Just hours after BikeRadar's Oliver Woodman posited that it’s about time suspension came to gravel bikes, full-suspension gravel road bikes became a thing. Just call him the Nostradamus of the cycling industry.
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The Taipei Cycle Show normally throws up a few trends for the coming season, and the most prevalent this year is a serious evolution in gravel bikes. At the forefront is the D&I (design and innovation) award-wining bike from Taiwanese brand Apro tech, featuring lockout-equipped suspension front and rear.
Apro's new alloy Ranger has a lockout-equipped X-Fusion shock mounted on its short travel linkage, and a short travel upside-down suspension fork with a lockout switch mounted into the fork crown.
The Apro features huge tyre clearance. The model shown here has 650b wheels and 2in tyres, with plenty of room to spare. Apro tells us that the compact road gearing and the lockout functions make it as capable on road as it is on gravel.
For some of us, this just harks back to mountain bike legend John Tomac’s occasional dalliances with drop-bars off road back in mountain biking’s golden years. But either way it’s an interesting concept that if it works as well as they claim should stretch what’s acceptable for gravel riding way into serious single-track and trail riding — or at least smooth out dirt roads substantially.
With the Apron coming on the back of ideas like Lauf’s gravel fork, the Cannondale Slate, the Trek Domane and the Specialized Roubaix, it appears that we are about to see a revolution and return (remember the RockShox Ruby?) to suspension for drop-bar bikes.
KS prototype integrated dropper and retro-fit front gravel suspension
KS’s ever popular LEV dropper post has been available in a road/gravel friendly 27.2mm diameter for a while now. This type of product is providing KS is biggest growth as a category, according to KS product manager ‘Money’.
Money and his design team have been playing with integrating the dropper into a drop-bar setup for a while now, and rather than the traditional additional cabled dropper switch mounted on the bars they’ve played around with combining a SRAM Force 1 drivetrain with a Force left hand shifter with modified internal. By removing the ‘C’ ring and a couple more tweaks, a SRAM DoubleTap lever can be made to operate the dropper. We got chance to try it out on a modified Argon 18 X-Road and found the action to be swift and spot-on.
The modifications on the Argon 18 didn’t stop with the dropper as they’d also fitted sister brand EXA Form’s road suspension fork. This looking very much like an old school Cannondale Headshok unit, it extends the effective head tube length to integrate a 50mm travel suspension unit sitting above the fork crown. Whilst this will have an effect on the head tube angle and alter the front-end geometry significantly, it will add plenty of bump-eating potential to the front end of the bike.
Our test route wasn’t exactly extreme and the test bike was somewhat on the small side for this rider the suspension travel was pretty plush and didn’t bob too heavily, though we’d like to get some serious off-road miles under our belts before making any definitive criticisms of the system.