Syntace W30 wheels
The wheels are stiff, with very smooth-running bearings, and a lovely, almost Hope-matching freewheel buzz. 30mm (external) rims mean WIDE. So tyres come up with a bit more volume than they would otherwise. The wheels took a few hits through the week, particularly on my bad-stomach day when all energy and technical ability deserted me, resulting in more than a few failed waterbar clearances; but they stayed true through all this battering.
Even if they don’t stay true, these wheels helpfully use standard spokes and nipples – Sapim CX Ray – so that repairs in the middle of a stage race can be done without hunting for proprietary parts.
That width and durability are both achieved while still delivering a low weight, at just over 1600g – a 28-spoke count helps with this without getting silly.
The finish is also a nice feature – matt black, and I believe the term might be shot-peened – or slightly textured – and with subtle white graphics.
My only gripe is that I found it impossible to get tyres seated with a track pump. I’m pretty certain this wasn’t a tyre-specific thing – I found the same with a range of tyres from both Maxxis and Schwalbe; they just felt a bit loose compared to my benchmark of a set of Stans Crest rims. If you’re a ‘fit and forget’ type rider this is probably fine, but if you expect to change tyres to suit conditions, it could be a bit of a bind (unless you’re the proud owner of a Pedder Frankencompressor – http://marathonm.wpengine.com/2014/04/10/how-to-inflate-tubeless-tyres/).
Syntace P6 seatpost
The seatpost did what a seatpost should – be entirely unobtrusive. Not a creak or a squeak or a slip. I am a big fan of the offset two-bolt head design, which supports the saddle rails well in a variety of layback positions. And again it took a battering – eight days on a hardtail over rough terrain is a tough ask, especially with the post at maximum extension for my lanky legs; but it passed with flying colours.
Syntace FlatForce stem
The Syntace Flatforce stem is a really unique and well-designed product. It’s also a product that would probably have been unnecessary before 29ers came along, but it now has an important role to play, depending on rider position.
This version uses a -12 degree angle to deliver the eponymous “flat” top. And it is also designed to offer a low bar position if desired. It does this in two ways. First, by having a rectangular rather than square or round cross-section, meaning that it has low stack height (25mm) while retaining enough material to offer good stiffness. And second, by using a “sabre-tooth” design for the bar clamp. That means that the clamp is offset, lower than the centre of the stem. All of this means that it is possible to achieve a bar position that is low relative to the height of the steerer, but without an ugly downward-pointing stem. This kind of position can be necessary on 29ers ridden by riders who are either below about 170cm, or who are particularly flexible and want an aggressive position.
Not only does this stem offer a good solution to the challenge of achieving a low bar position, but it is a really solid piece of kit. It provided a really stable-feeling platform; Syntace has apparently tested it with bars up to 800mm in length. It also uses unusually large 5mm titanium bolts – something that I find welcome on a component where the bolts are likely to be loosened and tightened relatively frequently, for example when packing the bike up to travel.
Weight is also very respectable, at 163g for this 99mm version. List price is a premium, but sensible for the product, €139.
Syntace Vector Carbon bars
The stiffness of the stem was nicely complemented by the bars. Light and stiff – what more could you want? Well, you could perhaps ask for cheap, but you wouldn’t get it here, at €179. But fair enough for what is a very high-quality bit of equipment. The bars provide a confidence-inspiring platform, and include a very nice bit of design in the form of a reinforcing titanium mesh in the clamping area in the centre of the bars.
My only complaint about the bars was a matter of personal preference – at 8 degrees they were just a bit too swept for me – I found a bit too much pressure being exerted on the outside of my palms. But for someone liking this position this would be no problem; and Syntace makes so many variants that there should be something for everyone.