Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

05 March 2016

An Apt-O Stem For Your NJS-Approved Bike?

These days, if a poseur wants someone to know he is a real, hardcore, badass track rider, he makes sure every single bolt and nut---no, forget that: the air in the tubular tires--on his fixed-gear bike is stamped "NJS".  

(I used the male pronoun because everyone I've ever encountered who fit the foregoing description was male.)

Now, I have nothing against anything approved by Japanese Keirin racing's governing body.  Why, almost everything on my fixed-gear bike has that NJS seal--even the brakes! 

(And, yes, I served with the Peace Corps in Paris.  Really, I did!)

Then again, I don't even pretend to be a track racer:  I just like riding on a fixed gear.  And I am not concerned with having the latest gee-whiz technology:  All I want from my equipment is high quality, reliability and a lack of unnecessary complication.  If it looks nice, so much the better!

Now, if I were a real old-school, firewater-drinking track racer, I would be riding with this on my bike:



This Cinelli stem allowed its rider to adjust the reach (from the stem to the handlebars) from 50 to 170 mm (1.9 to 6.7 inches).  As far as I know, it was offered only in a track configuration, with a deep (probably -30 or 60 degree) drop.  So, as the stem is extended, the bar is also lowered. That would make sense on the track or, perhaps, for a road race that includes a time trial, as someone who is riding in a more spread-out position would probably want to ride in a lower position as well, for aerodynamics.  

Such stems also made sense at the time they were made--in the case of the Cinelli in the photo, from the 1940s until the 1960s--when team budgets were smaller and riders, as a result, might be riding the same bike for different kinds of events.  Other stem manufacturers, such as 3TTT and AVA, made similar items during that time, and earlier.  


Nitto made this seemingly-more-refined version (Yes, it was NJS approved) during the 1980s.  Since then, it seems that no stem maker has been willing to even touch the concept.  That is, until now:





3TTT, which made an adjustable track stem similar to Cinelli's, has just introduced a modern take on it.  Their new "Apto Pro" stem uses an oval steerer tube compartment to allow the stem to "grow".  Even with such a complex internal system, the stem has a rather sleek profile (I'd love to see it in polished, or even anodized, silver!) and a claimed weight of 77 grams, about half that of a typical threadless stem.

It all sounds very nice, but there is one catch:  The "Apto Pro" doesn't have anything like the range of adjustability offered by the old adjustable stems.  Instead, it comes in four different models that offer 15 mm of adjustment:  one for 70-85mm extension, another for 90-105, the third for 110-125 and the last for 130-145.  That means a team or rider can keep four stems on hand and have 75 mm of adjustability.  Also, the fact that they have faceplates on the handlebar clamps means that the stems can be switiched pretty easily from one bike to another.

For the moment, 3TTT plans to make it available only with a clamp that fits 31.8mm diameter handlebars.  The company has not yet disclosed a suggested retail price or when or where the Apto Pro will be available.

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