|The Velo Orange "Cigne" stem is an "LD" type stem for drop bar mtb's|
The first of these two hurdles is that the reach, or in old mountain biker's parlance, the effective top tube length, is going to be a bit too long for a drop bar. Why? because unlike flat bars, a drop bar adds to the overall reach of the cockpit. The "reach" of the drops adds to the effective top tube length, so stem length is critical to a successful drop bar conversion on an old mountain bike. The stem reach needs to be very short, typically.
The second hurdle is that the head tube lengths on most mountain bikes are relatively short compared to those bikes designed for drop bars. Why? Because drop bars have depth while flat bars are on a single plane. To make the drop section useful in almost every case, you need a stem with a steep rise. Those are typically very hard to find in short reach dimensions. It's either that or you get a frame designed around drop bars which will typically have a longer head tube to alleviate that issue. See the Salsa Fargo and El Mariachi models for a perfect example of what I mean here.
Back in the 1980's, builders of mountain bikes used a stem design that was most often associated with Potts, Ibis, and Cunningham bikes to get around the two hurdles I mention above. Known as the "LD" type stem by many, it is a simple and elegant way to get around the longer top tubes and shorter head tubes of mountain bikes when drop bars are desired. The trouble was that these custom builders either became something else, died out, or stopped producing these types of stems over the ensuing years till now. The only way to get such a stem was to contract a custom builder that was amenable to the idea of making stems to make you one, which is obviously very expensive. So, most riders just "make do" with whatever stems they can get.
|My Karate Monkey with a Dimension riser stem in the shortest reach and highest rise available.|
|A quick mock up using the Cigne stem. Now that is a big difference!|
Fancy pants long name aside, this stem radicalizes my set up. Check out the reach, which is 70mm for the stem. You can get an 80mm reach Cigne stem too, but I went for the shortest option here. Obviously, the height is there as well. Check out how much higher the drop section is. Totally usable now as opposed to marginally usable before.
You can check out all the technical mumbo-jumbo here if you want to, but the bottom line is that now one can get a tested, well designed, good looking stem for converting a mtb to drop bar use. This stem will make many more set ups far more versatile and workable than before at a reasonable cost. You could also probably use this stem to raise a road bike's handle bar to more comfortable levels as well, ala Grant Petersen's preferred handle bar height and other sundry rules.
I will do a more ride performance oriented review of sorts after I get this set up squared away with longer cables and housings. Until then, this should give you a better idea how a good, proper drop stem can make drop bars work better on a hard tail mtb designed around flat bars. The Cigne stem comes in black as shown, silver, or a special nickle finish. You can get Velo Orange components from your local bike shop.
NOTE- I bought the Velo Orange Cigne stem with my own damn money and was not paid nor bribed for this review. All statements are my own and may not reflect the opinions of Grant Petersen, Velo Orange, or anybody else on this planet. So there.