Ritchey WCS Carbon 4Axis stem £120
There’s hardly a part of the once humble bicycle that hasn’t been touched by the rapid and widespread use of carbon fibre in recent years, with products made of the stuff now much sought after and often carrying a price premium.
But there are some components where carbon just can’t quite touch aluminium for both weight and stiffness, though the current rate of development is narrowing the gap. Stems are one particular area where already impressively low weights for aluminium are rarely bested by carbon.
Ritchey’s approach with the WCS Carbon 4Axis is to wrap carbon fibre over a 2014 aluminium shell, both providing structural support and resulting in a stiff stem that doesn’t weigh all that much. Ritchey claim that this ‘Matrix carbonalloy’ technology is stronger than either material on its own.
The upshot of this process is the sexy looks of a carbon stem with the added structural integrity of the aluminium skeleton, with a weight of 124g for a 110mm model. Competitive certainly, but not the lightest.
Titanium bolts help keep the grammes down, but the orientation of the four bolts close together does seem to contribute to some flex that can occasionally be detected during those out of the saddle sprint efforts. Lighter riders won’t be overly worried but heavier sprinters should probably look for something a bit sturdier.
Those rare moments of flex don’t hinder the otherwise top notch performance of the stem though, with steering pleasingly direct and taut when compared to the all-aluminium item it replaced. For gramme counters that must have a carbon stem, the Ritchey represents one of the best going.