StaFast Suspension Stem Review

#1
Weird but Wonderful

20151001_081702.jpg

Surprisingly Good Looking and An Almost Perfect Paint Match on the ST2

I first heard about a product called StaFast from my local bike mechanic who, having worked with full suspension bikes for years, was curious as to whether a stem mounted air shock could serve a useful purpose and work well enough to offer a light weight alternative that, in the right situation, could provide greater stability and comfort. The short answer is yes. Definitely Yes!

I contacted, Charlie Brickey, one of the owners of AerForge, makers of the StaFast suspension stem and asked if he would be kind enough to send an evaluation unit for the specific purpose of seeing how the product performed on an ebike. I am not a professional reviewer and not affiliated or paid by any publication or manufacturer. The following review is done simply for the benefit of electricbikereview.com forum readers. Please feel free to offer any and all comments and ask any questions you like. If I cannot answer the questions, I will contact Charlie Brickey and get an answer for you.

Most readers know well that a fast and heavy ebike without suspension does not take kindly to road imperfections. The test bike we used for this review is my own Stromer ST2. It is a fantastic bike but, even with a carbon front fork, and Schwalbe Big Ben tires, hitting a bump/crack/pothole at speed is a real wake up call especially for your arms and shoulders.

In The Box

While there is no retail distribution, the product arrived in a nicely packaged box that had nice graphics but none of the necessary product detail or descriptive text normally found on packaged goods. The box contained:
  • (1) Air Shock Stem
  • (1) Spanner Wrench for adjusting the angle of the stem
  • (1) Handheld air pump
  • (1) “D” washer and 6MM bolt
  • (1) Installation Card (a very good one)
20151001_081903.jpg

A Quality Pump is Provided
The StaFast stem is available in two stem lengths. The 95mm length is typically found on Mountain and Urban bikes, while the 105mm length is typically used on road bikes with drop handlebars. I measured the stem length prior to receipt and found the Stromer ST2 to have a 95mm stem length (as measured from the center of the steering tube to the middle of the handlebar).

Fit and Finish

The StaFast stem body is made from the 3D forging of aluminum alloy 6066T6.

The cylinder is manufactured via a Swiss CNC machining process with controlled and tight tolerances. The fit and finish is excellent and you can tell that attention was paid to delivering quality materials and tight tolerances. While not intentional, the matte black finish provided a very close match with the Stromer ST2 stem I removed and I am surprisingly pleased that most folks would not know that the StaFast stem was an aftermarket add-on.

Weight

I weighed both the Stromer ST2 stem (269 grams) and the StaFast stem (362 grams. The difference is negligible as the 93-gram difference turns out to be about 3.3 ounces. Typical front suspension forks weigh about 1500-2000 grams.

Installation

The installation was performed by Zack Black, a seasoned bike mechanic at Bike Station Aptos, California and a Stromer Authorized dealer.

image006.png

This is the front side of a step-by-step installation card with clear photos and well-written instructions.

To make installation easier, we removed the front wheel of the bike prior to installation. We also removed the handlebars and the custom mounted Super Nova light.

Removal of the Stromer ST2 stem, while not difficult, required a little time to fish the compression shims (4) typically used on a carbon fork out of the stem. We simply rotated the bike upside down on the work stand and used a small rod with a hook at the end to nudge them out of the stem.

The StaFast stem can be adjusted 25 degrees to accommodate different rider preferences and is shipped with this adjustment set to the max (25 degrees).

The StaFast stem works with standard 1-1/8th steering tube diameters and the Stromer ST2 has, thankfully, a standard steering tube diameter. The StaFast Stem requires the use of spacers to create 1-1/2 to 1-5/8 inches from the top of the spacer to the top of the steering tube. Luckily the existing Stromer ST2 space was just perfect so we did not have to find or fiddle with additional spacers.

image008.png

Air Cylinder and Stem Angle Adjustment Nut

Give the quality of construction and the tight tolerances on the StaFast stem; it requires a delicate yet firm push to properly seat the stem. We did notice that the StaFast stem scraped the carbon fiber steering tube but there was no damage and the scrapes are covered up completely by the StaFast stem.

One installation challenge was that the Stromer ST2 compression plug was too big and had to be replaced with a Profile Design Adjustable Plug that is designed for carbon steering tubes. This is about a $15.00 part (online) and most bike shops should have this plug in stock or can get it easily. We then had to use the supplied “D” shaped washer and 6mm bolt. Please be sure to tighten everything to spec and then grab your brakes and stomp on the front end to make sure that the stem and front fork are tight and nothing moves.

The Stromer handlebar clamps have an indentation on the underside to accommodate the SuperNova light. Unfortunately we could not tighten the StaFast handlebar clamp to the specified torque with the SuperNova light in place so we created a temporary handlebar mount for the light. SuperNova makes a very nice handlebar mount so we ordered one. I will post more photos of the StaFast stem with the properly mounted SuperNova light shortly.

The stock cabling on the Stromer ST2 presented no problems and did not require rerouting or replacement. However, you should move your handlebar to the extremes to check that no cables are unduly tensioned.

Lastly, be sure to adjust your handlebars so that your grips and shift/brake levers are at your preferred angle.

Adjustment

Adjusting the StaFast stem requires some time and patience to dial in the settings to your preference. There is no right or wrong adjustment. The StaFast stem has two adjustments: a. stem angle and b. air pressure. We found that it is best to adjust the stem angle first as the angle affects the amount of air pressure you prefer. As stated previously, the StaFast stem is shipped with the maximum angle of 25 degrees. I found that, after some test rides, that a 10-degree angle was just about right. Adjusting the stem angle should be done with no air in the stem cylinder and is a very simple procedure. StaFast provides a spanner wrench that is easy to use.

image010.png

StaFast supplies a small wrench to adjust the stem angle.

When I talked to StaFast they gave me some recommendations on a starting point for air pressure. The basis for the recommendation stems (no pun intended) from the type of bicycle, the kind of roads you ride on, and your height and weight. I told Charles Brickey that I was 5’11” and weighed 250 lbs and ride solely on the road. He suggested I start with 150psi. We did just that and, besides me, I had a fellow Stromer ST2 owner and the shop mechanic take it for a test ride. All of us were a little disconcerted by how the handlebar moved up and down. It takes a few minutes (or hours) of riding to understand that nothing is going to fall off and that you are not going to lose control. We also agreed that the movement was much too soft as the handlebar would move over almost every road imperfection.

After the initial test ride, we went back to the shop and reset the air pressure to the maximum 275 psi. My fellow Stromer rider felt it was too stiff and didn’t seem to move at all, while another shop mechanic who is a mountain bike rider felt it was just perfect.

Note Bene:

When you attach the air pump, the air in the StaFast cylinder will escape into the pump. Since the volume of air that the StaFast cylinder holds is very small, it appears as if the stem is losing air. This is NOT the case and the StaFast stem holds air securely. I will say it makes checking the air pressure a tiny bit difficult to do, but when you attach the pump just pump it back up to the desired psi level. I recommend you use your air pump every 30 days or so to make sure your air level pressure is optimum. Also, we noted that due to the thickness of the Head Tube on the Stromer ST2, I had to turn the front wheel to one side or the other in order to have enough room to thread the air pump on. This, of course, may not be necessary with every bike.

What I discovered is that the StaFast stem, while only providing about 25-30mm of travel, gives the appearance of a much broader range of suspension. The good news is that, except for those that do very rough terrain mountain biking, the StaFast stem will work well on trails, country roads, and urban commutes.

Currently, I have settled on 205 psi. My goal is not to have a soft cushy ride but to take the sharp edges off the sudden jolts I experience on certain road surfaces. If I have to give ebike riders an analogy, it seems to do for the hands and shoulders what the Cirrus Body Float does for your butt and back.

I still have some testing to do but on my usual routes, the StaFast stem provides consistent relief from road imperfections and also provides better control over rough surfaces. I tend to ride at speeds above 22mph all the time. I have noticed that my body position and hands stay planted when encountering rough patches. Strong yet supple suspension provides better control of the bicycle over rough terrain.

I talked to Charles Brickey about the target market for the product and while he believes in the benefits of the StaFast stem for the everyday rider, he did indicate that early feedback from road racers has been very positive as the stem provides much better body and hand control.

Early Conclusion

I’d like to spend a few more weeks testing the StaFast stem and will report back to the readers of electricbikereview.com. For now, the product delivers an immediate and noticeable benefit and makes my rides more comfortable and stable. According to StaFast:

“Stafast’s force dampening capabilities enable road cyclists to focus on performance instead of resistance. Bikes equipped with Stafast have the ability to deliver results unmodified cycles aren’t built to achieve. Composed of extremely durable lightweight alloys and engineered with road cycling in mind, Stafast is manufactured to handle the impact of both urban pavement and country blacktop.”

The other benefit to a more compliant and comfortable front end is the reduction in arm, shoulder, and neck fatigue over longer rides. It does take some getting used to the slight downward movement of the handlebar and an assumption that everything is installed firmly and tightly. The fit and finish of the product is very very good, and the support level is consistent with a quality manufacturer. Durability is an issue I cannot address at this time, but given the attention to detail, I’m confident that the product will delivers years of use.

Nice
  • Very little weight penalty over existing stem
  • Excellent build quality
  • Clear-cut installation instructions
  • Great for city, country, and light trail roads
  • Works as advertised
Nits
  • Attaching air pump gives false impression that the StaFast stem is losing air
  • 25-30mm of travel is all you get (which is sufficient for most)
  • May require obtaining another compression bolt
  • Could not get pump firmly seated without turning the front wheel (took me a few seconds to figure out)
  • Handlebar movement takes some time in the saddle to build confidence

Available for order thru the StaFast website. Retail price is $350.00 (US). More information including videos showing the StaFast in action can be found on their website:www.sta-fast.com
 
Last edited:

grench

Well-Known Member
#2
Weird but Wonderful

View attachment 4526
Surprisingly Good Looking and An Almost Perfect Paint Match on the ST2

I first heard about a product called StaFast from my local bike mechanic who, having worked with full suspension bikes for years, was curious as to whether a stem mounted air shock could serve a useful purpose and work well enough to offer a light weight alternative that, in the right situation, could provide greater stability and comfort. The short answer is yes. Definitely Yes!


I contacted, Charlie Brickey, one of the owners of AerForge, makers of the StaFast suspension stem and asked if he would be kind enough to send an evaluation unit for the specific purpose of seeing how the product performed on an ebike. I am not a professional reviewer and not affiliated or paid by any publication or manufacturer. The following review is done simply for the benefit of electricbikereview.com forum readers. Please feel free to offer any and all comments and ask any questions you like. If I cannot answer the questions, I will contact Charlie Brickey and get an answer for you.


Most readers know well that a fast and heavy ebike without suspension does not take kindly to road imperfections. The test bike we used for this review is my own Stromer ST2. It is a fantastic bike but, even with a carbon front fork, and Schwalbe Big Ben tires, hitting a bump/crack/pothole at speed is a real wake up call especially for your arms and shoulders.

In The Box

While there is no retail distribution, the product arrived in a nicely packaged box that had nice graphics but none of the necessary product detail or descriptive text normally found on packaged goods. The box contained:

a. (1) Air Shock Stem

b. (1) Spanner Wrench for adjusting the angle of the stem

c. (1) Handheld air pump

d. (1) “D” washer and 6MM bolt

e. (1) Installation Card (a very good one)

View attachment 4529
A Quality Pump is Provided

The StaFast stem is available in two stem lengths. The 95mm length is typically found on Mountain and Urban bikes, while the 105mm length is typically used on road bikes with drop handlebars. I measured the stem length prior to receipt and found the Stromer ST2 to have a 95mm stem length (as measured from the center of the steering tube to the middle of the handlebar).

Fit and Finish

The StaFast stem body is made from the 3D forging of aluminum alloy 6066T6.

The cylinder is manufactured via a Swiss CNC machining process with controlled and tight tolerances. The fit and finish is excellent and you can tell that attention was paid to delivering quality materials and tight tolerances. While not intentional, the matte black finish provided a very close match with the Stromer ST2 stem I removed and I am surprisingly pleased that most folks would not know that the StaFast stem was an aftermarket add-on.

Weight

I weighed both the Stromer ST2 stem (269 grams) and the StaFast stem (362 grams. The difference is negligible as the 93-gram difference turns out to be about 3.3 ounces. Typical front suspension forks weigh about 1500-2000 grams.

Installation
The installation was performed by Zack Black, a seasoned bike mechanic at Bike Station Aptos, California and a Stromer Authorized dealer.

View attachment 4530
This is the front side of a step-by-step installation card with clear photos and well-written instructions.

To make installation easier, we removed the front wheel of the bike prior to installation. We also removed the handlebars and the custom mounted Super Nova light.

Removal of the Stromer ST2 stem, while not difficult, required a little time to fish the compression shims (4) typically used on a carbon fork out of the stem. We simply rotated the bike upside down on the work stand and used a small rod with a hook at the end to nudge them out of the stem.

The StaFast stem can be adjusted 25 degrees to accommodate different rider preferences and is shipped with this adjustment set to the max (25 degrees).

The StaFast stem works with standard 1-1/8th steering tube diameters and the Stromer ST2 has, thankfully, a standard steering tube diameter. The StaFast Stem requires the use of spacers to create 1-1/2 to 1-5/8 inches from the top of the spacer to the top of the steering tube. Luckily the existing Stromer ST2 space was just perfect so we did not have to find or fiddle with additional spacers.


View attachment 4533
Air Cylinder and Stem Angle Adjustment Nut

Give the quality of construction and the tight tolerances on the StaFast stem; it requires a delicate yet firm push to properly seat the stem. We did notice that the StaFast stem scraped the carbon fiber steering tube but there was no damage and the scrapes are covered up completely by the StaFast stem.

One installation challenge was that the Stromer ST2 compression plug was too big and had to be replaced with a Profile Design Adjustable Plug that is designed for carbon steering tubes. This is about a $15.00 part (online) and most bike shops should have this plug in stock or can get it easily. We then had to use the supplied “D” shaped washer and 6mm bolt. Please be sure to tighten everything to spec and then grab your brakes and stomp on the front end to make sure that the stem and front fork are tight and nothing moves.

The Stromer handlebar clamps have an indentation on the underside to accommodate the SuperNova light. Unfortunately we could not tighten the StaFast handlebar clamp to the specified torque with the SuperNova light in place so we created a temporary handlebar mount for the light. SuperNova makes a very nice handlebar mount so we ordered one. I will post more photos of the StaFast stem with the properly mounted SuperNova light shortly.

The stock cabling on the Stromer ST2 presented no problems and did not require rerouting or replacement. However, you should move your handlebar to the extremes to check that no cables are unduly tensioned.

Lastly, be sure to adjust your handlebars so that your grips and shift/brake levers are at your preferred angle.

Adjustment

Adjusting the StaFast stem requires some time and patience to dial in the settings to your preference. There is no right or wrong adjustment. The StaFast stem has two adjustments: a. stem angle and b. air pressure. We found that it is best to adjust the stem angle first as the angle affects the amount of air pressure you prefer. As stated previously, the StaFast stem is shipped with the maximum angle of 25 degrees. I found that, after some test rides, that a 10-degree angle was just about right. Adjusting the stem angle should be done with no air in the stem cylinder and is a very simple procedure. StaFast provides a spanner wrench that is easy to use.


View attachment 4532
StaFast supplies a small wrench to adjust the stem angle.

When I talked to StaFast they gave me some recommendations on a starting point for air pressure. The basis for the recommendation stems (no pun intended) from the type of bicycle, the kind of roads you ride on, and your height and weight. I told Charles Brickey that I was 5’11” and weighed 250 lbs and ride solely on the road. He suggested I start with 150psi. We did just that and, besides me, I had a fellow Stromer ST2 owner and the shop mechanic take it for a test ride. All of us were a little disconcerted by how the handlebar moved up and down. It takes a few minutes (or hours) of riding to understand that nothing is going to fall off and that you are not going to lose control. We also agreed that the movement was much too soft as the handlebar would move over almost every road imperfection.

After the initial test ride, we went back to the shop and reset the air pressure to the maximum 275 psi. My fellow Stromer rider felt it was too stiff and didn’t seem to move at all, while another shop mechanic who is a mountain bike rider felt it was just perfect.

Note Bene:

When you attach the air pump, the air in the StaFast cylinder will escape into the pump. Since the volume of air that the StaFast cylinder holds is very small, it appears as if the stem is losing air. This is NOT the case and the StaFast stem holds air securely. I will say it makes checking the air pressure a tiny bit difficult to do, but when you attach the pump just pump it back up to the desired psi level. I recommend you use your air pump every 30 days or so to make sure your air level pressure is optimum. Also, we noted that due to the thickness of the Head Tube on the Stromer ST2, I had to turn the front wheel to one side or the other in order to have enough room to thread the air pump on. This, of course, may not be necessary with every bike.

What I discovered is that the StaFast stem, while only providing about 25-30mm of travel, gives the appearance of a much broader range of suspension. The good news is that, except for those that do very rough terrain mountain biking, the StaFast stem will work well on trails, country roads, and urban commutes.

Currently, I have settled on 205 psi. My goal is not to have a soft cushy ride but to take the sharp edges off the sudden jolts I experience on certain road surfaces. If I have to give ebike riders an analogy, it seems to do for the hands and shoulders what the Cirrus Body Float does for your butt and back.

I still have some testing to do but on my usual routes, the StaFast stem provides consistent relief from road imperfections and also provides better control over rough surfaces. I tend to ride at speeds above 22mph all the time. I have noticed that my body position and hands stay planted when encountering rough patches. Strong yet supple suspension provides better control of the bicycle over rough terrain.

I talked to Charles Brickey about the target market for the product and while he believes in the benefits of the StaFast stem for the everyday rider, he did indicate that early feedback from road racers has been very positive as the stem provides much better body and hand control.

Early Conclusion

I’d like to spend a few more weeks testing the StaFast stem and will report back to the readers of electricbikereview.com. For now, the product delivers an immediate and noticeable benefit and makes my rides more comfortable and stable. According to StaFast:

“Stafast’s force dampening capabilities enable road cyclists to focus on performance instead of resistance. Bikes equipped with Stafast have the ability to deliver results unmodified cycles aren’t built to achieve. Composed of extremely durable lightweight alloys and engineered with road cycling in mind, Stafast is manufactured to handle the impact of both urban pavement and country blacktop.”

The other benefit to a more compliant and comfortable front end is the reduction in arm, shoulder, and neck fatigue over longer rides. It does take some getting used to the slight downward movement of the handlebar and an assumption that everything is installed firmly and tightly. The fit and finish of the product is very very good, and the support level is consistent with a quality manufacturer. Durability is an issue I cannot address at this time, but given the attention to detail, I’m confident that the product will delivers years of use.

Nice


-Very little weight penalty over existing stem

-Excellent build quality

-Clear-cut installation instructions

-Great for city, country, and light trail roads

-Works as advertised

Nits

-Attaching air pump gives false impression that the StaFast stem is losing air

-25-30mm of travel is all you get (which is sufficient for most)

-May require obtaining another compression bolt

-Could not get pump firmly seated without turning the front wheel (took me a few seconds to figure out)

-Handlebar movement takes some time in the saddle to build confidence


Available for order thru the StaFast website.

Retail price is $350.00 (US)

More information including videos showing the StaFast in action can be found on their website:
www.sta-fast.com.
Nice review thanks for the effort!
 

Court

Administrator
Staff member
#3
Awesome writeup @86 and still kicking! Definitely got me interested in the product, I've never heard or seen this before but you did it justice and were fair about some of the drawbacks/areas of improvement. Thanks for being so transparent about how you came across the product too. I can't wait for more of your insights in the future :D
 

PowerMe

Well-Known Member
#5
Hoping to see a review video at some point down the road. $350 is a significant retail cost, IMO, but if it provides that much better comfort and protection, then the value proposition can certainly be made.
 

Tara D.

Administrator
#6
Great review @86 and still kicking ! I thought it looked beneficial for a variety of riders especially when you said "The other benefit to a more compliant and comfortable front end is the reduction in arm, shoulder, and neck fatigue over longer rides." and "StaFast stem provided consistent relief from road imperfections" so I shared it in the thread @irenewg13 started on ebike accessories for arthritis. @PowerMe a review video would be nice to see. I don't know if you have watched it already but you can see it in action on their site https://sta-fast.com/ but it is a very quick video.
 
#7
Hoping to see a review video at some point down the road. $350 is a significant retail cost, IMO, but if it provides that much better comfort and protection, then the value proposition can certainly be made.
Not sure I am comfortable riding and holding a GoPro selfie stick (I'll leave that skill to Court <g>). If I can figure out how to get a camera view while riding safely I will do so. What I may do is shoot a walk-around video and show how the unit works when you press down on the handlebars. I am still experimenting with air pressure and have been lowering psi by 5 for each successive ride to find the absolute sweet spot for me.
 
#8
Update:

1. Took a dremel with a small burr grinder and etched the bottom of the handlebar clamps. Took about 5 minutes. Remounted SuperNova in its original position and works great.

2. I now have air pressure set to 170 and this seems to be the best compromise over a wide array of surface imperfections.

3. Lots of compliments from those I have let ride the bike.
 

Mo743

New Member
#12
Excellent find! I'm gonna get one for testing as well. It looks really promising. With this and a Bodyfloat who needs suspension?
Redshift is making a suspension stem called Shockstop coming out next year April I believe. Looks to be a winner very easy to install and I already have the cirrus body float and this one looks perfect for our stromer bikes
 
#13
Great review and definitely a benefit for riders in the more forward position. Can't see how it will help a bike hitting a pothole or curb. It is certainly better than no suspension and far cheaper than some of the suspension forks out there.
 
#14
Great review and definitely a benefit for riders in the more forward position. Can't see how it will help a bike hitting a pothole or curb. It is certainly better than no suspension and far cheaper than some of the suspension forks out there.
Thanks, the suspension does a fantastic job of reducing arm/shoulder stress especially when hitting potholes or curbs. The only time I can think of that the benefit of the Sta-Fast might be limited is if its installed on a cruiser where one sits straight up with no stress on hands/arms. Of course, sitting straight up is the least efficient cycling position and certainly not advised for anyone who goes more than a mile or two. I notice that when I switch bikes, the difference in comfort is very strong.
 

George S.

Well-Known Member
#16
Redshift is making a suspension stem called Shockstop coming out next year April I believe. Looks to be a winner very easy to install and I already have the cirrus body float and this one looks perfect for our stromer bikes
I noticed they have the Shockstop for a much lower price. It would be great to know how well they work. People complain about cruiser bars but that approach does work. Something like this would be better, and it would be nice to do the full comps with suspension forks.

http://www.redshiftsports.com/shockstop/


EDIT --- Now scheduled for July deliveries. Design changes.
 
#17
Elastomers are fine but certainly not as good as an adjustable air shock. It is similar to the comparison between a Thudbuster and a Body Float. I've had both and the Float is worth the extra expense. It is good however to have choices for all budgets.
 

George S.

Well-Known Member
#18
The ebike world is complex. I take $300-$500 frames and add motors. As long as I stay within the speed envelope the frames were designed for, the motor can make a cheap bike work very well. If you want to go 30 mph, all bets are off.

I bought this cruiser for $270. Like you say, a real pain to ride and pedal. No leverage. Bought a very nice motor, the Golden Smart Edge for $300. Quiet, DD, strong, mates very well to the CrMo fork. I ride this bike 20 miles. A little harder on my back, but no stress on wrists. I ride very bumpy roads. I pedal most of the time, try to keep a constant low grade cardio workout.

Your little dingus is more $$ than my bike. Different segments of society, really, different points of view. If you read reviews of riser bars on Amazon, people love them and they say they stop the pain. Not bad, for $20.

Love to see the concept work out and be incorporated in bikes that would then be comfortable, efficient, and reasonable in price. If your hands ache for two days after a ride, handlebars have the virtue of being cheap.

mango gm.JPG
 
#19
I visited their website and they are unavailable for purchase. Does anyone know if they are still in production?

To the OP, now that you've had the stem for a year or two have your impressions changed?