Having a rigid frame gravel bike is great for efficiency, but not always great for your body. The ShockStop from Redshift is a bike stem that adds 20 mm of travel to the handlebars with the intention to improve the comfort and quality of the ride on rougher terrain. Could this actually work and are there any drawbacks? My review:
The ShockStop stem is a aftermarket stem that provides shock absorption by allowing the stem to pivot up and down 20 degrees. This is achieved by coming a single pivot point with embedded and adjustable elastomer shocks that act like squishy springs inside the stem itself. The body is contructed of 6061 T6 aluminum while the hardware is all steel. It includes 5 mix and match elastomer shocks that can be paired in various ways to dial in stiffness to match the ride style and weight of the ride. It comes in +/- 6 degree variants, with lengths ranging from 80, 90, 100, 100, and 120 mm lengths with +/- 30 degree versions available with 80 and 100 mm variants. The ShockStop fits flat and drop bars, and the weight averaging at around 260 grams depending on the size and geometry chosen. They retail for $169 and are also available in a lighter, more expensive “pro” version for around $250.
What I liked
I came into this product highly skeptical. 20mm of travel on a stem, how much could it actually help? Turns out, quite a lot! While rolling my freshly modified bike out out of the garage, I immediately felt a dramatic difference in the feel of the bars even on smooth pavement. The high frequency vibration that normally traveled straight up the fork, through my handlebars and into my hands was instantly dampened to a significant degree. That constant harsh chatter and feedback from the road was all but completely gone. I could still feel the shape of the road, the bumps, texture and coarseness, but the sensation was suddenly gentle and inviting, instead of harsh. Taking the bike onto gravel provided a similar sensation, with the grinding and chatter of the small pebbles blending together into something far less extreme and more manageable. I could tell where the rocks and dirt where, but Just couldn’t feel it as much. I purposefully started targeting harsh transitions and potholes, even small drops and high speed grass descents. I thoroughly impressed with how much the tiny bit of travel improved the ride. I could still feel the impact when transitioning between gravel and pavement and across rocks and sticks, but the amount of impact was reduced and highly appreciable. After miles on the trail, my body certainly appreciated the change as I felt less fatigued, especially in my grip and wrists, and my riding felt more relaxed in general.
I was also quite surprised at how little I was aware that the stem was changed and that the shock was moving, or not. When forcefully trying to make the shock to move, by dropping my body weight or hitting transitions, I really couldn’t see or feel it moving. When pushing down and bouncing with my body weight it generally just felt like a solid stem, but it was clearly having a positive effect. I expected to feel some bobbing or squishy sensation, or at least a fall in efficiency coming from the front but this wasn’t the case at all. I am testing on a flat bar gravel bike, so this may be a little different if you are a heavier rider or have a drop bar configuration, but on my setup with my body weight it was basically undetectable, which I really liked. I tried filming the movement just to confirm that it was working, and sure enough it does move, just not that much.
There was also no notable twisting or wiggle at the stem or pivot, which I was initially concerned with. Having a sturdy stem can make or break how a bike controls, and the ShockStop simply didn’t affect my cornering or control at all. That being said, I’ve never been overly worried about with having the stiffest bike possible, as I simply don’t ride on a professional level. So, those who are may notice the play more than I do. But for me, it generally just felt like a solid, directly connected stem with no points of articulation, and I was very impressed by this.
Installation of the stem was quite easy, just like a normal stem using the normal bolts to attach it using a hex key. Swapping out the elastomers is a little trickier, but not bad once you understand what’s happening. Basically, it comes with a small plastic tool that pulls the elastomers out using a screw. The tool is actually screwed into place to keep it from moving, so it requires removing the front of the shock stem to install it. Turning the third screw pulls a wedge out, allowing the elastomers to be removed. Once pulled, you can swap the elastomers to match your body weight or preference, based on a handy included chart. These are mixed and matched to dial in their compressibility. They go in the same way, with the tool swapped around to push instead of pull. They go in with some pressure, so this tool is mandatory, so don’t loose it, but 5 minutes and they’re swapped which isn’t too bad. It does require removing the handlebar of the bike each time though.
What I didn’t like
I do wish the ShockStem came in a slightly shorter length. For my current configuration, I really needed a +/- 6 degree in a 60 or 70 mm option, which doesn’t currently exist. This slightly changed my geometry, leaning me more forward than I wanted, but luckily the difference wasn’t too dramatic. Still, lots of bikes come with short, slammed stems or users simply replace stock stems with shorter ones to fit their body geometry. This won’t be much of an option for them currently, but that can change.
It adds a little bit of visual noise and weight to my otherwise very sleek bike. A sacrifice I’m willing to make, however.
I was extremely impressed with the overall quality and results of the ShockStop Stem from Redshift. The change in ride quality was rather pronounced, taking the edge off of small and large bumps alike, while also leveling out high frequency vibration that generally transfers directly into the bars of otherwise rigid bikes. It doesn’t hamper control, while actually somewhat improving my offroad performance as my hands aren’t being bounced around when I hit exceptionally rough patches of gravel, dirt, and even small rocks. It adds a small amount of weight and clutter to the cockpit, but if comfort is the main concern, the ShockStop is a no-brainer.
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