Bicycles are probably the best way to get around New York City, especially during these days of empty roads and social distancing.
There’s just one problem every aspiring city cyclist faces: bikes take up a lot of space in a shoebox apartment. Well, that and bike theft — which you know, is easier to prevent if you can keep your bike inside said shoebox apartment.
The thing is, bikes shouldn’t have to take so much space. They are fundamentally thin machines — only a few inches wide, if it weren’t for those pesky handlebars (and to a lesser extent, pedals).
The Revelo Thinstem solves this problem. A $70 – $90 replacement for your bike‘s current stem — the price varies depending on your stem size — it allows you to turn your handlebars 90 degrees without turning your wheels, deleting the former’s width from the equation. With the Thinstem, the Juiced CCX I tried it on went from being 27-inches wide to just 16.
Combine that with folding or removable pedals — Revelo sells Wellgo models of each – and the package gets even slimmer. With folding pedals, the CCX takes up just 12 inches. If I’d opted for the pop-off pedals, it would’ve measured less than 7 inches wide.
Using the Thinstem meant that rather than keeping the bike in my building’s storage room, I could bring it into my apartment. It means that in my apartment, it takes a negligible amount of space in my narrow entryway. And it means the bike is far more maneuverable in tight spaces, requiring just one hand to navigate through my building’s narrow hallways, and preventing the handlebars from occasionally stabbing me in the gut.
It’s such a simple, obvious solution, I can’t believe I haven’t seen it on more bikes.
It works like this: select the right size stem for your bike. The Thinstem comes in 90mm and 70mm lengths, and supports both 25mm (1″) and 31.8mm (1.25″) handlebars. There’s also an adapter for quill stems if you have older bike.
I don’t have much experience with bike mods, but it only took about 5 minutes to install the Thjnstem on the Juiced CCX. The only tools you need are Allen wrenches to remove your existing stem, though you can always reach reach out to your local bike shop if you’re afraid of screwing something up.
Once installed, the Thinstem is operated using a simple lever to lock and release the handlebars. When unlocked, the handlebar can pushed up and twisted 90 degrees (or whatever amount your cables allow). You then lock the stem again, allowing you to easily maneuver the bike in its ‘folded’ form; aside from the aforementioned hallway maneuverability, it came in handy when bringing my bike to Home Depot. I also imagine it’d come in handy for bringing a bike on a train or visiting a friend’s home, though those are two things I haven’t done since the pandemic hit New York.
I know what some of you are thinking — what if my handlebars come lose while I’m riding? All I can say is that at no point in my month of testing did I feel I was remotely at risk of that happening. Once tightened, there’s no slack or looseness to worry about – the wheels always turn before the handlebars move, and a notch keeps the handlebars from moving too far in either direction anyway. It felt identical to riding with the bike‘s fixed stem.
You might also be wondering, why one wouldn’t just use some kind of a bike mount instead:
- For one, heavy-duty wall installations are often taboo in rental apartments.
- For another, regularly hanging a 60-pound e-bike from a wall makes me anxious.
- The Thinstem helps your bike take up little space wherever you take it, not just at home.
- A bike on a mount is still wider and takes up more space than a bike with the Thinstem.
Of course, the Thinstem won’t be the best solution for everyone, and it’s not perfect. Some caveats to keep in mind:
- If you have a handlebar-mounted basket, you won’t gain much by turning the handlebars 90 degrees. Luckily, I use a basket with a quick release feature.
- Likewise, you’ll sacrifice some functionality if your bike has a fancy height-adjustable stem.
- The stem might change your riding positioning a bit, if it doesn’t match your previous setup, though your LBS can likely help you compensate
- Revelo’s folding pedals feel sturdy for this 260 lb rider, but they’re not as grippy as I’d like.
- It sometimes takes a little jiggering to get the handlebars to turn even after loosening the lever.
- It’s not as pretty as a normal stem.
But these are minor complaints. The Thinstem sets out to solve a common problem for cyclists and does so with an easy-to-use and sturdy design. The $70+ price tag is easily worth it for the sheer flexibility it adds; I can’t imagine using another bike without it.