The stem. It’s that thing right out in front of you. Some are short, some are long, some point upward, and some point downward. They are as varied as riders, yet, somehow, we find one we can live with – Eventually. My Trek 2.3 “Frankenbike” came with a Bontrager 100mm alloy stem and Race Blade Alloy bar. When I switched to Ritchey WCS Logic II bars, I also tried one of their WCS 4-Axis, 100mm stems. Whilst it was indeed nice, I eventually tried a 110mm, and finally after screwing around with my fit some more, settled on a 120mm job, which not only looked cool, but just seemed to feel right.
WCS C260 Carbon
This was an exciting stem to try out, however, be warned it is a semi-bitch to install. Yes, she wraps herself 260 degrees around the bar for stiffness, however, that also means you can no longer simply mount it up to a bar as usual. In my case, I had to unwrap the bar tape a few inches, slip the face-plateless unit on the small diameter portion of the bar, move the stem over, then thread four (4) 3mm, hex-head bolts from the back of the stem. This can be a hassle due to the head tube being in your way on the lower bolts. T-handled tools need not apply.
While not being a “True” carbon stem, it is none-the-less a beautiful Uni-Directional (UD) weave over an alloy 7050 core. There are also three (3) 3mm hex-head steer tube bolts, with a curved clamp slot to reduce weight and steer tube stress. Weight is approximately 113 grams.
My first ride with the C260 was quite a revelation. Tom Ritchey was right – It is stiffer. A whole lot stiffer. About 30% stiffer than the 4-Axis. And, keep in mind, I had the WCS 4-Axis as a direct comparison, so I can back up Ritchey’s claims about the new stems’ attributes.
WCS 4-Axis Alloy
As I previously stated, the 120mm version was settled upon for its comfort, better aerodynamics and killer looks in the “Wet Red” color. Combined with the WCS Logic II bars, the feel of the front end was remarkably superior to the stock Bontrager bar and stem setup. The WCS bar gives just enough compliance to keep the Trek aluminum frame from shaking my teeth loose, while the WCS stem kept the front end firm enough for bombing descents and out of the seat climbs and sprints.
Made from 2014 alloy, the face plate is a simple four (4) bolt affair (4mm hex-heads), with two (2) 4mm hex head steer tube bolts (with an angled steer tube slot to reduce stress), and the “Wet” color cannot be beat. I mounted up a 110mm initially, however, I discovered 120mm was the ticket. Weight is approximately 130 grams.
In conclusion, you cannot go wrong with either the C260 or the 4-Axis. Yes, they are that good.