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Old 11-19-05, 12:15 AM   #1
TallRider
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quill stems flex a lot - is there any way around this?

This is about quill stems flexing a really lot, at least in isolated testing in my room while trying to figure out which stem/handlbar combination to install. Some rambling setup follows, and then my observations. Comments and discussion are encouraged and desired.

So as some of you know by now, I'm really tall and am trying to fit my road bike with higher handlebars to go with the uber-long seatpost that allow me to ride a 59cm (ctt) Raleigh frame that I got when I worked at a bike shop in high school. Second-largest frame that Raleigh made at the time, and certainly too small for me, by a long shot. The saving grace is a 59cm top tube, longer than the vast majority of frames that size, so I'm not too cramped on it. I've gotten by with low handlebars that aren't as far forward as I'd like but since their being low means that my back is at the same angle as if they were higher and further forward - I'm just more likely to bump my knees on the bar when out of the saddle.

Anyway, I've been wanting a new bike in a much larger size for awhile, but have decided to lay off that plan for the moment and figure out more what I want before springing the cash - I've ridden this thing for 10 years, and should be able to do so for a little longer. It's still a beautiful, light, smooth and fast machine, and I completely overhauled it this summer and the functionality is practically new.

However, I've been experimenting with different stems in attempt to get a higher saddle position, and have started to notice how much quill stems flex. Tonight I tried different stems and just tested the flex in the handlebars. Basically stood over the top tube and leaned on the drops to see how much the stem flexed forward, and then torqued from side to side to see how much the stem twisted and/or bent at the quill.

First up was the recently purchased Nitto Technomic (forged version, 225mm quill, 130mm stem extension), and it flexed like crazy when I torqued on the handlbar. So, there goes my hope of a much higher handlbar. It's not going to fall off or anything, but it's really disconcerting how much it flexed when I torqued the bar. Leaning forward wasn't much of a problem.

But then I tried the Zoom 130mm extension stem (pictured with the bike in the link above), with a normal-length quill, and it flexed side-to-side a lot as well. Not quite as much as the Technomic, but a lot still. The flex was in the quill, not the extension part - the extension part is fat-tubed aluminum, but the quill is just straight 22.2mm aluminum tubing.

So I finally tried my old Cinelli XA stem, that I'd had on the bike for most of my time riding it. Beautiful forged stem, probably one of the nicest classic aluminum stems ever made. And it flexed a lot torsionally, too! About the same amount as the Zoom stem, both of which were a bit less than the Technomic.

I'm surprised - I'd ridden this bike for a long time, and have sprinted and climbed out of the saddle many times on it, and had never noticed how much it flexed. So, maybe the amount of flex, even with the Technomic, isn't a problem. On the other side, I don't expect the handlebars to flex this much, and it can't be good for the stem or the fork's steerer tube, and my sprinting and out-of-saddle-climbing would probably be better with diminished flex as well.

This has finally convinced me of the improved functionality of threadless steering/headset systems. Poor height adjustability, but majorly improved stiffness.

So I'm wondering if all quill stems flex this much. I could buy a Salsa steel quill stem and it will probably flex less than any of the aluminum stems, but I'm now sort of bummed on the whole quill-stem endeavor. Comments? Advice? Should I just buy a new bike in large size now, and sell my bike to someone shorter who doesn't need a stem jacked up with any extension?
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Old 11-19-05, 01:32 AM   #2
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Here's a picture of the bike in progress right now. With the Technomic stem, it looks pretty gangly. It's sort of sad to take a bike this light and put the Technomic and a Brooks B.17 saddle on it. One of my housemates described it as "putting a 3-pound saddle on an 18-pound bike," which is approximately what's happening, except that both figures are slightly exaggerated. Slightly.

Still, I love the look (and the ride!) of the steel fork. Reynolds 753. I trust it more than I'd trust carbon, and it's comfortable and smooth to boot, along with being beautiful. And rather light.
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Old 11-19-05, 01:41 AM   #3
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This is why threadless was invented... or something like it. They are less flexy though admittedly the way you have your quill set up is pretty pathological. You might see if you can find a quill riser stem. The 1" shaft is going to be the most flexible part, so the less of that you can have showing above the head tube, the better.

If that doesn't play out for you, you could get a quill to threadless adapter and go threadless. This will feel similar to a quill stem fully inserted.

Or get a steel stem. It would definitely be stiffer.
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Old 11-19-05, 07:23 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bostontrevor
This is why threadless was invented... or something like it. They are less flexy though admittedly the way you have your quill set up is pretty pathological. You might see if you can find a quill riser stem. The 1" shaft is going to be the most flexible part, so the less of that you can have showing above the head tube, the better.

If that doesn't play out for you, you could get a quill to threadless adapter and go threadless. This will feel similar to a quill stem fully inserted.

Or get a steel stem. It would definitely be stiffer.
Quill adapters have short quills,so to get the rise he want's would mean an exaggerated stem angle if he can get there at all. Better to try for a fork with longer steerer or get a frame that fits and quit beating this lame horse.
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Old 11-19-05, 08:26 AM   #5
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Geez! The quill stem in the picture is almost completely out of the frame. No wonder it flexes so much! Just consider yourself lucky that you haven't pulled the stem out. I could be wrong, but I'm thinking that your stem is not even inserted into the frame to the minimum insertion line.
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Old 11-19-05, 09:01 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bellweatherman
Geez! The quill stem in the picture is almost completely out of the frame. No wonder it flexes so much! Just consider yourself lucky that you haven't pulled the stem out. I could be wrong, but I'm thinking that your stem is not even inserted into the frame to the minimum insertion line.
Those Nitto Technomic stems have very long colums - about 230 mm, I think. Most likely, it's inserted exactly to the minimum depth.
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Old 11-19-05, 09:04 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bellweatherman
Geez! The quill stem in the picture is almost completely out of the frame. No wonder it flexes so much! Just consider yourself lucky that you haven't pulled the stem out. I could be wrong, but I'm thinking that your stem is not even inserted into the frame to the minimum insertion line.
No, the stem actually is inserted fully into the frame, 5mm more than the minimum-insertion mark actually. It's just a really, really long quill. 225mm. here's a picture.

Honestly, even though the stem is flexy, I'm not worried about it breaking. To my knowledge, Nitto is very careful in testing their products for safety. And it is forged.

I do mostly leisurely riding (around 18mph-avg solo rides) and am not out of the saddle climbing or sprinting very often. So the flex may not be a problem so much. It's more that I want a bike that I'm confident can hold up to hard sprinting (I can hit about 38 on flat with no wind) and out-of-the-saddle climbing, if the spirit moves me. But that'll have to wait for my getting a new bike.

What I'm more worried about is messing up the steerer tube on my fork with the amount of torque generated by a 130mm extension stem with that much quill showing. Anyone know if this is a problem?

Last edited by TallRider; 11-19-05 at 09:12 AM.
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Old 11-19-05, 09:11 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bellweatherman
Geez! The quill stem in the picture is almost completely out of the frame. No wonder it flexes so much! Just consider yourself lucky that you haven't pulled the stem out. I could be wrong, but I'm thinking that your stem is not even inserted into the frame to the minimum insertion line.
Yep, you're wrong. Souds like it's a technomic, which have a VERY long quill; the one sitting on my desk is about 8 1/2 inches from top of quill to minimum insertion line.
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Old 11-19-05, 09:19 AM   #9
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You might want to go ahead and seek out a really big chromoly tig welded stem. Check ebay. Salsa would be a good place to start. Sometimes the really big ones are easier to find than the more in-demand sizes. A salsa 130mm 5 degree upward rise stem I think would be stiffer but you're not going to get it as high as that tall nitto. It sounds like you could run with the Nitto and just accept the flex as going with the territory of such a big frame. Call it a "suspension" stem, if you will, and make this your smooth cruising "finesse" bike, no hammertime allowed ! Another idea would be to seek out good old-fashioned American framebuilders like Bruce Gordon, also "Bilenky" comes to mind. I don't know if either of these cats still make custom chromoly stems but its worth a try. Last I knew, you could order a custom from Bruce Gordon...not sure of the cost (could be as high as $200....that would be a helluva downpayment on a better sized frame). You could order and extra tall (220mm steerer) heavy duty 135mm 5 or 10 degree upward rise or something like that, I'll bet it would be pretty darn stiff. I think Gordon will paint the stem in your choice of colors too.
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Old 11-19-05, 09:29 AM   #10
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Sorry to be a downer but I think you are screwed in terms of trying to make your old frame fit better. There is only so much you can do without bringing basic physics into the equation. The stiffest stems are going to be thick-walled steel versions but you are going to have a large step down between the saddle and stem as you already know.

I've heard lots of good things about the framebuilder Tom Teesdale - TET Cycles. His frames are about the cheapest you are going to find from a fully reputable builder - he has specials where you can get a full custom for about $800 or so. Another good guy to check out is Walt Works (I think he builds road bikes?). Again, full custom for less than $800 or so.

Good luck.

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Old 11-19-05, 09:46 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sydney
Quill adapters have short quills,so to get the rise he want's would mean an exaggerated stem angle if he can get there at all.
Yup, nothing is going to look good, but there are lots of threadless risers with an insane amount of rise for the comfort bike market. Like this one:

http://www.nashbar.com/profile.cfm?c...eid=&pagename=

Quote:
Better to try for a fork with longer steerer or get a frame that fits and quit beating this lame horse.
Given the amount of rise he wants in the stem, I don't think a threaded steerer would work. But changing up the headset and getting a 1" threadless fork with a nice long tube could be just the trick.
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Old 11-19-05, 09:59 AM   #12
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Thanks for the thoughts, masi61 and Nessism. Last night I already started looking at Salsa cromoly quill stems, for a couple of different project bikes. But none of them have long quills like the Nitto.
A custom stem doesn't make sense because I'm just holding things off until I decide what to do for a new bike/frame. Nessism, thanks for the links to custom guys - I'm considering these guys now as well as Curtlo. Or just a stock Soma Smoothie ES 66cm frame with 62cm top tube and 25cm head tube. (My bike has a 17cm head tube - over 3" shorter).
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Old 11-19-05, 10:24 AM   #13
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Go for the custom. Columbus Zona or some varity of True Temper tubing in super oversize is the way to go - 1.25" top and seat tube with 1.375" down tube. The large tubes will ward off flex yet still deliver a reasonable ride. Frame won't be the lightest though, for that you are going to have to stay with aluminum.

Good luck.

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Old 11-19-05, 06:17 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bostontrevor
Yup, nothing is going to look good, but there are lots of threadless risers with an insane amount of rise for the comfort bike market. Like this one:

http://www.nashbar.com/profile.cfm?c...eid=&pagename=



Given the amount of rise he wants in the stem, I don't think a threaded steerer would work. But changing up the headset and getting a 1" threadless fork with a nice long tube could be just the trick.
It will if you know how to do it.
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Old 11-19-05, 07:31 PM   #15
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My modolo Q-race stem is fairly flexy. However, I find that it is more good than bad. Sure, the 1% of the time that I am hammering it, it flexes a bit more than my threadless setup. However, the rest of the time (99%) it dampens road vibes and my hands feel soooo much better...
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Old 11-19-05, 09:48 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by ivan_yulaev
My modolo Q-race stem is fairly flexy. However, I find that it is more good than bad. Sure, the 1% of the time that I am hammering it, it flexes a bit more than my threadless setup. However, the rest of the time (99%) it dampens road vibes and my hands feel soooo much better...
That's a really, really good point. And once I got my worries about safety out of the way this this other thread, it's a point about which I can be happy. Given that I don't hammer out of the saddle most of the time - I hammer a fair bit, in a time-trialist sense, but have low enough gears (26x23) to where I can sit comfortably up any hill, and the main time when I'm standing up is when I'm riding away from a stop.
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Old 11-20-05, 07:19 AM   #17
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One of the frustrating things about this is that even with the Technomic stem at full quill extension, the bars are still 3.5" below the saddle. But given that I rode with the bars 7" below the saddle for most of my time on this bike, I should be able to deal
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Old 11-21-05, 03:24 AM   #18
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what bike is that? it does not look like a 59. looks like a 57 with a 57 top tube, max. maybe the seattube is slacker and the chainstays longer. but doesn't look like a 59.

as for your quill/seatpost combo it's fine. why are you worrying about the flex of the handlebars? it doesn't impact anything in any real way. nitto technomic's the best you can get, by the way, and also the longest production stem.

finally, it's a bike with a steel fork, brooks saddle, index shifters, and nitto stem. i'd say that's the way a bike should be. not to mention rear wheel chain protector, seatpost reflector, 32-spoke front wheel. no way in hell should you be a weight weenie with that set up, a "59" bike, and not even including brake levers and pedals. it's probably closer to 21 pounds.

oh, and having a threadless system wouldn't help. it'd be an insane amount of spacers you'd need to get above the nitto technomic. the threaded system is still far superior.

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Old 11-21-05, 06:05 AM   #19
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Yeah, I know that a threadless system on that bike wouldn't make any sense. At all.
The frame is a 59 (ctt) with a 59 top tube (ctc). I'm pretty sure that the seat tube isn't much slack - it's a pretty standard racing geometry frame.

The steel fork is as light as they come (well, came - and I don't know that there have been meaningful advances on this front) for steel forks. And sweet-riding, to boot. The brooks saddle is a new addition to the bike - hasn't been ridden yet, and it adds an extra pound to the bike (over a saddle that I'd be using instead). The Technomic stem doesn't add a ton, itself - maybe half a pound over my old Cinelli XA.
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Old 11-21-05, 09:01 AM   #20
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When is the burial for this dead horse?
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