Is 80mm Fork Travel Good? (Various Biking Scenarios Explained)


You’ll see plenty of variations when looking at suspension forks on different bikes. So, today let’s take a look at an 80mm travel fork to decide if it’s any good? 

80mm fork travel is good for cross country riding where you’ll face different types of terrain like singletrack, forest paths, and smooth roads. However, if you’re looking at mountain biking and you’re anything above beginner level, then 80mm will make your ride uncomfortable.

Below we’ll cover fork travel in greater depth along with other related travel suspension fork topics so you can understand everything you need to be confident in your suspension fork’s travel. 

Are 80mm Travel Forks Good? 

If you’re just starting to understand bike components for the first time, then one area that can get real confusing real fast is fork travel.

As we talked about above, it depends on what you’re using it for. 80mm travel is good for relatively smooth terrain with just a few bumps or uneven elements here and there – such as a forest path. It will help soften the impact of these bumps and make your bike more balanced, and easy to ride.

It’ll be a more comfortable ride, too. Essentially, 80mm fork travel is good for smoothing out imperfections, but it’s not good for dealing with big impacts

Anything that involves any sort of air time, or any route that’s particularly rough, bumpy, or uneven, will feel uncomfortable with just 80mm of travel. In fact, it could cause an injury if you’re using a fork with just 80mm of travel for a more complex route. 

Fork travel refers to how much wiggle room the wheel has with the suspension before the suspension fork stops absorbing some of the impact of the road and/or jumps, etc. With 80mm, the suspension fork can ‘travel’ 80mm before it ‘bottoms out’ and you start feeling the impacts.

Forks With Greater Travel Explained 

So, if 80mm travel is good for some things, what happens when you increase the travel amount on different forks? Considering you can easily find forks with 120-150mm of travel, that’s a pretty big difference, but what do they do? 

The larger the travel, the more impact the bike can take before it ‘bottoms out’ and you feel the impact yourself through the rest of the bike. That’s great, right? Well, it is for downhill riding, because larger travel equals a smoother, more controlled descent.

You’ll be able to handle really rough terrain with greater travel; just be prepared for a difference in handling and speed as a result.

But everything has a downside. Here are some of the ways greater travel can negatively affect your bikes performance:

  • It’ll be heavier – because the fork is larger and so are the stanchions that stop the fork from flexing too much
  • It’ll be more sluggish – the bike is slacker, and it shortens the reach when the fork has greater travel, and that means a more sluggish bike that’s slower to respond to handling, making it a less agile bike overall
  • It’ll feel different – this is the most important thing of all, because if you’re used to your bike performing a certain way right now – then a bike with greater travel on the fork will feel drastically different, so you’ll need to get used to that again

Of course, those downsides shouldn’t stop you. If you head out on gnarly tracks in the mountains and need that extra cushion on descents to make your ride more comfortable, then a bike with greater fork travel is perfect.

You’ll be able to handle really rough terrain with greater travel; just be prepared for a difference in handling and speed as a result. 

Can I Swap My 80mm Fork For One With Greater Travel? 

With most bikes, swapping out an 80mm fork for a 100mm fork is doable, but adding a for with a longer travel isn’t practical or feasible in most cases. You’ll need to be prepared for the differences mentioned above, but also for some consequences. 

When manufacturers design their bikes, they do so holistically. They make sure every part has its place, and it’s able to perform its duty for the intended use of the bike. Mountain bikes designed for advanced tracks will already have higher travel forks, and a stronger frame etc to boot.

So, if you need to upgrade your bike’s fork to one with greater travel, you can do so, but just be aware that the rest of your bike probably isn’t designed for it. That means any warranties will be void, and any problems with your bike’s performance or any damages will be completely on you. 

Still, switching out a fork is much cheaper than buying a whole new bike, so if you want a fork with greater travel, switching them is possible and it’ll make your bike much more suitable to the more advanced, uneven tracks you want to try out. 

Can You Use A Fork With 80mm Travel For Downhill Riding? 

If you decide to give downhill riding a go, an 80mm fork will feel unsteady on the descent, uncomfortable, and outright dangerous.

Downhill bikes usually have fork travel of 160mm+ so they can handle the challenging terrain at high speeds, which makes 80mm forks mostly unsuitable, and dangerous for downhill riding. In fact, most bikes with such short fork travel are usually trekking hybrids, which don’t have the structural strength to be exposed to such forces.

Downhill bikes are full suspension bicycles, whereas bikes with only 80mm of fork travel usually only have a front suspension to dampen some road imperfections on mostly smooth forest or urban roads.

Do I Need A Fork At All If I Only Ride On Low-Quality Paved Roads? 

Do you need a fork if you are simply riding on low-quality paved roads? No. Would it make things a lot smoother if you had one? Absolutely. The thing with an 80mm travel fork is that 80mm isn’t a lot of travel, but that doesn’t mean it’s useless.

It makes most journeys more comfortable, and with the condition of some of the paved roads these days, an 80mm travel fork will help cushion the impact of some of those imperfections and bumps in the road

Of course, you could just opt to avoid forks with travel altogether, and although some low-quality paved roads are pretty rough, you wouldn’t exactly hurt yourself or feel overly uncomfortable on the road with a fork without travel.

Still, if you want a comfortable ride, even if you only use paved roads, a fork with a small amount of travel will definitely help. 

Do All Forks Have Travel? 

Not all forks have travel because not all bikes need that element of suspension. Road bikes, fitness bikes, fixies, dutch style bikes for example, aren’t likely to run into terrain that’s uneven enough to warrant a fork with travel, so they come without suspension forks.

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