it's never the frame. that double diamond, however constituted, is the rock star of the agglomeration we more commonly refer to as a bicycle. some of us adore the ornate lug, silver brazed to a pile of custom fitted tubes, others are in thrall to the carbon monocoque, two halves of burnt plastic pretty much mass-produced in the far east. with a set of go faster stripes, you can almost see the attraction. however, the technology of sticking metal tubes together has moved on, now incorporating the technique of welding midst a modest amount of tungsten gas.
but, in the face of such excitement, there are the unsung workhorses, the bits and bobs that we couldn't possibly do without, but ones that rarely elicit a large degree of perspiration when time comes to order online or at the local bike shop. i'm thinking here of seatposts, bottom brackets, chains and, yes, stems. all of these components are classed as essentials, for without them, the bicycle is going nowhere. but who amongst us have paid a visit to one of the national bike shows or even a handbuilt show and had to catch our breath at the sight of a press fit bottom bracket?
and i can honestly state that never once have i heard an involuntarily exclaimed "wow, look at that chain!" at least, not unless it had fallen off the bike.
we're all perfectly aware of the necessity of such bits and pieces, but more often than not, provided they fit and do the job required, neither love nor cash are unnecessarily squandered in their direction. i would largely find myself in total agreement with this particular enforced philosophy, but one of these perfunctory items has recently been raised from relative obscurity by the very same portlanders who hand-crafted one of my steel bikes. and though it may mark me out as more eccentric than you originally thought i was, the smug satisfaction of riding a steel bike fitted with a steel stem has probably made me even more unbearable.
the folks in the cielo cupboard at chris king precision components, not content with making tig-welded velocipedinal joy, have now filled their remaining hours of fabrication by more or less custom building tig welded stems. i ought perhaps at this point to bolster just a smidgeon of my smugness by admitting that the faceplate is of chris king precision alloy, fronting the svelte length of steel. but personalisation makes an entrance by allowing a choice of thirteen hand-painted stem colours and nine faceplate options which can be mixed and matched at your behest.
you can also choose from two styles: the racer as reviewed here, a stem that bears both style and functionality comparison with the majority of those currently on the market. only better. the other option is that of the classic, a stem that has a lengthened steerer section replacing any spacers you might currently have. and in contrast to the two rear pinch bolts on the racer stem, the classic features a couple of front mounted bolts under the main part of the stem.
the chaps at cielo were kind enough to ask which particular colours i might like my review stem to wear. my choice of azul for the steel bit and navy for the cielo logo'd faceplate elicited a "Are you sure that is going to look okay? Azul with a navy face plate is one that we did not expect as a match." reply from design manager, jay sycip. personally, i think it looks flipping marvellous, a combination you can see for yourselves in the accompanying photos.
as i have longer than average arms and a penchant for being reasonably stretched out across my cielo, i opted for the 130mm length, the maximum on offer. stem lengths for both types begin as short as 80mm working through 90, 95, 100, 105, 110, 115 and 120mm. the clamp size prefers a 31.8 bar centre, but should you wish to clamp it to smaller diameter bars, there are 26.0 and 25.4 diameter shims available.
the racer is effectively symmetrical, meaning other than the zero degree option, flipping it can give plus or minus six degrees. due to the longer steerer clamp on the classic stem, you can have either minus six degrees or zero.
in the case of my own cielo, i replaced both stem and bars, clamping the navy blue faceplate (matching the chris king headset, hubs and ceramic bottom bracket) to a pair of aerozine handlebars. it took only a matter of metres to realise i'd set the angle of the bars just a tad too low, but once adjusted, the bike felt as if mr sycip had popped over for the weekend to custom build the entire affair. though the frame is painted in sparkle black, a contrasting stem makes every bit as much aesthetic difference as the prancing horse on the front of a ferrari.
which, incidentally, is precisely how the cielo handles.
wednesday 16 july 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................