Do you need suspensions on a hybrid bike?


Hybrid bikes are quite versatile since they can be used both off-road and on the road. They are a good choice for commuting, wandering around, and even touring. But there are two types of hybrid bikes: with or without suspension on the fork. But do you really need suspensions on a hybrid bike?

It is best to have suspensions on a hybrid bike when used to go off-road, but for day-to-day commutes on paved roads, it is not needed. Suspensions will make your ride more comfortable but add weight to the bike and dampen some of the energy you use to power the bike forward.

Let’s see below all you need to know about hybrid bikes and front suspensions: do you need them? can you add them later on? can you find hybrid bikes with them?

Do hybrid bikes have suspensions?

Nowadays most hybrid bikes do not come with suspensions but some models do. Having front suspensions is not necessary to everyone. A hybrid with suspensions weighs around 31lbs (14kg) while one without suspensions weighs around 26.5lbs (12kg).

To differentiate a bike with front suspensions, you need to look at the fork of the bike and look for a shock absorber (like in the picture below):

  • Bike with front suspensions: presence of a shock absorber on the fork – looks like a piece of metal that can slide into a tube
  • Bike without front suspensions: the fork is just a piece of metal or carbon – quite thin.
Despite having suspensions, the bike on the right is not a mountain bike but an hybrid.

To differentiate an hybrid bike with suspensions to a mountain bike, you need to look at its wheels. An hybrid bike have generally slicker and smaller wheels than mountain bikes do.

Why do hybrid bikes not always have suspensions?

Hybrid bikes do not always have suspensions because it is heavier (about 4.5lbs – 2kg) and make pedaling less efficient. Some of your energy is dampened via the shock absorber. Front suspensions are not necessary for all riders: depends on terrain, type of riding, profile of the cyclist.

Do you need suspensions on a hybrid bike?

Most people don’t need front suspensions on a hybrid bike. Riding on paved paths and smooth roads will be more efficient and comfortable without them. On the contrary if you prefer to ride on trails and rough terrains, you will appreciate suspensions that absorbs the impacts.

It’s clearly a choice to make depending on your type of cycling.

For instance:

  • If you use your bike 1h a week to follow cycle path: no need for a front suspension fork.
  • If you use your bike to commute to work on the road: no need for suspensions – your bike will be lighter and more responsive – opportunity for a faster commute by requiring less energy.
  • If you use your bike to wander around on light trails occasionally: you probably don’t really need suspensions. It will be more comfortable with it but you will struggle more as the bike is much heavier. It depends on your fitness level and on the terrain: light trails made of smooth gravels, or dirt are definitely good without suspensions.
  • If you use your bike to ride in the forest regularly: you need a front suspension fork. It will make your ride much more comfortable and reduce pains from the rougher terrains. The need for speed is less important so in this case it is best to have suspensions. But remember your bike is not a mountain bike: the tires are less grippy, less wide and the quality of the suspension fork is not good for rough trails and steep descents.

Also, having a suspension fork requires more maintenance than a bike without suspensions. Let’s see it in more detail in the paragraph below “understand suspensions on hybrid bikes”.

Understanding suspensions on hybrid bikes

Suspensions on hybrid bikes are quite basic with minimal or no adjustment in comparison with suspensions on mountain bikes. This is why their intent is to make your ride more comfortable on light travels and gravel paths, and not replace mountain bikes.

A few points about suspension forks:

Travel

This is the total distance the suspension can move inside the slider.

Type of bikeType of ridingFork travel
Hybrid bikeSmooth trails 2″ to 3″
(60mm to 80mm)
Cross-Country & Trail mountain bikesSmooth trails & up-hill4″ to 5″
(100mm to 120mm)
All-mountain, free-ride and downhill mountain bikesRough terrains,
downhills at high speeds
5″ to 8″
(120mm to 200mm)
Comparison of suspension fork travel per type of bike

Fork tube diameter (also called ‘stanchion’)

The stanchion consists in the two parallel vertical tubes going down the slider of the suspension fork system.

Example of a common suspension fork on hybrid bikes

The stanchion diameter is quite important as it provides lateral stiffness to the fork. To make it simple: the smaller the diameter the more flexible is the tube. To prevent the fork from collapsing on rough terrains with lots of impacts on the fork, it is best to have a stiff stanchion, meaning a large stanchion diameter.

Hybrid bikes generally have a stanchion diameter of 30mm, while mountain bikes start with a stanchion diameter of 32mm and can be as large as 40mm for downhill mountain bikes.

Spring system

A suspension fork acts as a shock absorber to absorb and dampen the impacts from the terrain. The way it works is via a coil spring which provides a linear compression rate along the travel to absorb the roughness of the terrain.

Fork Adjustment

Hybrid bikes with suspensions do not generally have fork adjustment. To check if your bike has any adjustment, you can check if there is a knob or a dial on top of one of the stanchions. Adjustment can allow to lockout the suspension system, you can do that for riding on paved roads not to waste energy to absorb impacts. This converts your suspension fork into a standard fork.

Adjustment on a fork can also be to adjust the preload of the coil spring and adapt the rebound to reduce or increase how the fork reacts and bounces.

Adjustment is not really needed on smooth trails, this is why hybrid bikes generally do not have it on-board.

Maintenance

We have seen that a suspension fork is a bit more complex than a normal fork. It has more parts but especially it includes moving parts with a shock absorption system, including lubricated parts.

See an example of a suspension fork broken down with the list of parts to give you a bit more detail.

It is not the purpose of the article to explain how to perform the maintenance on your suspension fork. You need to understand that periodic servicing is required for this part:

  • After every ride: clean the suspensions correctly and check if the seals need a bit of lubrication
  • Every 50h of riding: oil replacement (can be done by yourself if you’re a practical person)
  • Every 100h of riding: a full servicing is required (full strip down, seal replacement and full oil change) – this is best done in a shop

Suspensions are a serious time investment in terms of maintenance. Investing in a hybrid bike with front suspensions is therefore not to take slightly.

Can you add suspensions to a hybrid bike?

It’s possible to add suspensions to a hybrid bike but it’s not a good idea as the bike was designed for a rigid fork. In terms of compatibility, you will need to check the head tube area, the brake fitting, the fork length, and the rake angle. It’s definitely not straightforward.

In my opinion, it’s not worth the time and investment. If you really need a suspension fork, you are probably better off selling your bike and buying a new one with suspensions.

Things you need with your smart tra...
Things you need with your smart trainer

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