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First look: FSA VAS stem for gravel rides

The component comes with three elastomers to chose from

FSA VAS stem

Just ahead of Saturday’s Unbound Gravel, FSA is launching, officially, a stem for gravel bikes that’s been making appearances for months. It’s the VAS, which stands for Vibration Absorbing System. It features an interchangeable polyurethane elastomer that covers your handlebar and is held in place by the stem itself, two face plates and an additional bolt. That elastomer is designed to mitigate vibrations that are transmitted from a rough road, up the front fork, to the bars and ultimately to your hands and wrists.

FSA VAS stem
The FSA VAS stem (right) is outfitted with the medium-squish dark grey elastomer. In the centre is the firm, race-oriented black elastomer. On the left is the squishiest of the trio, the grey elastomer. The stem and elastomers are flipped upside down to show the bolt and corresponding holes that help to secure the elastomers in place.

The stem only fits a steering tube with a 28.6-mm diameter. As for the handlebar, it needs to have a clamping area with a 31.8-mm diameter. If the bar has holes in the clamping area for running cables, then it won’t work with the VAS stem. Also, FSA states that you can’t use bars wider than 460 mm. A 42-cm-wide aluminum FSA AGX handlebar is a good choice.

FSA VAS stem
FSA VAS stem specs

So if you have the right setup for the FSA VAS stem, you then have a decision to make: what elastomer to install. There are three to choose from:

elastomer colour
Designation Approximate
riding hours
Mileage (km)
Black Race 1,000 +/-20,000
Dark grey Sport 500 +/-10,000
Grey Comfort 100 +/-2,000

As you can see from the mileage column, those elastomers are consumables: they’ll wear down and need replacing.

The stem comes in 80-, 90- and 100-mm lengths. Each costs US$112. (FSA has yet to release Canadian pricing to Canadian Cycling Magazine.) The weight of a 100-mm-long VAS stem is 287 g without an elastomer. The grey and dark grey elastomers each weigh 28 g. The black elastomer seems to be one gram lighter. Yes, I weighed them all. You’re welcome weight weenies.

The VAS stem is fresh out of the box here at Canadian Cycling Magazine. Stay tuned for a test. The big question is whether the elastomer is worth the squeeze? Are you ready to put another item on your bike that will need to be replaced (like a tire, chain, handlebar tape, and eventually the cassette and chainrings)? For a serious boost of comfort on gravel…well, maybe?

FSA VAS stem

FSA VAS stem
The grey elastomer provides the maximum comfort.
FSA VAS stem
The underside of the FSA VAS stem.

FSA VAS stem