Co-Founder Erik deBrun of Redshift Sports is an avid cyclists; this is his team’s second cycling related product and just like their first (the Switch Aero System – previously featured on SolidSmack) personal experiences and issues as cyclists gave birth to the ShockStop.
We asked Erik a few questions regarding this project and this is his story.
SS – What is ShockStop?
Erik – Like many other cyclists we found that often times riding could be pretty uncomfortable – mostly people feel this where they contact the bike: the seat and the handlebars. We all imagine ourselves riding on perfectly smooth roads but the reality is that almost all roads and paths have bumps, cracks, and bad pavement. People have struggled to improve rear end comfort for ages and recently even the big bike manufacturers have started to introduce novel designs to address this. But, no one had been focusing on the handlebar not only because it is a challenge but because there is general idea that it’s ok to be uncomfortable because that is the cost of performance. We knew this was not the case and so we set out to design a product that would dramatically improve comfort but preserve performance.
SS – What is the key innovation in the process of construction?
Erik – We have developed a stem with a massive amount of functionality (shock-absorption, adjustable stiffness, ability to flip upside down to access different angle, etc.) in the same package (size envelope) as a standard stem without adding much weight at all. The biggest challenge we faced was fitting all of the functionality we needed into a specific size and weight envelope.
One of our top priorities was to design a stem that was the same size and as close in weight to standard offerings as possible. This meant we had to build our pivot and spring element support structure inside a very small package. On top of that, we needed the look to match the aesthetic of modern bikes – so the challenge was defining the look and size envelope and then getting all the functionality inside of that.
SS – Can you provide some additional insight to the design process?
Erik – We always try to follow a design process that starts with an “unmet need” and then we develop a solution. Obviously, sometime you can’t help but think of a basic solution at the same time that you uncover an unmet need – which is what happened in the case of ShockStop. We came to a realization that there was a need for increased comfort at the front end of road bikes and at the same time thought that maybe we could address the need with a new stem. We knew that this had been attempted in the past with mountain bikes and that those products had a number of issues. Given the need, an idea about how we might solve it, and the background knowledge of previous designs, we developed a set of requirements. These included things like the specifics of the interface with the bike, structural details, and also things like how it should feel, that it should be adjustable, lightweight, no bigger than a standard stem, and fit perfectly with the aesthetic of modern road bikes. We then started developing a set of solutions moving from paper to CAD and refined from there. After some narrowing of design ideas, we developed a proof of concept design and moved quickly to a functional prototype (that we built by modifying some standard stems and adding custom parts we fabricated in our shop) that we could test to get the feel aspects dialed in. That went great and we used what we learned from that prototype to drive the design.
Once we had a design in CAD that satisfied both the functional and aesthetic requirements we performed some structural analysis and then proceeded with more prototyping – this time using outside vendors. We performed fatigue and other structural/functional test in the lab and also took them out on the bikes riding on various terrains. Everything went great and after logging quite a few miles we determined we were ready to start manufacturing. We tweaked the design to match up with our anticipated production processes and made a few more prototypes, which we took all the way through finishing – these are the ones featured in our video.
Erik uses SolidWorks for all of his CAD design and structural analysis (although they do back it up with hand calculations). They utilize typical tools for prototyping: mill, lathe, various hand tools, etc.