Ritchey components have been a staple supplier of high-end controls since Rob Eva was knee high to a grasshopper and when we went looking for a 70mm stem for our trail bike recently, the WCS 260 jumped out as something a little funky.
The sexy ‘wet black’ finish and feathery 96g weight are attention grabbers, but the most significant point of difference with this stem is the bar clamp; it wraps 260 degrees around the bar. This clamping arrangement is said to reduce the stress on the bar and stem, by distributing the clamping forces more evenly. Likewise, the steerer tube clamp is curved and uses three bolts to spread the clamping load evenly and to avoid ovalising or pinching the steerer (more of a problem on carbon steerer tubes).
This stem is listed as both a mountain bike and road bike option on Ritchey’s website. Its weight rivals many carbon stems, and the use of small M4 bolts helps shave a few more grams. It must be said, we were a little apprehensive about fastening our bars on with a 3mm Allen key, so it’s reassuring that all the bolts are made from tough Cromoly steel.
Installation is made fiddly with the 260-degree clamp. You can’t simply remove the faceplate and pop in your bars like other stems. Instead, you need to thread your bars in through the stem after removing the shifter/brake/grip from one side. It gets even more fiddly when it comes to actually tightening the bolts; getting at the two lower bolts of the faceplate was particularly awkward. All up, installation was a real pain in the butt and every time we had to remove or install our bars (for instance, when travelling with the bike in a box) we cursed! Still, for most people, installing a stem is a once-in-a-blue-moon job.
Once all in place, the stem was great. It’s sufficiently stiff for cross country riding and it looks bloody great too, with its clean faceplate area and glossy black finish (which, unfortunately, chips easily, so be careful!). Our apprehensions about the skinny M4 bolts proved unfounded, though we’d probably suggest you stick to more cross country style riding with this guy overall.