Ritchey's WCS C260° stem is the company's lightest aluminium offering and uses a unique handlebar clamp with more of the stem wrapping around the bar.
The most interesting, and novel, part of the stem is the 260 degree handlebar clamp. Usually a stem and its matching face plate each have a 180 degree wrap around the bars. The Ritchey stem wraps 260 degrees around the bar, and is fixed to the smaller face plate with four angled 3mm Allen bolts. The design is claimed to produce a more even clamping force on the bars and also contributes to the lightness.
Care needs to be taken when tightening the 3mm Allen bolts used across the stem, three at the steerer clamp (with an angled slot) and four at the front. They're made from steel - I would have expected titanium in a stem of this weight – with their small size there's a definite risk of rounding them off if you're a little ham fisted. I would seriously recommend investing in a torque wrench and following the recommended torque settings. It's a little more fiddly to fit tighten the lower bolts, a ball-ended Allen tool helps a lot here.
The stem is 3D forged from 7075 aluminium and its svelte looks suggest that as much excess material as possible has been machined away. The unique clamp design allows smaller, lighter bolts to be used.
Stems don't get much lighter than this; 115g for the 120mm stem I tested. Even carbon bars don't get this light. Furthermore, Ritchey claim it's significantly lighter than their previous stem designs while still managing to be stiffer.
So you're probably wondering how I got on with it then aren't you? After several months of testing on my Cannondale Evo long-termer now, I can say I've been very impressed. I'll admit that I've always preferred aluminium stems, taking any weight penalty in return for the extra stiffness they usually deliver at the light end of the scale. There's no weight penalty with this stem, and it's every bit as stiff as they claim. In fact it highlighted flex in the handlebar I fitted to it.
As for the advantages of the handlebar clamp, well that is harder to identify over a regular stem in road testing. The clamping area, once the bolts are done up, is the same as a standard stem, so I'm not sure it makes much difference where the split in the two clamping surfaces is once all the bolts are tightened up.
I love the 'wet black' finish that Ritchey offer (a wet white, wet red and standard finish also available) that lifts its appearance well above that of other aluminium stems. It almost looks carbon from a distance. Very pleasing to the eye.
Very light and great looking stem that is impressively stiff considering its lack of weight.
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Make and model: Ritchey WCS C260° stem
Size tested: 120mm, 6/84°, wet black
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
This revolutionary patented design starts with a bar clamp that wraps a full 260 degrees around the handlebar to distribute clamping stress more evenly through the handlebar, faceplate, hardware and stem body. The steer tube clamp uses three bolts and a curved slot to reduce clamp stress on the steer tube.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
3D forged and internally machined 7050 alloy body
4 x M4 faceplate bolts and patented 260 degree bar clamp design reduces weight, increases stiffness and distributes stress more evenly
3 x M4 steer tube bolts and curved clamp slot reduces weight and steer tube stress
5Nm torque max on all hardware, same as 4Axis stems using M5 bolts
30% stiffer than Ritchey's legendary WCS 4Axis and 20 grams lighter
Fits most road and mountain bars
The 3mm Allen bolts require a delicate touch, or use of a torque wrench to avoid potential rounding of the bolt.
It's very stiff so there's not a hint of flex or give, but it's solid and secure over rough roads and hitting the occasional pot hole.
It's the higher end of the pricing spectrum for aluminium stems but it's cheaper than heavier carbon stems.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The wet black finish gives it a very pricey look.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The 3mm Allen bolts.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
Age: 31 Height: 180 Weight: 67
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, mtb,
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.