REDSHIFT SPORTS SUSPENSION STEM
300g 90mm as tested $139.99 (Approximately £106.50)
The Redshift Sports Shockstop Stem might not be a new concept, as those of us old enough to remember the Girvin Flexstem will testify. It’s a design I retain fond memories of. However, the Shockstop is designed for road duties and on technical merit, vastly superior. An obvious choice for ‘cross, gravel and adventure builds, its subtle and moreover light enough for road/audax bikes too.
Pros: Very effective, beautifully engineered and seemingly durable.
Cons: An 8cm length option would be nice. Requires careful setup.
The stem itself is available in a choice of two rises and a several lengths. Oh, and any diameter you like so long as it’s 11/8th. However, it is safe to use with 1inch steerers (hence my Holdsworth) and even quill types, with a quill to ahead adaptor. Primarily intended for 31.8 oversized bars, shims for smaller sizes (including 25.4) are available at $9.99 apiece.
Being road biased we’ve gone for the 6degree but there’s a 30degree option, which might be nearer the mark for hybrids and indeed, more relaxed tourists. I wasn’t surprised to learn the stem’s body is 7075 aluminium.
However, it’s made using a 3D cold forging process. Components are sourced from suppliers in the US, Taiwan and other parts of the world. However, inspection and ultimately, assembly are undertaken sat their Philadelphia HQ.
In common with the Girvin Flexstem, its elastomer based and these too, are colour-coded, according to rider weight. This ranges from 52 to 98 kilos, which caters for most, albeit not all riders.
Spares are also, readily available, though I was surprised to discover (Unlike old school Rock Shox and similar elastomer-based forks) these don’t require the occasional lick of rubber friendly grease.
Redshift sports are mechanical engineers by training and place a very high premium upon fatigue testing. Erik tells me they generally fatigue test to 200% of the ISO standards and using 125-150% of the suggested forces. This is to ensure the specified loads to check things will hold up, in the long term.
The dun finish with laser-etched graphics is similarly rich and well executed. Fasteners are a decent grade of stainless steel. Short of a serious accident, misuse/improper installation, I can’t see any issues presenting.
This isn’t overly complex but requires a methodical, careful approach. i.e. best done when there’s no time pressure or competing distractions.
The 6degree version can be installed + or minus i.e. for a raised or lower slung angle. However, if going the latter route, you will need to remove, sand, reinstate the elastomers. The 30-degree version should only be mounted +30 degrees.
With the stem in situ, remove the stem face plate and extract the preload bolt and wedge using a 3mm Allen key. This is best done with a workshop length, T handle design.
True to instructions, expect 32 turns and the bolt should remain within the wedge. Hook the elastomer out and replace using a combination appropriate to your weight.
Pushing the stem to the height of its travel, i.e. as far as it will go helps with the slotting phase. Elsatomers must be positioned with the handles facing outwards and above the support. I am 70 odd kilos, thus went for the blue and yellow respectively.
To set the preload, apply downward pressure to the stem extension and ensure the preload bolt aligns with the threaded hole and dial it tight. Stop, remove the bolt and start again, should you meet any undue resistance.
First time round, this took me 40 minutes - honed to 15 given a few attempts and familiarity. Besides, no prizes for busting your equipment, or seriously injuring yourself for speed’s sake.
My cyclo-cross cum fixed gear gravel bike was the obvious candidate, my fixed gear TT bike, based around a 1955 531 frame
and carbon fork less so; despite the damping characteristics of their materials, the front end can feel a little harsh.
Assuming you have followed the instructions and guidelines correctly, the Shockstop should add a subtle “zing” rather than “pogo-stick” bounce to the ride. Compressing very subtly to counteract washboard tarmac and similarly intrusive stuff.
Maiden voyages on my TT bike were around the 10 mile mark, to adjust to any potentially unusual characteristics, compared with a traditional stem. Frankly, I hadn’t noticed any change in the handling, which was razor sharp, yet predictable. Extending ride times and distances confirmed this, although despite my weight corresponding with the elastomers, the ride proved a little harsher than I was expecting.
Exchanging the orange elastomer, for its softer yellow counterpart made all the difference, ironing out those intrusive sections and greatly reducing fatigue around the arms and neck area. No rebound, bounce or similarly unwelcome characteristics in 200 miles.
That established, I ported it over to my ‘cross inspired fixed and went in search of lumpier lanes and paths. As I said in my opening paragraph, I still hold a deep-rooted fondness for the old Girvin designs, probably because my weight didn’t overly tax the system.
Maintaining the same elastomers as before, I was delighted by how well the Shockstop ironed out more obviously battle-scarred sections of tarmac, not to mention large clumps of mud and dung, synonymous with the rural backdrop.
Extending ride times progressively and throwing the odd dusk ‘til dawn all-nighter in for good measure, I was impressed by the damping qualities. Leaning hard against the bars couldn’t induce any unwanted bob or sag.
The rebound action remained, smooth and progressive. Unmade dirt roads and forest tracks were arguably its biggest test and frankly, as adventurous as I’d go, with this set up. Nonetheless, I’ve felt much fresher after 40/50 mixed terrain miles than with its, otherwise fantastic, titanium stem.
I’ve resisted the urge to slip a slither of grease on the elastomers but have given everything a cursory inspection, every few rides and usually coinciding with a sudsy bucket wash. Stem bolts needed nipping tight following the first mixed terrain outing but that’s been pretty much tops in six weeks and approximately 600 miles.
The gravel market is slowly moving to suspension, including forks. However, by my reckoning road-biased riders looking for a little more comfort, without piling on the grams, adding a chunky aesthetic, or unwelcome complication should seriously consider the Shockstop. A few more lengths would be welcomed but otherwise, it has met the design brief handsomely.