I must confess to getting a little exited by things that are either exceptionally well made, or extremely innovative. Before I explain the reason for my recent excitement I need to take you back a few weeks first:
Getting the fork steerer length right on a bike is a tricky business. Trim off too much and you’re in big trouble, leave too much on and your bike looks messy with lots of spacers above and below the stem. Now, the problem I had was not cutting too much off specifically, it was more taking a fork off one bike with a short head tube and trying to fit it to a bike with a slightly longer headtube. So, there I was looking at 30mm of steerer tube protruding above the Chris King headset I’d just pressed into my Kona Leroi frame. I put the Syntace stem I had in one hand back down on the bench. A rummage around in the spares box uncovered a Truvativ stem with a single bolt which came to just below the top of the steerer. It sort of fitted, but not in way that inspired confidence.
Following a tip off the Weightweenies forum, a solution appeared in the form of a stem, from Avid, of all people. I didn’t even know Avid did stems 😕
With a sketchy description of a unique clamping system using a collet, and its three bolts placed unusually on the top of the stem, I must admit I was more than slightly intrigued. As luck would have it, there was one on Ebay, which I snapped up.
You’d think a stem is a stem is a stem. They’re been around for years, and apart from coming in different lengths, colours, rises and weights there isn’t much to separate them in terms of design. Avid have taken something which we all take for granted and redesigned it.
What I find amazing about the Avid stem is effectiveness of the design and the way its been executed. The collet fits over the top of my (short) steerer tube and is bolted to the star-fangled nut, then the stem mounted on top and the three bolts gradually compress the collet so it clamps to the steerer in much the same way the chuck of a drill works. Sure, its more complicated that a normal stem, but I’m still really impressed with it.