How much suspension is enough?

Forums Mountain Bike Forum How much suspension is enough?


This topic contains 17 replies, has 14 voices, and was last updated by  Greg Heil 2 years, 6 months ago.

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  • #212155

    What do you guys think: how much suspension is “enough” for long travel bikes? A couple years ago, I was chatting with some engineers and marketers from Santa Cruz who were explaining why they’d reduced the amount of travel on some of their bikes. And yet, in 2017, 170mm is the new 160, and plenty of single crown enduro forks are internally adjustable up to 180mm now. That was pretty rare even a couple years ago.

    So what do you think? Is suspension travel destined to grow forever, off into infinity? And if not, when will we hit the ceiling?

  • #212172

    200mm or 8 in will be optimum. Down hill bikes are already there. It will be like motocross bikes they made it to 14in then backed off to 12 to 13 as optimum. With bikes being smaller and lighter 8in should be about the point of diminishing returns.


  • #212182

    Just go full rigid for everything. Problem solved.


    In all seriousness though, I think where they are at, they are probably hitting the “sweet spot”. I can’t imagine what a bike with more travel than 180 would look like or feel like on typical trails.

    Stanchions will probably increase in diameter though by at least a few more mm for the extra rigidity I’m sure. But only time will tell!

  • #212189

    Horses for courses. There used to be more bikes in the 170-180mm range when freeride was the hot shit. Then enduro took over and 150-160mm seemed to rule the day. We’re starting to see that number creep back up again, probably due to advances in suspension tech and frame design. The Commencal Meta is now specced with a 170mm fork, you’ve got the YT Capra with 170mm up front as well, and then the Pivot Firebird with 170mm front and rear.

    But the interesting thing is, many of the world’s top enduro racers are still using the “shorter” travel bikes. Santa Cruz’s riders more often than not choose the Bronson over the Nomad, Rocky Mountain’s team rides the Altitude over the Slayer, and Pivot’s team is riding the Switchblade or Mach 6 over the Firebird.

    I think the bikes we see with this much travel are for a very tiny subset of riders. I see them as new age freeride bikes, or mini DH/park bikes.

    Could they design a trail bike with 180-200mm of suspension front and rear? I’m sure that some company could. Would anyone ride that bike, let alone buy one? I doubt it.

    • #212789

      @AaronChamberlain: “But the interesting thing is, many of the world’s top enduro racers are still using the “shorter” travel bikes. Santa Cruz’s riders more often than not choose the Bronson over the Nomad, Rocky Mountain’s team rides the Altitude over the Slayer, and Pivot’s team is riding the Switchblade or Mach 6 over the Firebird.”

      SC EWS riders all in on the Hightower 29er with it’s 135mm rear (long-shocked to 150mm). I demoed the HT a couple of times and found it to be one of the best bikes SC has done in years, ripping fast and stable. A terrific bike for all day hauling tuchus in crazy terrain.

      @AaronChamberlain: ” Could they design a trail bike with 180-200mm of suspension front and rear? I’m sure that some company could. Would anyone ride that bike, let alone buy one? I doubt it.”

      How about this “do-it-all” 180mm travel beast from Polygon and soon others?

      Personally, I don’t find it to be the most attractive bike out there, but if it performs well who knows?

      Speaking of unique attractive bikes with lots of travel, my forthcoming rig is the 160mm travel 29er Wreckoning from Evil. I have demoed all of Evil’s bikes and my two favorites were the Calling and the Wrecker. The Calling for having only 130mm of rear travel (140mm up front, if I was to buy one I’d run a 150mm fork) absolutely smokes, out-riding, handling and generally destroying any preconceived notions I had about a “shorter” travel bike.

      Continuing on a theme, The Wreckoning is the same with 29er wheels and more travel. Coincidentally, the place the Wrecker actually impressed me the most was with it’s climbing prowess. I was on my friend’s an XL which is two sizes too big for me. I it took up Bear Creek in the X-low geometry position and had no trouble at all scooting up those switchbacks. That is a huge bike that should have been a mess for me to ride, yet Evil nailed the geometry and kinematics making it’s handling surreal. That says a lot as my friend is 6’3″ and I am 5’9″ (when my hair looks good).

      So to the OP, how much travel is enough? I don’t know, whatever turns you on. I personally believe it’s more about geometry than travel as there are modern hard tails (eg: Honzo) that can out ride full suspension bikes from even just a few years ago. Party.


  • #212297

    I used to be into big suspension bikes but just got myself an XC hardtail Rocky Mountain Vertex with 100 mm travel and I haven’t had so much fun riding trails in a very long time. Light, efficient and fast. I think for the most part at least in Ontario Canada full suspension is an overkill. I think 140 would probably be good for most riders.

  • #212300

    I’ve wondered this myself. Don’t have much to add to the conversation other than to say I’m interested to hear what the consensus is, or if there is one!

  • #212668

    My current rig right now has 160, so far I’m liking it, not the best climber but fun overall. Its like having a 4×4, Im not using it full time, but I like the idea that I can just flick a switch and I’m good.

  • #212788

    Richie Rude just moved up to 4th in the EWS on a 5″ bike.

  • #212791

    How long is a string? If you live near me, with volcanic baby-heads abounding on every climb, you need enough to keep your rear on the ground, but not so much that you’re grunting with each hit. Unless you’re sending it at Rampage, 8″ of travel seems a bit too lotus-eater to me. All life is suffering, and mountain bikers are most alive. Yet, imagine a world where you never have to feel the trail again, like riding a schmoo.

  • #212818

    The comment that many top pros still use shorter travel, that is because they are so good they don’t need as much. Look at McAskill, he does 12ft+ drops with no suspension. You might as well compare pro motocrossers to average dirt bikers, who couldn’t handle the pro bikes, or pro golfers to the average golfers who couldn’t hit the pros clubs for crap.

  • #212820

    For me and my local trails, 100mm is enough.   I find I usually need the suspension near the end of the ride when I am tired and don’t feel like lifting the bike to go over nasty roots and small logs.  I can just ram them head-on and the suspension keeps me under control.   150mm rigs are just not needed around here unless someone really wants to ramp up the sag to made the bike feel like the family minivan on a road with no potholes.  But that is not the reason why I ride mountain bikes.    Of course, I’m only talking about trails in the midwest (IL, IN, OH, KY).   I’m sure it’s different out west.

    BTW: pro motocrossers and amateur motocrossers mostly run the same travel.  It’s the setup that is drastically different with the pros usually running the thing so stiff that an amateur would think he is riding a rigid.  Ricky Carmichael used to run it chopper style with a stiff front and soft rear with lots of dampening so the rear felt dead.  His bike would get crushed by your typical magazine reviewer saying it’s the worst bike ever.   But the man won more races than anyone alive.

  • #212840

    I’ve swung both ways on this pendulum.  I had the Yeti Seven,  with a full 7″ of rear travel, and replaced it with my current Foes Mixer at 160mm (6.2″), so I’ve swung back to a little less travel in defiance of the current trend.

    Suspensions have gotten better in recent years, which actually drives this trend both directions.  140mm today performs as well as 160mm in the past, so most riders don’t need more suspension.  On the other hand, suspension improvement has improved pedaling, so we can opt for more suspension without sacrificing efficiency.

    Then there’s the whole tire size thing.  Bigger hoops means we need less suspension (as does wider (plus size or fat) tires).  It’s also a significant challenge to combine large wheels with long travel in terms of geometry.   Bottom line, there’s suddenly an incredible myriad of possible combinations of wheel size, tire width, and suspension technologies and some folks are still experimenting.  It shouldn’t be long before the dust settles and I suspect it will be back to a more moderate amount of travel for most riders.

  • #212856

    Of course it will be just like dirt motorcycles, application makes all the difference… Motocross bikes have 12in to 13in travel, enduro/trail bikes have 10in to 12in, adventure bikes run around 8in to 10in, supermoto have 7in to 9in, and trials bikes have 6in to 7in.   And many people ride motocross bikes on the trails, they don’t need the suspension, but want and like it.

  • #212864

    As someone that enjoys jumps and riding local trails, but can’t afford to have downhill and trail bike. Enduro 160-180 mm fork is just right for me. I’ve been debating on building my own bike. Instead I am settling on the YT-Industries Capra AL with  <span class=”value popover-part”>RockShox Lyrik RC fork 160- 180 mm of travel. It’s a great bike and is my personal best for all around mountain bike. Glad they’re bridging the gap.  </span>

  • #212873

    Alvin I think that is an important point about application.  When I first read this thread, I thought how much is enough……for what?  Racing XC, Enduro, downhill, comfort on the local trail, racing your buddies on the weekend, etc?

    In my town, the fastest guys on the trails ride rigids.  Some podium at local Cat 1 XC.  So 0 is enough for them.  Of course 0 is insufficient for some of the 60 year old riders here who just want some exercise, want to enjoy the woods but don’t want to take a beating.   Then there are lots of people in between.

  • #212926

    It so much depends on the bike and how that bike is being used imo.  I tried to go with a more trail-like bike and got an Ibis HD with 145 mm on the front and rear.  It was clearly overmatched by the steep DH terrain I ride in Mongolia.  I slapped on a Fox 36 mm 160mm on front and presto life was beautiful again — climbing and descending.  One of my sons has a 2012 Pivot Firebird with 180mm on front.  The bike is a monster, weighs quite a bit.  It can take on pretty much anything DH and is a runaway freight train going DH (blazing fast and stable), yet it climbs steep technical amazing (truly mind boggling for 180mm).  The only drawback to the bike is the weight.  It will wear you out as the day goes.

  • #214287

    And then there’s this: 180mm-travel trail bike from Polygon

    Polygon Square One EX – A 180mm Travel Trail Bike

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