KINEKT SUSPENSION STEM
488g 105mm $179 (approx. £130, at time of writing)
The Kinekt Suspension Stem is designed to offer comfort and adjustability. There’s more to a smooth ride than suspension, just as there are other remedies for shoulder and wrist pain. However, it has to be said that this is a highly effective bit of gear, that has made a more than favourable impression. It comes with some realistic options, too.
Pros: effective, sensible price.
Offering 15-20mm of travel to reduce vibration, the Kinekt Suspension Stem aims to reduce shoulder, arm, and wrist pain and fatigue. In that sense, it could be applicable to all kinds of cycling, although gravel and mixed surface touring and leisure riding were my starting point.
The stem itself is made from heat treated, shot peened
6061 aluminium alloy, treated to a durable, black anodized finish and laser etched graphics. Moving components comprise of Argus bushings and powder coated springs. Although some may feel aesthetics are a bit bulky, it certainly promises longevity.
Elastomers also feature top and bottom to control the limits of travel. This apparently enables it to be very active in the mid stroke, while also taking the sting out of bigger bumps. Look closely and you’ll notice It’s a parallelogram design that works to a similar movement to that of a rear derailleur. This achieves a more natural action, without any “diving”/similar handling quirks.
There are three spring stiffnesses on offer. The stock medium is reckoned the “sweet spot” for most riders but its easily exchanged for its softer, or firmer siblings. This can also be done with the bars and stem in situ, giving it a small but distinct advantage over the otherwise excellent Redshift Sports Shockstop Suspension stem.
The Redshift Sports Shockstop Suspension stem can also be adjusted in situ but accessing the elastomers necessitates removing the faceplate and bars. While I’s shy away from more aggressive/competitive mountain biking, I can see its potential on an older, rigid mountain bike, especially during winter where softer earth means the complication and weight of a suspension fork can be unnecessary/unwelcome. Obviously, this will require the use of shims (to accommodate smaller/steerer/bar diameters) or indeed a quill stem adaptor.
Installation and adjustment 4/5
This takes just a few minutes. Remove the bars and the old stem; pop the Kinekt stem on, and replace the bars. Job done? Well, just about. I spent a bit of time playing with the head-set spacers to ensure a snug fit when tightening things up.
Kinekt’s suggestions for the appropriate spring to use, are just that. Trial and error are the best way to pick your preferred stiffness. There’s a handy video on the Kinekt website. Basically, it can all be done in situ. Loosen the rear grub screw, push out the top rear pivot, and be careful not to lose either. On ours the hollow pivot required a firm push with the ball end of a suitable Allen key. You’ll notice the recess, meant to accommodate the grub screw when replacing things.
Swapping the spring is intuitive, but be careful not to misplace the spring guides. More firmness is needed to shove things back into alignment before replacing pivot and grub screw. With practice, we are talking a couple of minutes labour. In the longer term, after 150 miles or so of wet weather jaunts, a squirt of PTFE-free maintenance spray keeps things smooth – just work the handlebars up and down to help it work its magic.
I’ve fitted it to standard 1 1/8th steerers and, courtesy of an quill to ahead adaptor, my venerable Supergalaxy’s quill stem.
First test period was on a flat-barred Pinnacle go-anywhere machine. Hitting a mix of road, woodland track, and towpath cycle path, with the middle spring in the place, provided a distinct contrast to the same route on a drop-barred tourer. A pleasant change. No numbness crept into the fingers, as is often the case, on a long mildly corrugated section of towpath. Of course, bigger potholes, not to mention prominent tree roots bursting toward the surface, aren’t within the scope of this bit of gear – but no more are they in the compass of elastomer types.
Stiffening things up made for a livelier rode on both road and gravel. I suspect faster, more aggressive riders (quite likely younger, too) will default to this. Kinekt’s plans to go for an even stiffer spring. Predictably, this substitution made handling a bit sharper. It would be my default for road biased riding on an audax bike or sporty tourer. Likewise, for serious cross or gravel, dependent on course and rider weight.
It’s worth remembering that suspension stems are designed to dampen shock to the rider, rather than to the machine. Go too gung-ho and your wheels will still take a pounding.
Fifty-mile plus road rides, when I sometimes feel at least a little tiredness in my aging wrists, have felt very smooth. It is worth remembering, of course, that shoulder and wrist comfort are not solely the result of a suspension stem (reach, body position, bar type and height, amongst other factors, paly their part). However, in this case, the Kinekt certainly seems to do as it promises very effectively.
I’ve not managed to get it to bottom-out, although more aggressive climbers have.
Bar bags can be accommodated, although some strap-mounted varieties might be a bit more awkward than other. Our BTR Bar Bag – one I really like – just did not have a long enough strap to secure it to stem or steerer: having said that, I’ve always found two straps sufficient for stability on road and leisure trips. Harder riders on rougher surfaces may disagree.
Redshift’s Sports Suspension Stem – an elastomer type – is lighter and cheaper. My gut feeling is that it dampens vibration just as well, but that the Kinekt may edge things on bumpier surfaces. In my opinion, it is more user-friendly, too.
For longer rides, and when you do not mind the weight, the Cirrus Kinekt Suspension Stem is a good bit of kit. If your regular max is a short gravel burst or a fast road ride, sticking to your rigid stem may be better. Much depends on your upper limbs and the surfaces/distances you ride. However, I’ve been impressed, as have cycling companions with long term wrist problems. They’d probably go for the 30degree rise, though. This is a progressive stem, with genuine benefits, especially over rougher roads and trails.