Counterfeits. The word conjures up images of guys on the street with trench coats full of fake Rolex watches, or trunk fulls of knock off designer handbags, not something to do with bikes. But, as Thomson recently found out, there are counterfeit bike parts out there that to the untrained eye can look the part.

This particular stem was bought online, but Thomson is quick to point out they aren’t bashing internet sales, just cautioning would be buyers. The stem in question was purchased from a dubious Ebay store with literally no contact information – no address, no email, no phone.

More details after the break.

How good was the counterfeit? Good enough to fool most people, but not without some glaring issues according to Thomson. Dave had this to say:

A couple of clues. We don’t make a stem that looks like this. The bolts are not genuine. The job number is wrong (only we would know that), the instructions have a lot of mis-spellings. The bag is the wrong weight material, the string is wrong as well. Honestly, the machining and laser marking are not bad. We don’t know what alloy it is and the anodized finish is not good.

Most LBS’s would not have a counterfeit item. Items like this are made in China and only shipped into countries with lax customs. This stem was purchased by the eBay store owner in Taiwan and brought back in luggage. That you can still get away with.

American LBS’s have good inventory. The issue with eBay or Amazon is anonymity. if you don’t know who you are dealing with and you can’t contact them, you have little leverage.

We swapped the guy who bought this for the real thing. We did not have to do that. Would Gucci, Coach, Ralph Lauren or for that matter other bike brands swap and make you whole? I would not bet large amounts of money on that. Just be smart.

Sticking to their guns, as soon as Thomson had documented the forgery, they put their money where their mouth is and mounted the stem up to their test rig to see how it compares. When asked about the test, Dave said, “the part failed after 25,788 cycles in a standard fatigue test. That would have been about 2 hours. The test is 60 pounds of force out of phase. (left/right) Our requirements are a minimum of 180,000 cycles, although our stems will run much longer than that. This is a stem that would have failed had it been ridden for very long.”

So essentially, just be smart about where you are purchasing your parts. If you aren’t supporting your LBS, at least purchase online through a reputable dealer. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.


  1. I’ve heard of VERY similar things happening to Bontrager XXX stems. I would advise to just stay away from ebay dealers altogether. Or any internet dealer for that matter. Support your LBS!!!!!!

  2. If my LBS weren’t a bunch of cocky punks I wouldn’t have to go elsewhere. I have found great CS and products from Competitive Cyclist, Tri-Sports, Real Cyclist and others.

  3. Wow, if you can’t trust Ebay then who can you trust? This completely destroys my faith in buying stuff from anonymous people on the Internet.

  4. @yesplease SO TRUE! Seems like the norm for these LBS is to employ cocky douche bags…so tough to give hard earned money to that. too bad. they are just killing themselves when there are so many other online options out there.

  5. Scary! At a glance that stem looks like the real thing. I will be keeping an eye open for these on my customer’s bikes.

  6. @yesplease and @ Michael A Unless there is only one LBS in your area, you did not try very hard to find a store with someone you can work with. Likely you have someone that you go to for something specific (hairstylist, mechanic, landscaper) and doubtless that was a process to find who you wanted to work with. Both in skill and personality. There are cocky people everywhere and it also takes one to know one. Don’t act like the Dalai Llama up in here. Just keep looking until you find your kind of cocky punk. When you hit the bottom line, there are things a bike shop can do for you that a website will never be able to offer.

  7. I see the wiggle. I see the sketch. I don’t see the total failure of the stem. Guess I’ll have to take Thompsons word.

  8. @ Yesplease & Micheal A. Yes, shops can be full of additude, and I’m not here to take sides. One approach that I use at my shop is just asking my customers to give us the chance to earn their business before they jump online and make the decision. Brick and mortar shops know that we can’t match pricing with the internet but we should always offer excellent customer service. No shop wants to lose margins to the internet; but if a customer shows a propensity to become repeat business, then the shop will most likely drop a bit from retail within reason in an attempt to create a repeat customer (every shop is different so I don’t speak for everyone obviously). Please keep in mind that a lot of shop employees have a large knowledge base relative to their paychecks, and it’s easy to get a little jaded when customers have become very price sensitive to an industry that is already operated on fairly humble margins. I’ve seen my share of internet direct sales that are so close to wholesale that no shop interested in keeping the doors open would touch. Sometimes they can win your sale and sometimes they can’t. Just some food for thought. Thanks

  9. One would hope they last longer than 180000 cycles if 25000 is equivalent to two hours riding. Dave from Thomson – it would be better if you told us what Thomson stems fail at, rather than just saying they last longer than 7.5hours; Apples with Apples.

  10. Caseofthemondays: watch the video at 24 seconds, the stem shears in two.

    Pedro: 25000 cycles is equivalent to two hours on the fatigue machine, not ride time. That means they run the fatigue machine around 3 or 4 Hz.

  11. i’ll just stay away from anything thomson just to avoid these fakes. besides, even the authentic thomsons fail , knowing there’s copycats lurking around makes me want to stay safe.

  12. +1 on what Yesplease & Micheal A said. Why should I hunt around to find a shop where someone who isn’t rude, condescending and seemingly uninterested in my existence. I can buy stuff online for less money and have it delivered next day, bike shops don’t hold anywhere near as much stock and often lie about stock and lead times.
    It’s a shame LBS’ are struggling but the market has changed so they need to focus on their strengths which is excellent customer service and application of their knowledge base. Unfortunately I’m constantly reminded this is the LBS’ weakest area.

  13. @mountguitars
    All stems fail at some point in these extreme fatigue test.
    And Thomson outperforms the vast majority of the market in strength, stiffness, and long-term durability of both stems and seatposts.
    Buy from reputable dealers and there is nothing to worry about.

  14. So really 25000 cycles is an arbitrary number that means nothing. There’s no real world comparison to a cyclist on a bike and how much he weighs and what type of riding he does…..??? There’s no data from Thompson stating that they have tested stems that break frequently in the field and they typically last X number of cycles. At least they chose their words wisely….”this stem would have likely failed under real use”.

  15. What I want to know – is that the new Thomson Titanium 31.8mm straight-bar they’re using in the vid?

    When is that going supposed to hit the shelves? All those rumors aobut Thomson’s Ti bar, trade show appearances, spy shots, and STILL no bar on the market… When Thomson, oh when?! Oh how you tease us…

    I’m about ready to give up and just buy some Ti bar from China online…

  16. Kovas – No, that’s a solid steel bar that they use for testing purposes.

    BUT – if you’re Google handy, you can find some more info on both the ti bars AND their dropper post (not too much info on it yet tho). It’s on their website, you just gotta find it. No release dates yet.

  17. @guy & scott- i know i was making a generalization so that was unfair on my part. I was merely venting my frustration when dudes at these shops (and I’ve seen it at a few different shops in my area) act like they just came rolling off the Pyrenees. Shop owners need to pound it in the heads of their employees that customer service should be first thing on their minds especially in today’s ecomony. I am all for supporting LBS but the relationship needs to go both ways or I am spending my money somewhere else.

  18. Why, 180,000 cycles? Why not 100,000 cycles? Thompson stems might have the best fatigue life but that comes at cost of a lot excess weight.

  19. I have had 3 Thomson stems that I bought directly from QBP break in my lifetime. 1 Road bike stem, and 2 MTB. In every instance it was a slow break which I was able to stop the bike safely.

  20. 25k cycles of a 60 pound alternating load… is that 60 pounds total on the bar or 60 pounds per side (which means they’re testing for a significantly heavy rider simulation given that most riders don’t put that much weight/pressure over their handlebars) ? They may test their own stems to pass 180k cycles but what does that really translate to in actual riding time? Most aircraft parts get fatigue tested to twice the design lifespan but that doesn’t always translate into actual real world flying durability. The F-35 development alone is proving that out… the current average flight time between critical part failures has been 13 hours for some major components, where on design its supposed to be twenty two HUNDRED hours. EVEN genuine parts don’t always live up to expectations of their manufacturers/designers.

  21. eBay has been trying to keep counterfeiters off the site. With proof like this, the buyer should be protected through eBay Buyer Protection. Many of the cycling sellers on eBay are LBSs trying to make up for losses due to internet sales.

  22. Ebay has feedback and disputes that give the customer more leverage and make shipping speed, honesty in product sales, etc. something that many traditional bike shops can’t deal with. (ie. “New” does not mean “Like New”).

    Any shop that would tell me that Hayes Strokers are discontinued for several years and you can’t get parts, in order to sell me new brakes would be just as unethical when it comes to fake stems.

  23. I actually purchased a fake carbon stem myself just a month ago on eBay – I guess it was too good to be true. It was a Ritchey WCS carbon stem for $25 with shipping. When it arrived, it was the worst piece of garbage ever – the carbon wrapping peeled off by simply scraping my nails against the surface! Atleast the counterfeit stem above went through a lot of effort by the counterfeiters.

  24. “Sam – 03/15/12 – 11:48pm
    I actually purchased a fake carbon stem myself just a month ago on eBay –”

    Did you suck your money back with paypal?
    Did you leave bad feedback?

    Who is the seller? You don’t want the rest of us fooled right?

  25. As for the fake Ritchey stems- specifically the carbon/alloy WCS, on eBay, just google images of such and you will see no Ritchey design like the fakes. And there is more than one source for these, so exposing a seller isn’t the root. Just reference with a fine eye, and it is an easy catch. $23 w free ship from China is gonna be your biggest clue, even $30 w $17.99 intnl ship- same seller. But when looking for this particular design, I found multiple sellers/sources/sites. As for Thompson, despite their popularity, I see quite a bit of mention of failed stems, mostly face plates. MUCH better to go w an Easton Havoc/Haven as EXAMPLE and fore-go the worry.

What do you think?