Blockhead Stem: Cycling Do Or Don't?

The Blockhead Stem from cw&t costs $89, which seems pretty reasonable considering it's machined from 7075 aluminum. Of course, you may be saying why on Earth would you want to put something so un-aerodynamic — with sharp edges — on the front of your bike. Designer Che-Wei Wang explained to BBG:
The sharp edges are for aesthetic reasons. All the bike parts our there seem to focus on aerodynamics and weight, so we wanted to make something different. We [Wang and partner Taylor Levy] wanted to reveal the purest function of the stem, which is essentially a chunk of metal that has two holes in it. It's minimal and its fabrication is also simple. Starting with a solid block of aluminum the machine time required to mill the stem is low, cutting only what is needed to make it functional.
OK, maybe you're still not sold on the look. But certainly you can get behind their IP philosophy:
Blockhead Stem is licensed under a Creative Commons license. Take our design, modify it, make one for yourself. But please don't sell them because we need money to buy and eat dumplings. Give credit where it's due. We actually want you to go find your machinist buddy and see if he or she can make it for super cheap. We spent about a month searching for a quality machinist that can produce them on demand. If you find a better machinist please share.
Of course, this isn't full-on open source hardware because of the restrictions on selling modified versions of their design, but it's still close enough to make me smile.
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30 Responses to Blockhead Stem: Cycling Do Or Don't?

  1. Lisa Katayama says:

    @Steven: Just change the color. The cyan clashes with our rainbow.

  2. Anonymous says:

    ugh capable people have been doing the simplest thing that works for A LONG TIME, please don’t try to gentrify our blue collar arts

  3. dan says:

    Clashes ridiculously with the aerodynamics and light weight of the rest of the bike.

  4. max says:

    I had no idea that so much opinion existed out there on bicycle stems, or that a designer could make an entire website devoted to a single low concept bicycle stem design. Nice tron arrow btw.

  5. Joe says:

    As previously stated this is a bastardization of a bmx stem. I know that hoffman and G-sport made a similarly blocky stem years ago, except theirs had a separate plate on the back; so it would clamp the steerer tube in the same fashion as the bars.

    They bolts for the steerer tube should be opposing each other too. If they are both on the same side it will lead to the stem pinching a lot sooner.

    Those egdges are no bueno too, someone’s gunna get their balls lopped off when they try to skid.

    This design sucks, there are tens if not hundreds of better stems out.

    For a real advancement in stem design just look at the odyssey elementary.

  6. feedingfashionistas says:

    I think this looks cool and probably is the most distilled stem design I’ve seen, but the bike geek in me is throwing a few red flags-

    That front wheel looks to be a Spinergy Rev-X, one of the first spoked carbon fiber wheels, and known for being incredibly fragile (and splintering into deadly shards upon impact). Nobody in their right mind would ever ride one, so it makes me doubt this company’s choices.

    The use of these very short BMX-style stems is something of a new thing in urban fixed/single-gear riding, borne mainly out of the want to be able to easily pull a barspin. The downside is, they’re really heavy, and their truncated length makes steering squirrelly at best, which is a problem when your “Tarck” bike already has very steep headtube angles (for maneuverability on the track), or next to no angle (if you’re riding a bike like the Volume Cutter, made specifically for doing BMX-y tricks in a fixie-sized format).

    That’s all well and good if pulling 540 keo-spins and getting radical on your friend’s mini is your bread and butter, but it makes commuting (or riding any considerable distance) a pain. Not to mention that having something sharp, heavy, and pointy where your face/groin/knee/etc is likely to hit in a big crash is a Darwin Awards idea.

    Still, somewhere in me, I want.

  7. Steven Leckart says:


    Yeah yeah yeah. No more cyan anywhere. Silver is the new cyan. I get it!

  8. dculberson says:

    @Rob and Steven: But Tron!

  9. Cowtown2 says:

    Not any kind of cyclist (my walmart mountain bike sits on a hook in my garage, unmoved since I put it there three years ago. It does provide a good spot to hang my dremel from, though), but I think there’s approximately zero chance they could use a copyright license to prevent someone from making and selling knock-offs of their non-novel, un-patentable “invention.”

    I suppose one theory would be that one would be making commercial use of copyrighted plans, requiring someone buy one then measure the object directly to make new plans.

  10. Steven Leckart says:


    I know! Talk to Rob!

  11. awesometown says:

    For 20 years or more a number of mountain bike and bmx companies have been selling similar stems. They however took the time to machine down the edges near the steerer clamp so you didn’t shred up your knees (or in this case super tight limited edition pants).

  12. siliconsunset says:


    I happen to like the color of the arrow, aside from the point that it does perfectly its job of standing out from the rest of the photo.

    Besides, though darker, there are similar colors in a Chevron advertisement and the Offworld logo on the page as I now see it.

    The color of the arrow, for those who dislike it so, can just serve to show how bad of an idea those edges are.

  13. nprnncbl says:

    Don’t worry about slamming your bits into the stem; the seat is designed for insertion, clamping the rider in place and preventing such accidents.

  14. Crashproof says:

    As someone who paid less than that for his entire bicycle, I just have to say… I don’t get it.

  15. andygates says:

    #3 – If it had been made from a block of teak, then they’d be talking.

    It’s pretty, pure, gallery Design, suitable for art objects and concept galleries. Light, smooth and rounded are design principles that inform the bicycle stem for very good reasons.

    Blockhead is a stem to be looked at and talked about, not for riding, #10’s tricking notwithstanding.

    Bikes are funny. The basic design is so close to perfect that designers just HAVE to play with it. It’s kinda like the vampire novel in literature. Sublime tweaks are rare, pimpy footling is common.

  16. Jebediah says:

    OK, maybe I am a philistine, but doesn’t good design take function into account? I have experienced enough unanticipated decelerations to say that for sure, nothing that pointy/sharp edgy is going on any bike of mine, any and all designgeekspeak notwithstanding. For a good stem, $89 would be a cheap price, but $89 is not a good price for junk-avulsion.

  17. RedShirt77 says:

    We are supposed to feel good about the idea that they have a creative Common license on a block?

    Is there a creative common license on the circle too?

    >>Take our design, modify it…

    you mean, like round it off or something? And can’t i have a machinist make replacement parts for my bike or car without worrying about intellectual property concerns?

  18. Broqued says:

    not to mention, this is essentially a BMX stem… which has been created, re-created, and sold for years and years.

  19. Lisa Katayama says:

    I agree with Rob, the cyan is hurting my eyes.

  20. gabrielm says:

    Just dropped in to second Broqued’s statement. I have a bike that came with a similar stem years ago. It was quickly swapped.

    But, I do love the statement: “All the bike parts our there seem to focus on aerodynamics and weight, so we wanted to make something different.”

    Well… then you didn’t go far enough. Should have been machined from lead.

  21. dculberson says:

    Lisa, More Cyan! Tron!

  22. molle rautiainen says:

    this is incredibly unsafe. what’s going to happen when you smash your chin, cheek or forehead on this?

    design solves problems – it doesn’t make new ones. and good design isn’t about being aesthetically unique – it’s about making something work better. this fails on several levels.

  23. BigHank53 says:

    Machinist? Whatever for? Buy yourselves a cheap drill press and go to town making heavy, ugly stems in your basement.

    Better yet, don’t.

  24. devinj says:

    Having occasionally tumble from my saddle groin first into the stem set, I think the sharp edge aesthetic would produce an unacceptably “different” experience on impact.

  25. Rob Beschizza says:


  26. Steven Leckart says:

    @Lisa, @Rob:

    You’re breaking my heart.

  27. Grenoire says:

    Maybe I’m being obtuse, but isn’t the idea more to bring the design close to a blank slate, the better to encourage innovation through the creatve commons collaboration they seem to be encouraging, including an invitation to work together to produce the parts?
    A bike model featuring non-patented parts design with the ability for a community to improve or even fork designs to a specific purpose seems pretty cool.

  28. nixiebunny says:

    That’s so lovely I don’t see why it’s not on all Gucci-designed bikes.

    And for all you folks who like the painfulness of it, Ambrosio from Italy achieved that 50 years ago with a much lighter design:

  29. strider_mt2k says:

    The least they could do is paint them to resemble the block head characters from Gumby.


  30. Ardwah says:

    Well it really is style over substance, even if there is a lot of substance in that deadly-sharp aluminum block.

    But for true elegance of design, take a look at the Odyssey V3 Elementary stem, which uses only one screw to tighten both bars and stem.

    And is a lot more knee-friendly.

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