Product:Straitline Vertical Wedge stem £99.99
Weight: 290g / 25.4 and 31.8mm clamp / Colours: pink, black, Ti grey, x-ray, bronze / 70, 60, 55, 50mm / 10-degree rise / Contact: www.hotlines-uk.com
Criteria for DH and Freeride stems is slightly different to trail stems. First they have to come in short lengths, which, as you can see from the details above, the Straitline Vertical Wedge does. They also need to be strong, and while we can’t really put this to the test here, weight is usually a good indicator and the VWS is a hefty bit of kit. As the name suggests it also has an internal wedge system, the purpose of which is twofold — to eliminate the exposed steerer clamp bolts and provide a stronger and more secure fit. Tightening the two bolts on top of the stem pulls a tapered block down into the stem and wedges it against the fork’s steerer tube. Getting this stem off once it is wedged is impossible, which is why Straitline builds in a removing feature. Inserting one of the fastening bolts into a central hole allows you to pull the block clear of the steerer — it’s a bit of hassle when you want to make small adjustments but you probably only do those the once. Whether this feature/design is something that downhillers want is debatable, but it does offer greater knee clearance. Compared to the competition the VWS is expensive and the recess is a mud trap, but it’s well finished, if a bit old-school Azonic looking.