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Cascade Racing Designs Vagrant Stem - Rider Review

crd cascade racing designs vagrant stem raw mountainbike mtb

Here’s the bottom line: a CNC milled, 100 gram aluminum stem made in Bellingham Washington. Cascade Racing Designs is tempting all of us with 3 key attributes; lightweight, USA made and a competitive price. At $150 USD, this stem is competing on weight with carbon stems, at half the price. Here is a look at the new Vagrant stem, and why you should pay attention to this small company up in Washington.


Background

Russ Skiver, owner and operator of CRD, got his start and inspiration from Tom Owen of Gallatin Alpine Sports in Big Sky Montana. Like many others, the passion for growing and advancing the sport came from a community of stoked riders and advocates. As a bicycle mechanic, Russ quickly became entrenched in all things cycle related; racing, wrenching and having fun. After moving to the pacific northwest, Russ and his wife Trudy started CRD based on the goal of providing affordable carbon fiber rims. In September of 2019, they began producing their first 100% in-house product — the Vagrant stem.

crd cascade racing designs vagrant stem raw mountainbike mtb

Technical Details

Starting from a solid block of 6061 Aluminum, CRD mills down the material to produce the stem. Evidence of this process is seen right on the surface, with visible tool path marks from the CNC machine. Pretty neat if you ask me. Currently, it is offered in only 1 size specification, 35 mm bar clamp, with 35 mm length. You can however choose the finish, either the “Works Raw” edition — which I have here. Or a black finish, which hides the aforementioned detail of manufacturing. All 6 bolts included with the stem are Titanium T25, and can be had in either a raw finish, black or oil slick. And it really is 100 grams, my scale even cycled between 99 and 100 a few times, it’s incredibly light. To put that into context, an ENVE M7 Carbon Fiber 35 mm stem is 85 grams. While the Industry Nine A35 stem (aluminum) weighs 128 grams.

crd cascade racing designs vagrant stem raw mountain bike mtb weight

When it comes to installation, unlike most other stems, the “zero-gap” portion of the bar clamp is to be on the bottom side. Also, the torque requirement is 5 nm for all 6 bolts. One little critique with the Vagrant, is that the “zero-gap” indication or torque settings are not labeled on the stem. So if you forget, you’ll need to look it up or consult CRD.


Material Consideration

Since I made an earlier comparison to the Industry Nine stem, it is good to point out that i9 uses 7075 Aluminum, while this CRD Vagrant is 6061. Both materials are used quite frequently in the biking industry, but why the difference? 7075 does have the higher strength to weight ratio, but for this application, CRD tested both and was happy with the performance of 6061 while achieving that low weight. To put the material choice into context, motor vehicle frames are made from 6061, while 7075 is used in aerospace. If my car relies on the softer aluminum for rigidity and safety, I am perfectly fine using it on my bike. CRD did mention to me however, that for future sizes of the Vagrant, they will most likely be using 7075. With longer stems, having a higher shear strength of the 7075 aluminum is not a bad idea.

crd cascade racing designs vagrant stem raw mountainbike mtb

Final Thoughts

Stem selection for your bike is usually mundane. You pick a size, install it, and forget it exists. So it’s nice when companies like CRD are offering new features like finish choices for both the stem and bolts, and having the weight benefits of carbon at aluminum prices. Personally, I appreciate having more options. The option here, is that you can also support a local, rider owned company hell bent on quality products. I’d keep an eye on CRD, they are working on other components for us riders. If their recent Stooge Carbon bar and Vagrant stem are anything to go by, I’m excited for the possibilities.

crd cascade racing designs vagrant stem raw mountainbike mtb

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ABOUT THE RIDER/WRITER

NAME AGE HEIGHT WEIGHT LOCATED

Nick Hanson

31

5'11"

140 lbs

Boulder, CO

Current Bikes: 2019 Yeti SB150, also seeking an additional short travel companion.
 
Bike Size: Large
 
Favorite Trails: Hall Ranch, Trestle Bike Park, Free Lunch, CO. Hangover Trail, Sedona AZ.
 
About me: Been riding bikes my whole life. But feel I've only been a true Mountain Biker since 2012. Currently trying to take my bike wherever I can ride in conjunction with car road trips. Engaged, and living in Boulder with our 2 dogs.

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