Group of mountain bikers on a trail

Whether you are new to mountain biking or a pro on the trail, suspension is key to your riding comfort and enjoyment. Understanding the different types and features of bike suspension will help in your search for your first mountain bike or finding that perfect upgrade. Christy Sports has four full-service bike shops with an impressive inventory of mountain bikes and knowledgeable bike techs to assist you in finding the ride that’s best for you.

What is Bike Suspension?

By definition, bike suspension is the system or systems used to suspend the rider and bicycle in order to insulate the rider from the roughness of the terrain. Suspension provides improved control, traction, and comfort on rooty, rocky single-track or potholed roads. Suspension is used primarily on mountain bikes and some hybrid bicycles – a blend of characteristics of road bikes and touring bikes with mountain bikes that can tolerate a wide range of riding conditions and applications.

Full Suspension or Hardtail?

Whether you are purchasing a new mountain bike or looking into upgrading your current bike, you will need to choose between bikes with front suspension only – hardtail  – or full suspension (front and rear). Almost all mountain bikes are equipped with front suspension.

Hardtail – Front Suspension

The most common type of front “hardtail” suspension is the “fork,” which is comprised of two struts that connect the front wheel to the frame’s head tube. Hardtail suspension is best suited for novice cyclists, casual riders, commuters, and children.

Full Suspension – Front & Rear

Rear suspension is only found on full-suspension mountain bikes. It is commonly referred to as the rear shock or “shock” for short. The shock allows the rear wheel to soak up impacts, helping to keep the tire in contact with the ground, and increasing rider control while decreasing rider fatigue.

The rear frame triangle, which holds the rear wheel, will have one or more pivot points to enable the wheel to travel through a range of motion. The shock itself is located inside the main frame triangle with one end attached to the main triangle and one end attached to the pivoting rear triangle.

Various pivot designs and configurations are available. Each has its pros and cons on how it affects a bike’s ride quality. All work equally well and the average recreational rider is unlikely to notice significant differences in suspension performance. The three basic rear / full suspension types include:

  • Single Pivot – Simplest suspension design common among entry-level bikes. Requires less maintenance.
  • Linkage-Driven Single Pivot – Better suited for more aggressive riding.
  • Four-Bar (Horst Link) – Allows the suspension to operate mostly independent of braking, as well as allowing designers the most control over leverage ratios.

A full suspension bike also offers a more comfortable ride as it will soak up most of the jarring bumps that would otherwise upset your body with a hardtail. As a result, rider fatigue is reduced, allowing you to ride faster, longer, and with greater comfort. Full suspension mountain bikes are a smart choice for all types of racing. For the beginner rider, it’s an instant confidence boost to have that stability and comfort of full suspension.

​No matter which bike you ride, how much you spend on it, or what the manufacturers try to tell you, a suspension system is often a compromise. Suspension systems great in one area (such as absorbing impacts) may suffer in another (increase in rider fatigue), but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a design that feels perfect for your individual needs.

The key to finding that perfect bike? Shop. Ride. Experience. And let the experts at Christy Sports help get you fitted properly. Visit any of our four locations in Frisco, Crested Butte, and Winter Park. Our West Vail location is also a full-service bike shop but is currently closed for remodel.

So, log out of emails and social media, put away your computer, and ride!