Why Do Most Gravel Bikes Have No Suspension? – And 3 That Do

If you like, call it an adventure bike or an all-road bike, but gravel bikes were designed to do it all! These all-terrain bikes can cover all kinds of ground. So if you can take this drop-bar bike anywhere, you might wonder why gravel bikes have no suspension to make up for the rough terrain. I wondered the same thing! 

Most gravel bikes do not have suspension because it adds weight to the bike, slows down your road performance, makes it harder to accelerate in a race, and requires extra maintenance. There are a few gravel bikes that do have suspension, but most do not. 

In this article, we’ll talk about the reasons why gravel bikes don’t usually have suspension. We’ll also talk about a couple of gravel bikes that do have suspension. But first, let’s take a quick look at what a gravel bike really is. 

What is a Gravel Bike? 

Gravel bikes are famously known as all-terrain bikes because they can do it all (or just about, anyway). While you probably wouldn’t take a gravel bike through the most technical rock gardens, most of them can handle everything from road to hard pack dirt to gravel, and even some single-track, too. 

Typical hallmarks of a gravel bike include drop bars, a frame with longer, more stable geometry, a comfortable riding position, and some wider tires. The wide tires give you more grip on loose surfaces and add a little bit of cushion to the ride. 

Gravel routes often encompass mixed terrain. So you’ll find lots of gravel roads, but you might also be taking some asphalt, some dirt, and even grass to get you where you want to go. 

What is bike suspension? 

Suspension on a bike is like the shock absorbers on a car. The suspension takes out the bumpiness while riding, giving you a more comfortable ride. It also keeps the wheel from bouncing up and down over the terrain so that you can maintain more grip on those really rough surfaces. So suspension can add a bit of safety on very technical terrain. 

Suspension can be in the front fork, or you can have rear suspension, depending on what type of riding you’ll be doing. You typically see suspension in mountain bikes, but you don’t often see it in gravel bikes. And many mountain bikes don’t have suspension, either. These are usually known as a hardtail. 

Mountain bike routes don’t typically involve much road-riding as a gravel route would. In fact, a mountain bike route is often more of a closed course, where you ride up to the top of the hill so you can ride down a particular mountain bike track with different types of obstacles like rock gardens. 

Why don’t gravel bikes have suspension? 

You might expect gravel bikes to have suspension, but they usually don’t. There are several reasons for this. 

Suspension Adds Weight to the Bike

A suspension system is heavy and adds extra weight to the bike. A mountain bike usually has a granny gear, or a very, very easy gear, to help move this excess weight up the hill. They don’t need to go fast uphill, either, because a mountain bike is designed to go faster downhill. 

However, a gravel bike generally won’t have that very easy gear that a mountain bike has. And since gravel routes tend to be hillier routes, you’ll be climbing more often, so the lighter the bike, the better. On the other hand, the heavyweight of the suspension system without the easy gears would make it much harder to climb. 

Suspension Slows Down Road Performance 

Mountain bikes are designed for one thing: mountain biking. They excel at hopping over rocks and crashing down steep dirt tracks. But gravel bikes often hit as much asphalt as they do gravel because routes are longer and generally comprise mixed terrain. 

A bike with suspension, such as a typical mountain bike, has a lot of ‘bob’ in the ride, which is how the shocks work to absorb those big bumps. But this type of movement within the bike also absorbs your extra energy. This extra movement in the cycle means you’ll be putting out a lot of wasted energy just moving the bike forward. It will lead to more fatigue and slower speeds, making it harder to keep up with your riding pals. 

Suspension Requires Extra Maintenance 

Another reason you might not want suspension on a gravel bike is that suspension is more money and more maintenance. You’re going to need to service that suspension with oil changes, rubber seals, and more. More maintenance means more time off the bike while it gets serviced, too. 

Slower Acceleration, Especially When Racing

The heavier weight and extra movement of the bike with suspension make it harder to accelerate. Instead, the stiffness in a gravel bike lets you spin up to speed a little bit faster and more easily. 

Although most gravel bikes do not have suspension, there are a few exceptions that you may want to consider. 

Are there any gravel bikes that do have suspension? 

·      Canyon Grizl. Canyon recently introduced their latest model of the Grizl Gravel bike, with a gravel-specific suspension fork. This fork adds some springiness to the front of the bike, which reduces road chatter and fatigue. 

·      Cannondale Topstone Carbon Lefty.  The Cannondale Topstone Carbon Lefty is a gravel race bike with a one-sided suspension fork. This type of suspension will give you plenty of suspension without a ton of extra weight on your bike. 

·      Lauf True Grit. This sweet-looking bike not only looks good, but it also has a unique spring leaf front suspension. While this doesn’t give you as much shock-absorbing prowess as a full-on suspension fork, it does a great job absorbing the bumps and providing extra grip when you need it. 

Final Thoughts

Most gravel bikes don’t have suspension because they just don’t need it. The benefits from the extra suspension just do not make up for the extra weight and energy loss for the type of riding that most people do on a gravel bike. However, you always need to consider the terrain and type of riding you love most and choose your gravel set-up for that. 

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