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  1. #1
    I need more cowbell. Digital Gee's Avatar
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    Should I flip my stem?

    I'm riding more often in the drops, and when I do, I get the feeling of more power in my legs, which may just be an illusion but it sure feels real.

    Anyway, I'm wondering if maybe it's time to flip my stem. My back seems to be able to take it. What performance gains would I notice, if any?

    Is this something I should let the fine folks at Adams Avenue Cycles do, or is it relatively easy?

    And, are those spacers on my bike? Perhaps I should start by just having one or more of them removed, if that's what they are? Hopefully, you can tell what I'm talking about from this pic. The bike is stock Specialized.
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  2. #2
    Senior Member SaiKaiTai's Avatar
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    Those are spacers, yes... looks like two of 'em.
    Flipping is not hard in concept really and I thought of doing it to my LeMond this weekend.
    Until I realized, I'd probably have to readjust every cable on the bike.

    I don't know that removing one spacer would equal flipping the stem, but it might give you an idea.
    '13 Felt Z3 - '08 Jamis Aurora Elite - ('07 Giant OCR C2)

  3. #3
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    I find flipping a stem to be easy. Especially if you are flipping it down, to where there is even less tension on your cables. I've changed out stems 5 times in the past 18 months, on 3 different bikes.

    Just make sure you don't lift the front of your bike, after you remove the stem, or the fork could drop out. Then you've got to get your headset put back together correctly. Don't ask me how I know this.

    You won't have to remove anything from your handlebars, except for the stem clamp.

    You could remove a spacer, but you'll still have to take the stem off of the steerer tube to do that. Your headset will look a little strange if you do this, as you will have a bit of steerer tube sticking up above your stem. Don't see that on too many bikes. You'd probably move your spacer to above the stem.
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    Senior Member SaiKaiTai's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Bombadil View Post
    I find flipping a stem to be easy. Especially if you are flipping it down, to where there is even less tension on your cables. I've changed out stems 5 times in the past 18 months, on 3 different bikes.

    Just make sure you don't lift the front of your bike, after you remove the stem, or the fork could drop out. Then you've got to get your headset put back together correctly. Don't ask me how I know this.

    You won't have to remove anything from your handlebars, except for the stem clamp.

    You could remove a spacer, but you'll still have to take the stem off of the steerer tube to do that. Your headset will look a little strange if you do this, as you will have a bit of steerer tube sticking up above your stem. Don't see that on too many bikes. You'd probably move your spacer to above the stem.
    This doesn't sound too bad, at all
    How much, if any, adjusting did you have to do?
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  5. #5
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    When using a fixed stem, there is no adjusting - excepting for angling your handlebar to where you want it.

    Didn't adjust my cables at all, after all, you aren't changing the length of any of them.
    "Too often I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen." Louis L'Amour

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  6. #6
    Small Member maddmaxx's Avatar
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    You can flip the stem..........or you can move one or both spacers from under the stem to over the stem.

    For the former, you need to remove the faceplate of the stem (4 allen screws) so it can be turned around at the bar, and you need to remove the allen cap screw in the top cap and loosen the 2 allen cap screws in the stem. Then you slide the stem up the steerer tube, turn it over, slide it back down.

    Reinstall the top cap, tighten the top cap screw untill the headset bearings are properly compressed, align the stem with the front wheel, tighten the 2 screws on the stem. Then reattach the bars with the 4 faceplate screws.

    I must be dreaming................................this is DG right.............

  7. #7
    rebmeM roineS JanMM's Avatar
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    Flipping the stem is guaranteed to increase your average speed by 1.3mph. Or, maybe, decrease your speed by 1.3mph?

  8. #8
    Banned. The Weak Link's Avatar
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    This thread is reminding me to schedule an appointment with my massage therapist. Preshaddit.

  9. #9
    Senior Member George's Avatar
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    You don't have to flip it yet. Their is a insert, where you tighten the clamp. Look on the back of the clamp and you will see + 16 or - 8. If the +16 is not upside down, you can flip the insert and have the -8 on the left as you read it, right side up. That will lower the bars about an inch. You may want to go a little slower and just take out 1 spacer at a time. Then you just take the clamp off, take 1 spacer out and put the other on top.
    George

  10. #10
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    Flipping the stem on your Specialized is easy, but there are other adjustments you can perform also. I flipped my stem last year on my Sequoia and removed three spacers (not all at once, but gradually). By the end of the summer I was starting to feel a bit uncomfortable on the hoods...kind of stretched. That was OK for a while because I'm most comfortable in the drops and I thought maybe it was just a learning curve. A few weeks ago I decided the learning curve had gone on long enough and I replace my stem with a shorter one. I went from a 130 cm all the way down to a 100 cm. Now I'm comfortable on the hoods again and even more comfortable in the drops. I have another spacer that I'll probably remove this year and the shims on a Specialized are tapered to allow even more adjustment. If you remove the spacers and find it comfortable, you'll probably want your LBS to trim the top of your fork off so it's not sticking above your bars.
    Edit: The tapered shims allow for incremental adjustments.
    Last edited by swan652; 06-25-08 at 08:09 AM.

  11. #11
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    All else being equal, if you want to lower your handlebars, any method which brings the stem extension closer to level with the ground will result in a better looking bike. In other words, flipping (or adjusting) the stem would look better than removing spacers and leaving the sem angled upward.
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Old School's Avatar
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    DG,
    Flipping your stem is a decidedly "roadie" thing to do. However, it does put you at risk for OP disease and being fully embraced by the folks on the Road Forum. Caution should be exercised in making your final decision.
    Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, "WOW! WHAT A RIDE!"

  13. #13
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    Just try it. You can always go back. If you remove spacers, don't have your steerer tube cut down though, unless you're sure you will never want the bars higher.

    What you describe as more power is simply because you were leaning more forward. Either the hoods or the drops will do this, because you are making more efficient use of all the muscles that can be involved in pedaling. The drops allow you to put down more force on the pedals simply because when you pedal really hard (as in a sprint), you would push yourself off the saddle if you weren't holding yourself down on the handlebars. You can usually make the most of this when in the drops, moreso than on the hoods, which is why sprints in races are usually done in the drops. But you shouldn't lower your bars for this reason alone, since you have the drops and the hoods there no matter where they are. When our age, too much change at once can cause pain and injury, so be careful.

    It's very easy to flip the stem yourself. The only tricky part is setting the preload so there's no play in the fork but there isn't too much pressure on the bearings. It's hard to explain. Maybe it would be best if you had someone at your LBS show you how. Once you've seen and felt it, no problem doing it yourself any other time in the future.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Allegheny Jet's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Old School View Post
    DG,
    Flipping your stem is a decidedly "roadie" thing to do. However, it does put you at risk for OP disease and being fully embraced by the folks on the Road Forum. Caution should be exercised in making your final decision.
    How true that is! I noticed last week my bars were set a little lower than my son's bars. If he knew that his last last spacer would be gone.

    note to OP: Before you make any adjustment tohe stem or bar height, measure the distance from the floor to the top of the bar. If turning the shim in the stem, flipping the stem or switching spacers doesn't work out you can always go back to what originally worked.

  15. #15
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    What flipping the stem does, as well as removing spacers, is gets you into more of a flat back, aero position. That means more speed and less energy at the same speed. However, if it causes back pain, discomfort, or just makes you ride more on the hoods instead of the drops, the benefit is gone.

    It's a good idea to be fitted or at least observed on your bike by an expert. As an alternative, get your bike on a trainer in front of a mirror and experiement with your position and see what is comfortable.

    Also keep in mind that flipping the stem and taking out spacers also affects the effective length of the stem. Another poster said he felt too stretched out - that may be from having an effective longer stem. You might need a different size stem as well. You can always compute the math.
    You're just trying to start an argument to show how smart you are.

  16. #16
    Elite Rider Hermes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Digital Gee View Post
    Anyway, I'm wondering if maybe it's time to flip my stem. My back seems to be able to take it. What performance gains would I notice, if any?
    You will be more aero, use your gluts more (more power) and shift weight off your sit bones to your hands. However, there is a balance to be maintained and gradual changes are better than large changes to allow your body time to adapt.

    Quote Originally Posted by Digital Gee View Post
    Is this something I should let the fine folks at Adams Avenue Cycles do, or is it relatively easy?
    It is easy but I would take it to Adams. I believe the Roubaix has carbon parts. It is easy to over / under tighten the stem and to flip the stem or remove spacers, you will have to retighten the headset. I find there is an art form to getting all that right for carbon parts. I let my mechanic do it or I do it to a snug fit and have them check it. If it is all aluminum, then you can do it yourself.

  17. #17
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SaiKaiTai View Post
    Those are spacers, yes... looks like two of 'em.
    Flipping is not hard in concept really and I thought of doing it to my LeMond this weekend.
    Until I realized, I'd probably have to readjust every cable on the bike.
    Actually, flipping your stem usually doesn't require cable tension adjustments.

    If your bike has the shortest possible cable housings, however, not only will you have to readjust all of the cables, you'll also have to replace all four cables and housings. Stock bikes don't come from the factory with the shortest possible cable housings so, unless yours were trimmed at some time in the past, you're good.

  18. #18
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    If the steerer tube is carbon, then I agree with Hermes, that you might want to take it to the shop. If you overtighten and crack the steerer, then you'll need a new fork.
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  19. #19
    Senior Member SaiKaiTai's Avatar
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    OK, yeah... flipped it.
    Took, maybe, 10 minutes, if that. No big deal.
    Had to tighten things back down by "feel"... got no bit that fits for the torque.
    Besides, mine only goes up to, like, 65 in lbs.
    So, I tightened it up based on how hard it was to break loose... and making sure the steer tube didn't bind or wobble.
    Looks pretty cool and, after just sitting on it in the garage (haven't road tested it yet), it feels pretty good.
    Better, in fact, than I think it felt flipped up.

    Gary - give it try. If your Roubaix is anything like my LeMond (just sayin'), all the bolts use the same size allen wrench.
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  20. #20
    should know better
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    You might consider a stem swap--flipping a stem with that much rise could be a bit extreme for your back. Something like a 6 degree rise stem would probably be a better bet, and it's pretty easy to find stems on eBay for 10 or 15 bucks shipped. The 5mm Allen wrench is pretty universal for all the bolts involved.

  21. #21
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    Another option might be to have yout LBS put an adjustable stem on your bike. You can make whatever adjustments you want with that and once you've found the correct one, have the LBS put on a hard stem and make spacer/shim changes.

  22. #22
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Advise instead of insults this time.

    When I got the OCR- I set it up with the bars level with saddle. Felt OK but a year later I got Boreas. The shop set this up for me as they know my sizing and how I ride. They set the bars up 3" below the saddle and said to all my Doubts- "Just ride the ^%$$*&^ thing". So I did. What a difference. Took a little while to get used to the drops for any length of time- but it worked. The stretched out position cured the back ache that used to come in after about 4 hours riding. The hands never went numb and the Legs had to do a lot of work before they got tired.

    Try taking the spacers out first- And replace them on top of the stem. Then replace the spacers and flip the stem. Then keep the stem flipped and put the spacers back on top.

    That lower position worked for me and has increased my speed aswell. But watch out when you go down the hills in San Diego. The speed pickup will be tremendous.
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  23. #23
    Senior Member Oroluk Lagoon's Avatar
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    Your stem looks identical to mine and it wasn't too difficult to try all four positions permitted by reversing the shim collar and/or flipping the stem. If you do flip the stem you also have to move the shim collar to the opposite end of the stem.

    I started out with the stem (as received from the previous owner) in the highest, most upright position. I then tried it in each of the other positions. It's true that I felt more aerodynamic in the lower positions, but I also felt more stretched out as flipping the stem effectively increases the reach.

    I wound up putting it back in the highest (stem up, +16) position. I find that to be the most comfortable for me at age 61 and doing centuries and other long rides. Also the areas I ride in tend to be quite hilly, not a lot of flats. I think if I were racing on shorter, less hilly routes, the lower positions might suit me better.

    The other thing is that a shorter stem would allow me to lower the bar while keeping the reach at a comfortable distance. I'm still learning, too.
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  24. #24
    I need more cowbell. Digital Gee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Oroluk Lagoon View Post
    Your stem looks identical to mine and it wasn't too difficult to try all four positions permitted by reversing the shim collar and/or flipping the stem. If you do flip the stem you also have to move the shim collar to the opposite end of the stem.

    I started out with the stem (as received from the previous owner) in the highest, most upright position. I then tried it in each of the other positions. It's true that I felt more aerodynamic in the lower positions, but I also felt more stretched out as flipping the stem effectively increases the reach.

    I wound up putting it back in the highest (stem up, +16) position. I find that to be the most comfortable for me at age 61 and doing centuries and other long rides. Also the areas I ride in tend to be quite hilly, not a lot of flats. I think if I were racing on shorter, less hilly routes, the lower positions might suit me better.

    The other thing is that a shorter stem would allow me to lower the bar while keeping the reach at a comfortable distance. I'm still learning, too.
    Well, I had the LBS do just what you suggest: we reversed the shim collar first. I watched carefully and now feel confident I can make changes in the spacers if I want to lower it further.
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    Flip the damn thing, and if you don't like it that way, flip it back. We're talking about maybe 10 minutes of work here, no readjustment of the cables, no nothing.
    Well, if you have canti brakes with a separate housing stop, you might have to adjust the brake cables, but that takes, what, 45 seconds? It's just a bike; don't overcomplicate it.

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