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  1. #1
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    expensive stem: why?

    I was looking for a new stem, because I got a bike with OS stem and I was thinking about putting my old bar on it, which is not OS... so I need a new stem.

    What does an expensive Thomson stem give you that a cheaper stem (like Titec or Kalloy) does not, besides weight savings (very small in this case)?

    Just curious when people say they try a bunch of cheap stems to find the correct rise/length, and then get an expensive stem once they find the correct one, do you feel some sort of real difference? just weight? stiffer? people once again laugh at your jokes?

    What's a good compromise stem? I am not paying for a Thomson, it's too expensive.

    then there is a $5 stem. is it dangerous?

    Only boring people get bored.

  2. #2
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    my stem cost 12.99

    it's an easton ea70 and seems great so far. others agree:

    http://www.mtbr.com/reviews/Stem/product_87784.shtml


    just make sure you have enough steerer to accomidate its huge profile. i use it on my rigid KM and though i don't beat on it heavily, it seems to do fine.

    i also bought a sun ringle stem for 5 bucks from jenson which seemed pretty solid too.

  3. #3
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    For me, confidence is a cool thing.
    I've never ever broken a Thomson product.
    Knowing I'll have years of dependable use is key.
    Another is creaking. My Thomson stuff has always been silent.

    Perhaps most importantly is the pretty factor.

    Thomson stuff is pretty. I'd rather have a pretty stem and seatpost than a dull and boring one. To add insult to injury, it's usually heavier, made more poorly, and has the bolts sticking out of the back so my knees get cut on them.

  4. #4
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    I can't answer for the Thomson, but I don't think that $5 stem is dangerous. I have it's $10 cousin, labeled as a Pazzaz, and have been using it for over a year with little trouble. Funny thing is, those stems, which I've seen labeled under many brands (sette, pazzaz, ritchey?) weigh less than the old style Thomson stems too. They're just not as flashy.

  5. #5
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    I just got one of those, give me six months and I'll get back to you

    So far (I have three rides on it so that makes me an expert on the product) it seems well built and it is holding the bar. IMHO, there is a reason why bike companies usually spec cheapo stems OEM, because they work.

  6. #6
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    bling factor, or just to match up the price point of the rest of the bike. the material might have something to do with stiffness, but it's not something i can tell fore sure. don't think one can easily tell design flaws by eyeballing.

    personally i don't like thomson that much. their steerer (older) clamp too finicky. my fav mtn stem remains kore elite.

  7. #7
    J_T
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    Some things you shouldn't

    ...compromise on.

    Bars, stems, seatposts... I always go for strength over price or weight savings.I have broken all of these at some point. 6'4'' 200lbs and it's never a good outcome.
    I just changed my bar to an oversize EA 70 and of course, had to upgrade the stem as well. Retiring my Race Face stuff.
    The Thomson 4x elite is an awesome piece and coupled with the EA 70 bar made for an instant and noticable improvement in stiffness. So much so that I literally rolled the front tire off it's bead on the first stand-up-and-grunt climb. Made for a funny slo-mo endo type get off and a roadie tyre loud pop from the tube exploding (riding buddy is still laughing about that one)
    And as discussed in other threads... Big guys should stay away from carbon or Ti
    IMHO

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  8. #8
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    Stiffness. I went from a Easton EA50 to a thomson, and the improvement is noticable when I pull hard on the handlebars when mashing. No more twisting.

    I have also been doing small jumps and drop and fast decents in the high Sierra with lots o rocks. I feel the Thomson fits the zone between a XC and freeride stem. Which fits my riding.

    Failures in the control area can be catastrophic. So I payed extra.

    And yes the bling is nice too.

    Mr. P

  9. #9
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    I have a couple of Thomsons (120, 110), Specialized (130) and a Ritchey Pro around, PM me if interested in any of those.

  10. #10
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    Peace of mind.

    http://forums.mtbr.com/showpost.php?...3&postcount=14

    There are plenty of good stems out there for less money. Personally, when it comes to saving money (or weight), I consider the consequences if the component in question fails.

  11. #11
    asymmetryrtemmysa
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    I have several cheap stems used for fitting purposes.

    In general, they have the following problems:
    1) The hardware is pot metal. Don't torque the bolts to the specified torques or the head will strip out.
    2) The stem is pot metal. In order to keep the bars from spinning in the stem or the stem from spinning in the bars, it's quite easy to strip out the bolt holes.
    3) Stem flex.
    4) Finish and form.

    If you are setting up a bike or don't ride hard, I wouldn't feel uncomfortable on a cheap stem. However, for peace of mind and hard riding, I'd go with a slightly higher end stem (Thomson, the old Race Face Deus, etc.)

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by jh_on_the_cape
    I was looking for a new stem, because I got a bike with OS stem and I was thinking about putting my old bar on it, which is not OS... so I need a new stem.

    What does an expensive Thomson stem give you that a cheaper stem (like Titec or Kalloy) does not, besides weight savings (very small in this case)?

    Just curious when people say they try a bunch of cheap stems to find the correct rise/length, and then get an expensive stem once they find the correct one, do you feel some sort of real difference? just weight? stiffer? people once again laugh at your jokes?

    What's a good compromise stem? I am not paying for a Thomson, it's too expensive.

    then there is a $5 stem. is it dangerous?



    Inexpensive does not mean cheap. I hate to break it to all the boutique stem buyers but the $15.00 forged stem is stronger than your pretty machined stem of equal weight. Forging is a pretty cool process what with grain alignment and all, it's also expensive in small runs but gets significantly cheaper in large runs. There are probably three stem forgers in the world Kalloy probably being the biggest, like most bike parts, they produce $5.00 stems and $95.00 stems, it just depends on who's name is silkscreened on the side.
    "Do not touch the trim"

  13. #13
    asymmetryrtemmysa
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rivet
    Inexpensive does not mean cheap. I hate to break it to all the boutique stem buyers but the $15.00 forged stem is stronger than your pretty machined stem of equal weight. Forging is a pretty cool process what with grain alignment and all, it's also expensive in small runs but gets significantly cheaper in large runs. There are probably three stem forgers in the world Kalloy probably being the biggest, like most bike parts, they produce $5.00 stems and $95.00 stems, it just depends on who's name is silkscreened on the side.
    No, inexpensive does not necessarily mean cheap. And there are plenty of expensive stems that fall under the same 'cheap' purview. Forging certainly can provide additional strength to a piece of equipment over billet machining.

    I may be incorrect on this, but I think that Thomson products are all machined from aluminum billet without further treatment. Has anyone heard of a Thomson seatpost failure? You can construct an incredibly strong milled component, just as you can construct an incredibly weak forged component.

    The Tahoma/Sette/Forte/etc rebranded stems are not just inexpensive; they are also cheap. Poor casting, poor mold release, junk hardware, etc.

  14. #14
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    This all comes right down to reliability under use.

    Have you ever heard of a Thomson stem snapping?

    I have not.



    Think about the consequences of that happening on a fast downhill run through a rockgarden, then if you are game enough to take that sort of risk, fit a $5-00 cheap stem instead of the best available.

    I'll stay with the Thomson.



    R.
    It is inevitable ...

  15. #15
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    I'm pretty sure the Thomson is a forged billet that is then machined to final shape.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Denisovich
    The Tahoma/Sette/Forte/etc rebranded stems are not just inexpensive; they are also cheap. Poor casting, poor mold release, junk hardware, etc.
    First of all they are not cast. A cast stem at that weight would bend if you sneezed on it. It's a near net shape forging, pretty standard. Hardware...well it may not be high cobalt content steel aerosapce stuff but it works, I have never seen a hardware failure on these stems. Even if it isn't the greatest you can get ISO certified stuff for a couple bucks if you really felt you needed it. I have about ten friends who are converts to these inexpensive stems (Supergo) and they ride VERY hard and not one failure. What more can you ask for?

    EDIT; I have Thomson seatposts on ALL my bikes.
    "Do not touch the trim"

  17. #17
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    Yes

    Quote Originally Posted by Rainman
    This all comes right down to reliability under use.

    Have you ever heard of a Thomson stem snapping?

    R.
    Lots. Mostly the face plate cracking in half
    phuck it!

    p.s. I NEED a Pugsley

  18. #18
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    Confession time...

    I'm right there witcha, Padre. I want strong stuff and I want it to be pretty, too. Certain parts of a bicycle are like jewelry. The stem is one of those parts. When people buy jewelry, they buy the prettiest stuff they can afford, right?

    I acknowledge that not everyone looks at it this way. Fine. That's why less than pretty stems (and stuff) exist. Buy whatever you like.

    --Sparty



    Quote Originally Posted by Padre
    For me, confidence is a cool thing.
    I've never ever broken a Thomson product.
    Knowing I'll have years of dependable use is key.
    Another is creaking. My Thomson stuff has always been silent.

    Perhaps most importantly is the pretty factor.

    Thomson stuff is pretty. I'd rather have a pretty stem and seatpost than a dull and boring one. To add insult to injury, it's usually heavier, made more poorly, and has the bolts sticking out of the back so my knees get cut on them.
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  19. #19
    blame me for missed rides
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    related question:

    What is the most aesthetically pleasing stem in your opinion?

  20. #20
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    No offense...

    ...but I always thought Kore stems looked like cheapo stems only with a higher price tag.

    Personally, I love Thomson.

    But that's one of the great things about personal choice. Everybody gets to decide what they think looks best and suits their personal style. I get to build the bike that I think is/looks "best" and you get to do the same -- we just come up with different products, each of which is an extension of our own personalities.

    Ironically, I can't use a Thomson stem on my SS. I have a relatively cheap Bontrager stem on there because Thomson stems aren't offered with enough rise to fit my particular frame (that is, without stacking a dozen ugly spacers on the steer tube -- I ain't goin' there).

    --Sparty


    Quote Originally Posted by weather
    related question:

    What is the most aesthetically pleasing stem in your opinion?
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  21. #21
    asymmetryrtemmysa
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rivet
    First of all they are not cast. A cast stem at that weight would bend if you sneezed on it. It's a near net shape forging, pretty standard. Hardware...well it may not be high cobalt content steel aerosapce stuff but it works, I have never seen a hardware failure on these stems. Even if it isn't the greatest you can get ISO certified stuff for a couple bucks if you really felt you needed it. I have about ten friends who are converts to these inexpensive stems (Supergo) and they ride VERY hard and not one failure. What more can you ask for?

    EDIT; I have Thomson seatposts on ALL my bikes.
    I should have been much more careful with my nomenclature. You are absolutely correct that they are not cast. Either the die release or subsequent machining is imperfect - it is not a casting process.

    ISO certification (i.e. process paper trail) means nada in terms of quality or strength of materials.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparticus
    ...but I always thought Kore stems looked like cheapo stems only with a higher price tag
    lower end kore look obnoxiously cheap. kore elite is the bead blasted version which is different.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by weather
    lower end kore look obnoxiously cheap. kore elite is the bead blasted version which is different.
    I prefer the look of the lower-end forged three bolt Kore stem to the more expensive models.

    Most important to me though is the stem size. This includes the steerer clamp height. A tall clamp = more rise than a short clamp for the same angle and extension length.
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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Denisovich
    Has anyone heard of a Thomson seatpost failure?
    I have seen a bent Thomson post and a cracked clamp. (BTW they are extruded and then machined)
    The Tahoma/Sette/Forte/etc rebranded stems are not just inexpensive; they are also cheap. Poor casting, poor mold release, junk hardware, etc.
    Not finished well but I have never had a problem with them. They are what I use with dropbars on stock frames and have for many, many years. Bent bars. Never a stem issue.
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  25. #25
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    with the exception of those products that are still manufactured in NA, all the rest come from a handfull of very large factories in bikeland...in most cases lazer etching of the 'brand' is the biggest factor in setting the retail price...

    imagine a very large bin with thousands of black stems, the only thing that changes is the colour of the box! so, cheap is awwright.

    ok, there may be some slight exaggerations in my post regarding stem selection but you get the point. i am 220lbs and dont like to spin, i have never so much as injured a 'discount' stem, or bar for that matter. keep your money or at least throw it at hubs and cranks.
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  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Denisovich
    ISO certification (i.e. process paper trail) means nada in terms of quality or strength of materials.
    Actually what I meant was that by choosing a fastener from a company with ISO certification( typically a metric fastener supplier) you get the opportunity to choose a graded fasterner with certs, meaning you at least know what your getting.
    "Do not touch the trim"

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by shiggy
    I have seen a bent Thomson post and a cracked clamp. (BTW they are extruded and then machined)

    Not finished well but I have never had a problem with them. They are what I use with dropbars on stock frames and have for many, many years. Bent bars. Never a stem issue.
    You may have seen a *bent* thomson post, but have you ever seen one broken in half, ie Syncros? I would rather have a seat post fail by bending than have it break in half near my nethers!

    I go by this: you get what you pay for. If the $5 stem will hold up to your style than more power to you

  28. #28
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    why?

    Quote Originally Posted by PickledFish
    Lots. Mostly the face plate cracking in half
    as a result of improper installation and over torquing. the four bolts must be brought up to 48i/p slowly, 1/4 turn on each bolt in a cross pattern until torque spec is reached...same thing with the steerer tube...both sides have to be torqued at the same time,,,if you do one side then the other it will slip.

    and seriously if you have a $130 CK hs are you gonna throw a $5 stem on it....i don't think so...
    Keith Bontrager: "Strong, light, cheap pick any two."

    "Something strong and light ain't gonna be cheap. -That's what I call bling.

    And cheap and strong ain't gonna be light. -That ain't bling."
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  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by jh_on_the_cape
    then there is a $5 stem. is it dangerous?
    a $5 stem is probably just fine.

    However, my experiences to date with R. Thomson and the Thomson company have led me to believe that they make and stand behind very high quality products. When looking down at a choppy landing from 3 m in the air, I would rather entrust my teeth and jaw to a high quality product.

    i agree with the guy who made the comment about spending $100+ on a headset and then buying a $5 stem. If your headset fails, what are the consequences? How about if your stem fails?
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  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by cloughja
    I can't answer for the Thomson, but I don't think that $5 stem is dangerous. I have it's $10 cousin, labeled as a Pazzaz, and have been using it for over a year with little trouble. Funny thing is, those stems, which I've seen labeled under many brands (sette, pazzaz, ritchey?) weigh less than the old style Thomson stems too. They're just not as flashy.
    I broke a Tahoma stem.
    Actually, I just cracked it.
    I was on my MTB which had been retired into commuting sevice.
    I was cranking up the Brooklyn Bridge when i noticed that the headset was creaking all of a sudden. Stopped to check it out - the stem had formed a 1/4 inch crack at the clamp area, just forward of the bolts. Needless to say, I continued riding very gingerly.

    With that being said, this stem was over 3 years old, abused on & off road, and was likely overtightened. Oh, and I used non-standard bolts (torx) as I was trying to minimize the likelihood that anything would get stolen.

    So do I think the cheapo stem is durable? Well, I replaced the cracked Tahoma with another one just like it. Still going strong.

  31. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by vermont
    and seriously if you have a $130 CK hs are you gonna throw a $5 stem on it....i don't think so...
    Well no, but mostly because a $130.00 CK headset is overpriced and I wouldn't buy one and also because I've been riding a long time and I'm past the "look how pretty my bike is" phase of riding. If I have to spend the extra money to get a durable enough part and it consequently looks good that's fine but spending big money just so people can ogle my bike on a website or in the parking lot of the trailhead isn't my gig.
    "Do not touch the trim"

  32. #32
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    update! Thanks for all the replies, very interesting. Some I agree with more so than others.

    I was at my buddy's house and he had a Thomson stem in the right size in his basement... so...
    I got the Thomson.
    Only boring people get bored.

  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimmyjammoto

    I go by this: you get what you pay for. If the $5 stem will hold up to your style than more power to you
    so i guess this pretty much means that Ellsworth is hands down the best bikes there are. Bar none.

    and ya, my $5 no-name DH stem will hold up to my style. And i'm pretty sure to most people's style too.
    phuck it!

    p.s. I NEED a Pugsley

  34. #34
    wg
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    One other benefit of the Thomson that I didn't see mentioned... recessed bolts. I've gouged knees on other stems' exposed bolt heads. So in addition to strength, bling, I wanted to save my body parts to be abused by crashing vs getting injured by riding.
    Don't harsh my mello

  35. #35
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    Good job! ;)

    Quote Originally Posted by wg
    One other benefit of the Thomson that I didn't see mentioned... recessed bolts. I've gouged knees on other stems' exposed bolt heads. So in addition to strength, bling, I wanted to save my body parts to be abused by crashing vs getting injured by riding.
    good call
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  36. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by wg
    One other benefit of the Thomson that I didn't see mentioned... recessed bolts. I've gouged knees on other stems' exposed bolt heads. So in addition to strength, bling, I wanted to save my body parts to be abused by crashing vs getting injured by riding.
    As do KORE elites...

  37. #37
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    Check out my poll on breaking parts.
    47 replies. 26% have broken chains. Other parts are in the 10% range, stems are low at 3%. Suggests you might be ok with the cheap generic stem.

  38. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparticus
    I'm right there witcha, Padre. I want strong stuff and I want it to be pretty, too. Certain parts of a bicycle are like jewelry. The stem is one of those parts. When people buy jewelry, they buy the prettiest stuff they can afford, right?

    I acknowledge that not everyone looks at it this way. Fine. That's why less than pretty stems (and stuff) exist. Buy whatever you like.

    --Sparty
    I agree, everybody likes bling and a stem is the perfect way of adding it to a bike without spending a fortune. I wanted a strong, high rise, shorter stem that didn't weigh a ton and looked slick. Thomson's look great but don't make a stem that met my criteria so I got a Hope stem.

    Check out the stack of alternating silver and black spacers. I got back problems and this is my solution which BTW works great.
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