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?