Ritchey's WCS C220 is the lightest stem in its range, pipping even the top-end carbon models on the scales. It hasn't sacrificed stiffness either, so you can have a little bit of everything performance-wise.
- Pros: Lightweight, excellent quality and finish
- Cons: Erm... nothing really
Ritchey has based the C220 stem on its top-level C260 model but without the faff of having to navigate the handlebar through it. To explain, that number after the 'C' refers to how much of the bar (diameter) is wrapped by the stem itself, so 260 degrees in the case of the C260, which means there is only 100 degrees for the clamp to deal with. With the C260 this means that to get the centre of the handlebar to line up with the stem you have to kind of feed it through from the curve of the bar where the hoods of your shifters would sit – a bit of a faff.
This C220 stem locates around 220 degrees of the bar, which allows you to get the bar into the clamp without issue; it's just a little bit more snug than using a standard stem, which splits the clamping diameter 180/180°.
It makes the bar easier to fit as it is kind of held in position while you locate the faceplate and bolts.
Ritchey says that by wrapping the main stem body more than 180 degrees around the bar, the bolt forces are aligned with the clamp so that the stem body 'embraces' the handlebar. This makes it less prone to damaging lightweight bars.
The C220 comes in a range of options not only in length but also angle. This 84D model has a +/-6 degree rise depending on which way up you fit it, and is available from 60mm to 130mm lengths in 10mm increments.
You can also get a 73D (+/-17°) and a 25D which offers a whopping +/-25 degrees of rise or fall.
Weight and build
Weight is pretty impressive at just 136g on the road.cc scales for this 100mm option, which makes it one of the lightest we've tested, even if that is 15g more than Ritchey claims for the 110mm stem.
Both the stem and faceplate are forged from 2014 aluminium alloy and are compatible with 31.8mm diameter handlebars and 1 1/8in fork steerer tubes.
Performance-wise it's hard to gauge a stem's contribution in isolation, but I have ridden some that flex a bit when out of the saddle and the C220 certainly isn't one of those.
There is plenty of stiffness here, and swapping out a carbon fibre stem for this one I never noticed any difference to the ride quality, for better or worse.
Value and competition
When it comes to value, you can pick up a decent enough alloy stem for under 20 quid these days but what you are getting here for the C220's £85 price tag is the complete package.
It's part of Ritchey's WCS line-up, its top end World Championship Series, and it's quality throughout. The finish is impeccable, smart looking and hardwearing.
You've got that impressive weight, too, but Ritchey hasn't gone all-out to get it. I'm glad to see 4mm chromoly steel bolts being used throughout rather than going for something lighter like titanium. Yeah, you might save a couple of grams, but they can be a little fragile even when using a torque wrench.
As for competition, well, I've tested the PRO Vibe Di2 stem, which came in at 144g and £99.99, or if you want to go really light you could check out the Deda Supperleggero. Our 120mm version weighed in at 124g but it'll set you back £129.99.
On the whole, I think the WCS C220 does the job and looks the business, all at a decent price.
A top-end, lightweight stem with plenty of stiffness for a good price
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Ritchey WCS C220 84D stem
Size tested: 100mm
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Ritchey says, "You really can have it all - the WCS C220 stem rivals the performance of the revolutionary C260 stem design, but it's quicker and easier to install and remove thanks to a press-fit handlebar clamp interface and forward-facing hardware.
"The WCS C22 84D Stem offers 6-degrees of positive or negative rise. First proven on the Ritchey Trail Stem, the C220 handlebar clamp design creates a more secure interface by wrapping a full 220 degrees over the handlebar. Bolt forces are aligned with the clamp so that the stem body 'embraces' the handlebar, which is less prone to damaging lightweight bars. This clamp design allows for a lighter faceplate and stem body with no sacrifice in strength or stiffness.
"The stem body is forged 2014 aluminum for further weight reduction. Premium quality CrMo steel bolts are used throughout."
I think the WCS C220 stem is an ideal solution if you want the light weight and excellent stiffness but don't want carbon fibre.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Material: 3D forged 2014 alloy body
4 x 4mm coated CrMo steel forward-facing faceplate bolts
2 x 4mm coated CrMo steel offset steer tube clamp bolts
5Nm torque max on all hardware
Compatible with all 31.8 bars
Press-fit clamp design installs and removes like a standard stem
Angle: 84/6 degree
Steerer Height: 42mm
Faceplate Width: 42mm
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It clamped everything without movement and offered no flex when riding hard.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Excellent finish and quality for the money.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
I didn't really dislike anything.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Compared to the competition it stands up well as a whole package against many on the market. It's lighter than some more expensive options and offers plenty of stiffness to boot.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
Offers pretty much all of the performance of much more expensive stems and looks smart too, though you can still get near this weight for less money if you really want to.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.