Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Phoenix Project - Nitto Crystem Stem And Nitto B-115 Handlebars

For people choosing 1" traditional quill stems, the situation is vastly improved from, say, ten years ago.  Back then, one had to look high and low to find much beyond the Nitto Technomic stem.

This is not to suggest that there is anything wrong with the Nitto Technomic - it is typical Nitto quality and has a completely conventional form.  It is just nice to have more choices.

One option I considered long and hard was the Nitto Craft Stem:

This is a lovely new offering from Nitto.  Despite its steel construction, it weighs about the same as a typical alloy stem.  I was also concerned whether the clamp would fit around the bends on road bars.  However, some discussions with vendors revealed that they have successfully installed this stem on such bars using the "dime in the slot" trick.  Steel is pretty forgiving that way.

This Nitto goodness doesn't come cheap.  Most retailers sell it for around $250 USD, although Track Supermarket in Osaka, Japan will get one to you for about $210 USD inclusive of shipping.

I actually had settled on this stem early on in this project.  However, as the project as progressed, the brightwork is all turning out to be soft gloss rather than hard shiny.  So I reluctantly decided that the chromed steel of the Nitto Craft, especially in such a prominent location as the stem, would be a bit of a jarring incongruence.

A Nitto Crystal Stem would have been nice:

Sadly, these are no longer in production and nowhere to be found on any retailer's site.

Finally, I settled on the Nitto Crystem.  This example with 90mm extension and 25.4 clamp diameter arrived the other day:

The Nitto Crystem is a high quality cold-forged stem, variants of which have been in and out of production for years.  One highly prized mutation is the Nitto Crystemblue, an early 80's aheadset type:

Given the blue clamp piece, I would have considered waiving the "no used components" rule for this project were one available, but they are quite scarce.

The current production crystems have a more subdued appearance and the clamp is not separable:

The clamp bolts screw directly into the alloy for a nice, clean look:

The Crystem is no exception to Nitto's habit of excellent finish and detailing:

For the bars, I selected Nitto B-115, a traditional bend, sleeved handlebar.  This was easy since I have a set that I purchased new about 10 years ago.  This set has been fitted up with a stem on occasion but never taped or ridden.  There is a little bit of shopwear but not enough to prohibit finally getting this set on the road:

The Crystem can morph into a Muppety snake character if you use your imagination a bit:

One of the benefits of the Crystem two bolt design is that it adds survivability options to a bike.  I typically ensure that unused eyelets, attachment points and such are filled with appropriate nuts, bolts, and washers.  For instance, when complete, if the lowrider mounts on the fork are unused, they will have a nut and bolt on them.

This practice has saved my bacon a couple of times a long way from home when I needed to jury-rig a fix.  In the case of the Crystem, if a M6 bolt was needed to proceed further, one could probably be cannibalized from the stem and the bike ridden carefully until a replacement could be found.

Running Tally

$2505 USD

We carry forward $2357 USD.  The Crystem is a bargain compared to the Nitto Craft stem but still a rather expensive option at $105 USD from Ben's Cycle.  As noted above, I already had a set of the Nitto B-115 handlebars, but they can be had for $43 USD, again from Ben's Cycle.

Shop Tip

I determined which stem extension to order by measuring the top tube on the frame. It turned out to be exactly the same length as on my Fuji America. On the America, I was running Nitto B-105 bars which are quite similar to the Nitto B-115 in geometry. Hence, I figured that the 90mm extension of the America's stem, which gave me a comfortable fit, would work on the Trek 620.

1 comment:

Minh Toi said...

The rating system adds quite a bit of enjoyment to reading each pages of your Trek Project. It would be enjoyable if you'd go back and add ratings to this and the other ratingless pages. :-)