Stafast Excels In Electric Bike Review

Below is a review by "86 & Still Kicking", a well known reviewer and blogger of Electric Bike Review

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)
 
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

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


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


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.

 
 
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

To view the original review posted by 86 & Still Kicking, please click here.

Fatbike Republic Reviews Stafast

Below is a re-published review conducted by Fatbike Republic:

"I had the opportunity to test a pre-production version of the Stafast suspension stem. It was during the winter months when there was not a heck of a lot of rough terrain and tire pressures were really low. Not the ideal conditions to get a full idea of what the stem can really do. Now that all the snow is gone and tire pressures have increased, Stafast has sent along their upgraded consumer version for an extended review on Fatbike Republic. 

UNBOXING

Opening the cool looking box you will find the stem, stem cap, small wrench, shock pump and several pages of instructions. The one sent for review is their 95mm which is for fatbikes & mountain bikes. The 105mm is aimed more at roadies.

 

THE STEM

Folks may be familiar with similar attempts at suspension stems in the past, however these designs used springs and elastomers to give relief at the bars. The StaFast suspension stem uses stainless steel and aluminum construction coupled with tight tolerances and an air shock to dampen shocks and vibrations in the front end of your bike.

 

The two visual differences between the beta and the consumer version is the addition of graphics and most significantly the redesign of the air adjustment procedures. The stem is adjustable in height from 0-25 degrees and it arrives fully extended. To lower, rotate the cylinder counter clockwise (when looking from the top) using the supplied wrench. The marks on the shock will show the height. I initially set it at 20 degrees.

 

Adjusting the air pressure is now much easier! The unit does not have to be taken apart, just remove the air valve cap (no tools) and attach the pump. You can adjust the pressure from 0-275 lbs depending on your riding style, terrain and preference. I initially set it to 80 lbs.

 

INSTALLATION

It installs in the same manner as any traditional stem. Nothing complicated, however you do have to use the supplied Stafast stem cap to cinch it down. FIELD TEST Its well known that adjustments to fatbike tire pressures can have a significant impact on traction and handling. During this test I ran my tires at 10-12 lbs and made several adjustments to the stem air pressure to get to the proper balance.

 

I put almost 250 km on my Bigfoot with the suspension stem covering woods trails, technical single track, rock crawling and even a 100km gravel grind. Do to its single pivot design the bars rotate forward slightly when the shock engages. This seems a little odd at first but you quickly get used to it.

 

 

IMPRESSION

Once again the Stafast suspension stem delivers on what's promised, and for fatbikes it really shines during the non-snowy season. It soaked up large to medium sized bumps and hollows with ease. Just due to the nature of fatbike tires smaller bumps tend to be absorbed by the tires, however when these minor disturbances became more significant the stem did what it needed to do. Stem engagement was not speed dependent. It worked equally well prowling through the woods, blasting down trails or on long gravel grinds. With almost 32mm of travel in the shock it will not be a replacement for "high travel" fat forks such as the Bluto and RST Renegade. However, at 380g it is significantly lighter than the forks that weigh in around 1700+g. In addition, the StaFast is significantly cheaper at $350, will not "freeze up" during cold weather riding and is easily swapable between bikes. The Lauf Carbonara , while significantly lighter than a suspension fork at 1100g and closer in travel at 60mm, is the most expensive option at just under $1000. Although not tested for this particular purpose, I see this stem as being a benefit to expedition fatbikers such as Slow:Biker and those into bikepacking.

I have noticed some people saying that the shock loses air. This is not true. The air volume in the shock is so small that when the pump is screwed on, air is dumped from the shock into the pump hose. Thus making it appear like the shock has lost air when it actually hasn't.

 

 

If you are interested in a little squish in the front of your fatbike and not interested in the extra money and weight that comes with a fork, take a look at the Stafast suspension stem. Not only will it be lighter on the pocket book and lighter in the front, it will not give you any trouble during the winter, can quickly mount up to your other fat or non-fat bikes and is easily tailored for your riding conditions and personal preference."

 

To visit the original review by Fatbike Republic, click here.

Stafast & The Iceman: A Winning Combination

Winning Combination

As a Michigan-based company working in the cycling industry, we at Stafast are excited and honored to be a part of this year’s Bell’s Beer Iceman Cometh Challenge. The Iceman is a major event on any Michigan bike enthusiast’s calendar; and at 24 years and counting, it’s become a true institution within the state and beyond.

Stafast will have both a booth and a tent at the event to allow Iceman participants the first chance to try out Stafast for themselves. We will be offering approximately 20 of the black stems at the event, specifically engineering for mountain biking, as part of a beta test for the product. Anyone who purchases a Stafast component will be encouraged to provide feedback that will help us further refine the effectiveness of the stem. We will also have some bicycles fitted with the stem that riders are welcome to try out for themselves.

We will also be making Stafast-branded apparel available for the first team. T-shirts and hats manufactured with Stafast’s commitment to quality will be sold at both the tent and booth. So if you’ll be at the Iceman on November 8th, please stop by and say hi! We can’t wait to introduce Stafast to its core audience, and to be part of such a special cycling event.

Two Centuries On Two Wheels: The Past, Present And Future Of Cycling

Two Centuries on Two Wheels

The idea of biking has been with us for almost 200 years. From the first “walking machine” invented by Baron von Drais in Germany to the latest models made from aluminum, titanium or carbon fiber, these two-wheeled machines have come a long way. As bicycle design has evolved, so too has their purpose. In the past, bicycles were mainly used for commerce, including the transportation of people and goods, as well as mail delivery. While present-day riders are most likely to use their bikes for recreation, they remain an important mode of transportation and doing business in many parts of the world.

In the U.S. and Europe, people have begun adopting this old-school style of transportation for more than just getting around. Exercise and a lessened environmental impact are just two of the reasons why more people are cycling for both business and pleasure. In fact, Grand Rapids, Michigan is one of the nation’s most progressive cities when it comes to integrating bicycles within daily life. In 2009, Grand Rapids had zero miles of bike lanes; today, there are more than 50, with an additional 20 miles expected by next summer. Ultimately, 100 miles of bike lanes are projected for the greater Grand Rapids area by 2017.

Driven by this love for riding, two Grand Rapids entrepreneurs, Sam Kovalak and Charlie Brickey, created StaFast: the energy-absorbing stem that brings the joy of riding back to the consumer. Racing technology has filtered down to the recreational rider in the form of lighter, stiffer frames and far better wheel sets, tires, bearings, hardware, brakes, and shifters. Along with these improvements, frame geometry has evolved - positioning the rider in a more compact riding position to reduce aerodynamic drag and therefore a higher velocity can be achieved for a given energy input. But to achieve this speed, comfort is often sacrificed due to the removal of shock systems, which can contribute to drag. The Stafast stem lessens the impact of a ride on the rider, allowing for greater comfort and control.

Stafast is the latest innovation in a long line of bicycle development, one stretching all the way back to Baron von Drais. Whether riding to work or racing to win, Stafast is sure to make your biking life better.

The Sum Of It Parts: Putting Stafast Together

Products

StaFast is the one-of-a-kind component that will revolutionize the cycling experience. Constructed from the best, most highly rated materials in strength and corrosion resistance, the demanding applications for which StaFast is designed requires several different manufacturing processes.

For example, the stem itself is made from a 3D forging of the 6066 T6 aluminum alloy, while the cylinder is manufactured by a Swiss CNC machining process with controlled tolerances as precise as two tenths of a thousand to ensure a superior final result.

Two identical parts retain the handlebar itself: the handlebar clamps, which bolt into either a .95 or .105 millimeter stem, and the knuckle, which mounts on the fork. From the knuckle, there is a pneumatic cylinder that has its own blowout. Three fasteners, similar to a joint, are the bottom pins that goes to the bottom of the cylinder. The C joint, located in the middle of stem, has two components: a machine nut and special machine bolts. It’s the same for the B joint, which is the hinge point on the back of the stem that has a B machine nut as well as B machine bolts.

The cylinder, which resides at the bottom (the lower trunion), screws into the piston assembly. Mounted at the bottom of the piston assembly is the Schrader value and the cylinder barrel, followed by the upper cylinder trunion. Finally, there are two nylon bushings on the A, B and C joint. Inside the pneumatic cylinder are a wiper seal and a stationary O ring with two Teflon backup rings and a snubber ring.

The Iceman Cometh: Michigan's Cold Cycling Challenge

The Iceman Cometh

For the last 24 years, The Bell’s Beer Iceman Cometh Challenge has been one of Michigan’s most notable biking events. Traditionally held in early November, the Iceman is a point-to-point mountain biking race that begins in Kalkaska and ends, 29 miles away, at the Timber Ridge RV & Recreation Resort located on the edge of Traverse City. Riders navigate their way over dirt tracks, abandoned railroad beds and the Vasa Nordic ski trail as they make their way through the Pere Marquette State Forest.

The first Iceman was held in 1990, with 35 participants. Last year’s event drew a whopping 5,669 riders, the Iceman’s biggest turnout yet. Over $58,000 was awarded to cyclists at the 2013 Challenge, spread out over 250 individual cash prizes.

In addition to the main course, the Iceman also includes additional cycling options. The Meijer Slush Cup Course, a shorter version of the Iceman, acts as a perfect choice for beginning cyclists and riders with less experience in general. Running just 8 miles, The Meijer course is a great opportunity to prepare for the following year’s main event. For the younger kids, the Meijer Sno-Cone race allows children 10 and under to be part of the fun. The Sno-Cone includes a short ¼ race for the youngest participants and a longer 1.5 mile version for the bigger boys and girls.

This year’s Iceman will be held Saturday, November 8. The current projected forecast sits at around 38 degrees. For more information or to register for the event, visit iceman.com.