Ritchey's WCS Chicane stem is aimed purely at the road market, focusing on stiffness and a smooth finish, as we all know how important those marginal gains are, right? It does the job, looks cool and for the level of quality, I'd say it's fairly priced too.
- Pros: Clean looks, excellent stiffness levels
- Cons: You can't adjust your bar height by adding spacers above the stem
While not as aggressive looking as some of the stems you tend to see in the pro peloton, the Chicane is very close with its 10-degree angle giving you a slightly less upright position than most stems on the market.
You don't necessarily need to have the front end slammed like a pro, but you are going to have to cut your steerer tube to your upper limit because the magnetic cap design means there isn't any room for spacers on top. Most of us don't fettle with our position too much, so it shouldn't be an issue.
The main thing you'll notice is the lack of visible bolts on the Chicane. The stem is clamped onto the steerer by way of an expanding wedge which is tightened from the inside, working alongside the specially designed headset adjustment plate. Both fit together seamlessly and keep everything secure; once fitted I had no need to touch the setup.
The top cap has a strong magnet fitted to its base and you have no need to worry about it jettisoning off, even when riding on rough country lanes.
At the front the face plate is hinged and clamps around the handlebar, fastened in place with two rear-facing bolts. It's a bit more of a faff to fit compared with a front loader but, again, once you've set it up there should be no need to move things.
The whole thing is made from 2014 grade aluminium alloy, and Ritchey says that it is the second stiffest in its line-up, sitting just below the £250 Superlogic C260. It's stiffer than the Ritchey WCS C220 that it replaced on my bike apparently, but I can't say that I noticed.
The Chicane is about 65g heavier, too, but unless you are a weight weenie it doesn't really matter.
Stems are probably the one component that have the least bearing on a how a bike rides or feels, so there is little to say really about the overall performance of the Chicane other than it is stiff enough for even the most full-on of sprints, and it holds both the handlebar and steerer without issue.
Is it worth its £97 suggested retail price?
Well, comparing it to other similar stems on the market it's not bad value, plus I love the way it looks. The quality of the paint is top notch and pretty scuff-resistant so it'll stay looking good.
The Pro Vibe stem has similar wind-cheating properties to its face plate and that'll set you back a similar £99.99.
ITM's X-One uses similar thinking but in carbon for £129, but it requires the matching bar and you have to feed the bar through the stem like an old-school quill model.
Overall, I like the way the Ritchey WCS Chicane looks and works, and while you can get a decent alloy stem for around half the price, the Ritchey shows some clever design and thinking.
A great design and plenty stiff enough for the racers among you
If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website
road.cc test report
Make and model: Ritchey WCS Chicane Stem
Size tested: 110mm
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, "Tom Ritchey's on-going legacy of innovative bicycle stem design realizes its next step with the aerodynamic Chicane. This stealthy stem is optimized to reduce drag but retain stiffness and a lower weight thanks to the use of 2014 alloy. The unique Chicane achieves its low drag by using hidden bolts that secure the low-profile hinged faceplate from behind, a low-profile magnetic top cap and an internal steerer wedge clamp. The combination of the unique top cap and the lack of external steerer clamp bolts, provide the Chicane with clean lines for an elegant and integrated look to the front end of any bike."
Most fast road riders would happily sacrifice a slight gain in weight for extra stiffness and aero gains.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
* Material: 2014 alloy.
* Cr-Mo Steel faceplate bolts.
* Lengths: 90-130mm.
* Angle: 80°.
* Bar Clamp: 31.8mm.
* Steerer: 1-1/8".
* Steerer Height: 45.5mm.
* Faceplate Width: 45mm.
* Colour: BB Black.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Loads of stiffness and connects the handlebar to the fork without issue.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Easy to fit and looks the business.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
You have to be confident about your position if you need to trim the steerer tube.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
For this kind of aero design it is in the right ball park.
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
It's not the lightest or the cheapest but it does exactly the job it is designed to while looking cool.
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.