Over the years, various companies have introduced their own take on the suspension handlebar stem. A lot of those stems were intended for mountain biking, and as a result were rather gawky-looking and thus unpopular with consumers. Last August, however, Redshift Sports launched a Kickstarter campaign for its road-focused and very normal-looking ShockStop stem. That campaign was a success, and the stem is about to hit the marketplace. We recently had the chance to try one out.

The ShockStop is pretty much like a normal stem in appearance, with the exception that it has a sealed pivot point where it meets the steerer.

Inside of its forged 6061-T6 aluminum alloy body, there are a couple of elastomer preload inserts. It comes with several of these, each one of a different stiffness. Depending on factors such as rider weight and handlebar style (drop vs. flat), different combinations of these inserts can be placed inside the stem by the user.

Subsequently, when the bike goes over bumps in the road, the stem absorbs the energy by pivoting, allowing the handlebars to travel vertically by 1 to 2 cm (0.4 to 0.8 inches). As previously noted, the ShockStop is designed more for soaking up road vibrations, as opposed to taking big hits.

On our test ride, we found that it definitely made a difference. It doesn't turn your road bike or hybrid into a mountain bike by any means, but it certainly smoothed out the chatter that comes with using hard skinny tires on rough, damaged asphalt. On a long road ride or commute, that could go quite a ways towards reducing or even eliminating hand numbness.

Placing the inserts inside the stem is a bit fiddly but certainly doable, and you should only have to do it once, when initially setting up the device.

Weight-wise, there's a slight penalty. The 120-mm stem we were using tipped the scales at about 290 grams, whereas the conventional stem that it replaced was more in the neighborhood of 140. Weight wienies should keep in mind, however, that those extra grams might allow them to ride longer and farther.

The ShockStop is available now for preorder, priced at US$109. Its planned retail price is $139. Shipping should begin next month.

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