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What is the correct torque for the nut that holds the handlebar in the stem?

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What is the correct torque for the nut that holds the handlebar in the stem?

Old 07-06-13, 03:31 AM
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What is the correct torque for the nut that holds the handlebar in the stem?

I started mounting my (drop) handlebars with the curve down so I can put my hands in them. I prefer this and it makes braking easier. But this puts more torque on my handlebars than tightening its bolt with and allen wrench and bare hands will hold. So I used a socket wrench with an allen socket. I have a torque wrench: what is the maximum torque the bolt will take?
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Old 07-06-13, 06:07 AM
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You're best off leaving the torque wrench for high-end carbon, and just learning how to judge it.

So, do it up to the minimum you think would hold, and try to make it slip.

Pay attention to how much force you're putting into the bolt, compared to how much you think it'd take to shear it; consider that a reference. You usually don't want to go past about halfway, unless you're kludging.
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Old 07-06-13, 07:33 AM
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The standard I always taught in mechanic courses was to tighten until you feel a strong, sudden increase in resistance. NOBODY has torque wrenches back then and somehow we survived without shearing bolts every day.
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Old 07-06-13, 06:23 PM
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A 'strong sudden increase in resistance' happens before it gets tight enough to hold.

Unfortunately I don't have the judgment I used to have (or thought I did): I'm over-tightening sometimes (especially crank bolts) and under-tightening other times (especially handlebar and seat post).

I bought the torque wrench to use on my pickup. I thought that as long as I have it I can use it on my bicycle too.
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Old 07-06-13, 06:52 PM
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According to ParkTool the torque for "Stem binder bolt-quill type for threaded headsets" is 174-260 inch-pounds for Shimano, Control Tech is 144-168 inch pounds.

http://www.parktool.com/uploads/files/blog/torque.pdf
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Old 07-06-13, 08:44 PM
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Originally Posted by cny-bikeman View Post
The standard I always taught in mechanic courses was to tighten until you feel a strong, sudden increase in resistance. NOBODY has torque wrenches back then and somehow we survived without shearing bolts every day.
True. Important to use proper sized wrenches (i.e. re length) when you're not using a torque wrench. Too long and it's easy to over-torque.
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Old 07-06-13, 10:03 PM
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Originally Posted by RandomTroll View Post
A 'strong sudden increase in resistance' happens before it gets tight enough to hold.
Sounds like something's amiss then. How do the bars look where they go inside the stem? If they've been slipping for a while, they could be toast.

Traditionally, this joint is only just up to the ask IMO... had a bit of trouble with it over the years. All that is a thing of the past once you go 31.8 though.
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Old 07-06-13, 10:21 PM
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Originally Posted by TromboneAl View Post
According to ParkTool the torque for "Stem binder bolt-quill type for threaded headsets" is 174-260 inch-pounds for Shimano, Control Tech is 144-168 inch pounds.

http://www.parktool.com/uploads/files/blog/torque.pdf
Thanks.
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Old 07-06-13, 10:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Kimmo View Post
Sounds like something's amiss then. How do the bars look where they go inside the stem? If they've been slipping for a while, they could be toast.
Toast? Really? Discard a pair of handlebars just because I can't tighten the stem bolt to get them to hold by hand? They've held so far since I went about a quarter of a turn further with a socket wrench. I'd always ridden with the drops roughly parallel to the ground before; I could still do that with them. No doubt the knurling is worn. A shim would be a better solution.

45 years ago the handlebar stem of my Schwinn Typhoon broke. I was pulling against the handlebars so I pulled them over my head, staring at them in astonishment. I was so surprised I don't remember the fall: a blessing of youth.
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Old 07-06-13, 10:44 PM
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No one can give you a torque limit with knowing details.

There's the torque at which the bolt will snap, and the torque at which the ears on the stem will crack. Without knowing specifics we can't even say which is lower.

You can use hand feel, and give it a bit more torque than the normal ramp up limit, since there's some flex in the ears, but there's no way to predict when they'll crack.

A better approach than over stressing the stem is to improve traction so you can get more hold at lower clamping force. My favorite trick is to introduce lapping compound (grit in grease) between the bar and stem. To do this remove the bolt, and spread the stem slightly so there's a gap and you can slide the bar across easily. If the stem is threaded put the bolt in from the back and tighten it against a penny in the slot to jack the stem open.

Once it's loose paint the bar with lapping compound (bring a beer to the nearest auto mechanic to swap for a teaspoon of medium grit) slide into place, and position the bar before tightening. Get the position right because twisting the bar while partly clamped will score it and if done too much will defeat your purpose.
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Old 07-06-13, 10:51 PM
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Originally Posted by TromboneAl View Post
According to ParkTool the torque for "Stem binder bolt-quill type for threaded headsets" is 174-260 inch-pounds for Shimano, Control Tech is 144-168 inch pounds.

http://www.parktool.com/uploads/files/blog/torque.pdf
Wrong bolt. He needs the stem/handlebar pinch bolt torque and the only one given is for Control Tech.

If a spec is needed, the OP can look up the generic torque limits based on the diameter and pitch of the bolt, and hope that the engineering is such that the bolt would snap before the stem cracks (this is standard good practice when selecting hardware for these applications, but not something to bet your life on (figure of speech, not warning of danger except to the stem).
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Old 07-06-13, 10:53 PM
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Originally Posted by TromboneAl View Post
According to ParkTool the torque for "Stem binder bolt-quill type for threaded headsets" is 174-260 inch-pounds for Shimano, Control Tech is 144-168 inch pounds.
Wrong bolt. He needs the stem/handlebar pinch bolt torque and the only one given is for Control Tech.

If a spec is needed, the OP can look up the generic torque limits based on the diameter and pitch of the bolt, and hope that the engineering is such that the bolt would snap before the stem cracks (this is standard good practice when selecting hardware for these applications, but not something to bet your life on (figure of speech, not warning of danger except to the stem).
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Old 07-06-13, 11:46 PM
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my carbon over alum stem has the torque spec marked on it. 90 kgf or 8.83 nm.


(very small text below the fsa between the bolts)
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Old 07-07-13, 01:39 AM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
Wrong bolt. He needs the stem/handlebar pinch bolt torque and the only one given is for Control Tech.
Hmmmm... I don't have any of those: how do you know? You like grit: what about adding a piece of aluminum can to shim instead?

Last edited by RandomTroll; 07-07-13 at 01:52 AM. Reason: misread first time
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Old 07-07-13, 02:08 AM
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Shims can work like bushings. Aluminium cans are pretty shiny.
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Old 07-07-13, 02:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Kimmo View Post
Shims can work like bushings. Aluminium cans are pretty shiny.
I don't understand this message: is shiny good or bad? would a bushing be good or bad?

Are you pointing out that a bushing lubricates and an alumin(i)um can would be slippery?

Have you seen a shim for sale at the hardware store? Have you read 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance'?

Last edited by RandomTroll; 07-07-13 at 02:47 AM. Reason: Thought about it more
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Old 07-07-13, 03:14 AM
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I've read Zen, and Zinn, and been there, done that with bits of can shimming the bar clamp back in the day.

A shim can only help if the stem isn't free to bite down harder, that is, if the ears around the bolt are touching. Is that the case? And is the stem aluminium or steel?

It's been my experience that any stem and/or bars that have been involved in these shenanigans are basically toast. You can futz around with it in the hope you'll hit on a solution if you like, but I wouldn't rate your chances unless you have a lot of relevant hands-on experience.

My advice is to get a quill to 9/8" threadless adapter, and use modern 31.8mm stem and bars. Then it'll never slip again, not to mention being stiffer. Throw in a threadless fork, and it'll be stiffer again, and lighter.

Last edited by Kimmo; 07-07-13 at 03:19 AM.
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Old 07-07-13, 11:54 AM
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Originally Posted by RandomTroll View Post
A 'strong sudden increase in resistance' happens before it gets tight enough to hold.
Hi,

Excuse me for stating the obvious but this happens twice.

If your hand key is not very long the first time will be when the bolt
engages the clamp and starts to compress it. The second time will
be when the clamp is tight around the bars and the clamp will no
longer compress. This is assuming the clamp fits the bars.

If the clamp fully tightens against itself without holding the bars,
file away the material in the gap where the clamp meets itself.
This won't fix a wrongly fitting clamp for the bars.

rgds, sreten.
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Old 07-07-13, 11:58 AM
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Originally Posted by sreten View Post
Hi,

...If the clamp fully tightens against itself without holding the bars,
file away the material in the gap where the clamp meets itself.
This won't fix a wrongly fitting clamp for the bars....
This shouldn't be the issue here, since the OP flipped the same handlebar that had always been there.

Originally Posted by RandomTroll View Post
Hmmmm... I don't have any of those: how do you know? You like grit: what about adding a piece of aluminum can to shim instead?
If the issue is traction, and not one of fit, (which it shouldn't be since it's the same bar as always) adding another layer can't help unless it's one with higher friction properties. Moreover the added thickness would now mean an incorrect match in the diameters of bar and stem.

Shims are for to match size, traction compound is to improve grip. Neither can do the other's job.
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Old 07-07-13, 01:34 PM
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OK, back to the question.

I have some stems on bikes and in the spare parts box (all alloy) that have torque specs printed on them, but honestly, most do not. The marked ones vary and are 5 to 8 nm. For several years, I've only used the Ritchey Torque Key (5 nm) on every stem I own (both steer tube and handlebar clamps)** and it works - no slippage. If it did slip, I'd just use that tool to get it to that torque, then just tighten a little at a time with a regular hex wrench until it was tight enough. That's one way to go and you'll be safe.

Before that, I just tightened conservatively using a small J-shaped Allen key. I mention the size of the allen wrench because the smaller the size, the less apt you'll be to over tighten a ridiculous amount. I'd then "test" by putting a lot of downward force on the the hoods. Sort of like what would happen if you hit a good bump while riding on the hoods. That, really, is the only danger of slipping handlebars - you go down because your bars slip.

So the simple way to do this is: tighten conservatively (use an X pattern). Give it a good push downward on the hoods. If they slip, tighten a tad more, re-test. If the bars and/or stem are carbon fiber, use assembly paste.

Like all things using small fasteners, just don't be a gorilla and use common sense.

** for what it's worth, the 5nm Ritchey Torque Key comes with a 4mm hex bit in it. It's pretty easy to swap it out for a 5mm if you need it - just heat it up (heat gun, hair dryer, candle? match?), grab the hex bit with a vice grips or such, and pull it out.
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Old 07-07-13, 03:27 PM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
If the issue is traction, and not one of fit, (which it shouldn't be since it's the same bar as always) adding another layer can't help unless it's one with higher friction properties. Moreover the added thickness would now mean an incorrect match in the diameters of bar and stem.

Shims are for to match size, traction compound is to improve grip. Neither can do the other's job.
It is an issue of traction rather than fit: I have used the same handlebar and stem for 15 years. I think a piece of aluminum may be more frictive. The handlebars have knurls where the stem attaches: they may have worn flat over 40K miles; alternatively attaching always at the same angle may have worn indentations in them that make that position fit better (that could work the other way too).

I thought shims had 2 purposes: one to match size, the second to introduce a new characteristic between the interfacing materials: prevent an electrochemical reaction (such as aluminum has with brass: cured by an intervening bit of copper); prevent rust from mating them; lubricate (as Kimmo suggested when he suggested a piece of alumin(i)um can would make it slipperier); increase traction. A handlebar fits into stem loosely; I would think it could accommodate the thickness of an aluminum can without distortion.

My torque wrench isn't good below 20 ft-lb anyway: too high for the standards to which FBinNY referred me.
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Old 07-07-13, 05:06 PM
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Originally Posted by RandomTroll View Post
It is an issue of traction rather than fit: I have used the same handlebar and stem for 15 years. I think a piece of aluminum may be more frictive. .
The second doesn't follow from the first, unless the bar and stem are both steel, and the shim could act as a softer deformable layer allowing each to bite into it where they don't bite into each other.

As for fit, The bar and stem fit together and held for 15 years, and nothing has changed. When you clamp it tight, there is still a gap where the ears are so the clamp isn't being prevented from closing (if not, then it IS a question of fit).

Then, understand that the stem is bored to a specific diameter matching the OD of the bar, and lacks the ability to change it's radius of curvature to accommodate a larger shimmed bar diameter (this doesn't apply to steel stems of low quality, which are more ductile, and generally formed, not bored).

It's your bike, and only you have eyes on it, so feel free to use your own judgement and do whatever you decide makes sense. If you think a shim might work, give it a go, but if you have an aluminum stem of decent (3mm+) wall thickness, don't be surprised if you can't get a shim in, or if you do, the stem cracks when tightened.
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Old 07-07-13, 09:12 PM
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Hi,

I cannot see a shim working in this case, but if that really is the issue,
wrap a strip of aluminium foil around the bars, the wrap size needed
could easily be and probably is much less than beer can aluminium.

Anyway is is a total PITA listening to someone pontificating about
what they think they need without ever succinctly describing what
they actually have - you might think its clever - trust me it is not.

One good succinct description will yield the best advice.

rgds, sreten.

Last edited by sreten; 07-07-13 at 09:20 PM.
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Old 07-08-13, 03:35 AM
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Originally Posted by sreten View Post
is is a total PITA listening to someone pontificating about
what they think they need without ever succinctly describing what
they actually have - you might think its clever - trust me it is not.
It hadn't crossed my mind that I was either pontificating or being clever.

Originally Posted by sreten View Post
One good succinct description will yield the best advice.
If you want more description you need only ask.

Your post is an anti-contribution.
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Old 07-08-13, 04:11 AM
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Originally Posted by RandomTroll View Post
your post is an anti-contribution.
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