Bicycles

Review: StaFast revisits the suspension handlebar stem

Review: StaFast revisits the s...
Gizmag gives the StaFast air shock suspension stem a try
Gizmag gives the StaFast air shock suspension stem a try
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The StaFast allows riders to adjust the stem angle, which is a nice feature all on its own
1/5
The StaFast allows riders to adjust the stem angle, which is a nice feature all on its own
Once up and running, the StaFast offers about 1 cm (0.4 inches) of travel
2/5
Once up and running, the StaFast offers about 1 cm (0.4 inches) of travel
The StaFast can be set up for individual riders' weights and riding styles using an included pump
3/5
The StaFast can be set up for individual riders' weights and riding styles using an included pump
Gizmag gives the StaFast air shock suspension stem a try
4/5
Gizmag gives the StaFast air shock suspension stem a try
The StaFast tips the scales at about 350 grams
5/5
The StaFast tips the scales at about 350 grams
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Various bicycle components companies have been attempting to market suspension handlebar stems since at least the 90s, mostly to little success. Indeed, many of those stems are now mocked, with their overbuilt construction, pogo-like springs or stiff elastomer dampers. But now Michigan-based manufacturer Aeroforge is taking another crack at it, using modern technology to create its StaFast stem. We took it out for a few rides to see how much difference a couple of decades make.

First of all, the aluminum-bodied StaFast does indeed look nice – it's stealthy and sleek, and the sort of thing you might want to display even if you never put it on your bike. It tips the scales at about 350 grams, so while it's certainly not going to turn your bike into a hulking monster, weight weenies might take offense to it.

It features a miniature air shock, which can be set up for individual riders' weights and riding styles using an included pump – an online calculator gives users a starting point, based on their personal data. The StaFast also allows riders to adjust the stem angle, which is a nice feature all on its own.

Once up and running, the stem offers about 1 cm (0.4 in) of travel. That might not sound like much, but keep in mind that a centimeter back at the stem will translate into considerably more movement out at the ends of the bars. Additionally, although it can be used on mountain bikes, it's also intended for minimizing bar vibrations on road bikes – in other words, it's not meant to soak up huge hits.

The StaFast allows riders to adjust the stem angle, which is a nice feature all on its own
The StaFast allows riders to adjust the stem angle, which is a nice feature all on its own

We initially tried installing it on a road bike, but discovered that it would be necessary to purchase an adapter in order to accommodate the bike's carbon fiber steerer. Instead, we next tried it on an aluminum fatbike, which it went onto no problem.

Upon taking it out on the road, we found that it did indeed smooth out the bumps and buzzes. That said, however, it would have been much better if its rebound could be adjusted. As it was, when riding over potholes, the stem would quickly (and disconcertingly) snap back up after compressing. Although a company rep told us that the rebound softens after a break-in period, it would certainly be preferable if it could be adjusted to one's liking right off the bat.

The StaFast tips the scales at about 350 grams
The StaFast tips the scales at about 350 grams

Additionally, because the suspension is located behind the bars as opposed to beneath them (as would be the case with a suspension fork), they do twist forward a little as they move down. It's subtle and by no means a big deal, but it is worth knowing before buying.

The StaFast stem is available now in two lengths, and sells for US$350. It's a nicely-made component and is definitely several steps up from its predecessors performance-wise, although potential buyers might want to wait for a next-generation model before taking the plunge. In the meantime, they may also want to check out the ShockStop suspension stem.

Product page: StaFast

Special thanks to the guys at Hardcore Bikes in Edmonton, for their assistance in this review.

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5 comments
Timelord
"keep in mind that a centimeter back at the stem will translate into considerably more movement out at the ends of the bars."
What? That makes no sense. The ends of the bars move in virtually the same arc as the clamp, relative to the pivot. Therefore, the travel will be roughly the same.
[The pivot point is right against the steerer, so there's the length of the StaFast stem itself to consider, along with the possible forward placement of the hands on the brake hoods in the case of drop bars - Ed.]
sk8dad
First of all, I can't imagine any roadie who is willing to add 350 grams to his/her bike!
In addition to forward rotating of bars during travel, hand placement will also have notable differences in compression leverage.
Suspending the bars essentially moves a good percentage of the bike and rider's weight into the unsprung category--exactly opposite of what one wants in proper suspension design.
One possible boon of this device over a suspension fork design I could see (might be a stretch though) is possible increased efficiency in out of saddle pedaling.
Timelord
Referring to the reply in my earlier post, if they are measuring that 1 cm of travel at the "shock," that's unconventional and bizarre. The travel of a mountain bike's rear suspension properly refers to how far the rear axle can move from statically loaded to fully compressed. The term for how far the shock can move is stroke, not travel.
glorybe2
I think a pair of cushy hand grips for less than $20. would be good enough for almost everyone. No weight issues with hand grips and a wide choice of colors already exists as well.
McDesign
would be good enough for almost everyone.
glorybe2 - that's not how innovation and capitalism works. Planned economies, yes.