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Steve The Bike Guy

News & Updates

Add some squish to your gravel bike

With the varied terrain we tackle in New England on a gravel bike, a bit of suspension goes a long way for a more enjoyable ride. 

While tire size and pressure can make the most impact on comfort (a discussion for another day), adding active suspension can provide tangible benefits including reducing body fatigue and improving control over bumpy ground.

There are two main ways we can add more squish to your bike – suspension stems and suspension forks. Let’s break them down.

Suspension Stems

A suspension stem is the lightest option and when installed generally won’t affect your bike’s geometry. The three main choices from Redshift, Cane Creek, and Cirrus Cycles, give riders 20mm of travel by allowing the handlebar to flex up and down. Most people instantly notice the difference with a suspension stem, but adjusting to the small movement of the handlebar can take time.

Redshift’s two options, the Shockstop ($170)and the Pro ($250), are the most “normal” appearing and use provided elastomers (“a natural or synthetic polymer having elastic properties”) hidden inside to adjust the firmness of the compression. Accessing and installing the elastomers requires the removal of the handlebar and several other steps.

The Cane Creek eeSilk ($230) comes with 3 different elastomer options for soft, medium, or firm compression. Mounted underneath the stem, the elastomer can be swapped quickly without removing the stem or handlebar and a dial feature allows riders to switch from soft to firm on the fly. Despite the larger appearances the eeSilk is the lightest of the available stems.

A parallelogram design with a swappable spring (three are provided) inside the Cirrus Kinekt ($190) provides the compression rate but also makes this the heaviest of the options (although it is still much lighter than a suspension fork).

Suspension Forks

Suspension forks for road and gravel bikes have come and gone, but new entries into the market have found their true calling! Typically longer than stock rigid forks, suspension forks can impact the geometry and feel of your bike, but in most circumstances the impact is negligible. 

All the options outlined here can be installed on any gravel bike frame with a traditional 1 ⅛” to 1.5” tapered head tube, or with a 44mm headtube. Headset adapters can be used for less common configurations.

Some may remember the Ruby suspension road fork introduced in the early 1990s and ridden to multiple victories in Paris Roubaix. Now Rock Shox has introduced the Rudy XPLR ($843) which is available in two colors with either 30mm or 40mm of travel, adjustable rebound control, and a lockout switch. 

The new Fox 32TC ($769 – $949)  is offered in 40mm or 50mm travel options and has an adjustable rebound control with a 3 position compression adjustment dial. The fork is available in black or signature Fox Factory orange color with Kashima coated stanchions.

The least expensive option is also the heaviest by a wide margin. The Suntour’s GVX ($559) has adjustable rebound control and a lockout knob and comes in 40, 50, and 60mm travel options.

With a unique leaf spring desig, the Lauf Grit carbon fork ($990) is a head turner and sure to get lots of questions from your fellow riders. The lightest and most expensive of those listed here, it also provides the least amount of available travel at 30mm and no lockout function or rebound control. Lighter riders may feel the fork doesn’t provide much suspension, while heavier riders may feel the fork is too soft. It also has no lockout function or rebound control. On the plus side, the lack of traditional suspension controls means no maintenance. 

There are a few companies using proprietary suspension systems designed with their bikes meaning you need to purchase the complete bike, and the systems are generally not compatible to install on any other gravel frame. While many have been well reviewed over the years there have been recalls, maintenance issues, lack of long term parts support, and limited user serviceability for many of these designs. Just something to consider before choosing a proprietary suspension system. 

Let STBG add a bit of squish to your gravel bike.

Make an appointment or stop by the Shop and let’s talk about your options.