Moots RSL stem
You never actually own a Moots RSL stem, you merely look after it for the next generation
Words SAM CHALLIS Photography ADAM LANGDON
Titanium is a special metal to build a bike from. Light where steel is heavy, smooth where aluminium is harsh, a well-built titanium bike elicits an enigmatic zing when ridden. But a finely tuned titanium frame can lose some of its magic if it’s matched with sub-par finishing kit. At least, that’s the view
of US-based titanium framebuilder Moots, and the reason it created the eye-wateringly expensive RSL stem.
Even when it was starting out using steel in 1981, Moots recognised the value in designing stems to match its frames. ‘A well-built stem serves as an extension of the frame in terms of ride feel,’ says Jon Cariveau, marketing manager at Moots. ‘In 2010 we introduced the RSL road frame. That stands for Race Super Light and it’s our highest-performing model, so the following year we introduced this stem. We felt we could go much lighter than our normal stem but, as always with Moots products, the fundamental design principle was rock-solid durability.’
At a weight of 120g, the RSL isn’t much heavier than the very lightest carbon or alloy stems from the major component suppliers such as 3T, Deda and Ritchey, and compared
to other titanium stems it’s among the lightest out there.
‘We released the stem in response to the industry, which at that time was producing stems that were getting ridiculously light, so we wanted to show what we could do,’ says Cariveau. He goes on to explain that Moots could go even lighter, but doing so would start to compromise stiffness, titanium’s characteristic ride feel and Moots’ reputation for durability. ‘As it is we have complete faith in the quality of this stem. You could crash it and it wouldn’t twist or bend,’ he says.
The RSL’s simple appearance belies the complexity involved in its production. Each piece is made in-house in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and TIG-welded together by hand, creating near flawless double-pass seams. It goes some way to explaining the cost of the stem, but another reason is the quality of the materials used.
‘The bolts are 6/4 titanium and the faceplate is aluminium, but the main bulk of the stem is specially selected 3/2.5 titanium,’ says Cariveau. 3/2.5 refers to the percentage ratio of aluminium and vanadium added to the titanium, which gives it additional strength and ductility. ‘We use 3/2.5, rather than 6/4, because 3/2.5 is available in a much wider selection of diameters and wall thicknesses, so we are better able to tune the stem’s characteristics,’ he says.
After its successful inception in 2011, the stem has remained unchanged, so does Moots feel the need for an update?
‘Nothing in the near future,’ says Cariveau. ‘Here at Moots we are of the opinion, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”’
In an age where most brands covet innovation above all else, that’s a refreshing attitude. And if people continue to pay the same as an entry-level road bike for a single titanium stem, then why would Moots change a thing?