Most modern mountain bikes are all equipped with suspension, either the front fork or the at the back via a shock. The purpose of a mountain bike’s suspension is to dampen the roughness of the riding terrain, providing the user with a smoother, controlled ride. There will be times when you will need to lock out the suspension to reserve pedaling energy.
The best time to lock out the suspension on your mountain bike is when you are doing a long non-technical trail climb or riding a long distance on a flat surface. Lockouts are typically used at specific times to help prevent wasting pedaling energy in the form of bobbing of the suspension.
Most mountain bikers rely heavily on their suspension when maneuvering through rough terrains with jumps and solid obstacles that need navigating. This article will explore the times that a mountain biker will need to switch off this dampening aid, as riding with it will be more of a hindrance than an aid.
When To Lock Out Your Suspension On Your Mountain Bike?
We all know the benefits of having our mountain bikes suspended when riding. It is a definite no-brainer to use this dampening aid when riding a rough trail full of challenging obstacles or a downhill littered with rocks, roots, and frequent jumps.
But there will be times when riding without your suspension will be the better energy-saving alternative. Trail riding requires a lot of energy. Locking out your suspension at the correct times will save you energy and direct the energy you create around the course to the correct components on your bike, ultimately increasing your overall speed and overall experience.
Let us look at when riding without your suspension will be the better alternative:
Riding On Paved Roads
When riding on paved roads, you will generally not need any suspension. Riding with your suspension on these types of obstacle-less roads, you will only be wasting energy as most paddling energy will go into your suspension and not into the pedals and cranks. Disabling the suspension when riding on paved roads will enhance your efficiency and save you some energy.
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It could be a good idea to lock out your suspension on non-technical climbs. It is up to you to decide if you can handle the climb and the obstacles without your bike’s suspension. During a climb, your foot working down on the pedal will compress the suspension, sapping some of your energy force and general speed. Most mountain bikers stand while they are climbing and lock their suspensions if the terrain allows it.
Should the terrain be of such a nature that you don’t need the assistance of your suspension, then lock it out; your legs will thank you later. It is a good idea to play around, locking out your suspension on the courses you often ride. This lockout will allow you maximum energy conservation and improve your overall speed regarding completing your favorite trail.
Smooth Trail Sections
Locking out your mountain bike’s suspension will ultimately put more power into your wheels. The energy you create by pedaling is distributed into pedals and cranks, providing more power and speed to your ride. There will be certain parts of any trail that is considered moderately smooth.
Hitting a fast flat section will be the ideal time to lock the suspension. Any moderately smooth area (without too many rocks, roots, and jumps) and good surface quality can be driven without suspension.
Well-Maintained Fire Road
These roads typically lead you to the trail and, in general, are well-maintained roads with little to no obstacles present. There will be no need to have your suspension open during this section of the trail, as it usually is flat and has a good quality surface. Do not waste any extra energy on this part of the trail. Locking out your suspension when you hit the fire road will conserve your energy for the actual track.
When Your Trail Becomes Boring
We have all experienced the feeling that after hitting the same local trail for months that it’s become a bit boring. Knowing the track like the back of your hand is fantastic from a safety perspective, but not from an adrenaline view. Locking out your suspension will change the trail’s whole dynamic and make it feel brand new as you have to alter the way you ride it.
When You Have Become Lazy On Your Bike
Riding only suspension bikes will cover up any mistakes that you are making on the bike. If you have only ever ridden dual-suspension bikes, there is an excellent chance that you are not using your arms and legs correctly. Riding without suspension assistance will force you to use your body correctly, including the crucial element of correct weight distribution.
One aspect that riding rigid will increase is your overall technical abilities and will stand you in good stead when you return to riding with suspension. Rigid riding will quickly highlight any mistakes that you could be making while riding with suspension. With no suspension to suck up your mistakes, you receive instant feedback on your riding abilities when riding rigid.
Riding rigid every so often will increase and update your skill levels, continually challenging you to become a better mountain biker.
When Not To Lock Out Your Suspension On Your Mountain Bike?
The suspension on your mountain bike is of utmost importance to absorb the shock that you will encounter on rough riding terrains with many rocks, roots, and jumps. Employing your suspension in these harsh conditions will help absorb the shock of navigating over these obstacles and help with the tires’ traction and general momentum.
Extreme And Rough Trails
Modern mountain bikes have suspension for a reason. The primary job of any suspension is to absorb the shocks that riding on a rough trail will produce, as well as provide traction of your wheels when maneuvering over harsh obstacles.
Suspension is vital when you are proceeding in beast mode down or across a highly rough trail filled with rocks, tree roots, and all sorts of benign objects.
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There is no better friend than suspension when you are flying downhill at breakneck speeds. The ability of your bike to absorb hits from rough terrain while navigating your way down a trail hill is priceless. Having the extra cushioning available when you take on steep slopes and curves will give you a more stable and ultimately safe ride.
Regarding any jumping on your local trail, it is highly suggested that you use your suspension, as when it comes to technical riding, suspension bikes are your best bet. Keeping your bike in a straight line when you are speeding down a trail is what the suspension will offer you.
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As discussed in the above article, the locking out of a mountain bike’s suspension is anywhere on the trail that does not involve the navigation of any blunt objects (rocks, roots, and jumps) and where it makes sense to preserve paddling energy.
Riding on a non-technical climb, paved roads, well-maintained fire roads, and flat smooth trail sections does not require suspension to be active on your mountain bike. Another factor to consider is that driving rigidly every once in a while will re-update your mountain biking skills and test your ability on another level.
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I started mountain biking many years ago to improve my overall health state. After my first ride, I fell in love with the sport. Now I spend dozens of hours a week researching and training to compete in local XC and Enduro events.