Archive for June, 2015

Stafast Suspension Stem

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

This spring, I had the pleasure of testing out a Stafast suspension stem. The promo video is below.

I was skeptical whether the kind of riding I do on a daily basis would really benefit from a suspension stem. When riding around town, I use a steel touring bike with 700c X 38mm tires. I find it to be pretty comfy as it is. However, if suspension is ever going to be an asset in navigating the mean streets of Kitchener-Waterloo, it’s going to be this year. With construction for a new light rail transit in full swing, our roads are so torn up you could ride a fatbike here without looking ridiculous.

Weighing just over 400 grams, the Stafast stem was more than twice the weight of the forged aluminium stem I’d been using before. Admittedly, once I got the stem mounted, I didn’t really notice the extra weight as I was riding.

One issue that presented itself when mounting the stem was interference with the cable hanger. I needed to use 30mm of spacers to ensure that the Stafast pneumatic cylinder cleared the brake housing as shown below.

Cable hanger clearance

This is not apt to be an issue for many, as the pairing of a $350 suspension stem with cantilever brakes is a combination that is unlikely to repeat in this current era of disc brakes and consistently applied budgetary decisions.

Although the recommended shock pressure for my weight and riding style is 250 psi, I opted to start at 50 psi to get a better sense of the range of suspension offered by the Stafast stem. At such low pressure, I could feel the stem squishing as I got on the bike, a feeling reminiscent of climbing into my grandpa’s Cadillac. Although novel at first, it soon became clear that more pressure was required as this flex in the suspension would occur when climbing out of the saddle or simply pushing a big gear. At the recommended 250 psi however, the stem felt really solid. So solid that it wasn’t completely obvious how much shock absorption was actually going on. I say that because my 38mm tires and aluminium handlebars also soak up a lot of shock.

To be fair, when it comes to road use, it seems the Stafast stem is marketed more toward the kind of road bike that lacks these other modes of shock absorption.

Over the course of the month I rode the Stafast stem, it lost about 75 psi. This wouldn’t be a big deal with the newer model Stafast stems. In the latest Stafast design, the valve is accessible right at the bottom of the pneumatic cylinder. In the early model I was using, the trunnion at the bottom of the pneumatic cylinder needed to be unbolted from the stem and then unscrewed from the cylinder to expose the valve.

Although the primary feature of the Stafast stem is the suspension, another feature that should not be neglected is the option to adjust the stem angle over a range of 25°. This adjustment is done using a wrench to turn the pneumatic cylinder gland. The cylinder must be fully depressurized before performing this operation.

With all this functionality built into the stem, it’s no surprise that the Stafast stem looks like some sort of military gadget. Whether you think that’s good or bad, likely says a lot about whether the Stafast stem is right for you.

The Bicycle Forest :: Pimp My Rhoades Car

The Bicycle Forest had grown to the point where we felt it was time to invest in a vehicle that we could use to get the message out about our BikeCAD bicycle design software and the wide array of specialty bicycles that we have available for rent.

Although we don't believe in psychoanalyzing people based on what vehicles they may or may not drive, we do believe that when a corporation selects a car or truck for promotional purposes, it is vital that it select a vehicle that captures the personality and spirit of the company.

Of course, the first vehicle that came to mind for us was the Hummer by General Motors. The enormous body panels would serve as moving billboards, brandishing the Bicycle Forest logo wherever we go. We found the possibility of winning customer support through vehicular intimidation particularly alluring. Furthermore, the opportunity to associate ourselves with the military industrial complex made the Hummer an obvious choice for the Bicycle Forest.

Admittedly, the 16" of ground clearance and the Hummer's water fording capabilities had us wondering if we'd be paying for features that we don't really need. Then, we learned that the Hummer has a curb weight of 8114 lbs. "Who were we kidding?" we thought. Obviously, we'd be paying for thousands of pounds more than we'd ever need. Clearly, our decision to purchase a Hummer would not be based on practicality. It would be to make a statement about our dominance in the bicycle design software and bicycle rental industries. It only seemed fitting that we should dominate the highways and byways of North America with the same might that we exert in our own business.

Vehicular intimidation

Unfortunately, once we learned of the Hummer's abysmal fuel economy, we simply could not reconcile owning such a vehicle with our concern for the environment.

We examined several other options. Some had exhaust that smelled like french fries, others had no emissions at all. We particularly liked the idea of a zero emissions vehicle, until we found that most of these cars ran on electricity or hydrogen. Although we applaud the development of all forms of alternative energy vehicles, and we are happy to see electricity being generated by more environmentally friendly means, we weren't thrilled about the idea of creating even more demand for electricity with the purchase of our Bicycle Forest promotional vehicle.

Rhoades Car The zero emissions vehicle that most impressed us was the Rhoades Car. Equipped with a butterfly steering wheel, marine grade vinyl seats and molded black mag wheels, the Rhoades Car is the most well appointed car in its class.

By eliminating the engine, the automotive engineers at Rhoades Car have created the most fuel efficient car in America. The only drawback is the top end speed. The Rhoades Car is not fast enough for freeway travel. We've come to accept this limitation. At the Bicycle Forest, we believe that in addition to making our existing modes of transportation more environmentally friendly, we must also strive to change our transportation patterns by driving less and using more public transportation. By adopting the Rhoades Car as our official company vehicle, we feel that we are doing our part by not only driving an environmentally friendly vehicle, but also by scaling back on driving in general.

Pimped out Rhoades Car If there was anything about the Rhoades Car that didn't entirely suit our corporate image it may be its lack of rugged styling. Although we are not farmers, or heavy machinery maintenance workers, we very much wanted to associate our image with that of these hard working people. That's why we decided to Pimp our Rhoades Car.

To supe up our two passenger, long frame Rhoades Car, we started by welding together a chromoly steel frame in the style of a pickup truck and wrapping it with 30 gauge galvanized steel. We painted it John Deere yellow and mounted a plexiglass windshield, 55W head lights, LED tail lights and rear view mirrors. The finishing touch was a set of aftermarket hubcaps. The pimp job added an extra 138 lbs to the car, but it was definitely worth it because now we can send the same message that other corporations have sent with their promotional Hummers. "We're the Bicycle Forest, and nobody messes with us!"

Here is a public service announcement featuring the converted Rhoades Car.