To many, suspension is what makes a mountain bike a mountain bike, and bikes without suspension belong only on the road. But what about hybrid bikes, which are essentially a combination of each type of bike? Do hybrid bikes have suspension?
In this article, we’ll discuss whether hybrid bikes can have suspension forks, how suspension works, the pros and cons of adding suspension to a hybrid bike, and the different kinds of suspension that can be added to a hybrid bike.
What We Will Cover
Do hybrid bikes have suspension?
Many hybrid bikes do not have suspension, and that’s because their owners don’t really need it because of how and where they ride their bike.
Hybrid bikes were born out of the demand for more terrain versatility from a single bike.
A hybrid bike combines the efficiency of a road bike (or cyclocross bike) with the stable handling, wider tires, and wide gear range of a mountain bike, and also with a more upright position and flat handlebars (vs the drop bars you normally see on road bikes) required to handle off-road trails, which makes them extremely practical for a wide range of use cases.
When someone purchases a hybrid bike, they aim for a bike that can be ridden comfortably in the city (hence the alternative name of ‘urban bike’) and occasionally off-road, like gravel or dirt roads.
Hybrid bikes generally hit that sweet spot. With rigid forks, they can still offer a pretty comfortable ride on even rough terrai . They can handle the few bumps and potholes on the road without sustaining severe damage because of their more rugged, wider tires.
However, some hybrid bikes feature a trail-worthy front suspension fork with elastomer springs. They won’t compare to a real mountain bike with suspension, but they can certainly handle a lot more rough terrain than a standard road bike.
Why do hybrid bikes not always have suspension?
Hybrid bikes don’t always come with suspension because they aren’t necessary for the average rider.
The primary job of bike suspension is to ensure your tires are in firm, secure contact with the ground.
Your tires lose contact with the ground when they hit a bump. And because there are hardly any bumps on city roads, your hybrid bike won’t always need suspension.
I talked to a few other cycling hobbyists and bike mechanics. They all prefer hybrid bikes WITHOUT suspension and suggest getting bigger tires because they are better than suspension at absorbing shock impacts in most urban environments with primarily road riding.
They also say a hybrid bike with suspension is mostly a marketing gimmick to make buyers feel like they’re getting a good deal, only to later realize they really got clanky, low-quality suspensions.
Since hybrid bikes aren’t built to climb mountains or go downhill on rough terrain, and can absorb minor shocks with low-pressure, wide tires, most hybrid bikes don’t have suspension.
How does bike suspension work?
Every suspension is made of two parts: a spring and a damper.
The spring is a metal coil that dictates how much weight or force is needed to compress a shock (when the wheel hits a bump).
A damper is a device that eliminates vibrations by controlling the speed a shock will compress once it is weighted; or how quickly it would rebound once it’s unweighted.
Although some bike suspensions use air for damping, oil is the most commonly used.
But how does it work?
When the wheel of your bike hits a rock or a bump, that force pushes the damper (containing viscous oil) upwards, which compresses the spring.
The spring releases that force back as you ride over the rock or bump, causing the wheel to keep in contact with the ground and on the terrain.
The process produces a very smooth interaction between the bike wheels and the ground, so bumps are hardly felt.
Suspension on Hybrid Bikes- Pros and Cons
- Provides comfort while riding through rough roads riddled with potholes and bumps.
- Ensures better traction while riding.
- Preserves your contact patches (where the rubber of your tire meets the road)
- Prevents joint fatigue from bumpy rides.
- Even high-quality suspensions are pretty heavy and would likely slow you down.
- High-quality suspensions are very expensive.
- It requires regular maintenance, such as oil changes, rubber seals, and dust wipes.
- Poor design due to the low-quality materials of suspensions on hybrid bikes.
- There’s a decent chance suspensions mess with your bike’s geometry.
What types of suspension might you find in a hybrid bike?
There are many types of suspension used in hybrid bikes.
Full suspension bikes feature a suspension fork on the front wheel and another shock absorber on the rear wheel (and sometimes even in the handlebars). These systems work together to absorb the shocks from the bumps efficiently and provide a comfortable riding experience. Full suspension is also called dual suspension.
You’ll basically never see a hybrid bike with full suspension, because you may as well get a mountain bike.
Unlike dual suspension bikes, front suspension bikes only have a front suspension fork but no rear shock absorber. They are also called hardtails.
Suspension Seat Posts
A suspension seat post is fixed on your saddle. Given that you’re seated on your bike saddle for more than 60% of your ride time, the suspension seat post is very effective in handling bumps on a ride to provide a comfortable riding experience.
Can you add suspension to a hybrid bike?
Yes, it is possible to add a suspension system to a hybrid bike.
Many hybrid bikes do not come with a suspension fork (for reasons we’ve already discussed), but that doesn’t mean you can’t add one if you want.
You can get a suspension fork for about $100 to add to your hybrid bike, but know that adding a suspension could change the geometry and handling of your bikes.
Bottom line: Should you get a hybrid bike with suspension?
The suspensions that come with hybrid bikes are rigid, heavy, and generally fairly low-quality. Using them requires more energy for pedaling, so you’re better off without it most of the time.
While you could always get a new, different suspension to add to your hybrid bike, high-quality ones are costly.
Suppose you need a shock absorber on your hybrid bikes for your rides, a bigger set of wheels will serve you better, especially from an economic standpoint.