20 May 2008

bikefix Exclusive Review: Origin8 Propulsion 3D Lite stem

Last winter, when I bought a Syncros Vector Carbon handlebar for my 29er, I needed to find a new, oversized (31.8mm clamp) stem to tie it to the bike with. The Syncros is a wide bar, and it was going on a mountain bike, so I needed something stiff, but the single speed being my race bike, I also wanted to keep the weight down. Having survived the 1990s with only a broken handlebar (I couldn't afford all that cool superlight stuff that ended up breaking), I am a bit wary of lightweight compnents- especially in the cockpit, where their failure can be pretty painful.

When they came out in 2006 or 2007, Ibis' mountain and road bikes came with a very nice looking (and surprisingly light) Ibis-badged stem. My Mojo came with a 110, which was unfortunately too long and was swapped with another 100mm stem before I left the shop, but I was impressed that Ibis had snuck a very nice, light component in where most companies would save a few bucks and mount a bit of an anchor. Roll things forward a few months and I'm back- looking for a stem to go with my new handlebar. They guys at the shop have found the Ibis stem under another name, and it's $40. Origin8 seems to be one of distributor J&B Importers' house brands (along with Cayne, who's Uno fixie we reviewed last fall). They have a range of far-Eastern components, frames and accessories that are reasonably priced and range from pretty a chintzy Maverick Speedball knockoff to full carbon frames and bars. I am skeptical of components that seem too light for their price (light, strong or cheap- pick any two), but side-by-side, the Origin8 Propulsion and Ibis stems were clearly the same, down to the torque markings. As every engineer and specifier knows, gram-for-gram, forging aluminum is one of the strongest ways to make a part. Unlike CNC (or conventional) machining, the process aligns the metal's grain with the desired shape. Skillful design and analysis can yield some of the strongest parts available at a given weight, and with volume the price can be quite reasonable (which is why Dura Ace and XTR cranks are still aluminum). The Origin8 Propulsion stem is "3D Forged" and shot-peened, which serves to harden the surface of the metal and prevent small cracks from starting (and thus from becoming big cracks).

Two $20s later and the deal was done. I have hundreds of miles on the Ibis-branded stem and have to say that I'm impressed. Noticeably stiffer than the $225 Deda Mag00 on my road bike and, at 120g, the Origin8 is just as light. The dual handlebar clamps skirt many bar companies' 4-bolt stem prohibitions and hold the Syncros well, without friction paste. The torque specifications on the hardware shows that some thought went into things (or at least that plausible values were pulled out of someone's ass), and I haven't heard of any breakages on the Ibises which are all over Albuquerque now (being hammered much harder than my single speed). If you're looking for a new 31.8mm for a road or XC mountain bike, I'd have to say that you really can't go wrong with the Propulsion.



1 comment:

Bryan G said...

Rebranding is awesome. Seriously.