Tuesday, March 29, 2011

From the Archives - Road Bike Suspension?

In the mountain bike arena, the suspension revolution was in full swing by the mid-90s. Multiple companies putting out various types of forks and bike companies - big and small - experimenting with rear suspension designs. It was an interesting era and if you're new to riding, would probably laugh at what passed as "suspension" in those days. Leading link front forks, elastomer bumpers, greased rods for damping, 3 inch travel downhill forks - all kinds of progression and progress along the way. Some ideas worked, others did not. Some companies survived, others eventually folded shop.

Mixed in with all this, for a short period of time anyway, the idea of suspending road bikes was tossed into the fray. RockShox and few others manufactured suspension forks for road bikes. High end road bike use, not the 40 pound hybrids you sometimes see sporting forks today. A few companies, such as Boulder, designed and sold full suspension road bikes. Boulder previously designed a full suspension mountain bike and carried the technology over to the road model. The mountain bike was a bit ahead of its time, I thought so anyway. Boulder has since closed its doors.

I dragged this 1994 issue of Bicycle Guide out of my massive Pile-O-Mags for a look back. This article compares the Boulder against a Merckx fitted with a RockShox fork. Suspension for road bikes eventually was declared a waste of time, although some production models still dabbled with the idea; Klein, Trek, Cannondale, Moulton come to mind - although most only sported front or rear suspension, not both.

Take a tour of '94 if you will. Clicking on each pic will enlarge to allow semi-readable viewing. Using the Zoom feature on your browser also helps. That classic steel Merckx looks sweet, even with the suspension fork...

In the same issue, article featuring suspended road bikes for the Paris-Roubaix race. Blasting across cobblestones at race speeds sounds like a place for suspension. However, even the pros abandoned that idea and rigid bikes were the norm soon after. Interesting to see what the teams put under their riders at the time however...

With that, the '94 edition of Bicycle Guide goes back to the vault. I hope you enjoyed the trip down suspended memory lane. I'll dig through the massive Pile-O-Mags and see what else I can discover worthy of posting.

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