Industry Nine 318 NSMB AndrewM (4).JPG
EDITORIAL

Living With A Lust For Luxury

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Jul 20, 2020
Reading time

"Hey Drew-Bob, how many Deore drivetrains can you buy for the price of that stem?"

Nice Things Honestly!

It's not like I haven't been riding 'nice' stems for years now. Straitline Pinch, North Shore Billet Overlord, Hope Freeride, Renthal Apex, Thomson Elite, and Chromag Ranger just to name a few. I've never heard a peep from my fellow travelers. Whether it's the mix of anodized colours, or the distinctive stainless hardware, or just my bold claims about Deore M6100, this Industry Nine A318 is apparently worthy of a trailside callout. And hey, when it's just friends busting chops that's one thing but when it's coming from a stranger? Yeah.

Now, I'm not claiming that any of those stems are going to outperform a fifty-bucker from Race Face or Truvativ. Especially once you throw $10 of nice hardware into either option. There is nothing min-maxed about any Gucci small-batch, made-in-house stems.

At the same time, the OneUp bar stem combo on the front of buddy's Santa Cruz isn't exactly a budget component combo. It's strange the way it's perfectly normal to show up to the trailhead in a loaded Toyota Tacoma or Ford F150 mall-crawler but a similarly priced Corvette Stingray with a roof rack would draw eyeballs. It's North Vancouver after all, where I've seen a twenty-rider-group where there wasn't a bike under 10K. I'm hardly driving a Buggati in a sea of Corollas.

Walt 3.JPG

My Walt V2 when it was fresh. The tandem down tube bottles future proof the seat tube for dropper posts with greater insertion.

King Cage NSMB AndrewM (2).JPG

This King Ti bottle cage is over twenty years old. I also have a couple that are closer to a decade old. They're 60 USD a hit now.

King Cage NSMB AndrewM.JPG

The Wolf Tooth & King Ti collaboration Morse Cage is 70 USD, the multiple positions allow me to set it up so my bottle helps keep my frame bar in place.

Going over my bike after my ride I started thinking about the value of individual components. Like my purple Chris King 44mm headset. It's been in a pile of frames to the extent that I'm embarrassed to let people see it out of a frame because it's been so mushed from my headset remover. Expensive? Yes. Value? I think so.

My Ti King cages that have never bent, broken, or dropped a bottle. Maybe not exponentially better than everything else on the market as they once were, but you can spend a hell of a lot more on a carbon cage that will dump your bottle at the first sign of jank and these are multi-generation heirloom level parts. Expensive? Yes, it's a bottle cage. Value? Again, I'm saying amortize your life.

Wolf Tooth stainless steel narrow-wide chainrings. If you pedal a lot and have high expectations for chain retention they'll pay for themselves in a year. I don't even think they qualify as expensive for a rider whos putting on the hard miles. Still, when Race Face has a steel narrow-wide ring starting at 20 USD, a Wolf Tooth ring at 100 USD is certainly an investment.

I'm such a believer in the value, and user experience, underlying Chromag's quick releases that I've written an article about my first one. I'm still fully on the quick release program, even in the days of dropper posts. The Chromag units cost 5x a serviceably-basic quick release and 10x an okay bolt-on seat clamp. I still believe, year-in and year-out they're so much better than anything else out there that the price is easily justified by the performance and longevity.

Chromag QR NSMB AndrewM (3).JPG

I still use a quick release on all my bikes. I like to be able to toollessly micro-adjust my seat height on the trail and I also often switch between flats and clip-in pedals.

Chromag QR NSMB AndrewM (4).JPG

I've come across so many cheap quick releases that have sh*t their plastic or beer-can bushings on the trail. More than my fair share of roached high-priced ones too. I truly believe Chromag owns this product category.

So that's that, all my high-priced low-production top-shelf sh*t is fully justified as min-maxed over time. Beautiful. Well, okay, yes, there are quite a few titanium bolts that I can't explain away. You have to admit, they look sexy though. And while my saddle has titanium rails, I don't care about weight. I just want WTB's best 'DNA' padding. My nipples are fancy, but the big takeaway is they're made of brass instead of aluminum.


You're only allowed stems that are leftover house brands and Zoom

Nice Things Hypocritally?

Front hubs are always what gets me. I can justify a high-end rear hub all day, but does a sweet anodized pink or purple colour add any performance benefit of basic black? And if my hubs were black, or silver, I could mix-match them with any basic front hub for a significant cost savings sans performance loss. Press some high-quality bearings into that cheap(er) front hub for a solid min-maxing victory.

Industry Nine Hydra NSMB AndrewM (2).JPG

Sweet stems and precision front hubs are the Achilles' Heel of my otherwise, I think, solid min-maxing rep.

Chris King Ring Drive Hub NSMB AndrewM  (8).JPG

Sometimes there's just no justification for wanting to get something nice for your mountain bicycle.

It kills me a bit to admit it, but when I'm riding a truly min-maxtastic Suntour Durolux and my buddy says"hey Drew-Bob, how many Deore drivetrains can you buy for the price of that stem?" I'm immediately thinking of justification beyond "it's pretty."

My new A318 is pretty nifty in that it has an effective 8° rise but you'd be correct in noting I have room on both my bikes, to bump my stem up using headset spacers I already own. Speaking of which, no, I have no idea how many grams I saved with these Wolf Tooth headset spacers. I think they look cool so I ordered some last time I needed a couple of single-speed cogs.

I once purchased a bucket of Ti bolts and no I can't justify them based on weight savings or the anti-corrosion factor. Even if the big M8 oil-slick Ti hardware holding my dropouts in place does drop a few grams.

Industry Nine 318 NSMB AndrewM (4).JPG

The Industry Nine stem I'm being called out for does have a unique 8° rise but honestly, I just think it's a really nice piece.

Industry Nine 318 NSMB AndrewM (3).JPG

Stainless steel hardware and the maximum amount of machining while keeping it trail worthy. This is a 30mm length.

Industry Nine 318 NSMB AndrewM (2).JPG

It's an additional pricing premium to mis-match colours. But what the hell right? In for a penny, in for a pound.

As I preach to my friend Alex that just because I love min-maxing, it shouldn't preclude me from the same weakness for nice things as anyone else, he doesn't miss a beat with "you're only allowed stems that are leftover house brands and Zoom," which is a brand I forgot even exists. And no, I can't justify a pair of Cane Creek eeWings titanium cranks over some Race Face Aeffect R arms but I'd love to! Performance benefit? Umm, well, yeah, they're titanium.

After a couple of beers on the balcony, I have ranked the parts on my bicycle by order of upgrade off of a nominal M6100 build and strangely, I'm getting a nice stem & front hub before I upgrade the derailleur, cassette, chain, crankset, and I could go on. It's like the figurehead of a ship. Its value is more intrinsic than having anything to do with sailing performance but it's a detail that mattered massively.

So much for min-maxing based on performance. I'll take a great looking stem over an improvement in shifting any day.

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Comments

ackshunW
+2 Andrew Major Pete Roggeman
ackshunW  - July 20, 2020, 7:05 a.m.

Hahaha! So true. I’ve been obsessed with esoteric well made stems since..I first heard about the Raceface SyStem stem. CNC, with a wraparound dovetail steerer clamp that was “knee friendly.” (Side note, when I got my first one in ‘98/‘99, the 90mm length I ordered was in the DH range..)

I love smooth rear clamp designs, Straitline vertical wedge, DMR, NS bikes... love the ingenuity that designers have put into it. And something about that smooth rear clamp is one thing that helps me feel my ride is dialed. Just installed a USE Vyce, which is a very overly fussy one bolt (total) design. But with no bolt bosses to catch cables or anything—- it’s right up my alley. 

Eric

Reply

craw
+2 Andrew Major Pete Roggeman
Cr4w  - July 20, 2020, 7:14 a.m.

Remember the Kooka Cube stem?

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - July 20, 2020, 8:54 a.m.

The later Canadian Kooka stuff was all really nice.

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4Runner1
0
4Runner1  - July 20, 2020, 12:49 p.m.

I still can’t believe I ever sold my kooka stem.

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AndrewMajor
+2 Andy Eunson Endur-Bro
Andrew Major  - July 20, 2020, 9 a.m.

So folks really struggled with them, but I always loved the 25.4 Thomson Elite stems with the pinch-cam steerer clamp. Such a clean look. 

One more reason I'd like to see double crown forks for 160mm+ applications. In addition to ending issues with creaking CSUs, direct mount stems mounted to top-crowns is such a clean look. Maybe Hope could bring back their one-piece Stem/Crown integrated systems for the ultimate clean package.

Reply

andrewbikeguide
+3 Andrew Major Andy Eunson Pete Roggeman
AndrewR  - July 20, 2020, 8:54 a.m.

9point8 make the Stout stem with graphics that incorporate the pre-load cap. It is also a well made and aesthetically pleasing stem with either excellent quality steel bolts or there own Ti (black coated) bolt kit.

The We Are One Da Package (bar and stem) is aesthetically pleasing and Canadian made.

There are lots of little touches that make a practical as well as an aesthetic difference. Coloured valves, for example, are not just so they match the theme of the bike (although this is obviously important) but they catch the eye more easily, compared to a black valve, and save time when looking for the valve for tyre pressure checks and  adjustments. 

The same reason that aligning tyre hot patches to the valve is worth the extra 20 seconds at the fit stage to saves minutes over the life of the tyre.

Reference wheels, after having to run my purple Hydra/ We Are One wheel set on my Sight (due to a pawl issue with my blue hydra/ We Are One wheel set) I have decided that the future shall be all about purple hubs. It was the ano colour of my first year of racing (1993) and I have decided that it goes well with every colour that I am likely to have on my bike (British Racing green, black, raw titanium or purple frames; blue, gold, black or purple ano parts).

I think it is also important to support the smaller Canadian and North American companies that create these parts. I feel that it is my duty as a Canadian mountain biker to buy ano build parts from North Shore Billet and other creators.

And whilst I agree that there is a place for $20 steel chainrings (SRAM make a direct mount which is 1/6th the price of the alloy one and will probably last 4-5 times as long) there is some artistry in the CNC loveliness of the Wolftooth stainless chain ring that brings a smile to my face when I see it on my Optic (on the CAMO spider - black, mounted with Gold bolts (Wolftooth do not do them in purple for some strange reason, on my beautiful lifetime eeWings cranks) already to pull that lovely rainbow coated chain for another awesome ride*.

We have bikes that are a central element of our lives and it is okay that we treat them like the critical equipment that they are.

*every ride is awesome, even on the valley trail to do the recycling or collect the post.

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AndrewMajor
+1 Pete Roggeman
Andrew Major  - July 20, 2020, 9:38 a.m.

The stainless CAMO rings are a bizarrely amazing product in that they look great, perform great, and last, so long there's solid value per dollar as well. 

Recent story: I managed to crack a CAMO spider last week (completely cased my single speed onto the chainring - totally my fault). I heard something crack but just kept riding and my bike was creaking a bit but otherwise was fine so I rode another ~1hr or so including up a big climb. When I arrived home I had fully separated two of the five arms from the spider but my stainless ring was still perfectly solid and true having held the system together. The spiders are relatively cheap and the ring is still PERFECT. 

I have no doubt on a 4/104 crank I would have broken the crank spider and that on an alloy chainring I would have either broken it at the moment or when I kept riding on it, so once again I'm newly impressed with the CAMO + Stainless system.

Also, slightly regretting not putting ISCG tabs on my frame!

And yeah, I even love riding home from work on my bike and that comes down to the little things.

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Vikb
0
Vik Banerjee  - July 21, 2020, 5:35 a.m.

If that's a typo [now = not] and you want ISCG tabs for a taco bash. You can use this MRP adapter:

https://mrpbike.com/products/iscg-05-adapter

I goofed and didn't put ISCG tabs on my HT and my GF's HT didn't come with them so we use this adapter on both our bikes. I take a rock hit at least once per trail ride and it's held up fine.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - July 21, 2020, 7:13 a.m.

Typo yes, fixed! Thanks.

I have a couple of those BSA ISCG plates somewhere. If I break another spider I’ll consider it for sure... hence the slight regret. I have a lot of miles and this is the first incident and I kept riding so not there yet.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - July 20, 2020, 9:42 a.m.

Purple or Pink for hubs for sure. Even if they don't match anything else on the rest of the bike it doesn't matter.

Reply

andy-eunson
+2 Andrew Major Pete Roggeman
Andy Eunson  - July 20, 2020, 9:09 a.m.

I was riding hard in the early 90’s when the purple CNC machined rage was in full swing. A lot of that crap was just that, crap. Being a light rider at under 140 back then claims of stiffer this and that fell on deaf ears. I had a friend that worked at Norco then. He still does. He told us they sold Axiom stems for way more then normal because even though they paid around $5 to haVe them made and shipped, if they sold them wholesale for $7 and they were keystones for $14.99 no one would buy them. Too cheap. So they wholesaled for $25 and sold for $50 at the stores. Instantly a better stem. I think about that. To me there needs to be a tangible performance benefit. And I have been suckered in way more than once. Carbon brake rotors? Got some. Went through probably half a ton of rubber tires with bizarre looking tread patterns that still gripped like hockey pucks. Suntour XC PRO. Isn’t that pretty? Indexed well at one end of the cassette but not the other. Pick where you need to shift before the race. Although I did win a race once because I wasn’t able to shift to my 22. Forced me to attack in the middle ring. 

Colour matching is fun. Nothing wrong with that. But to do so at a high cost with no performance gain or lesser performance is dumb. Sometimes with stems it’s the cheaper heavier stem that performs better. I’ve had stems so skeletal that they don’t hold the headset in adjustment. Always come loose. Solved by using a cheaper stem with more surface area for grip. I’ve seen some fancy stems with sharp machined edges where they contact steer tubes and bars too. Bad idea. More so for carbon parts.

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AndrewMajor
+2 Andy Eunson Pete Roggeman
Andrew Major  - July 20, 2020, 9:30 a.m.

I don't miss the bad old days of cosmetics for cosmetic's sake, but in my own defense, this I-9 stem isn't just a looker. All rounded edges, the opposing bolts snug up beautifully (the stainless hardware is really nice) the bar interface and steerer interface as perfect and it's really stiff/solid for the weight. 

Again, not claiming it's in any way ride changing over something you can buy for $50, but I think there's a lot to talk about there in terms of justifying why it costs what it costs. I mean, compared to carbon brake rotors it's the bargain of the century in terms of performance/$!!! HAHAHA. 

Anyways, the whole point is sometimes you just want to buy something really nice - and it is really nice.

Reply

cooperquinn
+3 Andrew Major Andy Eunson Pete Roggeman
Cooper Quinn  - July 20, 2020, 9:32 a.m.

I'll take my fancy hubs & stem in whatever color you've got, as long as its black.

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AndrewMajor
+2 Pete Roggeman Greg Bly
Andrew Major  - July 20, 2020, 9:41 a.m.

Black for basic sh*t sure. High-end hubs need to be Purple, Pink, or maybe Gold unless if you are riding DT Swiss. 

Stems I usually go black or silver but lately Gold has been my thing for whatever reason... I guess I'm just fancy.

Reply

Endur-Bro
+2 Andrew Major Pete Roggeman
Endur-Bro  - July 20, 2020, 10:37 a.m.

I some what regret ordering my Onyx CL hubs in black instead of purple. 

Oh well. Next bike or wheel set ¯\(ツ)

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Endur-Bro
+1 Pete Roggeman
Endur-Bro  - July 20, 2020, 10:42 a.m.

Also should’ve went with purple Hope hubs on my carbon-yellow V10C instead of the blue ones. 

Onyx limited rust hubs looked 👌🏽 Really want them to bring them back.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - July 20, 2020, 10:48 a.m.

The Vesper hubs look awesome and I love the use of DT Swiss drivers. Smartly innovative. I mean, I would definitely be on the 6-bolt version but I'm intrigued by them all the same.

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kekoa
+1 Andrew Major
kekoa  - July 20, 2020, 7:05 p.m.

Yes! Goes with everything.

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fartymarty
0
fartymarty  - July 21, 2020, 12:30 a.m.

@Cooper - Understated cool, I'm with you on that one.

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earleb
+1 Andrew Major
earle.b  - July 20, 2020, 10:39 a.m.

Fancy stems are nice and I have several (NS Billet, Chromag, and TCI) but my next will be back to a simple inexpensive forged lightweight weight weenie one so I can min-max the dollars into higher value area. 

I want another P321 rear hub and the dollars gotta come from somewhere.

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krisrayner
+2 Endur-Bro Pete Roggeman
Kris Rayner  - July 20, 2020, 11:23 a.m.

I can’t justify MOST bling front hubs. That much money for something with cartridge bearings, no. But a King hub, in Pink, with fully serviceable and adjustable bearings...Yes please. ‘cause how can I show up at the trail head with pink rear King hub without the matchy matchy.

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dorkweed
+1 Andrew Major
dorkweed  - July 20, 2020, 12:30 p.m.

Bought an old Roox one off an Mtb legend back in the day. It looked pretty sweet.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - July 20, 2020, 7:31 p.m.

RooX made some funky stuff. A couple of my buddies had their handlebars... at least one had their ergo shaped DH bars (only work with Push-On grips) which actually were pretty cool.

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Endur-Bro
+1 Andrew Major
Endur-Bro  - July 21, 2020, 12:43 a.m.

I had that Roox FPS Freeride bar on a RM Element Race back in my early teenage years.

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velocipedestrian
+2 Andrew Major Pete Roggeman
Velocipedestrian  - July 20, 2020, 3:12 p.m.

Guilty of buying a Hope front hub along with the rear, I just really wanted to turn up the ano dial on those wheels. Orange rear, purple front, silver spokes to Spank Spike ano red rims... Ahh.

Also, I now see why you pounced so quickly on my comment asking if the A318 was a Straitline the other day. Pre - stressed things snap more easily. Including people.

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AndrewMajor
+1 Pete Roggeman
Andrew Major  - July 20, 2020, 5:15 p.m.

Hahahaha. No, I was definitely triggered by the idea I wouldn't properly clamp a Straightline stem! It's the little details that make me smile.

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Shoreloamer
+4 Andrew Major Endur-Bro Pete Roggeman Velocipedestrian
Greg Bly  - July 20, 2020, 3:59 p.m.

I love my anodized bright orange Straightline stem. Bikes are bloody expensive. Attractive functional jewelery is imperative for my self fufilling joy.  My Saint cranks have gold bits and look very sexy. They will out last me. 

Too bad we keep changing ( standards????)  I am so glad we have used market. I stock pile the good stuff that's is apparently out dated.  

CK , I9 and Straightline have impressed me with thiere functional jewelery for decades. Carbon fiber does nothing for me but those subtle CNC machine paths get me excited! 

Keeping it fresh with unique journalism thank you Andrew.

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AndrewMajor
+2 Greg Bly Pete Roggeman
Andrew Major  - July 20, 2020, 5:20 p.m.

Cheers Greg!

Stick a Wolf Tooth Stainless Steel 4/104 chainring on that Saint crankset and you may never need to worry about changing chainring standards again HAHAHAHA. 

"Bikes are bloody expensive. Attractive functional jewelery is imperative for my self fufilling joy."

Wonderful summation.

Reply

Heinous
+2 Andrew Major Pete Roggeman
Heinous  - July 20, 2020, 5:40 p.m.

I just want to say that those pink ano washers under your bidon bolts are perhaps the most understatedly cool bit of pimpage I've ever seen. Especially because they'll be under a bottle most of their life. Nice one.

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AndrewMajor
+1 Pete Roggeman
Andrew Major  - July 20, 2020, 7:36 p.m.

Never ride without water bottles in the cages, but I know that they're there and those little details make me happy. Like, way happier than riding an XTR v. Deore drivetrain. Crazy I know.

They're actually anodized purple which matches up against my King purple headset (in the same light) and also matches the washers on my swinger bolts (which are purple Ti).

It can be tricky to manage that lust for luxury but I really like the little details. 

Reply

RAHrider
+2 Andrew Major Pete Roggeman
Reed Holden  - July 20, 2020, 8:24 p.m.

Great article. Couldn't agree more with your approach to bike zen.

I rode a kore B52 for years on my rigid bike. I loved the brutalistic elegance of the thing. 

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Jotegir
+1 Andrew Major
Lu Kz  - July 20, 2020, 9:39 p.m.

So I have a question that's totally unrelated to this article. Have you ever bounced ideas around on your blog for a post or two and then rehashed them in to an article for NSMB? Asking for a friend.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - July 20, 2020, 10:24 p.m.

I can't think of an instance to date. I mean, I'm sure there's some overlap because I write in both places as myself but usually, my blog stuff is super-local, more personal (parenting stuff), more single speed, taking the piss out of my friends, or simply styles I want to try (like poems, stories, or song lyrics) that don't fit with NSMB's more global appeal.

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Vikb
+1 Andrew Major
Vik Banerjee  - July 21, 2020, 5:38 a.m.

Lately on my quest for short ~30-35mm stems with 31.8mm clamp I've ended up buying stems from Chromag and A9 that are more $$$ than I'd typically spend. Not bling for bling's sake, but I didn't have any lower cost options fall to hand easily at the short end of the length range.

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ham-bobet
0
hambobet  - July 21, 2020, 6:37 a.m.

Time will tell, but literally just got a 35mm 31.8 stem for £8 on amazon - so there are definitely low cost options out there. Wish me luck!

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - July 21, 2020, 7:35 a.m.

ProTaper makes a nice 31mm that’s a little bit less coin but still a top quality piece. Have one on my cargo bike.

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Vikb
0
Vik Banerjee  - July 25, 2020, 5:41 a.m.

I had a look at that, but the Chromag stems are cheaper than the Protaper stems where I am shopping and look nicer.

https://chromagbikes.com/collections/stems/products/stems-hifi-v2

$115CAD being cheap is relative of course. I'd love a basic short 30mm stem for $50CAD. OTOH the Chromag product looks nice and barring something unfortunate happening I'll keep it a good long while. At least until 0mm integrated stem/bar units become a thing next year. ;-)

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minotaur
0
minotaur  - July 22, 2020, 2:50 p.m.

You NEED some purple anodized levers for those brakes

https://www.instagram.com/p/CCwGhInFJrj/

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