We are carbon experts, but that doesn’t mean we don’t know our way around aluminum as well. The success of our carbon parts relies on our ability to precisely machine the aluminum and steel molds in which our carbon rims and components are made. In fact, we’ve been machining aluminum and steel long before we ever pulled a carbon part from a mold.
Accuracy, precision, and durability are key components to making an aluminum mold for carbon parts, and they just so happen to be the same components required for making a premium-grade aluminum mountain bike stem.
As with any project, we start out with specific targets to address the needs and opportunities in the mountain bike aftermarket.
These were the objectives for the Alloy Mountain Stem Project:
- Deliver the highest strength-to-weight possible
- Maintain a ride quality that compliments our M Series Carbon Handlebars
- Improve the negative experiences we’ve had with existing alloy stems, such as durability, bar slip, ride quality, and sharp edges that snag clothing and damage carbon bars
In designing the Alloy Mountain Stem, we relied heavily on our experience working with and machining aluminum. Our material of choice for this project was a 6000 series aluminum whose characteristics are best suited for the use case and geometry of the stem.
Mountain biking is a rigorous activity, therefore, these stems needed to meet the extreme testing requirements required of the most aggressive gravity rated components. 6000 series aluminum, provides a higher level of fatigue resistance when compared to other alloy compositions. Similarly, 6000 series aluminum adapts best to cold-forging, delivers better cosmetic qualities, more dimensional consistency, and improved strength and stiffness. To reduce weight as much as possible, the alloy mountain stems are extensively machined after the forging process.
With our experience machining aluminum molds for carbon parts – we knew exactly where to lose weight without sacrificing reliability and ultimate strength. The result is a top-shelf, light-weight aluminum stem that is as elegant as it is functional, strong and confident, yet lightweight and complementary to our carbon handlebars.
THE RIDE EXPERIENCE
Stems are a component that should disappear into the bike, performing their role of unwaveringly keeping your handlebar and front end connected while precisely transmitting your inputs through the bike as you pilot it where you want to go. In our experience, we found that many stems didn’t perform up to our expectations both in the lab and on the trail. As we nit-picked nearly everything we disliked about the current offerings in the alloy stem market we dove into everything from edge finish, bar slippage, installation, flex, creaking, clamp width, and bolt choice.
Fortunately, fussing over the little details has resulted in elegant and simple solutions.
Beveled edges on the clamping areas make for a stem that’s less likely to gouge, score, or damage your carbon handlebars. A “No-Gap” installation procedure ensures more even clamping, secure handlebar retention, and greater protection to carbon handlebars.
Stainless steel bolts were picked for their reliability, strength, and resistance to corrosion.
All mountain bikers know the pain of accidentally smashing a knee into the stem, shifter, or other front end component while also tearing your favorite shorts. Although more challenging to manufacture, blind bolt holes help prevent unnecessary injury and damage to both your body and gear.
Cold-forged and precision machined for maximum strength and weight savings. Cold-forging is a process of smashing a block of raw aluminum billet into a shape. This process increases strength and reliability of the part by aligning the grain structure of the alloy. Following this process, the forging is then machined to its final shape.
The Alloy Mountain Stem followed the same trajectory as all ENVE products do. Through our ride experiences and yours, we were inspired to create a better aluminum stem. The alloy stems lower the barrier to entry for achieving a full ENVE’d out cockpit when compared to our halo M Series M6 & M7 Carbon Stems without sacrificing the precision handling, and reliability expected from a complete ENVE bar/stem combo.
It’s been said that opposites attract, in the case of the ENVE Alloy Mountain Stems and Carbon Handlebars, the adage is fitting.