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2013 Madone 5,000 KM report; New stem; Carbon stems waste of cash?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014 by  
Filed under Daily Blog


Since August 2013 I’ve put more than 5,000 kilometers on my 2013 Trek Madone 5.9 (more than 1,600 kilometers since January), and I thought I’d give a brief status report.

The main thing most of you who follow my blog are probably wondering about is the bottom bracket. After more than 5,000 kilometers in the pouring rain, dry and sandy conditions and sweaty workouts in my Bike Torture Chamber, I’m happy to report that the bottom bracket bearings are still absolutely pristine.

Last week I did a major tune on the bike, and when I pulled the cranks off to inspect the bottom bracket I was extremely pleased when I saw that not so much as a drop of water or single grain of sand had found their way past the seals. Recall that with my 2011 Madone I was on my third set of bearings by the time I reached the same mileage. The original 2013 Madone bearings still look and perform like new, rotating smoothly and silently. As I reported to my Trek rep, Chad (who has been amazing and extremely responsive to every single question I’ve sent him), from where I sit Trek’s engineers have 100% solved the problem I was experiencing.

The bike has continued to perform nearly flawlessly. The only issue I’ve experienced was a minor one, concerning the rear brake. Perhaps due to its location under the chainstay, water had infiltrated the brake’s cable housing and caused the cable to rust and stick. A cable/housing swap corrected the problem. Actually this is more of an informational thing than a real problem; the rear brake will simply require a bit more preventative maintenance than it otherwise might when mounted in the traditional location.

Zipp Service Course SL Stem: just 113 grams, including the titanium bolts (70mm).

Zipp Service Course SL Stem: just 113 grams, including the titanium bolts (70mm)

The bike fits me extremely well, especially when I’m in the drops (my preferred riding position), but I’ve always felt like I had to reach a little too far forward when riding on the hoods. Because of this, it’s hard to keep my arms relaxed with a slight bend in my elbows, and on long rides I definitely notice the lack of comfort.

The proper solution in a situation like mine is to shorten the stem (the saddle should never be adjusted forward for a reach issue, the saddle adjustment is for your position over the pedals). After some measuring and playing around, I decided to shorten the stem 30mm. The stock stem is 100mm, and so I ordered a 70mm stem.

70mm is considered very short for a road bike (but far from unheard of), but if I’m more comfortable and okay with the difference in handling then who cares?

I went with the Zipp Service Course SL Stem in “Beyond Black” (70mm/-6°). I think the stem looks fantastic, and it matches my Zipp 404 Firecrest carbon clincher wheels, which are also in “Beyond Black”. The stem weighs in at a scant 113 grams, including the 4 titanium bolts.

Zipp Service Course SL Stem in Beyond Black (70mm/-6°), installed on my 2013 Trek Madone.

Zipp Service Course SL Stem in Beyond Black (70mm/-6°), installed on my 2013 Trek Madone.

That actually brings up an interesting subject: carbon fiber stems. I don’t see the point of them. Carbon fiber stems are very expensive, and it’s not like they provide much, if any, vibration dampening benefits like carbon handlebars.

Take a look at Zipp’s current carbon fiber stem offering–the SL Sprint. The SL Sprint stem has a MSRP of $245, which is almost 2.5 times as much as Zipp’s mid-range Service Course SL stem (MSRP $109). The kicker? At 165 grams (100mm), Zipp’s carbon stem actually weighs more than their far less expensive Service Course stem (which is just 120 grams in the 100mm length).

Seriously, am I missing something? What’s the point?! Is it so when people look at your stem they can say, “Ohhhh is that a carbon stem?!” Rolling my eyes.

Today I’ll be doing a trainer workout, so I won’t get to test the handling of the new stem, but I will notice the (hopefully) increased comfort. When I’m doing trainer rides I spend more time on the hoods than I do when I’m riding outside, so the difference should be readily apparent.

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