Difference Between a Suspension, Carbon and Racing Bicycle Fork?

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What's the Difference Between a Suspension, Carbon and Racing Bicycle Fork?

Bicycle forks come in a variety of different styles and for a number of different riding purposes.

They are used as a means of helping the steering of a bicycle, because they are ultimately connected to the handlebars. Bicycle forks, however, are primarily used as means of providing a means of shock absorption and for making the riding experience as smooth as possible. Whether one is riding a mountain bike over tough, bumpy terrain, or riding a racing bicycle on smooth roads, there are bicycle forks that are designed specifically to make sure that any shock is absorbed and that no damage is to done to neither the cyclist nor the bicycle itself.

The following guide aims to take potential bicycle fork buyers through the differences between carbon forks, suspension forks and racing forks and how to purchase one on eBay.

The Anatomy of a Bicycle Fork

Whilst there are differences and additional features in the anatomy of the three forks that are to be discussed in this guide, there are a number of fundamental components that make up a bicycle fork. Here are those basic elements that feature in the vast majority of bicycle forks:

Anatomical Components of a Bicycle Fork

About

Steerer Tube

The steerer tube is a cylindrical tube that features at the top of the fork and plays a role in rotating the head tube, the part of the frame connected to the handlebars to allow for precise and accurate steering. The quality of a steerer tube is determined by the material used in its production. A more robust material such as carbon fibre used for a steerer tube is going to be higher on the price scale than a steerer tube made from the likes of steel or titanium. Steerer tubes are often measured by their diameter, as a wider steerer tube provides a higher level of shock absorption.

Crown

The crown of a bicycle fork is the point at which the fork blades meet the steerer tube. Much like the other elements that make up any type of bicycle fork, the material used for fork crowns directly correlates to the price that is paid and therefore the quality of the crown. It is not uncommon for a bicycle fork to have a double crown to allow for a higher level of stiffness and to increase the robustness of the fork.

Blades

The blades are the component from which the name 'fork' comes from. The fork blades are joined to the steerer tube via the crown and sit either side of the wheel. Whilst rarely some fork blades are singular, there are fork legs that can be found for suspension forks that are composed of two elements. These elements are the stanchion (or the upper leg) and the lower leg, which is the part of the blade that tends to hold the suspension elements. The fork blades also determine the 'offset' of the fork on racing and carbon forks, a feature that will be discussed in further detail later in the guide. The blades of a bicycle fork are made from a number of different materials that determine the overall quality and performance of the bicycle. For example, thicker blades are used on suspension forks for mountain bikes that will be ridden on rough and uneven ground.

Axle

The axle on a bicycle fork is an important element of the fork. It helps with the steering of the bicycle, as well as playing a part in the shock absorption process. A common form of axle is called a 'thru-axle'. In terms of size, there are generally two guideline sizes. These sizes are 15 millimetres and 20 millimetres. There are axles also available in sizes between these two measurements, however. The axle is also important as it is often used as a starting point for measuring the formal length of a bicycle fork. It is generally considered that the length of a bicycle fork is the distance between the axle and the crown.

Racing Forks

Material

Racing forks come in a variety of different materials. Less expensive forks tend to be made from steel.. However, steel is not as robust and is not as effective at withstanding shock and bumps as higher end forks and materials.

Mid-range racing forks are generally made from titanium or aluminium. It is the higher end of the price scale that provides the best material for racing bicycle forks. These tend to be made from carbon fibre,, a much more suitable material for shock absorption and travel due to its strength. It is also a lighter metal, which makes a lot of difference whilst racing at a higher level, as the lighter the bicycle the better.

Features

Racing forks tend to be thinner in comparison to the likes of suspension forks. Furthermore, whilst suspension forks are linear in design, racing forks tend to have a feature commonly known as an 'offset'. The offset is a bending of the forks forward of the steering axis.

This bending occurs on the lower half of the fork and is done so as a means of improving shock absorption without adding weight to the bicycle. It also improves the steering of the bicycle because it decreases the distance between the point at which the steering axis meets the ground and the contact point of the front wheel on the ground. Racing bicycle forks generally have an offset of anywhere between 40 millimetres to 45 millimetres.

Suspension Forks

Material

Much like racing forks, suspension forks are made from a range of materials, depending on the price that is willing to be paid for them and the level of riding one wishes to use them for. They are made of a similar range of metals as racing forks, so the cheaper suspension forks may be made from steel and the more advanced, higher end forks will be made of carbon fibre..

Due to the fact that suspension forks are weightier than racing forks, buying carbon fibre suspension forks play an important role in keeping the weight of the bicycle as low as possible, whilst maintaining the maximum amount of stiffness and shock absorption.

Features

Whilst racing forks and suspension forks share similarities in terms of the materials made to use them, there are a number of anatomical differences. Firstly, suspension forks tend to be linear and straight in design, meaning that the offset is a lot less than that of racing forks.

Furthermore, whereas racing forks use the offset as a means of absorbing shock and uneven surfaces, suspension forks have a feature known as 'damping', a specially designed suspension system to help with the same problem. Bicycles with suspension forks are expected to ride over much rougher and uneven terrains than racing forks and are commonly used on mountain bikes. Damping is a means of protecting the added springs that are not found on racing forks. It forces oil through specially designed valves to smoothen the impact of heavy landings and bumps on a course. There are two types of damping, the first being 'rebound damping'. The second is 'high speed damping' which means that cyclists can account for shock whilst riding on fast, downhill tracks and terrains.

Suspension forks also have additional springs to account for the terrain they are commonly ridden on. There are also two types of spring available. Metal coil springs are used in suspension forks for cyclists who are not very concerned with the weight of the bicycle. The other spring type is known as an ' air spring ' , which provides just as much, if not more, shock absorption whilst maintaining a level of lightness.

Carbon Forks

Carbon bicycle forks are used by those who wish to have a strong set of forks that refrain from adding unnecessary weight to the bicycle. They are popularly used for both road racing bicycles, as well as the more suspension conscious mountain bikes.

Carbon forks for racing bikes are appreciated for their ability to keep the bicycle light and mobile, whilst still being recognised as a strong, durable material.

Carbon fibre is occasionally combined with the likes of aluminium to allow for a less inexpensive option. Carbon forks also often have legs that can be designed to allow for greater aero dynamism - a factor that is regarded as extremely important for racing bicycles.

Buying Suspension, Carbon and Racing Bicycle Forks from eBay

eBay is home to all three of the different types of bicycle fork mentioned throughout this guide. The site provides buyers with the opportunity to buy these bicycle parts from exclusive listings, dedicated to these specific products.

To find these listings, click the Sporting Goods category and choose the Cycling option. From here you will be shown a list of cycling products. To get to the forks listings, choose the Bike Parts filter tab and then click the Forks tab. Finally, make use of the keyword search bar to search for the specific type of bicycle fork that is desired.

Once a fork has been found, be sure to read the product description and the seller's details before either placing a Bid or using the Buy It Now option. If one is unclear on certain aspects of the transaction,contacting the seller directly or visiting the Buyer Tips page may be a wise idea to ensure that the buying process is as smooth as possible.

Conclusion

There are a number of differences between suspension, carbon and racing bicycle forks, such as:

- Racing forks tend to be bent at the lower part of the blade, and this is frequently referred to as the 'offset'.

- Suspension forks are straight in design.

- Racing forks are a lot thinner than suspension forks.

- Suspension forks are fitted with damping and springs to aid with shock absorption.

- Carbon forks are lighter than suspension forks, yet are used commonly for road-racing bicycles.

Remember to be aware of the prices for higher-end bicycle forks. It may be a wise idea to set a budget limit especially if one is planning on placing a Bid on eBay.

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