I’m kicking myself for not installing this sooner.

The Redshift Sports ShockStop suspension stem has been sitting in our office for about a year. Technically, a pre-production version was here for a year, a final production model showed up in August, which is what’s tested in this review. Founder Stephen Ahnert had been pleasantly persistent throughout the time, immensely patient with my lack of installation and testing. Honestly, I just didn’t want to. Turns out my concerns, which centered mainly around thinking it would bob incessantly and lead to a sloppy front end, were completely baseless. You know what they say about assuming, right?

Finally, he convinced me to give it a shot, and I’m glad I did.

Redshift Sprots Shockstop micro suspension bicycle stem review and actual weights

The ShockStop stem uses a pivoting body with an adjustable elastomer spring to absorb bumps. It’s that simple. One of the first questions they always get is probably obvious to anyone that’s been riding since the early 90’s: “Isn’t it just like the Softride Stem?”

No, and here’s their rebuttal, summarized: Those were big, heavy, ugly, had too much travel and simply didn’t hold up. They were designed for mountain bikes, and as such, were using pivot designs from the beginnings of MTB suspension, which developed play and weren’t very stiff. And, being designed for mountain bikes, were trying to provide far too much travel for their position on the bike. Add in a lack of damping and you had a bouncy, floppy device throwing your cockpit geometry out of whack.

Fast forward 20 years and we have 3D forging, rock solid pivot and axle designs, and more modest travel aspirations designed around road & gravel bikes.

DESIGN & ACTUAL WEIGHTS

Redshift Sports Shockstop micro suspension bicycle stem elastomer installation and adjustments
The stem uses one or two elastomers to provide the shock absorption.

First introduced in 2015, the ShockStop stem uses a 3D forged alloy body that, from a distance, looks just like any other stem. The suspension parts are hidden inside the body, allowing for traditional aesthetics, another major improvement over prior options.

Redshift Sports Shockstop micro suspension bicycle stem elastomer installation and adjustments
It ships with five elastomers. Use their online chart or the included instructions to select the right combination for your body weight.

Travel is limited to 1-2cm, with the range coming from how you set it up. It ships with five different elastomers, giving it the ability to support lightweight climbers up to 300lb Clydesdales.

Redshift Sprots Shockstop micro suspension bicycle stem actual weights

Our 100mm stem weighed in at 285g. The optional out-front computer mount is available with Wahoo or Garmin nests and includes two longer bolts that weighs in as a system at 41g. Subtract a few grams since you’re replacing two of the stem bolts and it’s probably at about 315g all in. It’s available in 90/100/110/120 lengths with +/-6º rise, and a 100mm 30º rise. All are designed for 31.8 handlebar diameters, but shims to fit 25.4/26.0 bars are available for $9.99.

INSTALLATION VIDEO & NOTES

The video above is from Redshift Sports and walks you through the entire process. The basics are as follows:

  1. Remove old stem.
  2. Remove Shockstop’s faceplate and ensure elastomers are on top.
  3. Install ShockStop stem, adding or removing steerer tube spacers as needed*.
  4. Remove internal wedge and swap in desired spacers using their body weight guide.
  5. Reinstall wedge, being careful not to over tighten bolt.
  6. Install handlebar and replace faceplate.
  7. Adjust handlebar angles and go ride.

*Their instructions say to cut your steerer so that the top of the stem sits just a couple millimeters above the top of the steerer. We confirmed with them that this is not necessary and that their video install mentions this only to cover their bases with folks who don’t already know that your steerer tube should rest a couple millimeters below the top-most spacer or stem. It’s OK to have spacers on top of this stem.

Redshift Sports Shockstop micro suspension bicycle stem elastomer installation and adjustments
An internal wedge secures them in place.

The system is rated for riders up to 300lbs (136kg). The modular design lets you test different durometers to get it as soft or firm as you want. I started with the 80+70 as recommended for my weight, but will be testing an 80+60 combo to see if adds a bit more vibration damping. As is, it’s a bit stiff, but they say there is a break-in period where the elastomers will soften ever so slightly and settle in. Beyond that, their lifespan is plenty long enough, and they say temperature fluctuations have minimal impact on their performance.

One note: We received our test stem in August, which came with lower quality Chinese bolts for the wedge and face plate. As of September 2017, all stems started shipping with higher quality US-made bolts, and here’s why: The originals were strong enough, but the hex holes were too easily stripped. Once stripped, the wedge was essentially permanently installed and the elastomers could no longer be swapped. This happened to our test sample. If you already own this and want the newer bolts, just email them and they’ll swap ’em out for you, no charge.

RIDE REVIEW

Redshift Sports Shockstop micro suspension bicycle stem review and actual weights

My first ride on the ShockStop was an eye opener. Benefits were immediately apparent; it took the edge of direct root impacts, even with the already forgiving 700×40 Terrene Elwood gravel tires taking the brunt of it. Dropping off curbs and nailing potholes yielded equally pleasing results. My opinion is that it’s geared more for absorbing bumps than reducing vibrations, but a lighter elastomer setup might help there. For me, it’s more of a last line of defense against sudden impacts, helping keep my wrists, elbows, triceps and shoulders fresher over the long haul.

My biggest concern was that the stem would provide too much travel too easily. When I first hop on a bike with the Lauf Grit gravel suspension fork, the initial feeling resembles that of a handlebar slipping and rolling forward. I get used to it pretty quickly, and I love that fork, but my fear was I’d have that same feeling with the ShockStop. And that it might move around too much during out-of-the-saddle efforts. Fortunately, it does neither. I should have used this much sooner.

Redshift Sports Shockstop micro suspension bicycle stem elastomer installation and adjustments

The photos above and below show it with normal seated riding pressure (left) and all my weight as far over the front as possible (right).

Redshift Sports Shockstop micro suspension bicycle stem elastomer installation and adjustments

Here’s a layered version, which shows that it’s only moving about 1cm at the front of the stem. Standing up to pedal, I could barely notice the vertical movement, and absolutely no torsional (twisting) or horizontal movement. The stem’s boxy shaping and oversized pivot design prevent any unwanted flex. Stephen says they use a very high torque bolt design with near-permanent Loctite on the bolts so it won’t come loose.

Redshift Sports Shockstop micro suspension bicycle stem review and actual weights

The product seems to live up to the hype. It’s the first (but not last) mod to this year’s World’s Funnest Bike Project, and other than swapping in the replacement they’re sending with the new hardware, I have no plans to take it off. If you’re looking to smooth the ride on your road, gravel or cyclocross bike, it’s worth a look.

Retail is $139.99. The computer mount sells for $39.99, or bundle them together for a $10 savings. Interested? They’re running a holiday promotion, use code “REDHOLIDAY17” through the end of 2017 for 20% your purchase.

RedshiftSports.com

SaveSave

SaveSave

28 COMMENTS

  1. I absolutely love mine. RedShift makes some well thought out parts that just plain work.

    This is a great add for any roadie that ventures off the smooth stuff.

  2. I’m sorry, the stem should sit above the steer tube? This is exactly the opposite of what you should do with a carbon steer tube. A quick review of Enve and Whisky fork install instructions say you need at minimum 1mm of steer tube above the stem.

    • Yup, and why every stem should have a spacer on top of carbon steerer. Specs only list stack height, not the height of the clamp itself, but my guess is that most retrofits will have the steerer below.

    • This is sort of explained in the article, though not that well. Basically you want a little space between the steerer and the top cap so you can properly tighten the headset.

      • No, the commenters are correctly noting that you also need full engagement with a carbon steerer and most manufacturers will recommend the steerer stick through the stem…hence the rec for a spacer on top.

      • There are certainly trade offs with increasing complexity, but it seems like a parallelogram design like the Softride would be more advantageous in a road context than a MTB one (unless you’re running bar ends of course), as there are wildly differing amounts of leverage on the tops, hoods, and drops. With a parallelogram, you could even that out, whereas with a single pivot like this or like the Flexstem you get twice as much travel and half the spring rate on the hoods as on the tops.

  3. Really cool idea I wonder how a really low dampening system would work for on road on washboard conditions with a race bike. We have some mix surface road races early In the year where it’s still 25mm slicks that are the fastest but I wonder if adding one of these would be an easy way to get rid of the beating those roads give me since I can’t add any more tire width on my race bike.

  4. I LOVE THE SET-UP….it’s ALL about comfort, control, stability and then speed. I used for a year a ShockStop on an Advocate Lorax…STEEL Pony that became a smooth ride when the stem went on..Also use the Terrene Elwood 700×40, the tire took up most of the shocks, bumps, and yes even rumble strips and has GREAT side tread bite, especially when at low pressure on a 23.5 internal width rim, super light wheels from I9…..The amazing transformation came when I added my Lauf Grit and just for am added touch switched fames to the Lorax Titan (TI)….did I mention I sit on leather connected with a Kinekt (BodyFloat) seatpost…..I said this rig was built for a definite purpose…..COMFORT-CONTRL-STABILITY-SPEED….the sum of the parts way exceeds the cost, expectation, and desire, it started with the RedShift Sports Shock Stop……After 3000 miles I found that the elastomers compressed into the open space inside the stem, very slight difference in feel after the first 300-500 and thats it, 3000 miles and still strong. I like/wanted a softer front end, I LOVE riding anything dirt or grass…..I can sit on or in the drops for HOURS!!!!! All this being said, I’m no young foul…..I’m an old foul riding much to fast on gravel roads and dirt trails and loving it….

    • I was on the kickstart, the problem was not the elastomers compressing, it was the bolt inside getting loose. You need to add loctite (the removable kind). Wonder if this new bolt also helps with that

  5. I’ll second what someone else said about this system being far more similar to the Girvin Flexstem than to the parallelogram-type Softride stems, the last generation of which I think even included a damper. (I also remember there being another company circa 1994 that produced an air/ oil stem!).
    A propos the Girvin Flexstem, many complained that they didn’t like how the handlebars rotated forwards when the suspension compressed. So I wonder how that feels on this bike. And- they say that changing temperatures don’t affect the hardness of the elastomers. But from what I remember riding elastomer-sprung forks way back when, that is a bit hard to believe. Best to keep a decent range of hardnesses around, and learn how to swap them out.

  6. I’ll stick to my regular stems that have given me NO problems for 25 years… bmx, mtn, ss, fixed gear, road, xc, and now… “gravel” lol

  7. I thought the big knock on the Girvin was brake dive — Tyler or others who have ridden this, how does it react to hard braking? Interested in this for my commuter but not if it’s going to pitch me forward on my bullhorns in a panic stop and send my messenger bag up my neck. Q

    • I have one and *love it.* There is no perceptible brake dive, because of the way the elastomers respond to pressure, (they’re very firm) and the shortness of the throw.

      You really don’t notice the shock stop at all after the first few minutes of riding with it, other than being able to ride faster and more comfortably over patches of rough. Still surprises me. I’ll be braced for impact…and then it’s just really smooth.

  8. i think that if id go in places where such a stem would make some difference, i’d just go with the ultra light forks like the fox.
    im mainly saying because if it doesnt damp the shock enough then the difference wont be large enough for me to matter all that much. i want more traction and i want my hands to still function after 1h on the trail..

    then again i havent tried this one, but it seems to me that its too little travel and not enough softness (which also means it will ride otherwise fine, which is important, but… if it doesnt help much, why have it?)

  9. I bought a couple of these via Kickstarter to use on our Bike Friday touring bikes and they make all the difference in the world on gravel, hardpack, and crappy city roads. Touring involves a lot of saddle time and anything to save the hands is appreciated. Also, providing some compliance at the handlebars reduces the dynamic load on the front tire and spokes. It took a couple of hours to adjust to the feel of the stem moving but after that I don’t notice anything but increased comfort.

  10. I have one – pros: really does smooth the front end on my cross bike and I ride singletrack and groads with it quite often. Very helpful on stutter bumps and other ground deformations. I also am more confident hitting bumps.

    There is minor movement during hard braking or sprinting as you quickly shift force or weight on to the bars (up and down – there is no lateral movement I can perceive) but after a few rides seems totally natural.

    I have hand pain typically after long gravel rides and this is helping.

  11. So I was curious and got in on this sale they’re running and tried it out today… as someone who is super suspicious of this sort of thing I have to say it really does do what it says on the label. The install and setup is a little nonstandard and you may want to try out a few different elastomers to dial it in (the swap takes about 5 minutes) but it rides really great and doesn’t twist through the pivot (I am not a small guy either). I appreciate the low-key looks too. Going to strongly consider getting my wife one for her bike as well.

  12. If they made it in a 130mm length, I’d buy two of them. Unfortunately, they have no plans to do so, either in aluminum or carbon.

What do you think?