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Bicycle Mechanics Broken bottom bracket? Tacoed wheel? If you're having problems with your bicycle, or just need help fixing a flat, drop in here for the latest on bicycle mechanics & bicycle maintenance.

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Old 02-24-07, 09:28 AM   #1
sbskates
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any tricks tips to getting stem and wheel aligned straight

i never seem to be able to get things aligned exact, stem and wheel going in same direction . any mechanics here have any tips?
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Old 02-24-07, 11:04 AM   #2
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Close one eye - seriously.
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Old 02-24-07, 11:15 AM   #3
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I usually keep both eyes open then stare at the tire. The V made by the stem being out of focus should straddle the tire prefectly. Then focus on the stem, and the V of the tire should straddle the stem in the same manner. I noticed I can tell even more accurately when my bike is on a roof rack. Finally, I am now far less anal retentive than I used to be and now know that if I don't have a problem riding straight, then it's "good enough"
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Old 02-24-07, 11:45 AM   #4
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Straddle the bike, put the front tire into a corner to hold it steady and align the top tube and tire while looking down. Slowly turn the bars until they line up. Tighten it down and you're good to go.
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Old 02-24-07, 07:26 PM   #5
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I use something a bit different, but extremely simple.

Turn the wheel so that it does NOT line up with the top tube. Then eyeball it looking at just the stem and the tire. I find the top tube to be more of a distraction than anything and this method eliminates that distraction.
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Old 02-24-07, 08:15 PM   #6
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If you can align the sights on a rifle...
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Old 02-24-07, 08:22 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sbskates
i never seem to be able to get things aligned exact, stem and wheel going in same direction . any mechanics here have any tips?
Plumb Bob and a level/angle finder.
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Old 02-24-07, 09:14 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sbskates
i never seem to be able to get things aligned exact, stem and wheel going in same direction . any mechanics here have any tips?
Here's my aligning gauge, a bit more quantitative than sighting by eye. Essentially, it's a four foot piece of threaded rod, some nuts, wing nuts and washers. All items probably cost $3 from the LHS (local hardware store). And you'll need a tape measure.

Set the threaded rod so it is symmetric with respect to the fork by measuring the distance from outside of the fork "lawyer lips" to the end of the rod. Adjust nuts so both sides are equal. Then, measure from a common, symmetric point on the stem, like a handlebar clamp bolt. Rotate handlebar so this measurement is equal on both sides. Essentially, you are forming/creating an isosceles triangle, with the centerline of the bike bisecting the triangle.

Of course, this assumes the stem, handlebar and forks are symmetric about the bikes's centerline. For example, this won't work on a Cannondale "Lefty" fork. Note, the longer the threaded rod, the more accurate the alignment. Note, the washers fit within the "lawyer lips" and help stablize the gauge.
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Old 02-24-07, 09:54 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by MudPie
Note, the washers fit within the "lawyer lips" and help stablize the gauge.
At long last, the first known useful function for lawyer lips
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Old 02-25-07, 11:14 AM   #10
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Look down the stem from the top. When you line it up with the middle of the tire, make sure you see the same amount of spoke on either side of the wheel. That way, your eyes are centered on the wheel.
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Old 02-25-07, 11:21 AM   #11
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I believe Sheldon Brown mentioned this in an older thread: get the frame out of the picture all together by turning the wheel 45 degrees to the side. Then align the stem with the wheel. Without the frame blocking 2/3rds of the wheel it's much easier to see when it's aligned properly. Closing one eye when doing it helps.
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Old 02-25-07, 11:46 AM   #12
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I eyeball my alignment.
While I'm riding, if the bar & wheel (mis)alignment doesn't bother nor annoy me, I'm good to go.
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Old 03-21-07, 05:32 PM   #13
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i deliberately DONT align my bars and wheel properly, makes riding much more fun
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Old 03-21-07, 05:42 PM   #14
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soilsampler had it right with the plumb bob.

tie a piece of string to your stem with a few inches hanging down. make sure the knot is in the center of the stem, then tie something small (a mailbox key works well) to the piece hanging down. you'll know you're lined up right if its pointing directly at the center of your tire.


even easier is to hang a necklace from your stem. its not a crucifix, its an alignment compass!
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Old 03-22-07, 02:26 AM   #15
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Here is the way I always do it.

Hold the square end of a twelve-inch steel ruler against the center ferule of the handlebars, this gives you the long edge of the ruler to sight up with the edge of the front tire.
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