We got this stem from FSA about a year ago, and while it’s always nice to get schwag, I had no idea how to review it. At $99, it’s cheaper than most stems, and at a claimed 99 grams (probably for a 100 mm, the 120 mm test sample was 123 g), it’s competitive with the lightest stems out there. It’s a straightforward forged and machined aluminum stem with ti hardware, so maybe that’s why it’s reasonably priced. Perhaps people would rather pay more for something with some carbon on it, even if it’s heavier and more expensive. But all that is info you can get from the web in a couple of minutes. All I’d be able to add is that it felt stiff enough, but I’m skinny and weak, so that’s not terribly enlightening. So I just rode with it for a year, falling over a couple of times and hitting a pothole hard enough to crack a frame. The stem survived those encounters unscathed.
Then it occurred to me that, like sharks, the stem would probably be more awesome with lasers, so I put one at each end of the stem. I mounted the bike on a trainer, steadied the front wheel, and put 45 pounds of weights on one end of the bars. As the stem flexed, the two laser dots pulled farther apart. Then I did the same with a 120 mm Thomson on a mountain bike. The Thomson is a 170 g (claimed) stem that’s supposed to be safe for freeriding, so it figures to be much stiffer.
With the laser dots 1930 mm away from the stem, the FSA dots deflected 8 mm, the Thomson 6.5 mm. That means the FSA twisted .24 degrees, the Thomson .19. At 210 mm (one end of a set of 42 cm bars) the bars on the FSA would flex .83 mm, .15 mm more than the bars on the Thomson. Now you can say that the FSA flexed 23% more than the Thomson, but I say a .15 mm difference is imperceptible.
The clichÃ© is “light, strong, cheap: pick two”. It appears that FSA, with this unassuming stem, has hit the trifecta.