Fresh from the milling machines down at Hope we recently had these two beautifully machined direct mount stem options drop through the letterbox here at Pinkbike towers. Having been able to try them out and put them to the test we thought it time to tell you what we think. Read on for more details:
Since the industry wide adoption of the Boxxer pattern direct stem mounting, the number of compatible stems available on the market has skyrocketed with seemingly every company getting in on the act. There are always going to be arguments as to whether direct mount stems are a good thing or not : the forces that would normally rotate a traditional stem around the steerer in a crash have to be distributed somewhere and the obvious answer is that they are transmitted through the bike, potentially damaging other components. However, direct mount stems are both lighter and neater than their steerer mounted counterparts and, as an additional benefit, they aren’t going to allow your bars to run squint. Also, if you’re a racer, you can get straight back up after a crash and not worry about straightening out your bars.
Now, no stranger to making neat and tidy stems, Hope have plenty of experience and knowledge with which to furnish their new direct mount offerings. Gone is the tongue and groove system first seen on the prototypes as it was felt the bolted faceplate represented a better option for a production component. In its place is a traditional four bolt setup, resplendent with a full custom made titanium hardware kit to keep the weight as low as possible. Tipping the scales at a reasonable 168g (including mounting hardware) it may not be the very lightest direct mount stem on the market but it still beats a lot of the alternatives and has the added advantage of being a true zero rise where the bar sits on exactly the same plane as the top of the crown. All the bolts on the face plate of our stem even came with Ti-Prep installed to prevent them welding themselves to the aluminium which is a neat touch - although you will need to remember to do the same to the separately bagged crown mounting bolts.
To mount the bar you first clamp the top of the front plate hard against the stem body and then use the lower two bolts to actually tighten down against the bar. This is similar in idea to the previous tongue and groove system as it helps ensure even clamping pressure on the bars, which is especially important when you’re running carbon or thin walled bars. This is a two piece assembly too which should, in theory, prove stiffer than the three and four piece offerings. Whether this is actually actually noticeable on the bike is another point entirely. Certainly on last generation Boxxers it won’t be due to their inherent flex although maybe slightly more noticeable on the newer Boxxers and Fox 40’s. However, even then, it’s such a slight difference that it really can be considered negligible for all but the heaviest and hardest riders. All in this is a very neat bit of kit which comes nicely finished and is a veritable bargain compared to some of the offerings available right now from other manufacturers. That it also comes with the full complement of titanium hardware and in the usual myriad of Hope colours just sweetens the deal. £80168g inc all Ti hardware
The crown here also really impressed us, the gold anodizing only serving to highlight the jewelery like aspect of the machining work. Integrating the direct mount stem into a Fox 40 or current generation Boxxer compatible CNC machined crown is one way to ensure that the front end of your bike is as stiff, light, and low as possible by eliminating any bolted joints or excess material. Combined with Hope’s usual neat, tidy and detailed finish this really is a lovely piece of kit on first inspection. And once you’re done with that and finally bolt it onto the bike you notice several other key features we think worthy of a mention. First it all slides together neatly whilst also doing up nice and tight to hold things solidly in place. Here again we find a full titanium bolt kit and for the steerer pinch bolt a neat little trick has been to slightly angle the bolt into the crown so that you can easily spin the bolt up without knocking Allen keys against the stanchions and crown. Granted it’s not a frequent issue once everything’s assembled but it’s a neat answer nonetheless.
But the biggest advantage of all with this is bar height. Where a bolt on direct mount stem will only really ever get your bars as low as the top of the crown, this integrated model actually places your bars at the same height as the bottom of your crown giving you as much as another half inch of drop in the case of the Fox version shown here. Conversely, if you feel your bars are at the optimum height already you can use this feature to drop the forks through the crowns further and slacken the head angle off for faster tracks without increasing your front end height from a standard setup.
Also sat alongside the crown when you open the box are a couple of colour matched 5mm headset spacers and a similarly matched Head Doctor with one important difference over what you would normally be able to buy. Gone is the sometimes fragile aluminium bolt normally found and in its place is a custom made Titanium one to go along with the rest of the bolts found on the crown. Whilst nominally heavier than the standard item, this should solve any issues some people have with occasionally damaging the aluminium when overly exuberant with an Allen key!
When it’s all put together on the bike the crown really does look superb, giving you a low, light and stiff front end. And as with the standalone stem this is available in all the usual colours to match it to your bike. It really does offer something different over the established options with its ultra low rise and neatly integrated design merged with Hope’s usual attention to detail and quality of finish. £145308g inc all Ti hardware
Whilst Hope at this point say they have no plans to introduce a 32mm Boxxer integrated crown option or likewise anything which will bolt onto Marzocchi’s 888, with enough interest they may well choose to do so in the future - so if you really do want this, start pestering your local dealer! www.hopetech.com