XC Gear was founded in 2015 by dirt bike enthusiast and inventor Lance Smith who was fed up with vibration-induced injuries to his hands and wrists while riding motocross. He set about trying to find a solution and the result was the Mako 360, a bar mount that uses 'engineered polymers' to remove the metal-to-metal contact of a traditional system and reduce vibrations in all directions. The brand is now branching out into mountain bikes and has brought the same technology to a stem with the Hammerhead 360.
But just how important is vibration damping? Well, studies suggest it could actually make a serious difference to performance. We've previously spoken to Lewis Kirkwood
, a Norco Factory Team mechanic and Ph.D student at Edinburgh Napier University, who published a study
that showed the vibrations experienced by mountain bikers regularly exceed safe levels set by ISO standards.
Lewis is quick to point out that this doesn't necessarily mean it's inherently dangerous to be exposed to this level of vibration for short periods of time while mountain biking, but it almost certainly has an impact on performance. He says, "The more vibration you expose yourself to, eventually it's going to limit your grip strength. Vibration stimulates muscle and it makes the muscle tense, which is why you get arm pump because your muscle doesn't relax and it cuts off the blood flow. My director of studies, Professor Geraint Florida-James, did a study at Fort William and you can lose around about 30% grip strength in one run top to bottom." And it's these same vibrations that the Hammerhead 360 is trying to limit.
The stem is slightly different from the often tried (and more often mocked) suspension stem as it doesn't add any travel to the front of your bike but instead uses polymers to absorb the vibrations that come from riding in a similar fashion to Revolution grips
or Spank's Vibrocore products
. XC Gear claims from its own in-house testing
that its products can reduce vibrations from an idling engine by 18% and vibrations from bumps by 38%.
This data is based on a motocross bike and the brand hasn't released any data about mountain biking but it's probably safe to say that the stem will reduce vibrations to some degree. XC Gear says, "With the Hammerhead 360 engineered polymers absorbing the vibration, riders will have substantially less grip issues, arm pump issues and overall fatigue. The result is higher energy levels on all rides, whether they are long or short. The added comfort will allow you to hit obstacles harder and faster, which means you can adjust your suspension more aggressively to get more out of your bike and yourself."
The stem itself is made in the USA from 6061 T6 aluminum and can be fitted with two different polymers for different levels of damping. Trail riders are advised to use a red polymer and more aggressive riders a green polymer. The stem is 45mm in length and fits 31.8mm diameter bars.
The stem is available now for $399.99, which probably makes it one of the most expensive MTB stems money can buy, but if arm pump regularly ruins your rides it could be a solution worth shelling out for if it works as claimed. More info, here