I have been riding mountain bikes for 25 years and have seen fashions come and go, some have hung around, been perfected and become a must have and others have fallen by the way side. The most obvious part that has become de facto on a mountain bike is front suspension, the technological battle is won and its just a matter of which brand you are going to nail your colours to!
Wait a minute are we just being blinded with marketing speak? Most riders never get the chance to compare riding with and without suspension because these days even the cheapest bikes come with suspension forks already bolted on. Now I am not for one moment saying that rigid forks are aimed at the freeride/downhill crowd, but for the XC/endurance rider they are a realistic viable alternative.
The most important suspension element on any bike is you. You have far more travel in your arms and legs than any suspension forks. Learning to relax and absorb the hits on a rigid bike, picking lines and dancing your way through a rock garden, rather than blasting through the middle will only enhance your riding when you head to the big mountains.
So what are the other benefits to rigid over suspension forks?
- Weight, a straight swap will save you around 1kg
- Trail buzz, nothing removes that numbing feeling from your hands you get when you have ridden for a couple of hours like a quality carbon fork
- Clearance, on my suspension forks you have a fingers width if you are lucky between the tyre and the bridge joining each fork leg together, on a rigid fork you will have 30+mm
- Climbing…no more bobbing around or scrambling for the lock out switch
- Best of all, single track. There is nothing like flying down a piece of single track with a rigid front end, no more tucking of the front wheel when you are cornering hard, no more dive of the front end when you jam on the brakes and no more wallow when you sprint out of a corner.
Saying all that, I still have a full suspension bike and I love it! When the rocks get too big or the speed gets rapid there is nothing like the confident feeling a suspension setup gives you. Horses for courses and all that…