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Tour Tech 2016: Pros stems - the long and the short of it

Some of the stems of the professional peloton, including Chris Froome and Peter Sagan

Stems. I know what you're thinking, not exactly the most exciting component on a race bike to fill an article with. But stick with me.

The stem is a small but essential part of the bike and goes a long way to defining the fit of the bike. Obviously, the stem allows a rider to customise the fit, with the height and the reach to the handlebars both tuneable with a change of stem length and/or rise. 

We took a closer look at the stems of some of the notable riders in the Tour de France. It appears there is quite a large range of approaches in the peloton.  You might think the pros slap on the longest stem they can their hands on, to get as slammed as possible, and in a few cases that is true, but with professional bike fits more common, there are some considerably more sensible set ups. 

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Here's the stem Chris Froome spends so much time staring at. Can't figure out why, it's not the best looking stem in the world. It's an aluminium PRO Vibe stem with a Team Sky blue stripe and as the sticker shows, it's 121mm long.

Nibali Specialized TdF 8.JPG

While Froome goes aluminium, Vincenzo Nibali goes with an FSA OS-99 carbon fibre stem (well, carbon wrapped over an aluminium shell) and it's got a signature paint job, a nod to his "shark" nickname.

Mark Cavendish Cervelo S5 TdF 13.JPG

Mark Cavendish uses an Enve carbon fibre stem in 120mm length. Enve only makes carbon fibre handlebars, but evidently Cav prefers aluminium so uses a PRO alloy handlebar with the logos taped over.

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Sep Vanmarke is another FSA OS 99 user, but it's a bit longer at 130m and in plain black and white standard colours. Quite a few spacers between the stem and frame, however.

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Sometimes the team equipment sponsor doesn't provide a stem that a rider is happy with, so they go off in search of a suitable stem from another source. This Giant-Alpecin rider has ditched his PRO stem and fitted this machined aluminium stem that provides the drop and reach he wants. 

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Romain Bardet's AG2R team is supplied by SRAM and uses its Zipp brand for the stems, as well as handlebars, seatpost and wheels. This is the company's Service Course SL stem and it looks to be a short, comparatively, 110mm length. It weighs a claimed 125g so pretty light.

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This is a Giant Contact SLR stem, made form carbon fibre and which Giant doesn't seem to produce any more, at least it's not listed on the company's website. It's oddly deprived of any identifying stickers as well.

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Canyon launched its own range of stems and handlebars a couple of years ago (it used to use Ritchey parts) and this Katusha rider is using the aluminium setup. 

Alexander Kristoff Canyon Aeroad6.JPG

Canyon also launched this carbon fibre one-piece handlebar and stem two years ago, and it's seen here on Alexander Kristoff's Aeroad, the bike it was designed for with the goal of reducing the frontal surface area.

IAM Scott Foil TdF 11.JPG

Like Canyon, Scott also developed a one-piece carbon handlebar and stem when it revamped its Foil aero bike last year. Smoothing airflow around the stem is a wedge-shaped section which together with the aero shaped steerer spacers, creates a very seamless section above the frame. Cables from the brake levers/gear shifters are routed inside the handlebar, and the Di2 junction box on this bike is smoothed away underneath the stem. The cables pop out from the bottom of the stem and disappear into the frame via a new multi-port on the down tube. 

Fabian Cancellara Trek Madone 2016 20.JPG

Look at this size of the stem! Bontrager also makes a carbon integrated handlebar, and the normal version has a flat aero top section. This isn't the normal version, Bontrager modified it for Fabian Cancellara with a regular rounded aero top section. The stem is massive, one of the fattest in the peloton.

geraint thomas team sky tdf 11.JPG

Geraint Thomas gets an identical stem to team leader Chris Froome. The Welshman opts for a few more spacers to raise the handlebar height. It's common with Di2 bikes to have the junction box (which allows gear adjustment and battery charging) to be strapped to the stem. It's pushed forward to keep the sponsors happy. 

Peter Sagan Specialized Venge TdF 18.JPG

Peter Sagan is riding Specialized's Venge, which he rode briefly at the Tour de France in 2015. Key to the bike is a new aero handlebar and stem that routes the cables internally, all the way from the hoods right into the frame. It's a 140mm length stem. The SRM mount is fixed to the stem faceplate.

Alberto Contador spare bike 8.JPG

Alberto Contador isn't in the race any longer, but here's the custom painted stem he was using on his Specialized Tarmac. It's the FSA OS 99, the most common FSA stem in the peloton, but custom painted for Bertie, and it's 130mm long. 

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

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