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It was bound to happen.
Decades after debuting its first Thudbuster suspension seatpost — and now with two generations and two models of its higher-end eeSilk suspension post — Cane Creek has completed the ensemble with its new eeSilk suspension stem. It certainly bears some similarities to the Redshift Sports ShockStop, but there are also several key differences, too.
A simple formula
There are two main philosophies when it comes to add-on suspension stems. On the one hand, you have models like the Cirrus Cycles Kinekt, which uses a parallelogram-style linkage that maintains a constant handlebar angle throughout the range of travel, but at the expense of weight, complexity, and bulkiness. More common is the single-pivot approach. Here, the bar angle changes as the stem moves, but the format is much lighter, simpler, and compact.
Despite faithfully adhering to the parallelogram approach for its range of suspension seatposts, Cane Creek has stuck with a single-pivot design for the new eeSilk stem. There’s up to 20 mm of travel available — just like the ShockStop — although Cane Creek goes about it from a different angle.
Like the ShockStop, the eeSilk positions its pivot just ahead of the steerer tube. However, Cane Creek reverses the pivot arrangement, with the stem extension rotating inside two tabs on the main clamp body. And instead of completely hiding the elastomer-based mechanism inside the stem like the ShockStop, the eeSilk stem has an L-shaped extension, with the elastomer squished down below between a short tab and the steerer clamp body.
According to Cane Creek, the flipped pivot setup adds stiffness to further minimize handlebar twist, while the unique elastomer arrangement makes it easier to swap between the three available durometers. It’s a single-bolt process, with no handlebar removal required (unlike the ShockStop).
The most obvious difference between the eeSilk and the ShockStop, however, is the curious little lever atop the Cane Creek stem. Dubbed the Compliance Switch, it allows users to quickly firm up the suspension with a simple 180° turn, which Cane Creek says is ideal for riders that regularly find themselves on a varied mix of terrain. Got a long stretch of tarmac before hitting your favorite bit of dirt? Just flip the switch to minimize bouncing up front. Flip it again for that 20 mm of arm-saving movement before heading off-road, and then reverse the process when it’s time to go home.
Despite the added complexity, the Cane Creek eeSilk is surprisingly lightweight, with a 100 mm-long sample posting an actual weight of just 236 g — a scant 2 g heavier than an equivalent-size ShockStop Pro, and 41 g lighter than a standard ShockStop. Perhaps more importantly, that means those 20 mm of movement only comes at a penalty of about 100 g over a conventional non-suspended stem.
Cane Creek is only offering the new eeSilk in 80, 90, and 100 mm lengths for now, all with a black finish for US$230 / AU$TBC / £220 / €250 (which is just a hair less expensive than the ShockStop Pro, but quite a bit pricier than the standard ShockStop). There’s also a limited-production eeSilk Launch Edition stem with a shiny polished silver finish for the same price. Technically speaking, that one is offered in the same lengths as the standard version, although the 80 and 100 mm sizes are already sold out, so only the 90 mm ones are left.
A long time coming
One might think that coming up with an elastomer-based, single-pivot suspension stem would be pretty easy. However, as with most things, doing it well is easier said than done, and Cane Creek has actually been working on this project for quite a long time — since at least some time in 2018.
I was fortunate enough to be able to try that first design four years ago, and it bears little resemblance to what Cane Creek ultimately released. That first-generation prototype had its pivot located inline with the steerer tube to help reduce how much the bar rotated as the stem moved through its travel, and the low-leverage design positioned the puck-shaped elastomer behind the steerer tube.
It worked well, and achieved the technical goals Cane Creek had set out for the most part, but there were two main downsides. One was more behind-the-scenes: the intricate design was apparently just too expensive to produce in mass quantities. But the other was arguably more damning: it was just too ugly.
Back to the drawing board.
Although the eeSilk stem may have had a bumpy road getting here, what Cane Creek ended up with works really well (and certainly looks a lot better).
Unsurprisingly, riding the Cane Creek eeSilk feels a lot like the Redshift ShockStop. It’s very supple and sensitive, and most smaller-amplitude chatter simple disappears. After riding a suspension stem like this, it’s not until switching back to a conventional rigid stem that you realize how much your upper body is being shielded. Much of that motion is impressively transparent, too, in the sense that you’re often not too aware of what’s going on in your hands.
If anything, it’s almost like less is going on. Instead of your bars or hoods shaking in your hands as you’re flying over washboarded dirt or less-than-perfect pavement as would normally be the case, everything feels smooth and controlled. It’s mostly only when you’re on smooth tarmac that you’re fully aware that there’s all this extra hardware (and movement) happening.
Moreover, the eeSilk doesn’t feel too harsh if and when you do use all the available travel (within reason, of course), nor is there an overly annoying clunk if you pull up on the bars and top things out.
It’s on that smooth tarmac where the eeSilk ekes out its main advantage over the ShockStop (or any other suspension stem on the market, for that matter). Rotating that small lever clockwise doesn’t lock out the movement completely — hence why it’s called a Compliance Switch, and not a lockout — but it dramatically limits the total travel, and greatly stiffens up the few millimeters that are remaining. Died-in-the-wool roadies will almost certainly still find there to be too much movement, but that’s ok; Cane Creek doesn’t seem to be aiming the eeSilk at those riders, anyway.
Also like on the ShockStop, getting the eeSilk dialed in takes some trial-and-error. Cane Creek ships every eeSilk stem with three different elastomer hardnesses. Swapping them is a one-bolt process that’s easy to do — even roadside — with no bar removal required, unlike the ShockStop.
However, it seems that Cane Creek is prioritizing rider comfort above all else when it comes to the elastomer tuning.
I’m a pretty average weight at 72 kg (159 lb), but even the firmest option wasn’t quite as firm as I wanted. Initial sensitivity is about the same with all three (meaning washboard and road buzz feel about the same regardless of which way you go), but the difference is how much travel is used on a particular bump, and how much excess motion there is. And yes, I know I could easily just flick the Compliance Switch when needed, but ultimately what I want in something like this is a very progressive spring rate to maximize the usefulness of such limited travel. If it’s too soft, you end up just blowing through everything you have on a regular basis, instead of keeping something in reserve on those bigger impacts where you really could use some help.
There’s one caveat here, as it’s not just rider weight that affects the stem tuning here; rider position is also important. Riders running longer and/or lower handlebar setups will have their weight further away from the stem pivot, and will therefore need a firmer elastomer than someone with a shorter and/or higher one. For me, I’m running a moderately aggressive setup with about 7 cm of bar drop on a 100 mm stem and a handlebar with 85 mm of reach, so keep that in mind.
Either way, although the ShockStop’s elastomers are far more cumbersome to change, Redshift Sports includes more elastomer options and covers a wider tuning range than what Cane Creek offers at the moment — and when it comes to suspension, tuning is everything. Hopefully some firmer elastomer options are pending, along with some additional stem lengths. The 80-100 mm range likely covers the meat of the bell curve, but Redshift offers 110 and 120 mm sizes, too.
Creaking hasn’t been an issue with my test sample, although I still have some reservations about the eeSilk design long-term. Cane Creek may have gained some overall stiffness by reversing the orientation of the pivot, but doing so also leaves the pivot bushings exposed to the elements, whereas they’re relatively protected inside the extension on the ShockStop. Maybe this will be an issue, or maybe it won’t, but it’s worth noting there’s no cover on the eeSilk to keep dust, grit, and water from accessing those bushings on the eeSilk, and the pivot isn’t serviceable at all (though it also isn’t technically serviceable on the ShockStop, either).
The Redshift ShockStop has dominated the suspension stem market to date for a lot of good reasons: it works, it’s not too heavy, it offers a wide tuning range and a lot of sizes, it has several years of proven durability, and at least in its standard guise, it’s not too expensive, either. So far, it seems the new Cane Creek eeSilk can go head-to-head with the more premium ShockStop Pro model, with the additional advantage of that handy Compliance Switch.
If such a widget is important to you, it’s an easy decision: go with the eeSilk. But if you’re like me and are more the set-it-and-forget-it type (and who doesn’t love rotisserie chicken??), I think the Redshift still has the upper hand, at least for now.