This is something that a lot of companies do, and I have no idea why. I’ve never seen any reasonable explanation for it.
What happens in the world of bicycles though, is if someone tries something, and it sells, then everyone else does it too. Because it must be good, right?
Take a look at this stem;
This is a RaceFace SYStem from, oh I don’t know, let’s say 2002. (It’s not super retro, but it’s for a 25.4mm handlebar, so it’s not modern either.) It’s always been one of my favorites, and judging by how hard it is to find, it’s everyone’s favorite.
This is a RaceFace Deus stem from a couple years ago. Not nearly as cool as the SYStem, but nothing wrong with it.
Why the hell are the two bolts to attach it to the steerer tube running in opposite directions??
(If you don’t know what I’m talking about, look at the first picture again. See how there are two bolt heads just left of the RaceFace logo? Now look at the second – only one bolt head on the left edge of the stem.)
There is NO REASON for this. NONE. I will bet my Dekerf Team ST that someone made a stem like this because it looked kinda cool, and then someone copied it because, hey, “that’s kinda cool, the bolts are on opposite sides of the stem.”
But it’s a pain in the ass to deal with. Having to switch the allen key from one hand to the other, a couple times, when I’m installing one of these, is STUPID. You’re spending extra time to work on your bike, for no reason.
Oh, and you CANNOT convince me that this somehow evens out the stresses from the bolts. I know this because look at the other end of the stem – the end that grabs the handlebar. Those bolts all run the same way. If it actually did even out stress, then they’d be doing the same for the bar end of the stem.
Maybe, just maybe, it’s cheaper to make a stem this way. But even that seems unlikely. If you’ve got a machine that cuts threads into the stem, it’s got to be easier to just move the stem up to cut threads in the second hole, rather than spin the stem around to cut those threads in the other side.
So yeah, I’m throwing all of my meager influence into this issue. Help your local mechanic, and stop the reversed stem bolts!