In the 1990s I did not think that there was a better mountain biker than Thomas Frischknecht. I tried mightily to emulate his riding style and kit. At the time, the most notable difference in how Frischknecht set up his bike versus the rest of the field was with regard to suspension:
His bike did not have a suspension fork, which was then the height of mountain bike techno wizardry. Oh my how things have changed. Instead, Frischknecht used a suspension stem from Softride. I wanted one of those very bad, but in the pre-Internet shopping days finding the right steam was not so easy. It was probably for the best since everyone I know who owned one has nothing but negative things to report back. Damn memories!
Well, it’s like a blast from the past. As gravel or adventure bikes have proliferated so have the solutions to tamp down shock and vibration from crappy roads, rutted gravel, and whatever happens to dirt tracks from winter to spring. Full on suspension forks seem like overkill and wider tires run at lower pressure do a yeoman’s job in making the ride more comfortable but everyone is looking for just a little more cush. Enter Redshift Sports Shockstop Stem:
It may be a suspension stem, but it is not trying to compete with suspension forks like the Softride stems of yore. The goal is to provide a limited amount of travel in a simple package for riders looking to take the edge off of gravel, adventure, or touring rigs.
To accomplish this goal it uses elastomers:
A lot of people have bad memories of elastomers from forks like the Rock Shox Quadra series or various Manitou forks before dampeners helped mitigate the pogo stock effect. Here is the deal: elastomers are a lightweight and simple way to provide shock absorption. In a limited travel application, as opposed to trying to provide multiple inches of travel, an elastomer can work very well because the perceived or actual rapid rebound is less noticeable. Springing back from full compression on my Q21 was never any fun.
The installation of the elastomers on the Shockstop Stem is a little tricky because it is unlike any other product. You could say it is tricky because it is specific. Read the instructions people. It is really not that hard. Here is where the magic happens:
Ride quality is adjusted by mixing and matching various elastomers to your preference. I began with the combination suggested for my weight, which is shown in the combination above, and found it to be a little stiff for my typical rides here in eastern Iowa.
The thing with the Shockstop Stem is that is imperceptible. The travel is limited, but it is working to smooth out the bumps. If you lighten the elastomers to such a degree that the travel is perceptible it ends up blowing through its arc without really tamping down any of the big bumps. Look, I am riding a bicycle on trails, gravel roads, and unmaintained farm access roads that might see a road grader once a year. I do not expect to be riding in a leather recliner. The Shockstop Stem does not make your rig a leather recliner. It does make things more comfortable and when you are staring at fifty miles plus into a headwind on crushed limestone every bit of comfort counts.
Granted, I am only a few hundred miles in and a lot of that has been on pavement now that the Cedar Valley Nature Trail is paved all the way into Center Point. I do, however, feel that the Shockstop Stem is worth a look for anyone who puts a lot of miles in on gravel or trails as a way to increase comfort which will hopefully lead to more enjoyable rides.
Does anyone out there own a Shockstop Stem who would like to provide their impression?
Note: I spent my own money to actually buy this stem. No one from Redshift Sports has ever contacted me about the product. That is to say, I am not some internet shill “influencer” posting photos on Instagram in exchange for bags of chips. I actually use this stuff.