E-Bike Suspension – Is It a Must-Have? Find Out Now

Suspensions are critical for cars, trucks, and motorcycles. Aside from improving comfort during the ride, a good suspension prolongs the various vehicle components by reducing the impacts they experience. However, do electric bikes need suspension?

All electric bikes can dampen impacts, but not all have suspensions. Suspensions are protective mechanisms that improve part longevity, handling, and rider comfort, especially while mountain biking. An electric bike is more difficult to control on rough terrain without a suspension.

Electric bikes are limited in where they ride without a suspension, and riders often experience a sore behind. But how does a suspension improve an electric bike’s handling? Are there different suspension types? What makes them good or bad, and which electric bikes don’t need them?

Why Do E-Bikes Need A Suspension?

Like any vehicle, electric bikes (e-bikes) need a suspension system, even in the most basic form.

Although the central feature of most suspensions is shock absorbers, it is not the only important component.

Instead, it is a system of mechanical and hydraulic parts which operate together to enhance a vehicle’s performance, improve the ride, and protect the various components from impact-related damages.

An e-bike suspension is essential for the following:

  • A suspension allows the e-bike’s wheels to move up and down (independently) so that they are more often in contact with the road’s surface as it travels over bumps and uneven surfaces.
  • Simultaneously, the suspension prevents the rider from bouncing off the e-bike.
  • The suspension improves the e-bikes’ ability to travel around corners.

What constitutes a suspension? The best way to think about an e-bike’s suspension is the parts of the bike located between the frame and the road.

A suspension system comprises the following parts:

  • The front and rear wheels
  • Air in the tires
  • Shock absorbers and forks
  • Springs
  • The brackets and parts of the frame that connect the various elements

Most e-bikes have a mechanical coil or an air spring that takes the impact, while the fluid in a shock absorber helps to dampen/soften the vibrations. These parts work together to reduce the impact you experience from going over bumps.

A shock absorber lessens the impact a rider experiences by converting kinetic energy (movement from hitting a bump) into heat by compressing the hydraulic fluid/oil in the shock absorber.

The Types Of E Bike Suspensions

There are several types of suspensions for electric bikes, including:

Front Wheel Suspension/”Hardtail E-Bikes”

These e-bikes have a suspension fork connected to the front wheel but have a “hardtail” (a rigid rear wheel).

These are the most common and cheapest (suspension e-bikes) on the market. They are lighter than full-suspension e-bikes.

They are practical for commuting while providing some comfort on rougher terrain (unfortunately, not as much as full suspension e-bikes).

While lifting yourself in the saddle compensates for the lack of a rear suspension, it won’t be as smooth of a ride on challenging terrain.

Rear Wheel Suspension

Not commonly found, these e-bikes have a solid front fork with a rear shock absorber (most often a spring). While they also provide some comfort compared to e-bikes without a suspension, they are not as comfortable as full-suspension e-bikes.

Full Suspension

These bikes have front fork suspension and a rear shock absorber/spring between the frame and the rear wheel mounting.

These e-bikes are ideal for “all-terrain” riding and provide significantly more support when traveling on dirt roads/rough terrain.

They cost and weigh more than other e-bikes, but their handling and comfort are at the pinnacle of e-bike technology.

While these full-suspension e-bikes are the most expensive, they drastically improve over front-suspension e-bikes.

You’ll want to invest in one if you plan to ride through challenging, technical terrain.

No Suspension/Rigid Frame

These e-bikes have a “rigid frame” with no shock absorbers/springs. While these are the cheapest and lightest, they are less comfortable than suspension e-bikes.

The only damping (softening the impact from bumps by lessening the speed or the velocity) these bikes experience is from the air in the tires. With this type of e-bike, the onus is on the rider to soften the bumps by standing in the saddle, bending their knees, and avoiding bumps and rough terrain.

These e-bikes are ideal for riding on smooth asphalt in a city setting with zero to little off-road riding (even speed bumps are uncomfortable if you hit them traveling too quickly).

Which E-Bikes Need A Suspension?

Before you rush off and purchase a superior “full suspension” electric bike, you must ask yourself whether you need a suspension on your e-bike.

What do you plan on doing while riding? Are you cruising around the city on a beach cruiser e-bike? Are you commuting to work on asphalt bicycle lanes? Do you occasionally use your bike for “easy” off-roading? Or are you an avid mountain biker?

If you’re considering mountain biking along technical trails with horrendous terrain, a full-suspension e-bike would be your best option.

One factor contributing to the cost of electric mountain bikes can be the inclusion of suspension systems.

However, if you plan on “light” off-roading while mostly sticking to asphalt, a hardtail e-bike (front suspension) will serve your needs.

If you don’t plan on heading into the woods and prefer the city’s bike lanes (smooth and paved), then a rigid frame (no suspension) e-bike is perfect.

Do Fat Bikes Need A Suspension?

Whether you need a suspension depends entirely on your plan with the e-bike.

While most “normal” tire e-bikes benefit from a suspension, “fat bikes” are (usually) rigid frame e-bikes that frequently get away without needing shock absorbers and springs.

Fat bikes have considerable innate cushioning thanks to the air in their oversized tires. This cushioning is perfect for most of the bumps and drops you might experience around a city or while riding along easy trails/moderate terrain.

Most fat bikes are designed for snow, sand, and riding on other soft surfaces. On these terrains, there are relatively fewer impacts. However, if you plan on riding on particularly rough terrain (mountain biking trails), a suspension will improve the overall experience on a fat bike.

Fat tires can provide some natural suspension on an e-bike, but depending on your needs, you might still require additional suspension.

Additionally, a suspension on a fat bike is ideal if you desire optimal levels of comfort while riding, as rigid-frame bikes will still have some impact. People with health issues who need a softer ride may also consider a suspension.

The Benefits And Drawbacks Of Electric Bike Suspensions

As will most vehicle suspensions, there are pros and cons to having one on an electric bike.

The Benefits Of A Suspension For Electric Bikes

Riders of electric bikes with suspensions experience several benefits, including:

Better Control Through Increased Road Surface Traction

A suspension improves the handling and control of an e-bike by keeping the wheels in contact with the road’s surface, particularly when traveling over rough terrains (bumps) that would otherwise dismount (throw off) the rider.

Electric Bike Part Longevity

Thanks to the shock absorption (damping), the battery, motor, central control unit, and other e-bike components take less jarring impacts, which improves their lifespans.

Improved Rider Comfort

Not only do the components experience a better ride, but the rider also has a smoother, more comfortable experience thanks to the suspension.

Although experienced riders know how to improve their rides, they will appreciate the effort the bike “puts in” to enhance ride comfort.

A Good Suspension Is Essential For Rough Terrain

If you plan on heading off-road, on technical trails which include drops and large rocks, a suspension is essential for protecting the e-bike’s components and preventing rider injuries.

The Drawbacks Of An Electric Bike Suspension

While there are many positives to an electric bike suspension, there are some drawbacks too.

Increased Weight

One of the significant downsides to a suspension is the increased weight. Suspension e-bikes are often 10 to 20 lbs heavier than rigid-frame bikes.

More Expensive

Unfortunately, more parts mean a greater expense. Quality full-suspension e-bikes range from around $3000, while hardtail e-bikes are from $1200. The added technology and materials mean you pay more for comfort, which might push the already expensive e-bikes out of your budget.

Although there are cheaper full-suspension e-bikes, we don’t recommend opting for those. Substandard material could result in the e-bike braking at an inopportune time, leaving you in a bad situation.

If you plan on getting a full suspension e-bike, saving up/budget for the (roughly) $3000 models is better.

More Parts To Maintain/Things That Can Break

Although a suspension ensures your e-bike’s other components stay safer for longer, hydraulics, springs, and other components also require maintenance, including cleaning, oiling, and replacing seals.

If they become dirty/if they are not maintained, they will break.

Many companies recommend replacing the oil in springs and their seals every 500 hours.

Conclusion

Electric bike suspensions are essential for mountain biking and other rough terrains but are less important for biking around the city where the road is smooth and easy. If you prefer comfort and are tempted to ride “off-road,” a suspension e-bike is a good investment; however, they are heavier and more expensive than those without a suspension.

Author

  • Miles Baxter

    Miles Baxter is an engineer with a longstanding love for bicycles, sparked by winning a mountain bike in a childhood lottery. Balancing a keen interest in mechanics with the thrill of biking, his career is a testament to the art of turning wheels and gears into adventures.

    Baxter Miles