Issue #013 Review

Ritchey WCS Chicane Stem in review

Introduced in May 2019, Ritchey’s WCS Chicane Stem is a welcome change in a market full of similar-looking aluminium stems.

Instead of a classic clamp with two screws at the steerer tube, the Chicane uses an internal wedge clamping mechanism. The trick here is that the clamp and preload bolt are hidden under a magnetic cap. The handlebar clamp hinges at the top and gets tightened at the bottom by two concealed bolts. You won’t see any screws unless you inspect it closely, giving the stem a clean and slim look. The Chicane Stem is available in lengths from 80–130 mm, in 10 mm increments. Even though it is aimed more towards the road market, we decided to use a gravel bike to test it out and fitted the shortest version. Why not? After all, the Chicane Stem doesn’t have any bolts you can hit your knees on and you can easily attach a bag to the top tube without the clamp getting in the way. With an angle of -10 ° the drop is kept within a reasonable limit – ideal for comfortable gravel riding.

Combination tip: the WCS VentureMax gravel handlebar is one of the most comfortable aluminium options on the market thanks to its shallow drop, slight backsweep and ergonomically shaped and flared drops.
Unfortunately, the two lower clamping bolts are Torx T20s. These are rather unusual on a bike and can’t be found on any regular multitool.
The handlebar clamp hinges at the top with two hidden bolts clamping it at the bottom. The system works perfectly and the handlebar is held securely without creaking.

Though it looks good, unfortunately, the technical details are less appealing. You’re required to use two different Allen keys for the preload and the clamp bolt on the steerer tube and the handlebar clamp uses a Torx T20 key. This is not a common size on bikes and rarely available on multitools. You’re just as unlikely to find this Torx bit as an attachment for the torque wrench in your workshop. The angle of the bolts at the rear will also test your patience if you don’t have a ratchet. Using spacers above the stem isn’t possible because the magnetic top cap is designed to sit flush with the stem where it’s held in position with a thin ridge which would interfere with any spacer. If it’s absolutely necessary to get your fit dialled, we would recommend using a thick aluminium spacer since carbon spacers would likely get damaged. The magnetic cap itself is a clever solution and always stays put but it doesn’t quite match the rest of the stem visually. The finish is slightly glossy, while the stem itself is matt and unfortunately, the printed logo on our test sample is crooked. Another negative aspect of the Chicane Stem is the weight. At 191 g for the 80 mm version, it isn’t as light as it looks.

That said, there’s nothing wrong with the performance of the Chicane Stem. Both clamps remain inflappable after countless, bumpy trails and the stem is very stiff, directing forces from the handlebars to the fork without creaking or flexing.

The magnetic cap completes the sleek look and stays put even when you head off-road. Unfortunately, the glossy paint and the crooked logo marr the otherwise high-quality finish of the Chicane stem.

Top tip: we combined the Ritchey WCS Chicane stem with the equally unconventional Ritchey WCS VentureMax gravel handlebar, one of the most comfortable aluminium gravel handlebars on the market. The shallow drop, slight backsweep and the ergonomically shaped drops provide great long-distance comfort and the moderate flare gives you more control on the trails. Combined, the stem and handlebar harmonise perfectly both visually and in terms of stiffness. Comfortable geometry on the one hand and stiff, direct handling on the other.

The decision for or against the Chicane Stem is simple: if looks are more important than weight, the Ritchey Chicane Stem gets you the cleanest look possible with conventional stems. However, weight weenies will want to steer clear. Even though mounting the stem requires a little patience and three different tools, it’s flawless in terms of function and performance. Just don’t forget to include a T20 Torx in your shopping cart…

Tops

  • stiff
  • clean, sleek look
  • no bolts at the steerer tube

Flops

  • heavy
  • requires Torx T20 key
  • initial assembly requires some patience

Tester: Andy
Duration: 6 months
Price: € 109.95

More info: ritcheylogic.com
Weight: 191 g (80 mm, incl. hardware)

Words & Photos: Andreas Maschke