over obstacles. A suspension decreases acceleration. It also requires more maintenance and adds weight, which hurts the on-road performance in a race. Therefore, suspension isn’t popular in cyclocross bikes.
Pros of Cyclocross Suspension
There are a few benefits of having suspension forks on cyclocross or cross bikes. Let’s take a look at them:
Suspension Forks Reduce Body Fatigue
Riding your bike on uneven terrains results in its bobbing motion that significantly impacts its speed, causing body fatigue. Suspension forks remove the bobbing motion, which lessens the body fatigue caused by the damping vibrations.
Comfort with Suspension in Long Distances
The tires don’t sufficiently absorb the shock and impact of the terrain on the bike at high speeds or while off-roading. It results in discomfort, especially if you’re riding long distances. The disproportionate impact may even cause the rider to lose traction or control. Suspension helps by absorbing the shocks and dampening the irregularities of the ride.
Cons of Cyclocross Suspension
There’s a price to everything, and a smooth bike ride is no exception to this rule. Cyclocross suspension has been abundantly critiqued as it does lack in some aspects. Let’s take a look at some of its disadvantages:
Suspension Makes the Bike Slower
The suspensions’ added weight tends to lower the speed of your bike. It affects riders on a long route with a few climbs, as they must expend a considerable amount of effort. The suspension also reduces your acceleration. Plus, as you’re stepping out of the saddle, the suspension forks tend to absorb energy, resulting in a significant amount of energy loss.
Suspension Adds Weight to the Bike
Suspension adds weight to your bike, which may not be very noticeable when riding a smooth, flat terrain. However, it makes a huge difference when you’re riding the bike across obstacles or on an inclined plane. Complete suspension can add up to 5 pounds of weight to the bike, which is pretty significant. The rider will notice how getting to a particular speed takes more effort than before without the additional weight of the suspension.
Suspension Requires Additional Maintenance
The suspension is cheaply constructed and isn’t reliable at all. It tends to block and often stops working altogether. In such scenarios, you’ll have to carry the weight of a suspension without utilizing any of its advantages. On the other hand, a well-made suspension requires maintenance at regular intervals to function correctly. You can think of it as a price to pay for a smoother and more comfortable ride, but generally, it results in more work and hassle for people.
Alternatives to Suspension
A couple of adjustments can serve as a great alternative to suspension and save you from dealing with its disadvantages on a cyclocross bike. These include:
Having wide tires on your bike can provide quite a few advantages. The extra air volume in wider tires can significantly absorb shocks, bumps, and impact of rough or uneven terrain. Wider tire rims tend to provide better traction and improve climbing and cornering. Consequently, you can have a smoother ride.
The wheelbase is the distance from the rear axles to the center of the front axle, and it has a direct impact on the bike’s responsiveness, steering speed, and stability. A longer wheelbase can provide a natural flex and compliance, making the bike’s frame more comfortable and stable. Even though it increases the stability of your ride, it also results in slower turns.
Relaxed Riding Position
A relaxed riding position makes the ride more comfortable and reduces body fatigue. It requires the bike to have a handlebar higher than its saddle. Physical therapists have also found that sitting in an upright, relaxed riding position reduces strain on hands, shoulders, and wrists.
Suspension Forks for Cyclocross Bikes
Let’s take an in-depth look at some suspension forks designed for cyclocross or gravel bikes:
FOX AX Fork
The Fox AX gravel suspension fork has 40mm of travel and has three damper settings; open, medium, and firm. It is equipped with a lightweight, 32 Step-Cast chassis with lockout, which means you get a better power transfer on long pavement stretches or fire roads. The 40 mm travel provides better and more predictable cornering and descending on rough routes and terrains. It weighs around 3 lbs or 1.36 kg. This unit extends the existing capabilities of your cyclocross or gravel bike by giving you the confidence to try newer and more challenging terrains and roads.
Lauf Grit SL
The Lauf Grit has a subassembly of four legs made of glass fiber leaf springs. These attach to the front wheel mount. It has an S-2 glass fiber construction that is more durable and stiffer than other glass fibers available. Hence, it doesn’t lose its strength even after repeated flexing. These leaf springs are maintenance-free as they don’t have any parts that may wear out over time or require greasing, and they tend to absorb shock and impact well. Plus, it has a low unsprung weight of 250g, enhancing traction and isolating the rider from any vibrations that may result in loss of control or fatigue.
Suspension in cyclocross bikes have their benefits and drawbacks, and it comes down to your personal preference. Before adding suspension to your bike, you should consider the trail and route of your journey, the type of riding you plan on, and whether you can offer the frequent maintenance suspension requirements. If responsiveness, maneuverability, and having a lightweight bike are priorities for your terrain of choice, then getting suspension may not be the best idea.