I haven't cycled before (ever) but I'm just starting. I acquired a road bike cheaply - it's great but I'm sure set up all wrong. Using drop bars for the first time is proving unnatural and uncomfortable (I guess I need to persevere) and instinct is telling me that they would be better if I raised them a couple of inches.
Despite reading Lennard Zinn's book (plus others), I'm not confident I can do this without advice. It seems to be an entirely conventional threaded stem arrangement. Where the stem passes into the frame, there are two large nuts, one on top of the other, the lower one is wider. In the centre of the top face of the stem is a hex bolt head which I can undo easily.
According to the books, I need to undo the bolt about 0.5 inch and hammer it down using a drift. Something should come loose at the stem/fork union which will allow me to loosen the UPPER of the two nuts and withdraw the stem some unspecified but useful distance.
I'm not unmechanically minded but I can't get my head around how the stem grips the fork - consequently I have anxieties that I wont be able to get everything back together.
The bike is a 1970s/80s Peugeot steel frame 22 inch. I'm 6ft 0in 182lb 50yrs. I think the frame size is ok for my height.
The bottom of the hollow quill stem is likely slotted vertically so that tightening the bolt causes an expansion of the bottom of the stem by pulling up a "shim" (like a big metal threaded lifesaver) of sorts into the hollow part. There is another similar option not using a slot, but an angled wedge - but the principle is the same.
When you hammer it down, it releases the tension on the hollow part, allowing movement of the stem.
1971 Motobecane Grand Record (frame), 1983 Vitus 979 (Bought new and built up. My son still rides it), 1978 Raliegh Roadster (complete but totally torn down right now. 28" wheels, Surly Cross Check ( my love. What a bike)
Good morning Al. Denvr is right, loosen the allen screw and tap the stem to release the wedge and you should be able to adust or remove the stem. There will be a line marked "max" which is the most you can raise it. If the stem is "frozen" in place and will not move then you have other problems. Try turning the bike upside down and spraying some lubricant into the fork and let it soak. Hopefully you will not have this problem. You do not need to loosen the nuts holding the fork to the frame to do this.
If this bike has not been ridden in a while, I would suggest taking it to a shop and have them check it out and lube it. While you are there you could also check out some different bars (more upright). No one says you have to stick to the drops if they are not comfortable. After all, it is your bike now. You are required to start spending money to personalize it!
As stated above, loosen the stem bolt, but keep turning it until it protrudes above the stem. Tap the bolt down, not the stem. Hitting the stem will wedge it tighter. By tapping on the bolt you will force the wedge or shim down. The stem may still be difficult to get out due to corrosion, if that is the case, some Krol oil will solve that. Also, use a rubber mallet or a brass hammer with a cloth, as to not damage the stem assembly.
You could take it to your LBS and watch them make the adjustment once (worth the $25 or so you will pay) then you would be set for future changes. You might have to have longer cables and housing for the changes. The LBS should have double sided ferrules where you can add short lengths of cable without haveing to buy a whole new cable.
I have a number of bikes with drops. Traditionally I have used a severe seat to stem height, but with my age 63 I am needing to move to comfortable positions to be able to ride long distances. It is working and my hands and elbows don't hurt any more. I am even experimenting with a flat bar with aero bar attachments for very long distances. Don't be afraid to experiment. Nothing is worse than riding in pain especially when you aren't getting paid the big bucks.
And make friends with you LBS. If you are a customer you can get some great advice from a good mechanic.