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Best way to align stem to front wheel?

Old 07-18-13, 05:20 PM
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NICBIKE
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Best way to align stem to front wheel?

I've always had some trouble with this, doing so takes me much longer then it really should.
Is there any park tool alternative to assist in aligning the stem to the front wheel on most bikes?
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Old 07-18-13, 05:29 PM
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I can guarantee you that Park will never make such a guage. It does not have to be perfect, just eyeball it. But do keep in mind that if the wheel is not seated properly in the forks or the fork is bent it will never look quite right.
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Old 07-18-13, 05:33 PM
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Try closing one eye so you're not looking at it from 2 different angles.
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Old 07-18-13, 05:40 PM
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I sandwich the front wheel between my legs and look down on the stem, I make sure it is in line then tighten it.
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Old 07-18-13, 05:46 PM
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Do you guys align the stem from the rider's position or with the bike in front of you? (drive side being on your left)
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Old 07-18-13, 05:49 PM
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Originally Posted by NICBIKE View Post
Do you guys align the stem from the rider's position or with the bike in front of you? (drive side being on your left)
You could do it either way. I align with one eye closed from the rider's position, using the top tube.
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Old 07-18-13, 06:07 PM
  #7  
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Originally Posted by NICBIKE View Post
Do you guys align the stem from the rider's position or with the bike in front of you? (drive side being on your left)
I find I have to straddle the bike from the rider's position to get the alignment proper. A metal straightedge can be used as a "tool" to give an accurate alignment. Straddle the bike and set the straightedge on edge projecting forward over the front tire so it bisects both the stem's steerer bolt and the handlebar clamp. The forward projection should bisect the front tire exactly if it's aligned properly
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Old 07-18-13, 06:33 PM
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I prefer standing over the front wheel holding it in my knees and aligning by eye.

Folks blow this out of proportion. Great precision isn't called for. If you can't feel that it's off hen riding, then it's right. BTW- while folks think that a perfectly aligned bar is perfect, the reality is that it probably isn't. Most people have one arm slightly longer than the other, or sometimes a shoulder rolled forward slightly, or some other body asymmetry.

If you wanted a perfect alignment, it would compensate for this, but don't overthink it. If it doesn't feel wrong when you ride than it's right.
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Old 07-18-13, 07:14 PM
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I too am picky about this, and I've used a carpenter's square. Put one side against the leading (front) edge of the bars, the other side heading straight out over the wheel starting from the center of the stem - sight down over the square and it should line up nicely with the wheel.
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Old 07-18-13, 08:55 PM
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A quick way, that only works for some stems, is to turn the wheel to the side, and sight both the front of the stem with the front of the tire and the clamp split at the back of the stem with the rear of the front wheel. This gives you more reference points, and can be done fast. For stems that have a slightly offset clamp or one that doesn't close symmetrically, this technique doesn't work, but for the rest it's a quick method. It was told to me recently, and I discovered that it doesn't work with my particular stem, but have heard others reference the same technique since then who apparently have consistent success.

My current best method is to sight straight down from the front of the stem to the hub flanges of the front hub (while straddling the bike). Checking the right side of the stem with the right flange, and left side with the left flange. Any lack of alignment will show more or less visible flange.

-Jeremy
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Old 07-18-13, 09:09 PM
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I normally do it from the front of the bike and get it close. Then i have to go ride it, and i'm nearly always off a bit. The problem is making it to the tools before i forget which way to adjust. Arrrrggghhhhhh.
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Old 07-19-13, 06:00 AM
  #12  
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Park doesn't make a tool specifically for that purpose, but their handlebar holder could probably be flipped around and put over the front tire to assist with alignment.

https://www.parktool.com/product/handlebar-holder-hbh-2
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Old 07-19-13, 07:07 AM
  #13  
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I put a ~18" long ~9mm diameter rod on a block on the floor, rest the fork's dropouts on it, and eyeball the top of the bars against the bar. That'll get you aligned within a gnat's eyelash of perfect.
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Old 07-19-13, 01:43 PM
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Originally Posted by NICBIKE View Post
I've always had some trouble with this, doing so takes me much longer then it really should.
Is there any park tool alternative to assist in aligning the stem to the front wheel on most bikes?
I usually turn the wheel so I can use both side of the wheel as reference. I just line it such that when I look above with one eye, the stem and the wheel are in a line. Another way is to take a picture. Turn the wheel and move the camera so that the stem overlap with the wheel. Take a picture from that angle. Then you can enlarge the picture in your computer and draw straight lines using whatever software you have to see if the wheel and stem are parallel. You can zoom in the picture and tell very minor misalignment. But usually, I find this is not necessary. Just using your eye with both side of the wheel as reference is pretty accurate.
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Old 07-19-13, 02:36 PM
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Most bikes have a pop-top stem with either two bolts in the center or four bolts, two each left and right. Because I think the rider's view is what is most important, I usually stand over the bike and look forward and down. I try to line up the center bolts with the center ridge of the tire tread, or have the tire in the middle of the bolts on the pop top plate. This seems to give pretty reasonable results.
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Old 07-19-13, 02:39 PM
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I just sight down the stem and make sure the tire is in line with it. Works for me.
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Old 07-19-13, 04:12 PM
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I'm strictly an eyeball guy, but for those wanting more precision than the job needs, here's an easy accurate way.

You'll need a yardstick or straightedge 3-4' long. Lay straight edge across one side of the front wheel on a secant, and bring one end to the HB, noting the position with respect to the stem. Repeat on the other side, and compare, they should be equal. Note that it's necessary for the secant to be the same or close on both sides, so if the stick is long enough, use the fork tip as a frame of reference.

You might try an experiment, eyeball it first, then compare with the yardstick method. Odds are you eyeballed it pretty darn accurately, but at least now you know.
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Old 07-24-13, 09:55 AM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
I'm strictly an eyeball guy, but for those wanting more precision than the job needs, here's an easy accurate way.

You'll need a yardstick or straightedge 3-4' long. Lay straight edge across one side of the front wheel on a secant, and bring one end to the HB, noting the position with respect to the stem. Repeat on the other side, and compare, they should be equal. Note that it's necessary for the secant to be the same or close on both sides, so if the stick is long enough, use the fork tip as a frame of reference.

You might try an experiment, eyeball it first, then compare with the yardstick method. Odds are you eyeballed it pretty darn accurately, but at least now you know.
Thanks something like this is what I was looking for
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Old 07-24-13, 10:33 AM
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Eyeball guy.. here,

If the stem is not super tight, I can bump the front tire on one side or the other of a signpost, and tweak the alignment.

threadless stems, now, I keep my folding allen wrench set on shop test rides after I finish assembly..

with Quill stems they were better if not too tight, anyhow..

Magnetic , North Or Geographic North?

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Old 07-24-13, 11:14 AM
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If sighting it in doesn't work, the best way is to attach a wooden dowel across your fork legs (I use a 36" dowel and rubber bands) and use it as a reference to align the stem/handlebars (On road bikes I attach it just below the brake and on mtb's just below the suspension fork's crown). I use the same dowel I've used for over 30 years to set up brake handles on drop bars (In this application you lay the dowel across the hoods and sight along the handlebar's flats). The dowel hangs from a peg amongst my other special tools.
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Old 07-24-13, 05:55 PM
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I use a plumb bob and if not happy I fire up the laser sight.
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Old 07-24-13, 06:12 PM
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I sight from the rider's position. I could care less if it's actually straight. As long as it *looks* straight when I'm riding, I'm happy. If it looked crooked it would probably bother me.

If you want to get more precise, and you have a stem with a two-bolt handlebar clamp, take the handlebars and faceplate off, then put the bolts back in. By sighting down from the top so that the two bolts and the tire all perfectly line up, it should be straight. Having three points of reference should ensure that you don't have any parallax errors.
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Old 07-24-13, 06:49 PM
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Originally Posted by gruppo View Post
If sighting it in doesn't work, the best way is to attach a wooden dowel across your fork legs (I use a 36" dowel and rubber bands) and use it as a reference to align the stem/handlebars (On road bikes I attach it just below the brake and on mtb's just below the suspension fork's crown). I use the same dowel I've used for over 30 years to set up brake handles on drop bars (In this application you lay the dowel across the hoods and sight along the handlebar's flats). The dowel hangs from a peg amongst my other special tools.
Great suggestion!
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Old 07-25-13, 08:56 AM
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Old 07-26-13, 02:00 AM
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I use the mark one eyeball.
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