Table of Contents
I’m always eager to test products that promise improved comfort at the handlebar. This is because there are lots of comfort-improving products for the back of a gravel bike but very few for the front.
The Kinekt suspension stem is a product that will replace the rigid stem on the front of most bikes. It promises a similarly smooth ride to their Active Suspension seatpost.
But how effective is it really?
Suspension Stem Testing
At first, I was using the soft set of elastomers because I wanted to extract the maximum comfort from it. Then I realised that this comfort comes at a hefty price: a lot of unwanted movement (up and down). So I switched to a firmer set of elastomers and am now enjoying the ShockStop even more.
But the ShockStop is not perfect. For me, the biggest flaw is the lack of cushioning when you ride in the bar tops. This is simply because the ShockStop stem relies on leverage, and you have less leverage at the bar tops than at the hoods.
The Specialized FutureShock made this difference abundantly clear to me. This spring-based solution offers even greater comfort regardless of your hand position.
And this brings me to the Kinekt Suspension stem.
The Kinekt Suspension Stem
Just like the Specialized FutureShock, the Kinekt uses a spring to improve front-end comfort.
With this stem design, your upper body weight will easily compress the internal spring – you really don’t have to put much weight on the handlebar to feel this effect. As a result, your bars can very effectively ‘float’ over bumps and road imperfections.
As the stem is activated by a small linkage, it also works very effectively in every hand position of a drop bar. It’s suitable for light riders too as there are multiple spring rates available.
I immediately felt extra comfortable on Kinekt stem, much more so than the Redshift ShockStop. The Kinekt provides more comfort in the bar tops, drops, and hoods.
But this stem comes at a price, which we will get to later.
Kinekt Stem Setup
I received a Kinekt stem with three different springs that you use according to your body weight.
Just like their suspension seatpost, the soft and medium springs were not suitable for my 83kg/183lb body weight because they induce too much ‘bounciness’. So I swapped in the firmest spring.
It’s worth noting the Kinekt stem cannot be flipped to achieve a negative rise. As a result, your handlebar might be higher than your current bike setup (provided you do not have any headset spacers below your stem).
Additionally, you should keep in mind that the stem’s ‘sag’ will affect its stem length. My 105mm stem is around 110mm long with sag, and it drops the handlebar height by approximately 10mm too.
Benchmark Bike Setup
For this test, I set up a 105mm long Kinekt stem with the firmest spring rate.
I used two different test tracks to measure the vibrations – one is a bumpy forest trail and the other is a fast gravel road.
The first vibration readings were taken with 40 psi in the tires, which will help us discern any differences between stems. And the second test was at 30 psi to better see how the stem improves the comfort of your bike.
Vibration Test Results
You can see my vibration measurement procedure & outdoor test courses HERE.
With 40psi in the tires on the bumpy forest trail, the Kinekt stem offered a 25% vibration improvement over a rigid stem and a 10% improvement over the Redshift ShockStop.
Similarly, on the fast gravel road, the Kinekt damped 26% more vibrations over the rigid stem and 10% over the ShockStop.
These are really big numbers! While I expected a big improvement over the rigid stem, the 10% improvement over the ShockStop is particularly impressive.
But here’s the thing – I don’t ride my gravel bike with 40 psi in my tires. So let’s see the results with 30 psi.
With 30psi in the tires on the bumpy forest trail, the Kinekt stem now only offers a modest 5.5% improvement over the Redshift Shockstop. This is because the Rene Herse Barlow Pass tires are now deforming much more, and providing extra comfort.
Similarly, on the fast gravel road, the Kinekt stem damped only 2% more vibrations than the Redshift. This is no longer much of an improvement.
Right, I have a few more important things to note about the Kinekt stem.
Top Out and Bottom Out
The Specialized FutureShock 1.0 is great at improving comfort. But it’s prone to topping out when you’re climbing, which can get mildly annoying, and it will occasionally bottom out too – even when you use a firm spring.
Similar to the FutureShock 1.0, the Kinekt Suspension stem does not have any additional damping. It sometimes bottoms out, but for me, the more irritating thing is the top out when climbing or accelerating hard. Tap, tap, tap…
In ‘normal’ riding conditions, this movement is luckily not too noticeable. But for my sporty and more aggressive riding style, it certainly is.
Disconnectedness From The Bike
Another issue I’m finding is that the Kinekt stem makes your handlebar feel quite disconnected from your bike when you ride.
It actually took me a while to feel confident while riding my bike. The stem has great side-to-side stiffness but I can’t help but feel my hands are just hanging out in the air.
In comparison, the Redshift ShockStop stem provides much more connectedness, and definitely suits my sporty riding style much better.
Aesthetics and Weight
When I was riding the Kinekt Active suspension seatpost, I got mixed opinions about the way it looks. It’s certainly not as sleek as the Redshift ShockStop seatpost. But it’s not a complete abomination either, at least in my opinion.
I feel the same about the Kinekt suspension stems – they’re not super sleek, quite chunky actually. But that’s all ok because it feels solid.
The Kinekt weighs almost 500 grams, which is the price to pay for all that added extra comfort.
Is the Kinekt Active Stem Worth It?
When I was testing the Specialized FutureShock 1.0, I was so impressed with its comfort that I wished there was a way to get a similarly performing product without needing to buy the whole Diverge gravel bike.
Now, we have just that – the Kinekt stem performs as well as the FutureShock and can be fitted to any bike.
While the Kinekt is not perfect, it will still provide a significant comfort improvement over any rigid stem, and even the ShockStop stem when you use higher-pressure tires.
The only thing you should consider is your riding style. For leisure riding, gravel touring, or any upright ride position setup, I think you will love the comfort that the Kinekt stem offers.
But if you ride in a sporty position and want to ride hard, then I think the Redshift ShockStop stem is a better choice. This stem feels more connected to your bike and won’t experience the same top and bottom-out characteristics.
You can support the CyclingAbout Comfort Lab by purchasing a Kinekt Suspension stem on Amazon. Simply click HERE to make your purchase, and a small commission will come our way.