|Fancy components often require care when it comes to installation, and the ENVE stem is no different. First, ENVE says that you'll need to place a spacer above and below the stem, even if it's a thin, 3mm spacer, in order to ensure that the clamping surface is all steerer tube and not dead space. Second, you'll absolutely need a torque wrench in order to snug up the stem's six titanium bolts to the required 5.5Nm torque rating. Now, I'm not going to get all pretentious on you like some guys and say that I use a torque wrench for everything from installing my water bottle cage to carbon fiber stems, but I most certainly did use one for the latter. The ENVE stem goes on just like any other stem with the exception of those two points, and the final step is to make sure that the gap is even at the top and bottom of the face plate. I bolted up ENVE's new 267 gram HDH handlebar that sports a grip-adding surface finish to the clamping area, but ENVE's Jake Pantone did say that it's fine to apply an anti-slip compound to both this spot and the steerer clamp surface, which I did do to the latter.|
So is there any noticeable changes when it comes to how the bike's cockpit feels? No, but I also wouldn't expect anything to change on that front given that my test stem is just 55mm long and therefore feels just as rigid and flex-free as any other short option out there. No perceived benefits when it comes to damping, either. That said, the MTN stem does do one thing that many riders are going to be a fan of: it drops a comparatively large amount of weight relative to the numbers that we're used to seeing associated with stems. I mean, the 55mm option weighs just 96 grams on my scale, which is fifty percent lighter than a lot of (much less expensive) stems on the market, and that's a big percentage when you consider how small a stem is. Sure, dropping 50ish grams off your bike isn't that big of a deal for many riders, especially those with a more freeride and downhill oriented riding focus, but don't forget that there are plenty of people out there who own high-end machines that have had their parts kit carefully selected with weight and reliability in mind. There's also the ENVE name and the made in the US element that some are sure to gravitate towards.
I only have a single gripe about the MTN stem, and that's that it did twist on my fork's steerer tube on three occasions when I crashed. This occurred regardless of if I applied any carbon anti-slip compound, and I wouldn't say that any of the spills were excessively large, so I was surprised to see it move. And yes, it was torqued correctly. As far as reliability goes, there was nothing else to note. No noises, and the hard finish resisted any scratching or marring. Pantone said that a quick call to ENVE would be in order should a rider manage to cause any noticeable damage, which is always the general rule of thumb when it comes to any damage on the front of your bike, regardless of material.
The carbon fiber construction and relatively steep price tag means that the MTN stem clearly isn't going to be for everyone out there, but then what component is? ENVE's stem is a high-end item that requires some extra care when installing it, but I see those who already own equally fancy bikes and components being the type of riders who will not bat an eye at the stem's price once they learn how little it weighs. - Mike Levy
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