Previously I wrote about the various tricks manufacturers use to bake comfort into their road bikes, and I finished with Specialized introducing the FutureShock suspension cartridge on refreshed versions of its Roubaix and Diverge bikes. With that system, only the rider’s weight on the handlebars is suspended.
I purposely left it for last.
In 2015, a little American company called Redshift Sports opened a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter for their ShockStop suspension stem. This was almost two years prior to Specialized announcing the FutureShock, and almost thirty years after Girvin attempted a similar product. So when the 2017 version of the Roubaix came out, it served as validation of the concept behind Redshift’s product – from one of the big legal bullies of the bike industry, no less. Better yet, unlike the many prior attempts to add suspension to a stem, the ShockStop is 95% a normal stem, so it should be usable with any bike with a threadless fork steerer tube 1-1/8″ (1.125″) in diameter, without any funny compromises such as grub screws for headset bearing adjustment or expectations of unrealistic suspension travel.
Crowdfunding was a success, and you can now purchase the ShockStop stem via retail channels. I spotted a good deal on it, bundling a dedicated utility mount, so I decided to try it out.
This is the shortest 90 mm version with +/-6 degrees of rise. It’s offered in 10 mm length increments up to 120 mm, and it is also available in a 100 mm variant with a +30 degree rise, which you’re not supposed to install inverted.
It includes five wedge-shaped elastomers; two are installed by default.
The stem itself is almost disappointingly stealthy, finished in matte black with some polished logo accents. Only the pivots on the sides and the slightly disjointed look of the steerer tube end give anything away.
What’s remarkable about the boxy ShockStop is it feels really beefy, with no play or looseness when off the bike. Since the Girvin FlexStem dabbled in the concept in 1987, materials and construction methods have improved considerably, and expectations have been scaled back. It’s not one for the weight weenies though. Reviews out there rate this stem at 255 g, which is roughly 80 g heavier than a conventional stem of the same length, but lighter than either a more complicated StaFast suspension stem (367 g) or Cannondale’s Lefty Oliver suspension fork (1195 g on its own, or +800 g vs a typical rigid carbon fork).
All the exterior bolts are turned by a 4 mm hex key, and have knurling and split lock washers on them. Be careful you don’t drop the bolts, as the lock washers have a knack for flying off into hard-to-find nooks and crannies after hitting the floor.
The utility mount bundled with the ShockStop has the two longer bolts needed to attach through the stem’s faceplate. It’s similar to the Minoura Space Grip, which gives you an additional section of “handlebar” to hang accessories off from.
Does it work as advertised? Stay tuned.