Why Do New Riders Focus on Full Suspension Bikes?

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Why Do New Riders Focus on Full Suspension Bikes?

Postby wa_desert_rat » Fri Sep 20, 2013 12:19 pm

Maybe it's the bling factor... all that stuff... I don't know. All I know is that if you are a new rider or just coming back to bicycling after a few (or more than a few) years away, buying a full suspension (shocks in the fork and shocks at the back) bike is almost always a mistake. And if you're buying for any kid under the age of about 16, just don't.

And, really, it doesn't matter much if it's an LBS bike that costs $3,000 or a Big Box Bike that costs $99. A full-suspension bike is not just a smoother version of that old Schwinn you rode as a kid. A full suspension bicycle is, first of all, a complicated piece of machinery with a lot of moving parts that rub against each other that need - REQUIRE - lubrication and maintenance. Even proper setup is complicated; requiring adjustment for sag, rebound, travel, etc. The last thing a new rider needs is to have his/her life over-complexified by all those details in addition to learning how to ride the bike.

Yes, I know they look cool. And a good FS bike on a rough trail is just an amazing ride. But a FS bike for around the campus - or even around town - is over-kill. Because the other thing a full suspension bicycle is.... is that it's HEAVY. Well, duh. Look at it. Extra bits, Each of those bits weighs something. It is not unusual for even an expensive FS bike from your LBS to weigh 30 pounds while the same type of bike in hardtail (no rear suspension) configuration would only weigh 25 lbs. And an equivalent road bike (with no suspension) would weigh 20 pounds.

FS bikes from your Big Box Store are even heavier. Plus the components are not as good. The rear "shock" on most BBB FS bikes is really just a spring which actually absorbs pedaling effort and translates it into pushing your body UP instead of pushing the bicycle forward. This is known, far and wide, as "BOB". Your head bobs up and down as you pedal. This is even worse when you try to move the FS bicycle uphill because you put more effort into pedaling and this causes your head to bob up and down even MORE.

And if you are planning to use that FS bike for shopping trips you are in for a serious disappointment. Because the rear triangle (the bits that hold the wheel on) moves up and down (because there is a spring in there now) you can't install a sturdy rack. The best you can do is a seat-post-mount rack. Which won't hold as much. So you'll have to carry the groceries home in a back pack and that will make the BOB even worse. Plan to spend a lot of time pushing up hills.

So, unless you know what you're doing, avoid full suspension bicycles no matter where you buy them.

Look, instead, at what you plan to do with that bike and where you'll be riding it. If it's flat where you live you may not need gears at all. Unlike a car, gears on a bike are not necessarily there to make you go faster. Gears on a bicycle are to allow your legs to keep pedaling faster even though the terrain changes. In general, the faster your legs move up and down (and the pedals go around) the more efficient the transfer of energy from your body to the bicycle is. But when you go uphill the bike slows down and unless you have extra gears a lot of your pedaling effort is wasted. So you change gears to let your legs move back up to that fast pedaling action. When you go down a hill you can change gears again to keep your legs moving fast. But really, as a beginner, you'll be coasting down that hill while you try to recover from going up. :)

So if you don't have hills, you don't need gears and all that complexity that goes along with them (derailleurs, shifters, etc.). You can just get a single speed bike. You save weight, too.

And there is really no need at all to have a mountain bike if all you're going to do is ride on the pavement. Get a road bike instead. It's lighter, stiffer, and - most importantly - the wheels and tires are lighter which means that, due to centripetal force, you will put less effort into making them go around (swing a bucket on a rope around to get an idea of how much effort it takes; then put 5 lbs of rocks in the bucket and see how much harder it is to just get it started).

Well that's pretty much all I have on this. Try to read this before you post something about how you want to get a full suspension bike to get back into cycling.


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Re: Why Do New Riders Focus on Full Suspension Bikes?

Postby Renaldow » Fri Sep 20, 2013 12:31 pm

Good post Craig! I see these bikes a lot where I live, and none of them go offroad as far as I can tell. I think it's a blingy high tech thing. They look so different than a regular bike, it appeals to people who go for gimmicks. Personally, I don't like suspension anything on any bike I ride, but am stuck with suspension forks on my hybrid.

When I was young I loved mtb's and thought that's where it's at. Now I've got a hybrid because I like wider tires, and the walmart fixie for when I feel like something a bit more stripped feeling. I don't think I'll ever have a FS bike.
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Re: Why Do New Riders Focus on Full Suspension Bikes?

Postby desertguns » Fri Sep 20, 2013 1:28 pm

Great writeup, Craig. Maybe consider making it a sticky post in General Discussion.

I think some of it has to do with marketing by Kent & Pacific in big box stores. And there is a first-glance logic in - if one shock is good, two must be better - without consideration for actual riding conditions or the mechanical & maintenance aspects of different bikes. As renaldow said, I think the majority of people that buy MTB style bikes, hardtail or FS, are buying the wrong type of bike for their actual needs. Most of these bikes rarely ever leave the pavement.

But, yeah, to some they are just cooler 8-)
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Re: Why Do New Riders Focus on Full Suspension Bikes?

Postby Nagant » Fri Sep 20, 2013 4:09 pm

I wish the full suspension fad would go away. Sadly I bought one of them back in 2010 and it's considered one of the worst of the worst, a Mongoose XR-75 :lol: Like many that buy those type of bikes I just wanted a bike to ride in order to get some exercise, didn't do any research ahead of time, and therefore bought one of those cool colored full suspension contraptions. Still have it and it has held up fine on rock roads, pavement, and some dirt roads but I feel shame every time I look at it or think of it knowing what I know now. :roll: These days I don't ride it much because I have better bikes that I purchased after educating myself. The cheap full suspension bikes have about taken over completely at big box stores in the mountain/all terrain category. There aren't to many rigid framed bikes offered and even fewer rigid frame and fork bikes at the box stores.

In the end it all comes down to knowledge. Many that buy the low end full suspension bikes are those that don't do research ahead of time and buy a bike for the price and how it looks. That's what I did in 2010.
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Postby BoomerBrian » Fri Sep 20, 2013 7:49 pm

Good writeup. I try and always steer people away from them. Personally I think most fs bikes are ugly. I have always been a fan of hardtails.

I wish Walmart would sell some rigids. Would be better than the pogo sticks they currently sell and much lighter.

Another common mistake people make is thinking if they ride off rode they need fs. Unless you are downhilling a hardtail is fine. Hell I wouldn't downhill on a fs Walmart bike with the exception of the xr pro.

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Re: Why Do New Riders Focus on Full Suspension Bikes?

Postby remle » Fri Sep 20, 2013 9:58 pm

I'll be the odd man out here. I like full suspension bikes. I like road bikes too though. If I just want to go fast and far then the road bike is my ride of choice, but for comfort and just horsing around I like a FS mountain bike.

IMO, the biggest problem mountain bikes have for use on the road isn't the weight or the BOB or the complexity, it's the tires. Swap the knobby tires out for some 26x1.5 slicks and that mountain bike will suddenly become a pretty decent street machine and one that can handle the worst curbs and potholes. One of the things I do a lot with my bikes is walk the dog and most of the time I do that on the sidewalk. When you're going up and down a curb every hundred yards a mountain bike is better than a road bike and a FS mountain bike is better than a DF.

I actually think BOB is a bit overrated. Sure it exists and sure it saps power, but I don't think it saps as much power as people think. It doesn't take much energy to make a spring oscillate.
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Re: Why Do New Riders Focus on Full Suspension Bikes?

Postby Falkon45 » Sun Sep 22, 2013 2:34 am

Although this is a good writeup, I'm going to have to disagree on some points.

Mostly, why people want full suspension bikes. Normally, it's not because it's cool looking. That's more of an after effect. Most people want to ride trails, but the bikes never leave the streets. They'll get the FS bike, due to "comfort". Pretty much, ALL of us started on a rigid bike as a kid. Most people remember that feeling, see the FS bikes, and think they'll be more comfortable. Even the crappy walmart writeups equate having rear suspension to being comfortable. This is not the case. It'll actually make things worse. If you ride, relying on the rear to soak up bumps, instead of your legs, you're gonna get the "bucking bronco" effect. In other words, the bike will actually try and chuck you off of it, when the rear spring with no rebound adjustment, snaps back to it's unstressed position.

The gears on bikes can be used like the gears on cars. As the gear gets smaller, the effort required to turn in increased, but the rotation in that effort is increased as well. So yes, gears are there to make you go faster. But they are also there to control pedaling effort. Not so much to keep your feet moving at the same speed. Essentially, at least 3-4 "speeds" of our multispeed bikes will make the same pedal speed/effort as the other gears. Single speed bikes are simplified, but, you are locked into one gears, and your pedal effort/speed all depends on you.

Basically, yes, most new riders don't need full suspension, even on trails. But, the lack of education and knowledge, and the non-rider descriptions, and non-experienced rider reviews on most of the big box stores lead people into thinking the FS bikes are what they need. The looks and price lock in the sale, then the bikes get rode one or twice, then sit in the garage for years.

So, in the end, I'd say, leave it to personal preference. We can try and let people know how to choose a bike, but the experience gained from actually riding is the best info anyone can get.
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Re: Why Do New Riders Focus on Full Suspension Bikes?

Postby wa_desert_rat » Sun Sep 22, 2013 3:13 pm

Falkon... I wrote this to see if we could cut down on the new riders asking which full suspension they should buy. Most of us ride FS bikes... but not many of us would advise a new or returning rider to get one.

As far as gears go... when you can rotate the pedals faster (spin) your pedaling effort is decreased. That's why you go faster. You are more efficient that way. :)

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Re: Why Do New Riders Focus on Full Suspension Bikes?

Postby rzhangx » Mon Sep 30, 2013 8:43 am

as far as the bob goes, I'm okay with it. I kind of think of it as a beneficial handicap you know?

Used to do this thing on swim team where we would wear drag suits and stockings to slow us down in practice so when we raced with just our suits we would zip by.

I kinda think of my pos rear shock in that light. regardless, I also don't think I'm buying a fs bike from wm because its cool. I think I'm buying bikes from wm because its cheap and i'm buying a FS one because I want to be able to take it downhill earlier in my biking career without dealing with the necessary line choices you have to make in a hardtail.
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Re: Why Do New Riders Focus on Full Suspension Bikes?

Postby remle » Mon Sep 30, 2013 4:51 pm

When I first started riding bikes again regularly, I started with an old rigid mountain bike that had either been given to me or I had found at a garage sale or something. It was basically one of those el cheapo used BBB's like you sometimes see abandoned or for sale for $20. It had been sitting in a corner of my garage when I decided to dig it out and start commuting to work on it.

In retrospect, it turned out to be the perfect bike for me to get reacquainted with bikes on. I ended up spending about $200 on it before I was through and by the time I replaced it, it had new street tires, brake shoes, a rack, lights, etc... I probably rode it 2000 miles before replacing it. What I "upgraded" to was a Mongoose MGX GRX. These were full suspension bikes that Costco used to sell about 12 years ago. It was a heavier bike than my old junker and it suffered from BOB, but it had things like indexed gears and effective brakes. Once I got the parts I wanted off my old bike swapped over I found that despite the weight and the BOB I was still able to complete my 12 mile commute in the same time.

I liked that Mongoose then and I still do today. It rides like a 1970's Cadillac. It's the bike I take on a ride with kids or the dog.

The one pictured below is not mine, but it's the same model. Mine has 1.5" slicks, a 3" stem riser and an aftermarket seat and post.
5235-Silver BMX bike Left Side.jpg
5235-Silver BMX bike Left Side.jpg (224.1 KiB) Viewed 3460 times
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