The stem might not be the most eye-catching component but it makes a massive difference to the fit and feel of a bike and there’s a huge number of different types used in the pro peloton. Here are some of the most notable from this year's Tour de France.
Team Sky’s three-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome uses a one piece Stealth Evo handlebar and stem combo from Shimano’s Pro brand. The stem section is 120mm long and the handlebar width is 400mm.
Geraint Thomas uses a 131mm Pro Vibe stem – or he did before he crashed out of the race.
It is designed with cable ports that you can run Shimano Di2 cables through but Team Sky keep them external, taped up with the rear brake cable.
Like Froome, many riders from other teams use one piece cockpits. This Cofidis rider, for example, has a Vision Metron 5D combined handlebar and stem on the front of his bike with a very slight rise from the clamp.
Direct Energie’s Adrien Petit has the same bar but it’s not such a neat fit with the headset and head tube on his BH G7 Pro.
You can’t see the whole of the stem section of the Madone XXX cockpit of Koen de Kort’s Trek Madone in this pic, I’m afraid, but you can see how it integrates with the rest of the bike. It’s a super-neat design that’s intended to reduce drag. The cables run internally through the handlebar/stem and from there into the frame.
Most riders still use separate handlebars and stems. Peter Sagan – hoofed out of the Tour de France after Stage 4, of course – should by rights be using a stem from team sponsor Pro but this is actually a Zipp SL Sprint stem with the logos covered by black tape.
This stem, made from unidirectional carbon, has been around for a few years now and has a reputation for stiffness which is why it is favoured by many sprinters. When it was first introduced, Zipp said that it had been developed especially for Mark Cavendish. Essentially, it was Zipp’s answer to the Pro Vibe Stem that Cav had used previously. Although it’s chunky, the SL Sprint stem in a 100mm length weighs just 165g.
Speaking of Mark Cavendish (who crashed out in that little incident with Pater Sagan; you might have heard about it!), he uses an Enve stem now that he’s with Dimension Data. Unlike most other component manufacturers, Enve makes just two stems, one for mountain biking and one for road cycling (they’re each available in different lengths, of course, but just in +/-6° rise).
The road stem is made from carbon-fibre with a cold forged aluminium faceplate and titanium bolts.
Fellow sprinter Andre Greipel uses a Deda Superzero stem with a black anodised finish.
Deda claims that the flat upper section improves aerodynamic efficiency and rigidity. With an RRP of £75.99, it’s not a top of the range component.
Several bikes have their own dedicated stems these days, designed to integrate with the head tube to clean up the appearance of the front end and improve the aerodynamic efficiency.
Greg Van Avermaet rides a BMC Teammachine SLR01 with an Integrated Cockpit Stem (ICS). It’s an unusual looking design with a cable clamp and cable cover system on the underside. It’s designed so that there are no exposed hoses when used with BMC’s Integrated Cockpit Fork (with a flat-sided steerer) and hydraulic disc brakes. Mechanical brake cables still have to run externally, though, as they do here.
Orica-Scott’s Scott Foils (this is Matt Hayman's bike) have square-edged Aero Foil stems from Syncros that are made from aluminium and reinforced with carbon fibre. Dedicated parts ensure a smooth transition to the head tube and top tube.
Sunweb’s Michael Matthews has been riding the brand new Giant Propel Disc. Although Giant hasn’t yet released details about this bike, you can see that all the Di2 cables and disc brake hoses are routed inside the stem and straight into the frame/fork.
This Bora-Hansgrohe Specialized Venge ViAS has its own dedicated stem that routes cables internally from the handlebar into the frame.
Specialized's own computer mount blends almost seamlessly with the stem.
Marcel Kittel races the disc brake version of this bike but he uses the popular Vision Metron 5D combined handlebar/stem that we looked at earlier which doesn’t integrate with the frame as neatly.
The Specialized Tarmacs used by Bora-Hansgrohe and Quick-Step take standard stems. This is Dan Martin’s bike fitted with an FSA OS-99 CSI stem. CSI stands for Carbon Structural Integration. FSA 3D forges the stem from AL7050 aluminium alloy then applies a carbon weave skin that’s said to increase the overall stiffness.
FSA wants more obvious branding than the stem normally offers so large logo stickers have been added. It's not the clearest ever branding with the band for the Di2 junction box right over the top, but we get the idea.
Current race leader Fabio Aru has a stem from FSA too. The Energy is from lower in the range, 3D forged from 2014 aluminium alloy with some CNC machining to finish it off. It’s actually lighter than the more expensive OS-99 CSI stem: 113g versus 126g (100mm versions).
AG2R’s bikes are fitted with stems from Black Inc which is essentially the in-house brand of bike sponsor Factor. This aluminium model looks like it has seen some action!
Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.