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The Redshift Sports ShockStop PRO stem is its top end suspension stem. It comes with +/- 6 degrees of rise and can be flipped between the two.
- Brand: Redshift Sports
- Product: ShockStop PRO Stem
- Price: £259.99
- From: Ison Distribution
- Tested by: David ‘Sanny’ Gould for a year and a bit
- Delivers on the promise of increased comfort and control
- Neat internalised design means you would struggle to tell it is a suspension stem
- None of the maintenance challenges of a suspension fork.
- Make it cheaper (but then there is already a more wallet friendly version available)
- Er, that’s it.
“Suspension stems? Seriously? Did they not go the way of the Dodo when Proflex/Girvin stopped production of the iconic/old tat (delete as appropriate depending on whether or not you remember them the first time round) Flex Stem?
For those who don’t remember them, they were of a fairly simple construction. A quill stem with a pivot point at the steerer tube with an exposed elastomer was the basic nuts and bones of the design. It was simple, lightweight and offered the promise of a little bit of comfort at the bars.
Predating RockShox’s RS1 fork, it found its way on to Cannondale’s first foray into the world of full suspension with their EST bike. I remembering seeing one in the flesh and to my eyes, it was a thing of exquisite beauty. By modern standards, it was pretty agricultural but it opened up a whole world of possibilities.
Fast forward to today and the idea of a suspension stem almost seems like a retrograde step. Modern forks have gotten so good in terms of performance and reliability that it would be easy to think why bother going back to eighties technology. “Did we not just leave this party?” as Princess Leia once put it so succinctly.
But bear with me as after a year of testing, I’ve come to the conclusion that suspension stems might finally be living up to their potential and hitting the sweet spot for gravel riding. And before you think it, no, I have not been sniffing glue.
Redshift Sports might not be up there with the likes of Santa Cruz when it comes to brand awareness but since 2013, it has been building up a loyal customer base with a growing range of products that now encompass pedals, bars, suspension seatposts and stems.
I first became aware of Redshift Sports when it launched the ShockStop seatpost back in 2019. As a long time user of suspension seatposts from USE and Cane Creek, I was naturally drawn to their products and so it was I found myself the excited recipient of their ShockStop PRO Stem and PRO Seatpost. Cue much oohing and aahing.
A stem is just a stem, right?
Unlike Flexstems of old, the stem comes supplied with 5 different elastomers which mean the stem can be tuned to a wide range of rider weights to over 215 pounds in old money. Redshift’s website offers fairly comprehensive guidance to setting the stem up to meet your specific riding needs, depending on whether you are using drop bars on a gravel bike or flat bars on a mountain bike or hybrid. Whether you want to ride with your stem set at super soft or super stiff, RedShift reckon that they have you covered.
In practical terms, to change between elastomers, you need to unscrew the four Allen bolts on the stem faceplate. This allows you to access the dinky elastomers that sit inside the body of the stem and which are removable via the use of an Allen key. It might seem a little bit faffy from a user perspective when it comes to fine tuning your suspension action but in my experience, once I had set it up, there was no need to go back and adjust it. Aesthetically, the design gives the stem a very sleek and minimalist look and in my opinion, it is a worthwhile trade off.
For the test, I opted for the 100mm stem as a replacement for my go to Thomson X2 stem that adorns my gravel bike. Weight wise, the former is approximately 90 grams heavier than the latter which in the grand scheme of things which was indiscernible to me from a riding perspective. The standard version weighs an extra 44 grams at 278 grams for the 100mm version but costs £60 less and comes without a smattering of titanium hardware and a mixed polished and matt appearance. It also has a +/- 30 degree stem angle option so offers more options for fewer Queenie, sorry Kingie, vouchers.
Enough of the tech chat. What does it ride like?
RedShift make three big claims for the stem:
- Go further – reduces fatigue from bumps and vibrations.
- Ride faster – energy that is normally wasted suspending your body is converted into forward motion.
- Take control – customize your suspension feel to float over obstacles and maintain control over rough terrain.
Given that pretty much every new bike and product launch seems to come with the promise of lighter / faster / better, I tend to take an evidence based approach to such claims. They say two positives cannot make a negative but for anyone who has spent any time in Glasgow, they will know the phrase “Aye, right!” which is usually delivered with dripping sarcasm. Call it healthy scepticism or bitter experience. Whatever. Truth be told, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but as things turned out, I think I have become something of a convert.
On the road
My gravel rides always involve a mix of road and off road. I suspect that is the same for most people. As a product that appears to be aimed at the off road side of things, the on road experience came as a very pleasant surprise.
Riding on familiar roads where I am well acquainted with all the lumps, bumps and potholes, I could feel the stem actively smoothing out the imperfections and ripples. Riding hard up a small rise that can be kindly be described as rough and jarring, the stem noticeably took the sharp edge off of the lumps and bumps that would normally be felt coming straight through my carbon forks and bars.
The longer I rode, the more I noticed it. My shoulders, triceps and wrists definitely felt the benefit, especially when I set out to deliberately ride over rough road terrain. There is a long section of cobbles near where I live and riding over them hard, the jolts that would normally come through the hands and wrists felt less severe. Hits that would have occasionally caused my grip to slip did not have the same effect. I could ride faster and felt that bit more in control.
Even on relatively smooth roads, there was a discernible feeling of the front end of the bike being more comfortable. To be fair, my ride of choice is a DeAnima De Fer custom steel gravel bike with 3T gravel fork and it is by design, a comfortable bike to ride. The addition of the stem added to it though.
To make sure that this was not some figment of my imagination, I broke out the white lab coat and did a direct ride comparison on my good friend Gary’s DeAnima gravel bike. It is ostensibly the same set up as mine – 650b wheels, same stem length, same Salsa gravel bars.
Whether climbing, descending or on the flat, the suspension stem equipped bike felt appreciably smoother. It is not a constant see saw motion so I never had a bobbing feeling. Only when dropping down off a kerb onto the front wheel, pulling a manual (which is fairly rare on a gravel bike, truth be told) or sprinting hard out of the saddle do you notice the difference with a regular stem. Pop off a kerb or hit a depression hard and the stem will move down noticeably. It’s not in any way concerning but you know you are not riding a normal stem. Pop the front wheel and the stem feels a tad top out clunk like. It was not a big issue for me but just something to be aware of.
Sprinting out the saddle, the bars did bob up and down a bit as I manhandled them but there was no sideways twist. It takes a little getting used to but you adapt pretty quickly. Given that it is designed for comfort, sprinters are not the target market for the stem so for me at least, it was a non-issue.
The off road more travelled
Off road is where I prefer to ride my gravel bike and it is here that the stem really shines. Whether it be on rippled hard pack, lumpy grass track or even over tree roots, the stem delivered on the promise of being able to go further, faster and more in control. It was only when I did the side by side comparison with Gary’s bike on a favourite riverbank trail that I realised just how used I was to using my arms and legs as suspension to counter the effect of rough trails.
Riding over a series of small dips and roots, the feeling of the front wheel getting knocked about was appreciably reduced. I felt both more in control and was not tensing up in anticipation of what lay down the trail. Despite only offering 20mm of travel when matched with a drop bar, it is enough to take much of the edge off. Knowing that the front end was more forgiving, I was able to ride faster over familiar trails. Having ridden the cobbles of Flanders, I would love to go back and try the stem over there as it would be fun to feel able to push really hard on even the roughest of pave sectors.
Of course, there are limits to what the stem can handle. Hit a pot hole or a hole in the trail and you will definitely know about it. It’s not designed for such big hits. Frankly, you really want to be on an Enduro rig or a fat bike when it comes to big impacts. Even a gravel suspension fork would be found wanting in those scenarios so don’t go expecting full suspension levels of comfort and control.
For those of a bikepacking persuasion, I happily used the stem with a pair of Revelate stem bags for the duration of the test with no noticeable wear on either the stem nor the bags. It’s a small thing but as bikepacking kit is not cheap, I was glad that the stem and bags played nicely together.
With the Redshift Sports ShockStop PRO Stem, I reckon it has delivered on its promises of comfort, control and speed. It’s not so much revolution as evolution. Being able to make your gravel bike feel more comfortable both on and off road is a gold plated good thing in my book. After a year of testing, the stem continues to look and perform like new. There is zero side to side play in the pivot nor is there any creaking or groaning despite enjoying zero maintenance. Even in cold weather, the stem’s performance has not been noticeably impacted upon. It has genuinely been a fit and forget product.
Other than the not inconsiderable price, the only real downside is that once you fit one, you do notice that the rear of your bike is not quite as comfortable as you thought but then Red Shift have a solution for that too in the form of the Redshift Sports PRO Suspension Seatpost.