Review: FSA’s Stout SL-K Stem
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Stems aren’t the most glamorous of components. For the most part, they all work- and those that don’t don’t tend to survive on the market long. While the Reasonably Priced in our Reasonably Priced Carbon Project 1.2 singlespeed build theme ruled out every full-carbon stem on the market, FSA’s SL-K stem does have a carbon fiber face plate and happens to match not only our build’s white fork but also its unidirectional carbon SL-K seatpost and Gravity Light handlebar. Is its dash of carbon just for show, or is it a key piece of the puzzle? Hit the jump to find out…
FSA claim that their Carbon Structural Integration process, which combines carbon fiber outer layers with aluminum inners, adds strength and stiffness to alloy components without the expense of full-carbon construction. While we can already hear commenters’ cries of window dressing, the approach is not unusual: Ritchey claim that their similar construction adds 16% to their Carbon Matrix C260 stem’s stiffness. In this case, we’d be surprised if a CSI face plate adds that much to a stem’s stiffness- but limiting the carbon used does keep the stem’s price from getting too far out of control.
Our 90mm stem weighs in at 150g with white paint- no flyweight, but not anchor material either. The unidirectional carbon fiber matches FSA’s SL-K and Gravity Light handlebars nicely- tying everything together both physically and aesthetically. More importantly, the stem is stiffer than most, easily handling all of the anger a pair of DH-strong 740mm bars can transmit. It’s not as stiff as Syntace’s steroidal Megaforce– but is much closer to that stem than lighter XC and road alternatives. Throughout our time together, the FSA has been quiet and creak-free and its rounded clamp hardware is more than welcome for when things go wrong.
While its carbon/alloy face plate probably can’t be directly credited with any major benefit, it does pull the finishing kit together nicely. More importantly, it has served as a solid connection between our bar and fork. While lighter riders may be just as happy with a lighter alternative, bigger XC, road, and trail riders will appreciate the SL-K’s solidity. $90 in black, $100 in white.