This past summer I switched from my stock stem and handlebar to a nice combo from Ritchey – the WCS 4-axis Stem and the WCS OS Handlebar. My original setup was a heavy Bontrager stem and bar that came stock on my Trek 1500, so it was a welcome change.

(While each of these are about $90 at Performance Bicycle, I actually won these in a fantasy Tour de France league, so that made it even sweeter!)

ritchey 4 axis stem

Let’s start with the stem, the Ritchey WCS 4-Axis Stem. Overall I have enjoyed it and have not experienced any major problems. It has proved to be light, stiff, and durable, just what I need. It looks good, too, from the silver front plate to the Ritchey world champion stripes on the sides.

I’m also a big fan of the four-bolt front plate. Two-bolt front plates concentrate pressure over a smaller area and require more force per bolt to hold the bar securely, so they can be a hassle. The four-bolt plate offered here spreads the clamp force over a greater surface area and, therefore, does not stress the bar so much.

The rise (+/- 6 degrees) worked out well for me. It’s just enough to raise or lower your position slightly for the right fit.

Not to mention, the recommended torque specs are listed right on the stem, so you don’t forget.

ritchey 4 axis stem bar

I have one small complaint, and it’s because the bolts that clamp my steerer tube are a tad too long. One sticks out and hits the inside of my quad if I’m really cranking up a hill. (The first time you won’t really notice it cut into your skin, but once you have a cut right there, you’ll feel the stem brush it every time you sway the bike!)

It might have something to do with the angled steerer clamp that “reduces the risk of damage to lightweight aluminum and carbon steerer tubes.” It’s not a big problem though, and it could be fixed with a little shorter bolt, or, my solution – gluing a tiny piece of old bar tape right beside the bolt so my leg hits that instead of the metal. (But depending on your bike setup and riding style, you probably won’t even have this problem.)

Others like this stem, too. It was even featured in the 2006 Bicycling Buyer’s Guide:

“At 111 grams, this stem ranks among the very lightest, but the forged construction means it’s sturdy as well. The polished-aluminum face-plate, with narrowly spaced bolts, is designed to clinch carbon handlebars without damaging the composite fibers.”

Now for the handlebar. It is a Ritchey WCS OS Handlebar with a classic bend (like Levi Leipheimer and I prefer,) but it’s also available in an ergonomic bend.

ritchey 4 axis stem bar

This bar is made with triple butted TRX50 construction for “unbelievable strength and stiffness,” while the oversized 31.8″ diameter “provides more stiffness and virtually eliminates bar flex.” And that’s why I love ’em.

I would agree that the oversize diameter makes for more stiffness at a lighter weight, but man it still absorbed a heck of a lot of road shock! Going from the stock bar on my Trek 1500 to this was like switching to a carbon bar. (At least it felt like it to me.) It just soaks up tons of road vibration.

I actually had to get a carbon seatpost because the lack of road shock getting to my arms made me realize just how much was getting to my butt…

The only thing that ever worried me about these bars was how the ends would flex if I was pushing hard on the flat part of the drops. I never noticed it in the hooks though, so once I got used to it I wasn’t worried.

As for durability, I put these on my bike in June I think. After using them for 6 months, there have been no durability issues.

My final verdict is…

After having this chance to test them, I’d buy them if I needed a new stem and bars. They are especially good if you don’t like the idea of a carbon handlebar and prefer the durability of metal.

While I haven’t compared these one-on-one with a carbon bar, they certainly absorb more road shock and vibrations than a typical bar.

Buy online: Ritchey WCS 4-Axis Stem and Ritchey WCS OS Handlebar

Product Review Details
Company: Ritchey
Product: Ritchey WCS 4-axis Stem and Handlebar
Reviewed by: Coach Levi
My Rating: 3.0 out of 5
Date last updated: 2008-03-24
Obtained Product: Won in a third-party contest.
CoachLevi.com Advertiser: No.

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5 Comments
  1. hi levi! i’m planning to upgrade my stam and bar after reading this. what’s the difference between the 6 degrees and the 17 degrees rise on the stem? and the os and regular bar? thanks!

  2. one more thing, how do you measure the stem length? from what point to what point? it’s not it the website. thanks again!

  3. Stem rise: The higher the number, the higher or lower it allows you to place the bar. With a 17 degree rise, you could raise the bar up, or install the stem upside down and have the bar really low.

    A 4 or 6 degree rise means the stem will be practically parallel with the ground.

    Stem length: This is measured from the center of the fork’s steerer tube to the center of the handlebar.

    Bars: A regular bar is 26.8mm diameter at the clamp, an OS bar is 31.8mm at the clamp. Just make sure the stem and bar match.

    I’d go for OS because that’s the new standard.

  4. thanks levi! any news with the wcs carbon stem and handlebar?

  5. If I was buying a new bar, I’d go with a Ritchey WCS carbon bar. But I’m in no hurry to upgrade from this setup.

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