When Should You Use Suspension Lockout? And is it Truly Beneficial?

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Suspension lockout

Suspension lockout is almost standard on most mountain bikes, whether a hardtail or full suspension.

Depending on the bike type, you can lock the fork and shock on the fork leg or shock itself.

Another option is a remote lockout lever on the handlebar. With this, you can control the front (and rear suspension) from the handlebar.

To tidy up the cockpit, you’ll also increasingly notice the use of the RockShox TwistLoc.

But when exactly should you use the suspension lockout? And is it truly beneficial? What are the advantages and disadvantages?

In this article, you’ll find answers to all these questions. Additionally, I’ll share my experiences as a recreational mountain biker with lockout systems on both hardtail and full suspension bikes.

Suspension lockout

Regardless of which mountain bike you purchase and at what price point, it usually comes equipped with a suspension lockout. In entry-level models, you’ll typically find the lockout on the fork’s (right) leg. However, the lockout is often positioned on the fork or shock itself, even on trail and Enduro mountain bikes. This switch can be placed in 2 or possibly even three positions.

Race- and XC-focused mountain bikes feature a remote lockout lever on the handlebars. This lets you control the suspension lockout with a simple click, much like when shifting gears. This method is more practical since you don’t have to take your hand off the handlebars to operate the lever.

Using a remote lever is much faster, and in practice, you’ll find yourself using the lockout more frequently and quickly.

A final method is the TwistLoc system from RockShox. This system has two or three positions, with locking achieved by twisting a special grip. This can be likened to the operation of grip shifters.

What positions are there?

In the case of a remote lockout lever, you can also position the front suspension in two or three positions. Whether you have 2 or 3 settings often depends on the brand and type of fork and shock your mountain bike is equipped with.

Additionally, well-known brands such as Scott and Orbea have developed their specific systems.

It’s not very complicated when you have a suspension lockout with two settings. On the one hand, you have the “open” position, and on the other hand, the fully locked position. In the latter position, the suspension will not or only minimally compress when riding over bumps and obstacles.

If you have a switch or remote lever with three settings, there is a 3rd position between the open and locked settings. In this position, you will have an intermediate travel where the suspension utilizes only two-thirds of the maximum travel.

How about the rear suspension?

If you have a full suspension mountain bike, you definitely have the option to lock the shock or even put it in an “in-between” position. Just like with the front suspension lockout, there are two different ways to operate this lockout.

The less practical way is again a switch on the shock itself. This system makes it a bit harder to make necessary adjustments while riding since you have to let go of your handlebars momentarily. Not a big deal on flat and smooth terrain, but not recommended on more technical terrain.

The other way, similar to the fork lockout, is the remote lever on the handlebars. This isn’t an extra lever but simply the same lever as the one for the front suspension. When your full suspension mountain bike can lock both the fork and the damper, it happens simultaneously with one click of the same lever.

It’s also possible that you can only lock the fork with the remote lever and that the shock cannot be locked or can only be locked manually. This can vary greatly depending on the brand and model. Alternatively, you may have the option to lock the shock but not the front suspension.

Like the front suspension, the rear suspension also offers two or even three positions where you can adjust the suspension.

When do you use the lockout, and what is its purpose?

Now that you understand the basics of the fork and rear suspension lockout, you’re probably wondering what exactly the purpose of the fork lockout is and when you should use it… Depending on the lockout setting, there are several practical advantages to using the fork and rear suspension lockout.

Fully locked position

With the fork fully locked, for instance, the mountain bike becomes much stiffer, and there is little to no power loss. As a direct result, the power you exert on the pedals is almost entirely converted into forward motion. You’ll also notice increased efficiency when sprinting or climbing out of the saddle (on asphalt), as the locked fork and/or damper facilitate smoother performance.

Locking the suspension of the mountain bike can be useful in the following circumstances:

  • Sprinting
  • On asphalt, gravel, or flat roads
  • Climbing on asphalt or easy off-road terrain (in or out of the saddle)
front suspension lock out
Front suspension in full locked position

Open position

The open position of the suspension lockout allows you to utilize the full travel of the mountain bike. However, proper adjustment of sag and rebound is crucial. Naturally, this applies universally across all settings.

If you never use the lockout, you can always make use of the full travel. However, when sprinting or climbing out of the saddle, you may notice some energy being transferred to the suspension as it can still compress. This essentially results in wasted energy, making it less efficient. Whether this is a significant concern for a recreational mountain biker is entirely up to personal preference.

If you do use the lockout, the open position is the one you’ll likely use most often, especially in the following circumstances:

  • (Steep) downhills
  • On off-road and technical terrain with rock gardens, stones, roots, and other obstacles

However, if you have a third position, often referred to as the traction control or pedal mode, you have even more options…

Traction control or pedal mode

In the case of a lockout with three positions, the middle position may be the most important. This position is often referred to as the traction control mode. In this setting, you use approximately two-thirds to half of the maximum suspension travel of the fork and the rear shock.

This position also has its specific benefits. The traction control mode is particularly useful during off-road climbs. While absorbing uneven terrain, the suspension’s shallower compression enhances power transfer efficiency.

Because the suspension compresses less, you’ll be in a better and slightly higher position on the bike. This places the pedals further from the ground, reducing the likelihood of them hitting roots or getting caught behind obstacles.

Moreover, this mode can be more efficient in descents with few irregularities and winding, flowy singletracks. The traction control position can certainly add value to tearing through trails as efficiently as possible. It would be best if you preferably used this mode under the following conditions:

  • Off-road climbing
  • Non-technical descents
  • Twisty and flowy singletracks

For whom is it useful?

Locking the suspension certainly has advantages, but whether it adds value for every recreational mountain biker is questionable. If you enjoy casually riding a lap on the mountain bike, the gains made by using the lockout are likely of no significance.

Cross-country and marathon

However, it can be beneficial for a race-oriented mountain biker, where every second and efficiency matter. In disciplines such as XCC (cross-country short track), XCO (cross-country Olympic), and XCM (cross-country marathon), you’ll find that most professionals use the lockout very frequently.

I recently spoke with a competitive mountain biker who told me he constantly uses his lockout. Even 10-time world champion Nino Schurter eagerly utilizes the Twinloc system.

During a World Cup race in Lenzerheide, measurements were taken to determine how often and in what situations Nino Schurter used the Twinloc on his mountain bike…

On a lap of just under 4.5 km (2.8 miles), he used the lockout lever a whopping 160 times. During this lap, he rode 54% of the time in the traction control mode (mostly during climbing and flowy descents), 28% in the open mode (descending), and 18% in the fully locked mode (well-rideable climbs). (source)

As you can see, for Nino Schurter, the traction control mode is the preferred setting. This mode is only available when you have a lockout with three positions, as with Scott’s Twinloc.

Of course, Scott isn’t the only brand with lockout systems featuring three positions. For example, the Squidlock system by Orbea offers three positions, one of which is a traction control mode.

Trail and Enduro

A front and rear suspension lockout can also prove beneficial in other branches of mountain biking, such as trail and enduro riding. Trail and enduro mountain bikes typically have even greater suspension travel than cross-country hardtails and full suspension bikes, which may not always be necessary.

Locking the suspension can make uphill climbs more manageable when riding as an enduro mountain biker. Even for trail riders, a traction control setting can provide extra assistance during climbs, or a full lockout can speed up travel between forests via asphalt or gravel roads.

It’s certainly not necessary, but depending on your preferred riding style and the terrain you frequent, it’s worth considering.

Downhill riders don’t benefit from a suspension lockout since they typically use lifts to ascend the mountain again.

How do you operate the lockout?

How your mountain bike’s front fork and rear shock can lock, potentially be set to traction mode, and unlock again depends on the system installed on your MTB.

Lockout on the right fork leg

For cross-country mountain bikes in the lower price range, you’ll most likely have a switch on the right fork leg to lock the fork. The photo below shows a switch that allows you to lock and unlock the fork (2 positions).

Front suspension lockout in open mode
Lockout in open mode

Trail and enduro mountain bikes often do not come with a lever as well, but you can still lock the suspension directly on the fork or shock.

Remote lockout lever

It’s also possible to have a “remote lockout lever” installed on your handlebars, enabling you to manage the fork and/or rear shock lockout. The operation of this remote lockout can vary and depends on the suspension (and the cartridges used in it) installed on the mountain bike. Thus, the remote lockout can have a push-to-lock or push-to-unlock operation and may feature 2 or 3 positions.

RockShox Tiwtsloc (Ultimate)

The Twistlock remote lockout is integrated into a section of the handlebar grip. To lock the suspension, you need to twist the grip (hence the name TwistLoc). If you want to unlock the suspension, you need to operate the lever/button next to the grip/handlebar, or in the case of the Twistloc Ultimate, twist the grip back.

Rockshox Twistloc Ultimate
RockShox TwistLoc Ultimate 3 position

The advantage of this system is that your cockpit looks neater, leaving room for a dropper seat post lever. This is exactly what I did because I needed room for the RockShox Reverb AXS dropper controller. I installed this dropper because I wanted to get rid of the cable and, honestly, because I wasn’t very fond of the lightweight dropper that was on the MTB.

Pros and cons of a suspension lockout

Efficient pedaling and time-saving

The advantages of the lockout on the MTB have already been mentioned. It allows for more efficient pedaling (on paved paths), directing more power to the pedals, theoretically resulting in faster forward movement. If you have a middle position, you can also climb more smoothly and even tear through flowy singletracks faster.

How important those few seconds of time savings or improved efficiency are to you is entirely up to personal preference.

Additional Mechanical Components & Appearance

Of course, there are also some drawbacks to such a lockout. First and foremost, it’s another (mechanical) part that can break. If you have a full suspension bike with a lockable shock controlled via the remote lockout lever, you immediately have two extra cables to deal with.

Lockout cables on a full suspension mountain bike

Add a mechanical dropper seat post to that, and you end up with six cables (2x brakes, 2x lockout, 1x dropper, 1x shifter) or five cables for electronic shifting. With a hardtail, the number of cables remains slightly more limited.

If you prefer a clean cockpit, having five or six cables on your handlebars might be a bit much. Fortunately, in most modern mountain bikes, the cables go into the frame, making it look tidier.

Practical use of the suspension lockout

If you only use the suspension lockout sporadically, you’ve probably forgotten to unlock it at least once. Just in that one rugged descent, you bounce down without or with limited suspension travel… Often, this becomes a reason to stop using the lockout altogether in future rides.

Once you make it a habit to use the lockout, you’ll encounter the above situations less and less frequently. In the beginning, it requires some mental effort.

Position of the lockout lever(s)

The position of the lockout lever(s) can also determine whether you use it more frequently or not. If the lockout control is located on the fork leg, you’ll likely use it less often in practice.

The position of the remote lockout on your handlebars is often fixed because either a shifter or possibly a dropper seat post control gets in the way. The remote lockout can be positioned either below or above the handlebars. You operate the lockout lever with your thumb, so it needs to be close to your grips; otherwise, it’s not easily accessible.

Hardtail with 2-position lockout

Coincidentally, even my first hardtail mountain bike had a remote lockout on the handlebars. I can’t remember if I ever used the lever… I probably tried it out once to see what it did exactly, but back then, I didn’t really grasp its usefulness. This lockout had two positions: open and closed.

2-position RockShox lockout lever front suspension
RockShox lockout lever. Lever = lock, button = unlock.

My next hardtail also had a lockout lever on the handlebars. The handlebars felt less cluttered this time because there was no shifter on the left side anymore. With the previous hardtail, there was still a 2x drivetrain on the MTB, but that wasn’t the case with my current hardtail.

Scott hardtail with 3-position Twinloc

That hardtail was a Scott, so it came with the Twinloc system installed immediately. However, the presence of the Twinloc system wasn’t a decisive factor in choosing the mountain bike because, until then, I had barely used the fork lockout.

However, since I now had this lockout with three positions, it was time actually to start using it. In practice, though, it was a bit of a struggle. Even if I did use the fork lockout occasionally, I often forgot to unlock it again, resulting in me bouncing around in the descent or when the terrain got rough. After some cursing, the penny dropped, and I unlocked the fork again.

Scott TwinLoc 3-position lockout lever
Scott TwinLoc 3-position

I did try to make it a habit to use the lockout more regularly, but it wasn’t always successful. During the Stoneman Arduenna, which I completed in 1 day, I did intend to use the lockout as much as possible, especially on the connecting sections and asphalt stretches. Theoretically, this way, I could pedal more efficiently and save energy, which is valuable on a ride of 10+ hours.

Overall, it was quite successful, and I noticed that on the connecting sections, where I fully locked the fork, I was indeed pedaling more efficiently and even faster. However, afterward, I fell back into old habits and hardly used the fork lockout anymore.

3-position Twinloc on the full suspension

Meanwhile, I’ve replaced the above hardtail with a full suspension bike, also equipped with Scott’s Twinloc system. Surprisingly, I find myself using the lockout on this mountain bike very often. While the difference on the hardtail was rather limited in my opinion, it’s a whole different story with the full suspension bike.

Scott Twinloc lever
Scott Twinloc lever (top lever = unlock, middle shifter = 3 positions: open, traction control en full lock, bottom lever = dropper seat post)

With the Twinloc, I can lock both the fork and the shock simultaneously. When riding from home (on the road) towards the woods, or when I end up on asphalt again after riding in the forest, I often put the suspension into full lockout mode.

Off-road climbing is mostly done in the traction control mode unless it’s a short and technical climb. For what it’s worth, I’ve achieved quite a few Strava PRs in the traction control mode.

I use the open mode in all other conditions, during descents, and on more technical terrain.

Using the lockout has become a habit or even instinctive for me. Thanks to this habit, I rarely forget to unlock the suspension, unlike before when I only sporadically used the lockout.

Although I’m not aiming for seconds, I notice that using the lockout brings me much more enjoyment during mountain biking.

Using the traction control mode for climbing has become an absolute asset for me. Looking back, I regret not using it more often on my hardtail.

I also made a point of extensively using the lockout during test rides (with what is now my current mountain bike). This allowed me to see if I really wanted it on my bike since I didn’t use it very often on the hardtail.

Final thoughts

Suspension lockout is, in my opinion, definitely useful, and I am firmly convinced of its value. I wouldn’t want to mountain bike without a lockout, at least on a full suspension bike.

However, it’s not absolutely necessary because the advantage it offers to recreational mountain bikers is rather marginal. If saving a few seconds doesn’t matter to you, then using the lockout on the fork is certainly not a must.

I find the traction control position particularly enjoyable, which I almost abuse during off-road climbing. In this mode, I can climb in a perfect sitting position, obstacles are still absorbed, and I have incredible traction. As a result, climbing becomes very smooth and often very fast.

A lockout with only two positions, like on my first hardtail, I would use less frequently and wouldn’t purchase again.

Do you use your lockout often? Do you find it useful or rather unnecessary? Let me know in a comment below.

Photo of author


Geert is a recreational marathon mountain biker, trail runner, and athlete who continually strives to push his limits and challenge himself to achieve his athletic goals. He has completed the Stoneman Arduenna and the Limburg 200 MTB ultra in one day. Additionally, he is a certified bicycle technician.

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