The cure to mountain biking hand fatigue

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The overbuilt appearance and additional bolts, make this suspension stem distinguishable from rivals (Photos: XC Gear)
The overbuilt appearance and additional bolts, make this suspension stem distinguishable from rivals (Photos: XC Gear)
  • Arm pump and hand fatigue are very real issues for many mountain bikers and gravel riders
  • Could this new stem help solve the problem?
  • It comes in three grades, depending on your riding style

Mountain bikes are amazingly capable. The significant advances in tyre and suspension technology have made modern mountain bikes comfier to ride, over wilder terrain.

Even with the best tyres, at correct pressures, and an impeccably calibrated suspension, mountain bikers can still suffer from grip fatigue.

Although great tyres and suspension absorb larger terrain impacts, it is the constant buzz of lower frequency vibration that triggers hand fatigue. Reduced grip strength can cause loss of control.

Solving the issue of hand fatigue in mountain biking isn’t easy. The most advanced carbon-fibre handlebars and ergonomically padded grips can reduce some of the trail buzz, but an American accessory brand believes they have made a breakthrough.

XC Gear is a specialist off-road motorcycle component company. Founder, Lance Smith, knows the pain of off-road motorcycle induced hand injuries and vibration fatigue.

Smith’s solution has been the formulation of special engineered polymers, which dampen vibrations before they reach the handlebar. By padding the handlebar-to-stem interface with these polymers, XC Gear can reduce that last point of vibration transmission.

Red, green or blue

Having successfully developed a motorcycle solution, Smith’s team recognised that mountain bikers could also benefit from the XC Gear technology. The result is its Hammerhead 360 stem.

Designed to fit the standard 31.8mm handlebar bore (instead of the larger 35mm clamping size), the Hammerhead 360 has a selection of polymer inserts that cushion your riding experience. The idea is to prevent metal-to-metal contact between the handlebar and stem, thereby reducing the amount of vibration transmitted to your hands.

XC Gear is marketing three different polymer insert formulations, for its Hammerhead 360 stem. There is blue for the most aggressive descenders, green as an intermediary choice and red as the default.

Stem length is 45mm, which might be a touch short for very tall riders who prefer a slightly longer stem to prevent the front wheel going light, on steep climbs. 

This Hammerhead 360 vibration damping stem could make those huge Karoo gravel rides a lot comfier on the hands. It does not come cheap, though, priced at R6000.

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