5 bicycle components designed to smooth out rough rides
Although most mountain bikes now feature suspension forks (and often rear shocks), road bikes are typically – but not always – still fully rigid. That said, a few devices have been created to help them soak up unwanted road vibrations. Here are a few we've seen, that each took a different approach to the task.
Developed by British industrial designer Sam Pearce, Loopwheels do away with the spokes and replace them with three looped carbon composite springs that run from the hub to the rim. Whenever the wheel hits a bump in the road, the energy is absorbed by those springs. This does cause the hub to momentarily dip down within the wheel, so the wheels can only be used on bikes that have a fair amount of clearance between the frame and the tire.
Israeli company SoftWheel developed something similar, in the form of the Fluent wheel. Instead of looped springs, though, it replaced the spokes with three telescoping shock absorbers per wheel. Both SoftWheel and Loopwheels currently only display wheelchair wheels on their websites – we're waiting to hear back about availability of their bicycle wheels.
UPDATE (May 24/20): A Loopwheels representative has told us that the company now only manufactures wheels for wheelchairs. There are no plans for more bike wheels.
RedShift ShockStop Suspension Stem and Seatpost
Although the idea of putting shocks in seatposts and stems is nothing new, most of the examples we've seen have tended to be rather involved-looking contraptions designed for mountain bikes. Redshift Sports' ShockStop Stem and Seatpost, however, are sleek, light, and non-gawky-looking. Instead of coil springs or air chambers, each one utilizes an elastomer insert – riders choose between inserts of varying stiffnesses, depending on how plush they want their ride to be.
The stem and seatpost can be purchased as a package for US$349.99.
Baramind Bam City handlebar
Manufactured by French company Baramind, the Bam City bar features a middle section that's made of a flexible "composite hybrid" material that bends as the bike hits bumps in the road. Rigid inserts on top keep the bar from flexing upwards, so it doesn't take up the rider's energy when they're pulling on it. Additionally, interchangeable inserts on the bar's underside determine how far down it's able to flex, thus letting riders adjust its cushiness.
It's priced at €69 (about $75).
Velospring Sen Comfort grips
One of the first things you'll notice about the German-made Velospring Sen Comfort grips is their exquisite (if perhaps a bit impractical) polished walnut wood construction. Inside of each one, though, is a spring-based suspension system. This allows their ergonomic palm flanges to twist up and down – not unlike a motorcycle throttle – in response to vibrations that are transmitted up from rough roads.
You can buy a pair for €199 ($217).
SR Suntour Swing Shock
A big ol' mountain bike suspension fork would look kind of silly on a lightweight commuter bike, so SR Suntour came out with a coil-sprung model made just for such steeds. Called the Swing Shock, it was designed very much for use on city streets (as opposed to singletrack trails), featuring 30 mm of travel, adjustable preload, and a claimed total weight of 1,410 g (3.1 lb) – there was also a beefier model, that weighed a little more.
It's no longer in production, but was still kind of an interesting idea.
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