10 July 2008

bikefix Review Update: IRD Prestige Ultra-Lite stem

update: 11 July 2008

Noooo! My pretty stem! A week or so ago, I noticed some cracks in the chrome on my very pimp IRD Prestige Ultra-Lite stem near the steerer tube. Because there hadn't been any creaking or unexpected flexiness, I didn't do anything about it- disappointed but not heartbroken. Sadly, within a couple of rides (one very wet), the chrome that made this stem so cool began to peel off in sheets (see picture). I sent photos in an e-mail to IRD's warranty department almost two weeks ago, but haven't heard anything back. Nothing. This is such a bummer. On the off chance that the problem began at an underlying crack, I'm going to remove the 9 month old stem and ask the shop where I bought it to have it warrantied. It looks like polishing the aluminum rather than chrome plating it might have been a better choice. Either way, this is disappointing for a $75 stem (which has been otherwise great- see below)...

Sometimes you see something and it speaks to you. It could be shoes, a bike or a house, but there's no question that some things are just right. This is exactly how I felt when I first saw Interloc Racing Design's Prestige Ultra-Lite stem at a local bike shop. It was a sad, orphaned mis-ship that never went home. What caught my eye initially was its highly polished finish. On closer inspection, the Tange Prestige logo on the faceplate appealed to my old-school sensibilities. Tange was once one of the big names in bicycle frame tubing, and their Prestige tubing carried a fair amount of cachet. They're still kicking, as it turns out, making frames, wheels and components out of steel, aluminum and carbon fiber- often sold with others' logos. Another name from back in the day, IRD once made some darn interesting (and sometimes very clever) frames and components. Check out their F/S frame with a cable-actuated pull shock. Gotta love the early '90s. They've since been reborn and are doing quite a good job at designing and sourcing parts that meet a particular need, such as compact front dérailleurs and wide range (12-32) 10 speed cassettes.

But this is about a stem. When I traded our test Pace fork for a set of Formula Oro Bianco brakes, which were very shiny, I knew that it was time to rescue that IRD stem. Basically, it's a ~120g, 5 degree rise 3D-forged aluminum stem for 31.8 handlebars. I have a sneaking suspicion that it's a tarted up version of Tange's T5230, but it's the tarting up that makes it so special. There are four M4 bolts on the 31.8mm faceplate and another two opposed M4s holding the steerer tube. It retails for a reasonable (for the weight) $75.

Now, there's not much one can say about a stem- unless something goes horribly wrong. Thankfully, that hasn't happened. What I have noticed is that the Prestige Ultra-Lite is a moderately stiff stem. It's done a very good job at connecting a pair of wide Salsa bars to my 5x5in all-around mountain bike, and it's not noticeably flexy (unlike the similar weight Deda Mag00 we've got on test). Over the past 8 months, it hasn't made a peep or let the bars move one bit.

My only complaint stems from the very thing that makes me like the it so much. It turns out that one thing you really don't want reflected in your mirror-polished stem is the sun. I was caught of guard during my first couple of midday rides with the Prestige Ultra-Lite by blinding flashes from below. Luckily, they didn't come at critical moments, but I decided to move my computer from the bars to the stem just in case (that did help). Also, sadly, the logos don't stick so well to the finish and the Tange Prestige markings on the faceplate began to rub off almost immediately and look pretty bad. A minute with my thumbnail and they were gone altogether, which is a shame. Maybe some subdued (but permanent) laser etching next time?

I'm predicting, here and now, that polished parts are going to make a comeback. We have sexy shiny hubs from White Industries and WTB, beautiful brakes from Formula, pimp chromed stantions from Marzocchi- polish will be the new white. Then we'll work on bringing back 3D Violet...


store.interlocracing.com(where this stem is on sale)
www.firstflightbikes.com (Interloc back story)

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