In glorious contrast to years of lighter and stiffer stagnation, recent road bike technology is beginning to branch out into more user-friendly realms. Alongside the typical head down, butt up racing machines, choices abound with endurance bikes, gravel machines and touring/bikepacking rigs. With those new genres gaining a foothold, suspension is starting to show up.
So, what do you think? Is adding a little squish a good thing or the sign of eventual apocalypse?
It almost happened before
This isn’t entirely new. Back in 1991, Greg LeMond and Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle (Team Z) blew people’s minds by having a RockShox suspension fork, dubbed the Roubaix, on the front of their Paris-Roubaix race bikes.
They were laughed at in the race, but had their own laughs in 1992 when Duclos-Lassalle won the Paris-Roubaix with that weird 30mm travel contraption on his bike.
Oddly, though, this wasn’t the turning point for the road world embracing suspension, and Bianchi’s failed attempt at a full-suspension road bike lead to a rash of broken frames, which more or less sounded the death knell for suspension and skinny tires.
Suspension is coming around again
Now bike manufacturers are coming around to the idea of suspension again, largely due to the gravel and all-road style of road biking.
Fox Racing has cobbled together a 40mm travel suspension fork dubbed the AX, while Iceland-based Lauf makes an extremely unique 30mm travel fork that relies on carbon leaf springs for its movement. And then there’s Cannondale’s Oliver, which has 30mm of travel and won the grueling 200-mile Dirty Kanza race.
The little bit of movement is not isolated to the front end. Pinarello introduced a Dogma soft-tail with a mere 10mm of travel that’s electronically controlled.
On the more road-oriented side of things, both of the big boys are dabbling in suspended road machines. Trek has its impressive Domane SLR 7 Disc, while Specialized has its equally stunning Roubaix.
Both take different technological paths to isolate the riders from bumps, but based on both snagging a rare 5-star BikeRadar review, they are equally adept at the task.
So over to you…
What’s your take on suspension infiltrating the road world? Should it be confined to gravel bikes or does it have a place on svelte, speed-hungry road rockets as well?
Are cyclists getting soft? Is the beauty and pain of suffering going the way of the dodo bird? Or do you welcome the increased versatility and comfort? Give us your thoughts in the comments below.