It's not often that I get to play with the same pimpy kit that pro-teams use, but according to Oval, this is the stem of choice for Silence-Lotto and Garmin-Chipotle. Ok, so Garmin have changed sponsor a few times since they were paid to advertise Tex-Mex fast food, but even so, this is the same stem that chaps like Millar, Evans and McEwen used. The question is, it may have been good enough for them, but is it good enough for a portly middle-aged kit reviewer?
As it's pro-level kit you'd expect it to be pretty serious and it certainly feels the part. It's very light, 154g for the version with a 26mm clamp, and very stiff. Oval describe it as a "structural carbon wrap over net-shape, 3-axis cold forged, 2014 T-6 skeleton". That sounds thrillingly technical, but the stem actually looks quite normal. The only slightly unusual feature is the reversed clamp bolts. That leaves the stem cap looking nice and uncluttered but it can make bar adjustments a fiddly nuisance, especially if you're using a multi-tool and don't want to scratch the deep glossy laquer coating on your £100 stem (shop around and you can get it for less). Oh and if you fancy a little stocking filler for Christmas and already have a Rapha silk scarf for cleaning up your oily hands post-fettle, for a mere £69.99 extra you can upgrade that heavy old stem cap to carbon and swap the stainless steel bolts for titanium.
Really a stem like this is aimed at hard-core racers but for the more sportive minded it's reversible and gives enough of an upward angle to raise your bars nicely. Oval say that the stem provides the "optimum in stiffness and lightweight". I paired this with the matching Oval R900 bars and even hauling my slightly over-geared single-speed up Devon hills didn't induce any flex.
It's not cheap, but the build quality is excellent and it does exactly what you'd want a top notch racing stem to do. If you have a nice bike that deserves a treat or a new frame that merits the best kit, then this will do nicely.
Beautiful stem, if you've got a bike or a home build that deserve it.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Oval Concepts R900 stem
Size tested: 26.0 x 110mm
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes - if I had a bike or a build up that merited such pimpy kit
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes - with the same caveats as above
About the tester
Age: 40 Height: 5\' 8 Weight: er....86kg
I usually ride: GT Rave - singlespeed conversion My best bike is: Guess SC1 scandium
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed,