How to Buy the Right Bicycle Fork

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How to Buy the Right Bicycle Fork

In a world where climate change, traffic congestion and poor health are becoming increasingly serious issues, many people are beginning to turn away from cars as their primary means of transportation. Cycling is not only a satisfying sport and hobby, it is a low cost, practical and environmentally friendly means of transportation, and an excellent way to keep fit.

A bicycle is a complex machine with many parts. One of its most important features is the bicycle fork, a device located at the front of the machine, which attaches the wheel to the rest of the bike. It is the intention of this guide to explore all the most important considerations when shopping for a bicycle fork, whether customising an existing bike or building one from scratch, and to explain why the auction website eBay is the ideal place to shop.

The Bicycle Fork

This section summarises the key features of a bicycle fork, explaining in detail each part’s function. The two fundamental functions of a bicycle fork are to hold the front wheel in place, and to allow the bike to be steered with the handlebars. To this end, there are several key features.

Fork Ends

There are two fork ends on a bicycle fork, each located at the bottom of one of the blades (or prongs). They are essentially sockets, into which the wheel’s axle slots. They are required in order to attach the wheel to the rest of the bicycle.

Blades/Legs

The blades, or legs, are the prongs of the fork. They begin at the fork ends, where the wheel attaches to the fork, and run alongside one another up the radius of the wheel, until they converge at the crown, above the wheel. They hold the wheel in place.

The term blade is used for rigid forks. Blades are immobile, and are usually slightly curved. This curve is called “offset”, and is intended to reduce the distance between the handlebars and the bike’s centre of gravity, making it more stable.

The term leg is used for suspension forks. A leg is completely straight, but contains moving parts, the purpose of which is explained below.

Crown

The crown is the point above the wheel where the two blades converge and connect. The crown provides a good space for a graphic or logo to be presented, as it is highly visible at the front of the bike. The crown is the centre of the fork, because it attaches both blades to the steering tube.

Steering Tube

The steering tube is a long, hollow metal cylinder, attached firmly to both the crown and the handlebars (the latter via a stem). This means that when the handlebars are turned, the whole fork does so too, and thus also the wheel, which changes the direction of the bike. The steering tube also interacts with the main frame of the bike. However, this is via a set of bearings, known as the headset. The bearings allow the steering tube to rotate without causing the rest of the bike to do the same, as otherwise steering would be impossible.

Types of Bicycle Fork

There are two main types of bicycle fork. These are rigid forks, and suspension forks. The following is a detailed analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of each:

Rigid Bicycle Forks

A rigid bicycle fork, as mentioned above, uses blades to connect the fork ends and the crown. A blade is a solid length of metal, almost entirely inflexible, hence the name ‘rigid’. A rigid bicycle fork, due to its immovable nature, lends itself to smooth, flat road surfaces. There is no kinetic energy wasted on unnecessary upwards or downwards movements, meaning that the effort exerted by the rider can be translated most efficiently into the movement of the wheels.

However, rigid bicycle forks do not perform well on rough or uneven surfaces. This is also due to the rigidity of the blades as the wheel rides over a bump, the motion carries all the way up the fork into the handlebars, dispersing itself in the rider’s body. This is both extremely uncomfortable and inefficient. As a consequence, a different kind of fork was developed for off-road cycling, known as a suspension fork.

Suspension Forks

Instead of using blades, a suspension fork uses legs. Legs are straight, telescopic tubes, meaning that they contain an inner and outer tube. The inner tube can move in and out of the outer tube (within certain parameters). Further, the legs contain shock absorbers, which are spring or air powered devices, located within the outer tube, that connect the two tubes. The inner tubes are at the bottom of the fork, connected to the fork ends, whilst the outer tubes form the legs and connect at the crown.

On a flat surface, the device wastes a little of the cyclist’s exerted energy. However, when difficult terrain is encountered, the kinetic energy that would otherwise travel all the way up the fork is soaked up by the shock absorbers connecting the inner and outer tubes. As such, the discomfort experienced by the cyclist is minimal.

Both rigid and suspension forks are widely available on eBay.

Material

There are five primary materials from which bicycle forks are constructed. These are, in order of weight:

  • Steel – the longest material in use, and formerly the most widely used. Steel is strong, durable and long lasting, though heavy. It also requires regular treatment for rust.
  • Aluminium – lighter, cheaper and harder than steel, aluminium is more commonly used today, though it is doesn’t last as long, and is less comfortable (though faster).
  • Titanium – titanium is light, hard, strong, durable and long lasting, making it an excellent choice. It is, however, very expensive, and thus unavailable to most cyclists.
  • Magnesium – magnesium is widely known as the most lightweight useable metal. Not often used on its own, it makes good alloys.
  • Carbon Fibre – carbon fibre is not metal, but is stronger, much lighter, and easier to shape into aerodynamic forms. It is the material of choice for professionals. Naturally, it is expensive. It is also brittle, meaning collisions can be very damaging.

The intended use of the bike in question should determine which kind of metal your bicycle fork is made of. Forks made from all of these materials are available on eBay.

Types of Bicycle

Bicycle forks are made for specific types of bicycle. The fork will be shaped differently depending on the bicycle’s purpose. There are numerous kinds of bike. On the online auctioning platform eBay, bicycle forks can be arranged by type of bike, which eases the user’s search. What follows is a list of the different kinds of bicycle for which bicycle forks can be bought on eBay.

  • Mountain Bike – normally equipped with suspension forks, mountain bikes are designed for off-roading.
  • Town Bike – very fast and efficient on smooth surfaces, town bikes are equipped with rigid bicycle forks.
  • Hybrid – a well-balanced combination of mountain and town bike, hybrids compromise in all areas, making them very versatile.
  • BMX – used mainly for stunts and tricks, BMX bikes are commonly found in urban environments and non-racing competitions.
  • Tandem – tandems are ridden by two or more people at once.
  • Cruiser – cruisers are not efficient or fast, but provide a relaxing, gentle pace for the casual cyclist.

Conclusion

Cycling is a sport, hobby and means of transportation and is increasing in popularity. For a new or experienced cyclist, having the right equipment is essential. This guide listed key information that should be known in order to make the right choice of bicycle fork. The main features of a bicycle fork to consider are:

  • Rigid or suspension
  • Type of bike
  • Material

Using eBay allows the cyclist a huge range of options, and allowing the process of buying both personal and straightforward, making eBay the ideal platform to shop for bicycle forks.

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