Red Shift Shockstop Suspension Stem Reviewed | SoCal Cyclist
Cycling hurts. Sure it hurts the legs on a long intense day but what about the rest of you? For many it's neck and shoulder pain not to mention back pain so intense you need to use a foam roller and every other gadget to get you back out there. Red Shift Sports has a unique and innovative idea to help alleviate some of that pain in the form of a suspension stem. Hasn't that already been done? Yes but Red Shift has perfected and improved a 30 year old idea. We've reviewed and beaten ourselves up in the process in order to really see what this stem can do.
The stem is a 110mm with about two centimeters of travel. It uses a number of different elastomers in order to adjust the amount of give a certain amount of pressure is applied. I used the "medium" setting which combines two colored elastomers to get the right "feel". The rig used is a Cannondale Superx Se gravel/cx bike which absolutely rips the trails. Combined with low tire pressure on 36mm tires, the stem adds to a plush ride on some of the more technical and even flows sections.
At first glance, the stem is unassuming as most people don't realize it has any suspension at all.
I'm one of the few cyclists who has actually raced on both the original SoftRide stem on my mountain bike during the 90's. Back then the stem was extremely flexible that was meant to be a different option than fork suspension that everyone uses today. It was ugly, and every time you stood, up it would give and go up and down like a pogo stick. Granted it was cutting edge at the time and may have laid the groundwork for what Red Shift has today.
In contrast the Red Shift stem is much more minimal and not designed to be your mountain bikes main source of suspension. While the application can be used in just about any cycling discipline, where it really shines is the new world of gravel riding. Gravel is not meant to be as punishing on your body compared to other disciplines but if you do a long even like the Belgian Waffle Ride or Dirty Kanza, there is a strong correlation between the way you feel after the events if you use the stem compared to a standard one.
During fast and bumpy sections, I never had to worry about the stem bottoming out as it didn't feel stiff at its furthest point of travel. It always returned to it's default position and even casually riding and standing up on the pedals you don't feel too much give in your front end. After a few more rides you just get used to the feel. Many other riders often remarked how they would like to try it out as we were getting ready to leave for our rides.
At close to 300 grams the stem is by no means light but you do get a lot packed into a simple setup. Out of the box, you need to decide which elastomers are best for your weight and riding style. After that, install it like you would a standard stem. I unknowingly made the mistake of placing the elastomers in the wrong spot (there is a slot for top and bottom). My maiden voyage was a rigid ride that made me rethink if the stem was doing its job. Once I made the easy and quick changes, the next ride felt much smoother. I tried to do the same route as a basis of comparison and the differences is extremely noticeable.
The difference in feel is extremely noticeable to that of a standard stem. However the difference in looks is not that different compared to most other stems on the market. When seated on the hoods or in the drops, the cockpit barely moves. Unless you are out of the saddle and really hitting uneven terrain, do you notice that 2 centimeters of travel. Most of the terrain in SoCal is loose dirt and lots of sandy surfaces with the occasional single track with some exposed roots. It provides just enough give in all of those scenarios while still being efficient enough for power transfer from legs to the bike.
The pivot point is right where it should be at the steerer tube. On my set up there is a conical spacer and the stem rise is a tad higher than my normal setup. This puts the position a little higher which is fine for the gravel setup since being aero is not a primary concern. On the face plate there is plenty of room to mount an accessories to your bars as well.
Is this the new standard for stems? Probably not but it is a good alternative if you are looking for something different out there. It's also good if you are someone who feels the physical toll that cycling has on the body. When it comes to which discipline you want to use it for, the answer is relative. Personally I don't think I would ever put this on my road bike. My rig is all about being light and fast where comfort is way down on my list of priorities. Fast forward about twenty years and I might have a different answer. Can this be used on mountain bikes? Yes but a suspension stem combined with a fork seems like a bit of overkill. The gravel scene is new and with that comes the added bonus of being more accepting of new technology. Most gravel bikes are fully rigid and the addition of a suspension stem or seat post which Red Shift also makes seems like a good alternative to what is out there. For people who ride gravel bikes over great distances or more technical terrain aka gravel plus where weight is not really a concern, the stem makes sense.
Is this the stem to rule the market? Only time will tell but it is a good alternative for people not wanting to go all in on the suspension world. It is marketed as something that "smooths the road" and represents a higher end technology. No longer do people with pain issues need to wear extra thick gloves or double wrap bar tape. We'll see if this trend sticks but in the meantime I'll be using this stem often and my joints will thank me for it.
• Innovative minimalist design
• Ease of setup, use and adjustability
• Makes rides smoother and more comfortable
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• Slight weight penalty
• Not for purists or traditionalists