SR Suntour SP12-NCX Suspension Seat Post Review

A suspension seat post can be a useful thing if you are a hard-tail mountain bike rider. It is important too for the long distance cycle tourist to make the bike as comfortable as possible.

A good suspension seat post removes the lumps and bumps and generally makes the ride a bit more comfortable (together with the trusty steel frame). There are simple seat posts with a spring to absorb the rough stuff. SJS Cycles have a good range of suspension seat posts. There are also several makes of the parallelogram style post such as the Crane Creek Thudbuster and the SR Suntour SP12-NCX. The idea of the parallelogram design is to minimise the shortening of the operating distance between the saddle and the pedal. This improves contact with the bike as well as maintaining the position of the rider in relation to the geometry of the bike.

I decided to go for the SR Suntour SP12-NCX. It was redesigned in 2012 boasting improved brass bushings. Travel is 50 mm with a rider weight range stated as 60-100kg. The on-line reviews seemed good and the price was quite a bit less that the Thudbuster. I had also read that the Thudbuster can bounce up and down a bit depending on the combination of elastomers used. I have never used the Thudbuster but it also seems very popular. I was looking for a solid seat post that would only absorb the bigger bumps and pot-holes without loss of power transfer caused by a ‘bouncing’ saddle or saddle with springs.

Full technical details of the SR Suntour SP12-NCX, together with the owner’s manual, can be found on the Suntour web site.

The Suntour arrived in plain packaging which is how they are supplied in bulk to retailers. I purchased it from Practical Cycles in Lytham in Lancashire, England. They provide a wonderful range of utility bikes and bike parts. Service and delivery were excellent.

Seatpost top and Brooks B17 rails for comparison

On arrival I was a bit concerned about the fit. The above photograph shows the upturned Brooks and the seat post top. With the B17 Select saddle there is not much forward-aft adjustment possible with only about 6 mm of leeway available. Perhaps a small Suntour redesign would sort this out. I fitted it without a problem though. I was able to set up the bike into a comfortable riding position despite this limited adjustment with the Brooks saddle.

The point where the post would operate was tested by cycling over some bumps and pavement edges. The adjustment as delivered was almost ideal for my weight (71 kg). After tightening a little by adjusting the hex bolt in the seat post the correct setting was established. On numerous day rides I liked how the post would only absorb the larger bumps. There was no bouncing and in operation the post would absorb the bump and immediately return to a solid position in one action. I was happy with the purchase. A neoprene dust cover adds protection to the moving parts. This was purchased separately.

This Summer I set off to complete the North Sea Cycle Route. The seat post performed well on a variety of surfaces from smooth Norwegian roads, rough forest track in Denmark, tree roots under some Dutch and Belgian cycle paths, sand dune cycle paths, to pot-hole damaged sealed and gravel roads that we love to nurture in the UK. Really big bumps and holes were handled with confidence and no doubt prevented some serious back jarring and possible injury. The instant return to a solid seat post position after a bump helped in controlling the bike on rough terrain and complimented the Thorn Raven Tour’s inbuilt stability. It is a fit-and-forget item once the correct spring tension is set for your weight and preference.

Wear caused by rubbing against Brooks B17 rails

During the trip I examined the post a few times and discovered that the top had been rubbing against the Brooks saddle rails each time the post absorbed a bump. There was some wear to the corners of the post. There was no damage to the saddle rails other than the black paint having being worn off. There was no sign of any rust on the saddle rails. The wear in the photograph looks worse than in real life and has not affected the bushings.

Viewed from the right side …

Suntour SP12 NCX right view

… and from the left side of the bike …

Suntour SP12 NCX seatpost left view

After 14 weeks of daily use, and over 6200 km, the seat post performed very well. Initial spring tension remains as it was set before the tour. There were no indications of additional wear to the saddle rails or to the Suntour SP12-NCX. In operation the seat post now clears the saddle rails.

Not a major problem but the neoprene cover did rub through as shown in the photograph …

Wear of the neoprene cover

The neoprene cover worked well. During and after the tour closer inspection of the mechanism showed little wear or signs of dust ingress. The bushings and contact points appear undamaged and intact.

Seatpost wear after more than 7000km

All in all I would recommend the Suntour seat post for your touring or mountain bike. I hope to compare it with the Thudbuster one day. For the moment the SR Suntour SP12-NCX does the job!

PROS

  • Solid well-made construction
  • Micro-adjustable spring to obtain the right ‘bounce’
  • Good quality spring without any loss of tension on the tour
  • Quality brass bushings
  • Effective neoprene cover
  • Good value
  • Cool black colour

CONS

  • Tight fit with a Brooks saddle
  • Initial slight clicking sound until it wears in
  • Neoprene cover must be purchased separately
  • Not tried the Thudbuster yet

Yarrowford and the Three Brethren

Near the top with the Thorn Raven Tour

This was a warm day for this particular Summer. A breeze and some showers moved across the Scottish Borders and I decided to go for an exploration. Leaving the town I headed towards Hawick and took the small road down to the Ettrick Valley. There is a short cut that runs steeply down a rough stoney lane and after the recent heavy rains, the last section was flooded with over a foot of water. Not a problem for the Raven Tour.

Crossing the road and through a farm yard lead to a short grassy path to a footbridge over the River Ettrick. The path re-emerged on a small road leading past Bowhill Estate and taking the old single track road I finally arrived a few kilometres later at Yarrowford. The rain was now heavy but it was warm. I had intended to head up the valley to St Mary’s Loch but saw a small sign to Innerleithen via Minch Moor. I thought I would have a look.

Soon the road turned to a good track, then to a path, and finally a sheep track. It was of course sign posted for walkers, not cyclists. I passed a group of walkers who looked at me strangely as they had just completed the path from the Tweed Valley. They never expected to see a cyclist on a walking path! The path led up a small valley and looked very steep at the top. I would have a look. I could cycle some of it and the 38 chain ring coupled with the rear 16 tooth cog of the Rohloff was pretty effective even on some steep sections.

Soon however, I had to walk the bike, then push up the last fairly steep 50m climb to the Southern Upland Way path that let along the top of Minch Moor. I knew the route having walked it a few years ago so headed East towards the Three Brethren. The track was rutted, and flooded in parts but some sections were pretty smooth. The Raven’s sturdy steel frame made for a comfortable ride. The Magura Odur suspension forks did their job. I was thinking of a new seat suspension tube to ease that end of things!

At the top a stiff breeze was blowing. There was no one. No mountain bikers, no walkers, just me and Torla my trusty Thorn Raven Tour.

View of the Eildon Hills

A brief rest and it was all down hill now! The numerous sheep did not hear me approach and they ran startled as I got nearer. The track down was heavily pitted with water filled holes and brick sized rocks. I found that the Magura Odur suspension forks were stable, very controllable, and very sure-footed on this rough terrain. I would not use them on a road tour but for all off-road terrain like this they were ideal. They have a dynamic lock-out function which would be useful on a mixed on and off-road tour.

Eventually I arrived back at the main road. Somewhat relieved but not looking forward to the climb back to the top of the town, I continued a smooth grind up hill to home. The distance was not great, and it was only a ride of just over 3 hours, but I was exhausted. The dark storm clouds had arrived, I just made it back as the heavens opened. I hosed down Torla and had an early night.

Statistics:

Trip: 27.06km
Moving Time 03:16
Stopped Time: 01:15
Moving Average: 8.3km/hr
Total Ascent: 552m
Total Descent: 624m

Patina on the Brooks B17 Select

The Brooks B17 Select is the latest model of the long running B17 classic from Brooks England. What attracted me to it was the claim that it was a bit thicker than the standard Brooks B17 and suited to long-distance use. The fact that it was made from organic Swedish cow hide and was a natural un-tanned leather made it even more interesting.

I had read that world travellers had sometimes reported that after serious and sustained abuse, the standard B17 could become a bit soft. Not that many complained about that fact, indeed the B17 was up to the job, though the Select model seemed like it would stand up to even more punishment. It was a new model and I was intrigued to see how it would perform.

After almost 500km in the saddle, it is becoming supremely comfortable. Some may never find that a Brooks is the saddle for them, but for what seems like the majority of long distance cyclists, the initial discomfort is worth it. Its worth the perseverance in case you miss out on a great touring saddle.

Being of natural leather it would develop a ‘patina‘ over time adding to its unique appearance. Documenting the changes in the saddle over time seemed like a good mini-project.

Brooks B17 Select at 7km

Brooks B17 Select at 7km

Brooks B17 at 489km

Brooks B17 Select at 489km

Patina after 8000km and more

Brooks B17 Select at 8000km and more

Magura Odur Fork

Magura Odur fork

There is some discussion about adding a suspension fork to a traditional touring frame on various forums. It appeared from the internet that a maximum of 100 mm travel may be acceptable for the Thorn Raven Tour. Back in 2009 in fact Thorn offered the Magura Odur 85 mm fork as an option. The Magura Menja is of the same solid design but is an air fork.

Thorn Raven Tour with Magura Odur suspension forks

Forums confirmed that there were Thorn Raven Tour owners who had had few problems using the short travel 85 mm Odur fork. It was important it seemed not to affect the geometry of the bike as this can affect stability and steering. Tom of Tom’s Bike Trip has a good review. There is a great four-part video series¬†showing the bikes in action.

Close up of front Magura Odur forks

So the search was on! The Magura Odur fork had, much to the dismay of many expedition tourers, been discontinued in 2009. It was a solid, German manufactured coil spring fork. Were they still available? After over an hour of ‘Googling’ I found a web site in Tallinn, Estonia that appeared to have one in stock. Being so rare, I immediately contacted the shop. After a few emails to the very helpful Rauno at VeloPlus confirming steerer length, V-brake fittings, other specifications, and checking the business out, I transferred the funds and a week later it arrived. It is indeed a solid basic fork fit for purpose. Spare parts and the service manual were found on-line so I should be covered for future maintenance.

Front view of Magura Odur fork

I was now one step closer to an off-road tour. The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route was one trip at the back of my mind. The Magura Odur would be perfect for the washboard tracks that apparently feature on the route.