Electron beam melting & vacuums
We sometimes joke about reviewing stems because, well, let's be honest – as long as they hold onto the handlebar and steerer, they're usually not that interesting. Unless we're talking about Mythos' £250 IXO stem, that is. Pronounced "icksoh" and looking like something from H.R. Giger's catalog of bike parts, the IXO is manufactured via a 3D-printing process and the result is a see-through stem that Mythos says is both light and strong.
The IXO comes in 40mm and 50mm lengths, both with zero rise, a 35mm handlebar clamp, and a 38mm stack height. Claimed weight is 136 grams, but the IXO they sent me actually ended up being a bit lighter at 127 grams.
Mythos IXO details
• 3D-Printed titanium
• Lengths: 40mm, 50mm
• Rise: 0mm
• Handlebar clamp: 35mm only
• Stack height: 38mm
• Material: Aerospace-grade titanium (Ti6Al4V)
• Weight: From 136g (including hardware)
• MSRP: £250 (including UK VAT)
• More info: www.mythos.bike
If you hadn't heard of Mythos before, there's a good chance you've never heard of their parent company, Metron, who has been making ultra-high-end components for years, mostly in the skinny tire world. The IXO is their first mountain bike stem and it's manufactured via a process called electron beam melting which does exactly what it sounds like. EBM is similar to the more common Selective Laser Melting in that both 'grow' the component via powder, but while SLM uses "normal" lasers, EBM uses a beam of electrons in a vacuum environment.
If you want to make your bike parts via EBM, all you need is a special gun that shoots out a beam of electrons from a super-heated tungsten filament at around half the speed of light, as well as a barrel or two of aerospace-grade titanium and a hell of a lot of know-how. Mythos is doing that at their Derbyshire facility in the UK, the same place where they manufacture their equally crazy-looking Elix stem that's even more expensive
. After the stem is grown, its clamping surfaces are machined down to hold onto a steerer tube and a 35mm handlebar, and titanium hardware is used because of course it is.
Wondering why you can see through the IXO? Mythos says that they employ FEA (Finite Element Analysis) and CAD to figure out exactly where material needs to be and, as you can probably tell, where it doesn't need to be. The 3D-printed result is an alien-looking shape that Mythos says exceeds the 200,000-cycle test program at ISO-specified forces while also being stiffer under both bending and torsional forces than a traditional stem.Alien looks, normal performance
The first thing I noticed about the IXO stem is that it looks a bit rough, especially in a few spots where the surface seems inconsistent. It turns out that this is a byproduct of the manufacturing process and has no effect on its strength or rigidity, Mythos said, even if it does seem odd compared to the forged and machined aluminum stems we're used to. "Many people believe that 3D printing produces a lower grade material, but EBM titanium actually matches or beats the material properties achieved by traditional manufacturing processes, meeting or exceeding all requirements of the relevant ASTM and ISO standards for Ti6Al4V (ASTM 1107, ASTM F1472, AMS 4999 and ISO 5832-3),
" Mythos told me. So why not give the stem a smoother finish? Matthews explains: "Due to titanium being exceptionally tough, it’s extremely difficult to remove material evenly to produce a smooth or polished finish, and surface finishing the visible interior of the stem is incredibly difficult. This is why we decided on the raw as-printed finish. Plus, what’s the point of 3D-printing something and then making it look like it’s made with some boring old traditional manufacturing process?
There are plenty of boring black stems to choose from and all of them cost a lot less (and some weigh less) than the IXO, but Mythos isn't trying to sell thousands of these things anyway. Personally, I love how it looks, especially on a black bike with a black handlebar, but I do have a soft spot for anything weird.
Forgetting about the price for a moment, are you a fan of the IXO's lines or would you prefer something a little more normal?
Installation is like any other stem; it should sit a few millimeters proud of the steerer tube, and it uses a no-gap faceplate and the same 5Nm of torque for all six of its titanium M5x0.8 x 14mm bolts. The steerer clamp tolerances are a bit tighter than other stems I've used and it needed a good push to slide down onto the tube (no, there were no burrs), but it all went together as intended. You'll certainly want to use a torque wrench for your fancy stem and read the instructions before picking up any tools
The stem that the IXO replaced was a standard no-frills aluminum thing that definitely wasn't doing anything wrong, but the difference on the trail between it and the 3D-printed titanium Mythos unit was... Not at all noticeable, of course. What the hell did you expect? I know that Mythos says the IXO is, "16% stiffer in torsion, and 11% stiffer in bending, when tested side-by-side with an equivalent alloy stem,
" but I'll never feel that while riding my bike because it's not like any 40mm stem a soft noodle to begin with. I'm not saying that it isn't stiffer, only that I can't tell the difference, even when I clamp the front wheel between my knees while trying to twist and turn the handlebar in my faux-science test.
So it's not a game-changer, but it also didn't do anything wrong while I used it, never creaking, groaning, or slipping, as you'd hope for such a high-end component. One thing to note, however, is that riders who've had stems take core samples from their knees might prefer a smoother backside to the steerer clamp.
If you were hoping for a groundbreaking leap forward in stem performance, this ain't it. The IXO does nothing wrong but it's also not going to change your riding in any way, which is pretty much what I expected. That said, if you're interested in the technology behind the stem and like how it looks, which describes me, I don't think it's all that crazy to consider given the other things we spend our money on.
3D-printing titanium is cool AF+
Price to performance ratio-
There are lighter and less expensive stems-