Nothing spoils a nice long scenic ride more than uneven bike paths that make your bones jangle. Most senior eBikers choose commuter or hybrid-style bikes that are known as ‘hard-tails’. That means they do not have a rear suspension system, leaving only your skeletal system to absorb the shocks.
While this may not be an issue for younger backs, senior riders often experience back, shoulder, and elbow pain because of the harshness of ‘hard-tails’. Here are some tips for creating a softer ride; if they do not help sufficiently, the nuclear option is to get a full suspension bike.
1 Install a seat suspension post
There are several options for seat suspension posts that provide different levels of cushioning. The simple in-line polymer/spring posts provide only a few centimetres of suspension. That can help, but only a bit.
My favourite is the Thudbuster which comes in two sizes. Mine is the larger one with 75 cm of responsive cushioning. It can be installed in a few minutes: just swap over your existing seat, slide in the new post, and off you go. I have used Thudbusters on several bikes and would not have a bike without one. You can buy online or at a bike store.
2 Install a sprung cruiser gel saddle
I have found that saddles that come with most bikes to be too narrow, too hard, and not sympathetic to older rider’s anatomy. A web search located the most comfortable saddle I have ever ridden, called the Serfas RX Cruiser Bicycle Saddle – CR-RXL. It comes in a male and female-friendly shape and I shipped mine via Amazon for under $100. My bottom, all the way to the top, loves it.
3 Re-think your tyres
The first point of contact between you and the path is your tyres. Regular tyres are often pumped to high pressure (over 50 psi) which can feel harsh as they directly transmit the bumps and vibrations of the path. Front suspension forks often do not react fast enough to iron out these bumps. Higher pressure on regular bikes reduces rolling resistance but with ebikes this is not an issue because of the electric motor assistance.
Wider tyres at softer pressure are the frontline of my suspension system. My current tyres are 3 inches wide at 22psi; they roll smooth and glide over pathway imperfections. They also handle a wider variety of terrain; they slip less on gravel paths, ride over grass easily, and iron out a lot more bumps. Talk to your retailer to find out how wide a tyre can be safely fitted to your wheels.
4 Consult a suspension specialist
Whatever suspension your bike has at present, chances are that an expert tuning or component upgrade will help you achieve a more comfortable ride for your preferred style of riding. Most retailers can offer advice or suggest options, but experts like you’ll find at the Mountain Bike Suspension Centre in Stanmore are well placed to give you accurate information suitable for you.
5 Get a full suspension bike
If no other option works enough and you still find your ride too harsh, or if you are tempted onto mixed terrain, then its time to consider getting a full suspension bike. That’s what I eventually did. It was a big call but it has seriously changed where and how I can ride.
I chose the Merida eOne Sixty 800 mostly for its smooth riding performance. Some would call it overkill, but I also transferred my Thudbuster and Cruiser Saddle. Now I can ride over rough surfaces, kerbs, and a variety of unpaved surfaces like trails in National Parks.
Good suspension also has definite safety advantages. If you are riding on a shared path and mums with prams approach, it is so easy to jump off a kerb into a parking lane or onto grass or gravel. On slippery surfaces, wide tyres with good suspension can make a huge difference.
It was a learning journey but worth every penny. The bike is silky smooth and there are no more rattling bones.
I hope you find this information helpful. Happy riding, from eBiker Diary.