Tuesday, November 15, 2022

What Is E-Bike Suspension and Do I Need It? (Front vs. Full Suspension)

Road and track roughness is the main factor that affects an e-bike’s comfort. You know what happens when you ride on rougher terrains; your wrists and arms start aching due to the bumpier ride. This is where e-bike suspension comes in to enhance your riding comfort. 

Electric bike suspension is the bike’s shock absorber. The suspension suspends you and the bike while riding, providing insulation against the impact of bumps and rough terrain. Consequently, you get a smooth ride without body stiffness and damage to your electric bike.

In the rest of this article, I’ll talk about e-bike suspension and its different types. I’ll also discuss why you need an electric bike suspension (or why you don’t). Keep reading!

What Is E-Bike Suspension?

Besides being a leisure activity, cycling serves health purposes like protecting against obesity, arthritis, and stroke. The opposite is also true. Cycling can expose you to injury and discomfort if not done correctly, for instance, by riding faster on rougher terrains. Electric bicycles make this easy to do.

An e-bike suspension is a system that keeps you comfortable, safe, and secure throughout the ride. The system is meant to withstand the impact of bumpy roads and rough terrain.

E-bike suspension also facilitates traction by keeping the tires on the ground. This means better stability and control while riding, which leads to a safer ride overall. 

Types of E-Bike Suspension

There are two types of e-bike suspension:

  • Front suspension
  • Full suspension

Front Suspension

Blue E-Bike with Suspension fork sitting on street
This e-bike has a front suspension fork with 100mm of travel. See more about it below!

Front suspension e-bikes, also known as hardtail bikes, have a shock absorber in the front fork. It’s an inexpensive option suitable for casual trails and less rocky terrains.

Due to the presence of shock absorbers only on the front fork, the rear wheel remains rigid and is affected more by the impacts.

Front suspensions are classified as long or short-travel suspensions.

When it comes to an electric bike’s suspension, travel refers to the maximum distance the suspension can move before hitting a limit. Long-travel suspensions have greater shock absorption, making them suitable for rough terrains.

Here is a general overview of the long and short travel suspensions:

  • Long-travel suspension: These suspensions have a travel distance that exceeds 120mm (4.72 inches). They are suitable for descending rougher terrains at higher speeds. The longer the front travel, the more impact it can absorb.
  • Short-travel suspension: These suspensions have a travel distance of less than 120mm (4.72 inches). They are suitable for casual trails, flat terrains, and cross-country riding.

Full Suspension

Man riding mountain bike on a hill
A high-quality electric mountain bike should have a full suspension

A full suspension, also known as a dual suspension or a full squish, has shock absorbers on both the front fork and rear triangle.

This type of suspension is more expensive and suitable for rough terrains. It offers better shock absorption as it has two shock absorbers.

Pivots connect the front and rear shock absorbers in e-bikes along the bike’s frame.

A point to note is that full-suspension e-bikes are heavier than their hardtail counterparts. This is because they have more components and a heavier frame.

Since they are heavier, manufacturers tend to counter their weights through improved riding efficiency. For instance, full-suspension e-bikes have aluminum alloy front suspension forks that enhance the damping effect. With this enhancement, you won’t feel a greater impact from bumps when riding on rough terrains.

Other features that make full-suspension e-bikes more comfortable are:

  • Stable frames: These frames improve riding stability and control, allowing the suspension to work effectively.
  • Advanced damping systems: These systems allow for greater flexibility in adjusting the shocks’ stiffness or “softness” while riding.
  • Grippy tires: These tires increase traction on any terrain. High traction means better control and stability.

You can adjust full suspensions on your e-bike to suit your riding style, body weight, and terrain. Many mountain bike riders prefer to have this type of suspension.

The Working of E-Bike Suspensions

E-bike suspensions are meant to absorb shocks for a smooth ride. However, how do these suspensions achieve that?

E-bike suspensions work based on the following systems:

  • Spring system
  • Resistance rubber system
  • Pneumatic system
  • Hydraulic system

Spring System

The spring system shock absorption suspension is the most common among electric bikes. It’s the cheapest option and works in the following ways:

  • A coil spring: It creates linear compression for smooth and consistent impact absorption. Since these coils have different resistance rates, they are fitted on the bike depending on its frame size.
  • An air spring: It uses pressurized air in a chamber for progressive compression. This means that the air spring can absorb impact with greater force.

Resistance Rubber System

This system uses rubber to absorb shocks through compression and rebound. Resistance rubber systems are often found in entry-level electric bikes.

The downside of resistance rubber is that it deteriorates with time. Therefore, it gets to the point where the rubber remains solid, reducing the shock absorption capacity. In this case, you’ll need to replace it.

Pneumatic Suspension System

This system compresses the sealing gas to generate pressure that absorbs the shock. It’s more advanced and expensive compared to the spring system.

Pneumatic suspensions are often found in high-end electric bikes as they have better shock absorption capabilities. They are also super light.

Hydraulic Suspension System

This system is similar to pneumatic suspension, only that it uses hydraulic fluid to absorb shocks. It offers the best shock absorption abilities, making it suitable for heavy e-bikes and rough terrains.

Most cyclists prefer the hydraulic suspension system since it’s lightweight, requires less maintenance, and has a low failure rate with efficient shock-absorption capacity. However, once it breaks down, the repair costs can be high.

Suspension fork held by hand
Suspension forks like this one make your ride more comfortable.

Electric Bikes Without Suspension

Electric bikes with no suspensions (rigid e-bikes) are cheaper than those with suspensions. However, you may want to know how beneficial such bikes are.

Economically, it doesn’t make sense to buy an expensive e-bike with suspension for use mainly in a bustling city. Riding in such cities will likely never exceed 20 mph (32.19 kph). Moreover, the tracks in cities are smooth with fewer bumps. Therefore, a rigid bike can serve you well here.

Saving money is helpful if you’re on a tight budget. However, if your financial means allow, it’s still worth considering an e-bike with suspension for recreational use.

Do You Need E-Bike Suspension?

Now that you understand the different types and workings of e-bike suspensions, do you need one for your rides?

It depends on the terrain you usually ride on and how much impact absorption is necessary for a comfortable ride. For example, if you mainly ride on flat surfaces, a rigid e-bike could suffice. On the other hand, a full-suspension e-bike is the best option if you often ride on rough terrains or mountain bike trails.

It’s also crucial to consider the type of riding. If you want to go for off-road adventures, a full-suspension e-bike would be ideal. You’re most likely to encounter different terrains, both smooth and rough, when you go for off-road adventures.

However, if your primary purpose is commuting or leisurely rides, a front-suspension e-bike may be enough to increase your ride comfort.

Ultimately, I advise having at least a front suspension, regardless of your riding terrain. Remember, you need to enjoy every moment of your riding.

How to Find E-Bikes with Front Suspension

Many mid-range electric bikes come with a front suspension fork while low-end ones do not. Generally, speaking, you’ll find plenty of options in the $1000-$3000 price range.

You can find out whether an e-bike model you’re considering has a front suspension by looking at a model’s “specifications” or “components” on the brand’s website. If you don’t see information about the “front fork” in the e-bike’s description, you can bet that it doesn’t have any suspension.

To help you get started looking for an affordable electric bike with front suspension, here are a few high-quality e-bikes that I’ve tested and have enjoyed riding:

Ride1Up 700 Series

Woman riding away on Ride1Up 700 Step-Through Electric Bike
Riding my own Ride1Up 700 Series

I’ve tested and completed a full review of the Ride1Up700 series. And I’m still riding it! It’s a great electric bike for commuting or recreation, and not disappointing when it comes to a comfortable front suspension. With its hydraulic lockout suspension fork and 100mm of Travel, it’s a smooth ride.

Check out the 700 Series on the Ride1Up website!

Lectric XP 3.0

Woman riding white electric bike
Riding My Lectric XP 3.0

I was incredibly surprised to discover an e-bike priced around $1000 that has a great front suspension. The Lectric XP 3.0, upgraded from an XP 2.0, has a front fork with 50mm of travel.

Although it has only half of the travel as the 700 Series above, it’s enough to reduce bumps and discomfort. Additionally, Lectric offers a suspension seat post and wide, comfy, suspension saddle (may be an added charge) to make the ride ridiculously comfortable for such an inexpensive e-bike.

I got a great bundle offer that included the seat and seat post for free but that offer may change.

Take a look at the Lectric website to see the XP 3.0 and their latest offer!

Conclusion

An e-bike suspension maximizes your riding comfort and absorbs shocks from bumps on the terrain. The type of suspension you choose will depend on your budget, preferred riding style, and terrain. Ultimately, it’s worth investing in a suspension bike to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable ride every time.

Moreover, good suspension electric bikes come in handy for your health. You don’t want to suffer back pains or aches on your rides. Therefore, choose wisely and enjoy every moment of your e-bike journey.

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