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Headset Spacers

Old 12-27-21, 01:56 PM
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Noonievut
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Headset Spacers

I changed the stem on my bike and I guess itís a tad shorter, as the distance between the top of the steerer tube and spacer (using one above the stem) is 1 maybe 2mm. When I snug the top cap bolt I believe the bottom of the cap is contacting the top of the steerer and itís not preloading the headset (hopefully my explanation makes sense, I followed the Park Tool video). When I apply the front brake and push forward it feels like there is play.

So I got some 2 and 3mm spacers and replaced one 5mm with a combo of these and the steerer tube is now a good 4mm below the spacer on top of the stem (maybe 5mm?). Now when I snug the top cap bolt it feels like itís engaging more (also took several more turns), and I can still rotate the bars easily. Now when I check for play it seems to be gone.

Sorry for the long explanation!

So, is it okay if that distance between top of spacer down to the top of the steerer tube is like 4-5mm?

I rarely touch this area of the bike so Iím not as confident. Everything is now torque to spec and it feels good.

Last edited by Noonievut; 02-19-22 at 07:42 PM.
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Old 12-27-21, 02:07 PM
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Yes that's fine - the 1-2 mm people cite is the minimum to ensure that the top cap isn't contacting the steerer top. 4-5mm will achieve the same thing with no downside
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Old 12-27-21, 02:10 PM
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As long as the top bolt of the stem's steerer clamp is below the top of the steerer, you are fine. My preference is to have the steerer long enough to project slightly above the top of the stem and add a spacer above the stem to give me a 3-4 mm gap below the top of that spacer. That accomplishes the gap needed to adjust the headset and assures the steerer is fully supported by the stem. This is particularly useful with a carbon steerer.
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Old 12-27-21, 02:33 PM
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The danger is greater when the top of the steerer is below the stem's top by so much that the steerer is also below the top pinch bolt. With a metal steerer less a concern then with a carbon steerer. It was the introduction of carbon steerers that the "steerer above the stem and add a spacer to allow the preload cap to not bottom out" began to be the way. Andy
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Old 12-27-21, 03:38 PM
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Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
As long as the top bolt of the stem's steerer clamp is below the top of the steerer, you are fine. My preference is to have the steerer long enough to project slightly above the top of the stem and add a spacer above the stem to give me a 3-4 mm gap below the top of that spacer. That accomplishes the gap needed to adjust the headset and assures the steerer is fully supported by the stem. This is particularly useful with a carbon steerer.
Thats exactly how mine is set up, with a 5mm spacer above the stem.
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Old 12-28-21, 04:43 PM
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I think a few folks are misreading the OP. He has a spacer above the stem.

OP: as long as there is enough steer tube sticking into the spacer to keep it in place, you are fine.
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Old 12-29-21, 09:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Kapusta View Post
I think a few folks are misreading the OP. He has a spacer above the stem..
Indeed you are correct and I should have read the OP more carefully. The obvious answer to his problem is to replace the 5mm spacer with a 10mm spacer. And, yes, the resulting 5 or 6mm gap will be fine.
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Old 12-29-21, 04:55 PM
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Ironic, the extra stuff (weight) you have to add so you can use a fork with carbon steerer.
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Old 12-30-21, 02:15 AM
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Originally Posted by oldschoolbike View Post
Ironic, the extra stuff (weight) you have to add so you can use a fork with carbon steerer.
too right lol I put a Easton on my bike and unthinkable just put the stem and took it to my mechanic for housing and cables. Hours after I pick it up and saw aluminum spaces😅😅 just paid and was grateful of his consideration. I am planning on ordering carbon spacers though
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Old 01-21-22, 11:01 AM
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As the OP I wanted to come back and close the loop on this. Short answer - I'm not a very good bike mechanic (but I try!).

When I changed stems...somewhere along the way I accidentally loosened the compression plug that sits inside the carbon steering tube. I didn't know this at the time. I didn't know what it looked like before (lesson learned - use phone for quick photo), so when the compression nut was sitting 5mm or so above the steering tube I didn't know that was wrong. So I need extra spacers to clear this additional height. Fortunately I called the bike shop, explained what I was seeing, and they set me straight (sometimes you just have to see it in person, or photos).

Last edited by Noonievut; 01-21-22 at 02:29 PM.
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Old 01-21-22, 11:21 AM
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Ah, this makes sense. Glad you got it fixed. As long as you can 1) preload the bearings with the cap, and 2) have the stemp clamp on tube (and not "clamp on air") you are good. The 1-2mm of clamping on air might be ok but is still suboptimal. Glad you got it fixed.
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Old 01-26-22, 10:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Noonievut View Post
I changed the stem on my bike and I guess itís a tad shorter, as the distance between the top of the steerer tube and spacer (using one above the stem) is 1 maybe 2mm. When I snug the top cap bolt I believe the bottom of the cap is contacting the top of the steerer and itís not preloading the headset (hopefully my explanation makes sense, I followed the Park Tool video). When I apply the front brake and push forward it feels like there is play.

So I got some 2 and 3mm spacers and replaced one 5mm with a combo of these and the steerer tube is now a good 4mm below the spacer on top of the stem (maybe 5mm?). Now when I snug the top cap bolt it feels like itís engaging more (also took several more turns), and I can still rotate the bars easily. Now when I check for play it seems to be gone.

Sorry for the long explanation!

So, is it okay if that distance between top of spacer down to the top of the steerer tube is like 4-5mm?

I rarely touch this area of the bike so Iím not as confident. Everything is now torque to spec and it feels good.

edit: bike is a 2021 Bombtrack Hook. Top cap is very narrow/thin.
Make sure the expansion plug supports the stem clamps from inside the steer tube. If it doesn't reach down that far, consider buying a different expansion plug that is longer.
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Old 01-29-22, 06:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Camilo View Post
Make sure the expansion plug supports the stem clamps from inside the steer tube. If it doesn't reach down that far, consider buying a different expansion plug that is longer.
I think I may do this...going to call the LBS and talk to them today.

Last edited by Noonievut; 02-19-22 at 07:47 PM.
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