Last updated on April 29, 2013
On Friday I found myself in a tough spot. I had a brand new bike, but a bit of measuring and maths had shown that there was 30mm more reach than on my other bikes. I was about to head out on a 3 hour ride, and I had a 5.5 hour ride scheduled for Sunday. The bike might be fine this way, but it also might be terribly uncomfortable at the end of those three hours. The best solution for this was to get a 70mm long 0° degree stem, as this would move the bars rearward about 30mm, and would then match the other bikes. But, how do I get a stem of that sizing before Sunday, when I’ve already got a busy Friday evening and Saturday, can’t make it to many shops, and most shops won’t stock stems of this size? If I’m sore after Friday’s 3 hour ride, what do I do?
After thinking it over I ended up just ordering a Thomson (my preferred stem brand) from Amazon and having it shipped overnight. This commanded a bit of a premium, but I decided it’d be worth it to be sure I’d have a stem that would make the fit match existing bikes and also be one one I’d want to keep. (Zach over at Rochester Bike Shop had let me borrow a 75mm x 7.5° for testing, but I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make that one fit as nicely, and it definitely wasn’t a permanent fix, so I’d still have to order a Thomson eventually…)
Friday’s ride went quite well, and I found that the extra 30mm of reach may not be too much, and had quite a great time riding around Stony with some friends. I’m not sure if it was new tires, tubeless, the Fox fork, or being a bit further forward, but I was really liking how the bike held on to the trail. Post-ride I had a bit of newfound upper back soreness, but as it wasn’t anything terrible I was on the fence about switching to the shorter stem that was to arrive on Saturday. Maybe I just needed to adapt to it… Still, the stem arrived and I was happy to have options.
This evening I measured the bike a bunch of different ways, comparing it to my others, and decided that for Monday’s 5.5 hour ride† I should try the new shorter stem. That’s when I ran into a problem. When taking the faceplate off of the new stem I couldn’t get a tool to fit in one of the screws, as the head of one screw hadn’t been manufactured properly and 3mm hex tool wouldn’t slide in. I also found the screws to be questionable, as every other Thomson stem I can remember uses 4mm-fastener cap head screws and not the 3mm dome ones that this stem came with. Amazon (direct/Prime) is usually a pretty reputable seller, but I can’t help but wonder if something is up with this stem.
As can be seen above (or in either of these photos: 1, 2) the head of the screw on the right is just… not right. For those who are familiar with Thomson X4 stems you may find these to look a bit… different. I can’t help but wonder if this is a counterfit stem, although I imagine it may simply be one from an early production run. I’ve emailed Thomson asking if they can address this or if they’d like me to take it up with Amazon, so hopefully they’ll get back to me soon.
In the mean time I’ll just keep riding with the 100mm stem. I’m really liking the bike thus far and am really glad that Mike (and Aaron and Dan and Paul…) at Trail’s Edge were able to get this bike for me. They seem to be quite hard to come by, and I’m really liking how it feels. I just want to be sure I’ve got the fit spot on before I do too long of rides and end up either really uncomfortable or injure myself. Getting this stem may just sort that out.
UPDATE: Thomson replied to my email this morning indicating that it is a legit stem, that they changed style last year, and that they’ll send me some replacement screws.
† I was able to arrange things with work where I put in half a day and got a bunch of scripting done from home on a rainy Sunday. This should let me work half a day on Monday and hopefully get out for a nice ride.