Gravel Gear

Tech Podcast: Is gravel suspension necessary?

Gravel bikes have gone soft! Suspension has taken over in some form, from flex to decouplers to actual suspension systems. Is it necessary?

Gravel bikes have gone soft! By which of course we mean suspension has become a stable in some form or another on most gravel bikes. Flexing seatposts, decouplers, and even full-suspension designs have all aimed to make gravel riding more comfortable.

But is it necessary?

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While gravel as a category is still quite young, trail riding and dirt road rides have been around for a long time, so there’s plenty of inspiration to draw from when it comes to suspension on gravel bikes. But the needs of a mountain biker are vastly different than those of a gravel rider, so even if the two types of bikes share characteristics, the goals for any suspension on gravel bikes will be quite different than those of a mountain bike suspension system. We talk about the differences between the two and what demands make squish on gravel bikes a totally different animal.

Tech editor Dan Cavallari also chats with VeloNews editorial director Ben Delaney to get his take on the gravel bikes he has tested over the years. Does Ben think suspension is here to stay? If so, what kinds will stick around and what suspension will fade away into the cycling history books?

And Cavallari talks with Zack Vestal from Niner Bikes to get deeper into the design considerations behind the MCR (Magic Carpet Ride), the first full-suspension gravel bike to hit the market. It turns out there’s more to suspension than simply making your ride more comfortable. There are also control considerations, among other design narratives.

What do you think? Do gravel bikes need shocks, decouplers, flex systems, and the like? If so, what kind? Feel free to reach out to Dan Cavallari on Twitter or Instagram, or via e-mail. And of course, if you have ideas for a topic you’d like us to cover on the Tech Podcast, let us know!