Bicycle Suspension is no longer just for mtb’s, as the growth in gravel and fast off-road cycling demands better tech to smooth out rough rides. We put Redshift’s suspension stem and seatpost onto a gravel bike to see the differences first hand.
Collision of Worlds
The gravel boom has led to more creativity and innovation in the bicycle world as a whole. One pathway to innovation has been the adoption and adaptation of mountain bike tech, including disk brakes, tubeless tires, single chainrings, and clutch derailleurs.
But nothing says mountain bike like suspension, and that has been popping up on gravel bikes with increasing frequency in different locations. Some bike companies have gone for the full front and rear suspension path, while others are going for dedicated forks or headset systems.
Another option is at the stem and seatpost, and that is the path chosen by Redshift Sports. They sent me their Shockstop Suspension Stem and Seatpost for testing.
Shockstop Stem Specs
The stem itself is largely indistinguishable from a rigid stem unless you’re looking very carefully, with its all-black motif, internal elastomers, and pivot near the headtube. They’re designed to be compatible with both drop and flat bars.
- 90-120 mm lengths (10 mm increments), with +/-6° orientation. There is also a 100 mm, +/-30° option. My 90 mm version is listed at 264 g.
- Fits 31.8 mm handlebars, with 25.4 and 26.0 mm shims available.
- Up to 20 mm of suspension is available, depending on the elastomers you use. 5 come with the system, and 1-2 are used depending on your weight and desired suspension.
Setup was quite simple. If adjusting suspension, remove the stem faceplate, use a 3 mm allen key to remove the preload wedge bolt, then use a needlenose plier to remove and swap elastomers. Make sure to orient them according to directions.
Then, place the stem back onto the fork and lightly tighten it. This is essential so that you can push down on the top of the stem to properly insert and tighten the preload wedge bolt without cross-threading or stripping it. After that, install your handlebar as normal.
MSRP for the Shockstop stem is $149.99.
Shockstop Seatpost Specs
The seatpost is 350 mm in length and claimed weight of 497 g, with no option for trimming due to the suspension hardware built in. It provides up to 35 mm of travel, and this is adjustable with 1-2 springs inside the seatpost along with a preload dial at the base of the post.
Up top at the saddle rail, an 80 mm tall cantilever system provides both backward and downward travel. A nice little detail is the magnetic and lanyard-secured “mudflap” that protects from mud spray getting into the internals.
On my Hatchet, with a bit of integrated seat mast above the top tube, there remained plenty of round seatpost left visible, ~80 mm. This was plenty of space for a tail light. The cantilever setup was minimalist enough that I could still easily strap a saddlebag to the seatpost.
As with any rear suspension, a bit of playing around is required to set up correct saddle position. I started off with the overall unweighted saddle about 5 mm higher and 5 mm further forward as a starting baseline, and found that worked pretty well for my 67 kg weight.
MSRP for the Shockstop seatpost is $229.99.
What’s My Gravel?
The Shockstops are not gravel-specific, and may be of interest to any road or flat bar setup because of their potential for taking away road buzz and making those long rides more comfortable and potentially faster. Remember, not only does the vibration cause fatigue, it usually means that your bike/body is bouncing up and down rather than absorbing those bumps and keeping the tires planted on the road laying down power.
I decided to put the Shockstops on my 2017 Devinci Hatchet gravel bike, which is currently set up with Schwalbe G-One 38 mm tubeless tires. My other off-road drop bar rig is my Four5 custom titanium cyclocross bike, with correspondingly steeper geometry and 33 mm tubeless tires.
Whether you need a gravel bike at all, let alone suspension, all depends on your typical use. My standard gravel loop is about 60 km and 2.5 h long, with a mix of about 50:50 gravel:road. The gravel itself is on dirt farm roads. For me, this means the following level of gravel difficulty depending on the time of the year and road maintenance:
- Grade 1. I can ride it fast with 28 mm tires with the conscious line picking.
- Grade 1+. Like 1 but with needing to watch for erosion and potholes.
- Grade 2. Freshly laid gravel makes for a bumpy ride and conscious choice to pick better/best lines.
In my view, if all you’re riding is < Grade 2, suspension is rather unnecessary unless you suffer frequently to on-bike fatigue. If that’s the case, probably the best solution is to first invest in a good bike fit and possibly fatter tires.
Grade 2 Gravel
Where I think suspension like Redshift can be a good option is with Grade 2 gravel. This is the kind of terrain where a gravel bike shines over a race-ready cyclocross bike and CX tires. A prime example of Grade 2 and how it handles between my two bikes when used without suspension.
With the CX bike and 33 mm tires (33 psi for my 67 kg), it was definitely rideable but not necessarily fast nor fun. I definitely had to constantly look and move around for best lines and aim for them. Even then, I still noticed myself bouncing around. I definitely found myself thinking “when is this sector going to finish?” more than once on a recent ride.
With the Devinci and 38 mm tires (28-30 psi), much more vibration damping was evident. The need to look for better lines was reduced but not eliminated. Some bouncing still occurred but nothing enough to detract from an overall fun experience.
With the Redshift stem/seatpost installed on the Devinci (same psi), the need for any line choosing was pretty much eliminated and I could go full speed. This was especially evident and appreciated on a fast downhill stretch supplemented with a tailwind.
Other ride notes about the Redshift stem and seatpost:
- Probably the biggest concern with any suspension is unnecessary bobbing. When riding no-handed, I did not feel anything from the seatpost in terms of appreciable bobble. It definitely doesn’t ride as a pogo stick.
- The stem’s bobbing, in contrast, was much more noticeable, especially on smoother roads and on the hoods. The feel is a gentle forward and downward rocking with each pedal stroke. It’s not disruptive and doesn’t affect handling or cornering, it disappears on gravel and is minimal on the drops or tops. It doesn’t dive downward. I’ve even taken the Devinci and Shockstop onto a local trail with lots of pump track features, and didn’t find the stem bucking me off.
- A concern with stems is often with their flexibility when standing or sprinting. There really was no noticeable twisting or flexing with the stem in my use.
- Both the stem and seatpost are not readily adjustable on the fly during a ride. I think this is a worthy tradeoff for the cleaner aesthetics and the lower risk of dirt infiltration than an “open” system.
Who Is It For?
The overall design goals for the Redshift Shockstop suspension system appear to be to reduce typical road/dirt buzz rather than wholesale big hits. So those of you riding on heavy, chip-seal type roads or poorly maintained roads, this might also add to better ride comfort.
Whether you favour the Redshift also depends on your weight focus. The system, especially the seatpost, definitely adds significant weight. However, in our modern age of wide-range gearing options, trading off weight for additional comfort is a much easier deal to make.
Due to the pandemic and lockdown, I haven’t had the chance to take the setup on a bikepacking trip, but I would presume that the extra comfort can only be a benefit in those uses. I think this would especially be the case for the Shockstop system, as the location of the suspension up essentially at the saddle and at the stem would be largely unaffected by the addition of luggage weight to the bike.
Agree or disagree with their use on drop bar bikes, but what is certain is the increasing options for suspension. I have been pleasantly surprised at the Redshift suspension system. Though adding weight, the increased comfort for long days on the gravel is for me a more than worthy trade.
• See more and order them online at the Redshift website