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The Zipp SL Sprint Stem is an excellent way to stiffen up the front end of your road bike without too much weight. The bulky design and high price might not suit everyone though.
If you're looking to make the front end of your bike rock solid then Zipp's SL Sprint stem is perfect for the job. When paired with an equally stiff bar, it provides an excellent platform for those handlebar-wrenching efforts.
The biggest feature of the SL Sprint stem is its stiffness. For bigger riders and racers, this is a great way of removing flex from the front end. Admittedly, I've not got the biggest arms that you've ever seen, but my sprint power (on a good day) is up around the 1,200 watt mark and I couldn't feel even a hint of flex.
There are far bigger riders than me who love the SL Sprint, including pro sprinters who would tape over the logos to avoid upsetting their component sponsor.
Zipp claims that the SL Sprint stem weighs just 1.8g per Nm of stiffness. This 110mm version that I have here weighs in at 173g. Considering the stiffness and the bulk of the thing, that's really respectable. In comparison, the Specialized S-Works Venge stem has a claimed weight of 207g for the 100mm option.
The SL Sprint stem uses a bulky design to create the stiffness, and that bulk can, on certain aero handlebars, create a space issue. Setting this up with my S-Works Aerofly II handlebar left only just enough room for a K-Edge Garmin mount, needed because you lose the faceplate Garmin mount found on the Venge stem. If you wanted to fit anything else on there, it'd be a struggle.
The SL Sprint stem uses a four-bolt bar clamp and two bolts for the steerer tube clamp. These are Torx 25 bolts and I'm not a huge fan. Even using high quality Silca Torx keys, I found the fit to be loose and as a result the bolts were more difficult to adjust than hex/Allen bolts.
The price means this is a stem that only those with deep pockets or a need for a solid front end are going to consider. David reviewed FSA's K-Force Light back in 2015, when it was the same weight and price as this Zipp, but it's now £224 and a claimed 193g for the 100mm option. Pro's Vibe Carbon stem is a similar price at £249.99 but it is lighter at 147g for the 120mm version. I'll be reviewing that next, so we'll see how it compares.
The stiffness is what you'd be buying the Zipp SL Sprint Stem for, and that's what makes it a great product. It isn't too heavy and the price is comparable to similar products on the market. If you want a hyper stiff front end, this is a great option.
Incredibly stiff and not too heavy, a very good – but expensive – option for racers
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Zipp SL Sprint stem
Size tested: 110mm
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?
Zipp says, 'The SL Sprint Stem is an ideal balance of stiffness and lightweight. The stem weighs in at just 1.8g per newton meter of stiffness using SRAM's Exogram technology. Designed with feedback from top pros to meet the unrelenting demands of Grand Tour sprinters. Zipp also tapped into expertise gained from its pioneering carbon stems and exhaustively researched the marketplace to create the SL Sprint Stem. The SL Sprint comes with its own stem cap that's designed to be aerodynamically efficient by blending into the stem body. Available in six sizes ranging from 90 to 140mm to meet any rider's fit needs.'
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
STEM ANGLE/RISE 12 degrees
LENGTH (ST) 100mm, 110mm, 120mm, 130mm, 140mm, 90mm
CLAMP DIAM 31.8mm
STEERER CLAMP DIAMETER 1-1/8 in
COLOR/FINISH (ST) Matte with stealth decals, Matte with white decals
MATERIAL (SP/ST) Unidirectional Carbon
WEIGHT (G) 165
WEIGHT BASED ON SL SPRINT 100MM
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Amazingly stiff. It worked perfectly.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The stiffness is great. There is zero movement in the front end which is the primary claim of the stem.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Torx bolts. I find that they give a loose fit on tools.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It is comparable. Pro's new Vibe Carbon stem looks like an interesting match at £249.99. FSA's K-Force Light Stem is £224.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
It does what it says on the tin, providing plenty of stiffness at the front end. It isn't too heavy and, though pricey, it's on a par with rivals.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cannondale Supersix Di2 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, club rides, general fitness riding, I specialise in the Cafe Ride!
Son of a Marathon runner, Nephew of a National 24hr Champion, the racing genetics have completely passed him by. After joining the road.cc staff in 2016 as a reviewer, Liam quickly started writing feature articles and news pieces. After a little time living in Canada, where he spent most of his time eating poutine, Liam returned with the launch of DealClincher, taking over the Editor role at the start of 2018. At the weekend, Liam can be found racing on the road both in the UK and abroad, though he prefers the muddy fields of cyclocross. To date, his biggest race win is to the front of the cafe queue.