The Ultimate Guide to Suspension Forks for Your eBike
- Most eBikes have either rigid forks or suspension forks. Rigid forks are lightweight and suitable for smooth riding in urban environments, while suspension forks absorb shocks and bumps—making them perfect for off-roading and reliable commuting over varied terrain.
- A suspension fork absorbs impacts via a spring element, a damping element to control the spring rate, and stanchions (upper tubes that slide into the fork's lower legs upon impact).
- Adjusting your suspension forks involves setting the sag (the fork compression under your weight) to about 25-30% of total fork travel, adjusting the rebound for optimum control, and tweaking the compression to control how easily the fork moves under impact.
- You’ll want to adjust the suspension differently depending on how and where you ride. Commuting and pathway riding require firmer settings for stability; casual riding needs a softer setup for comfort; singletrack riding calls for a balance between compression and rebound; downhill trails necessitate softer setup with slower rebound for better impact absorption; snowy and muddy conditions require a softer setup for better grip and traction.
- Proper adjustment of your eBike's suspension forks can significantly improve your riding experience—providing the perfect blend of comfort, control, and performance, and truly enhancing your bond with the bike.
Whether you're a seasoned eBike enthusiast or a new rider who’s just getting into the electrifying world of pedal-assisted two-wheeling, understanding the ins and outs of your bike's different components is crucial for getting the most out of every ride. When it comes to comfort and handling, your suspension fork will be one of the most critical parts you can buy for your eBike—so let’s spend a little time learning about them.
In this guide, we cover the different types of forks available for eBikes, the mechanics of suspension forks, how to adjust them, and how to set them up for various riding scenarios. Hopefully this will give you some thoughts to bounce around next time you’re in the market for a ride you’ll really love.
What Types of Forks Are Available for eBikes?
When it comes to eBikes, there are generally two types of forks you'll encounter:
- Rigid Forks: As the name suggests, these forks don't move. They're lightweight and straightforward, making them ideal for urban riding where the terrain is smooth and predictable.
- Suspension Forks: These are designed with a shock-absorbing system that helps soak up bumps and shocks, improving comfort and control when riding on rough terrain. This makes them an excellent choice for off-road riding, or commuting over poorly maintained roads.
Although rigid forks are great for beach cruiser eBikes where you’ll almost always be on even riding surfaces, suspension forks are ideal for more performance-oriented models. eBikes with suspension forks reduce rider fatigue by preventing you from feeling every bump in the road (or rock on the trail) as you ride, letting you go longer and harder while staying comfortable in the saddle.
How Does a Suspension Fork Work?
A suspension fork is designed to absorb impacts from rough terrain, allowing the wheel to move up and over obstacles rather than being deflected off-course. The main components of a suspension fork include:
- A Spring Element: This is what absorbs the energy from impacts. It could be a coil spring or an air spring.
- A Damping Element: This is what slows down and controls the rate of springing. Without it, the fork would bounce uncontrollably after absorbing an impact.
- Stanchions: These are the upper tubes that slide into the lower legs of the fork when the fork compresses under impact.
The suspension forks in our Surface 604 eBikes use high-quality Suntour XCM front suspension forks with coil springs and preload adjusters to control the load you place on them when riding. These are ideal for commuting and casual off-roading, making them a particularly versatile suspension option.
Adjusting Your Suspension Forks in 3 Easy Steps
To adjust your forks, here’s what you need to do:
- Set Your Sag: Sag is how much your forks compress under your weight when you're sitting on the bike in a neutral position. Generally, the sag should be about 25-30% of the fork's total travel. You can adjust sag by adding or removing air with a shock pump (for air forks) or by changing the spring (for coil forks).
- Adjust Your Rebound: This controls how quickly the fork springs back after absorbing an impact. It's usually adjusted via a knob at the bottom of one of the fork legs.
Start with the rebound dial set to the middle. Ride over some rough terrain, then adjust as needed. If the bike feels too bouncy, slow down the rebound; if the bike feels too harsh, speed up the rebound.
- Adjust Your Compression: This controls how easily the fork compresses under impact. It's often adjusted via a knob at the top of one of the fork legs.
If your fork is compressing too easily or too often, increase the compression damping. If the fork feels too stiff and isn't absorbing impacts adequately, decrease the compression damping.
How to Set Up Your Forks for Different Riding Conditions
The way you adjust your suspension will be different depending on where and how you plan to ride. Find your preferred style below and configure your suspension accordingly.
- Commuting and Pathway Riding: For commuting or pathway riding where surfaces are relatively smooth, a firmer setting would be more suitable. This provides stability and efficiency, reducing unnecessary movement from the forks.
- Casual Riding: For casual riding where comfort is more important, a softer setting will be better. This allows the forks to absorb more of the smaller bumps you'll encounter, providing a smoother ride.
- Singletrack Riding: For singletrack riding where the terrain can be rough and unpredictable, a balance between comfort and control is key. You'll want enough compression to absorb larger impacts but enough rebound to keep the wheels tracking the ground efficiently.
- Downhill Trails: For downhill trails, you'll want your suspension to absorb as much of the impact as possible. This means a softer setup with slower rebound to handle big hits and drops, and keep the wheels grounded for control.
- Snow and Mud: In conditions where traction is crucial, like snow or mud, a softer setup is usually best. This allows the wheels to follow the contours of the terrain more closely, improving grip.
Dial in Your eBike Suspension & Enjoy Smoother Riding
Knowing how to adjust your eBike’s suspension forks makes a big difference, helping you feel like you’re truly one with your vehicle. Use what you’ve learned above to balance comfort, control, and performance on your next eBike—you’ll have to suspend your disbelief at how good it feels.