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For the most part, it’s hard to get too excited about stems. If they do their job well (and most do), they’re essentially unnoticeable. Of course, if they don’t they’re ugly, flexy, or (if they do their job especially poorly) fail catastrophically. That said, when we posted early word of Ritchey’s new C260 line of stems this fall, people got pretty excited.
Owing to its 260 degree clamp and gently curved 3-bolt steerer clamp, Ritchey’s WCS C260 stem tests 3-4x stronger in its aluminum form than any previous Ritchey stem- while being 30% stiffer than the preceding 4Axis design. Throw a unidirectional carbon wrap over the same basic design and weight goes up by ~15g (to an actual 110g in our 90mm size) and stiffness by an additional 16%. Oh, and it’s prettier, too. After a couple of months on my Project 1.1 single speed and Project 24.2 race bike, has the C260 lived up to its light/strong/sexy billing? Hit the jump to find out…
Ritchey’s 260 degree clamp is designed to hold 31.8 bars as firmly as possible- emulating a single bolt stem- while allowing easy stem changes. The clamp’s opening is smaller than the diameter of the handlebar’s stem clamping area- but large enough to clear the smaller diameter that makes up the majority of mountain and road bars. After removing the clamp face, installing a bar (even with controls attached) is easy- just slip a small diameter bar section through the clamp and slide the bar back to center.
The four rear-facing 3mm head (M4 thread) Allen bolts serve as a reminder to take it easy on the fasteners and, with a ratcheting torque wrench or Prestacycle’s tiny Prestaratchet, snugging the little bolts up is easy enough. The three steerer clamp bolts are similarly tiny, arrayed along a carbon-friendly arc, are straightforward as well. As with all lightweight components, using a properly set torque wrench to tighten both the steerer and bar bolts is critical.
Though some might scoff at the WCS Carbon Matrix stem’s carbon-over-aluminum construction, the simple fact is that few full-carbon stems are competitive when it comes to weight- and none yet make sense from a cost standpoint. By wrapping carbon fiber over a 7050 aluminum 3D forging, Ritchey has been able to produce a stem that is CEN approved, has carbon fiber’s sex appeal, and (at $160) costs 30-50% less than many full carbon options. Sounds like a win to me.
Though I’m not a big guy, I like to think that I can put down a decent amount of power when needed. And no bike draws from my deep well of inner rage like a singlespeed mountain bike. Muscling an over-geared 29er up steep hills calls on everything I’ve got- and was never been enough to make the WCS Carbon Matrix C260 flex or otherwise complain one bit. Since transplanted to our Project 24.2 race bike, the Carbon Matrix C260 is in keeping with our lightweight enduro bike build and should be just as home on Porcupine Rim as the racecourse.
Given that the aluminum WCS C260 stem is already significantly stiffer than earlier Ritchey stems, the best case for spending the extra $50 that the WCS Carbon Matrix C260 stem would be for big/powerful riders or anyone building a singlespeed or track bike. On our Project 24.2 bike, which is more of an enduro bike as it is an outright race bike, the extra stiffness (and presumably strength) is more than welcome. Besides, it matches the WCS Carbon Low Rizer’s unidirectional carbon finish and, when the sun catches it, is one sexy stem…