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Do classic road stems make sense?

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Do classic road stems make sense?

Old 08-31-17, 06:44 PM
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Do classic road stems make sense?

I just finished overhauling a nice 1985 Univega Gran Turismo for a friend. The previous, possibly original stem was comically short, so I replaced it with an inexpensive dirtdrop-type Kalloy stem with the correct 100mm reach.

It looked kind of unsettling to me at first, since I've always used traditional 73 degree road stems on my own bikes. Most of them have Nitto Technomics, raised pretty high (though nowhere near the minimum insertion line).

But as I sat there looking at the bike, it suddenly occurred to me how senseless it is to use a traditional stem when you're raising the bars moderately high. The old design makes sense--it's the only way to do it, really--if you have the stem slammed all the way down to the headset, but who around here does that anymore? Not me, that's for sure.

It uses extra material (not that I sweat the grams). It's a pointy object to hit if you have the bad luck to go over the handlebars. The only time I've seriously gone over the bars--so far--a few years back, I had a bad bruise on my ribs, probably from hitting the stem on the way by. As luck would have it, that was on a beater singlespeed that had a dirtdrop stem--my only bike that had one. No way to say for sure that it would have been worse with a traditional road stem, but if I were going to select a bike to crash I would choose one with a non-pointy stem.

So guess I'm thinking about gradually switching the fleet to different stems when I find myself re-taping handlebars. I just can't think of a good reason not to, other than tradition. True, the upright stems aren't C&V, especially, but I'm pretty tolerant about parts that can just be bolted in place and restored to original by a later owner.

Am I a bad person? Maybe somebody here can give me a good reason go stick with the old-style stems after all.
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Old 08-31-17, 06:49 PM
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I think it's just part of getting older. Back when I raced, my stems were easily 2 inches or more below my saddle height. Not any more. They've been creeping up and now they're closer to saddle height.
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Old 08-31-17, 06:54 PM
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Ummm..... I can't help. I was riding this today to a fast avg pace despite the wind. Most of my bikes are setup like this because it's what's comfortable and efficient for me.



Seriously though, they are your bikes so set them up how you want. For years I rode with my bars at saddle height due to back problems. The past couple of years it's been better and I've comfortably gone lower and lower. But I'm also constantly trying to improve my speed and such so this matters for the kind of riding I do.

You should feel just fine setting up your bikes the way you need them to do the kind of riding you do.
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Old 08-31-17, 07:09 PM
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Originally Posted by jonwvara
.....
Am I a bad person? Maybe somebody here can give me a good reason go stick with the old-style stems after all.
if it makes you feel better, there have been alternatives to the standard "7" shaped stem since at least the 70's. Here's a 1974 Bicycling article that shows a stem that is similar to a dirtdrop stem...






credit to Robert Broderick for the magazine scans! I know he's got this stuff stashed away on the web somewhere, but I couldn't find it.


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Old 08-31-17, 07:20 PM
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I hear you, @jonwvara. If Nitto made those 90-degree quills in lengths other than 110/120mm, I'd love to have them on my bikes. (The dirt-drop style would be too much rise for some of them.)
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Old 08-31-17, 07:23 PM
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Originally Posted by jamesdak
Ummm..... I can't help. I was riding this today to a fast avg pace despite the wind. Most of my bikes are setup like this because it's what's comfortable and efficient for me.

Yeah, that does look nice. If I went fast, I'd do the same. But my fast-going days are behind me.
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Old 08-31-17, 07:34 PM
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All my riders get these. https://www.amazon.com/Nitto-Technom...itto+technomic
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Old 08-31-17, 07:58 PM
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I still ride stem heights where traditional stems are appropriate (when those stems are long enough). I love quill stems for another reason, the ridiculous ease of raising and lowering. (You did lube everything generously when you installed it, no?) No headset to deal with. No torque wrench. 1 6mm wrench (and maybe a rock to tap the wrench and dislodge the tapered nut). Mid-ride stem height changes? No biggie at all. No risk at all other than you might not get the stem straight and there is that same risk with threadless.

My one threadless bike will get the steerer (1" steel") cut down and threaded when the current headset expires. One of the really cool things now is that you can buy the nicest traditional stem made new for quite reasonable $$, the Nitto Pearl. Just remember that the actual "length" that everyone uses is about 7% longer than than Nitto's stated length. So a Nitto Pearl 12 is almost exactly a Cinelli 13.

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Old 08-31-17, 08:21 PM
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...if I give you my address, will you send all your Cinelli and 3T stems to me ?
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Old 08-31-17, 08:24 PM
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I agree with Jon's logic, but the aesthetics of dirt drop or (heaven forbid) those horrid threadless stems or (even worse) threadless stem adapters completely destroy the look of a bike. The classic "7" quill stem is just a beautiful piece that enhances the graceful look of a steel frame. A very few custom threadless stems have been made that don't look too terrible, but they are still too fat relative to the rest of the bike. They don't work for me and I would not buy a bike that used them.
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Old 08-31-17, 08:37 PM
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Originally Posted by steelbikeguy
redit to Robert Broderick for the magazine scans! I know he's got this stuff stashed away on the web somewhere, but I couldn't find it.


Steve in Peoria
Here you go: Welcome to Velo-Pages....

Fantastic resource.

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Old 08-31-17, 09:03 PM
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I'm with @davester. A C&V bike deserves the classic look, unless you really can't ride it otherwise, I guess. My only dirt drop is on a converted MTB, where it was the only thing I had to make it fit.

Also, if I'm going over the handlebars, I don't think the shape of the stem is going to be my biggest worry
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Old 08-31-17, 09:25 PM
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Originally Posted by jamesdak
Ummm..... I can't help. I was riding this today to a fast avg pace despite the wind. Most of my bikes are setup like this because it's what's comfortable and efficient for me.

Cable rogue!
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Old 08-31-17, 09:35 PM
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Originally Posted by DiabloScott
Cable rogue!
LOL, look closer even. I swapped hoods and wrapped the bars after two nights of no sleep. Accidentally hooked them back up backwards from the norm, or my norm....

And I'll have you know those are the original 1985 cable housings, not my work, so there!
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Old 08-31-17, 09:51 PM
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Nitto dynamic II 0 degree quill stems.
The answer for me. More rise than traditional quill stems and its eliminated the need for comically high Technomic stems.

Traditional -17 quill stems look incredible with bars that are a full C bend where the tops and drops are both level.
But on other bar designs, meh, not much care for stem look.
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Old 08-31-17, 09:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Lascauxcaveman
I'm with @davester. A C&V bike deserves the classic look, unless you really can't ride it otherwise, I guess. My only dirt drop is on a converted MTB, where it was the only thing I had to make it fit.

Also, if I'm going over the handlebars, I don't think the shape of the stem is going to be my biggest worry
Agreed - I only have one threadless quill adapter and modern stem on a bike but that's because the top tube was so short and I was too cramped. Couldn't find a quill stem long enough. Looks dumb in my mind on a classic bike but I'm used to it now after 3 yrs.
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Old 08-31-17, 10:02 PM
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Originally Posted by jonwvara
.... going to select a bike to crash I would choose one with a non-pointy stem.

So guess I'm thinking about gradually switching the fleet to different stems....... I just can't think of a good reason not to, other than tradition.

Maybe somebody here can give me a good reason go stick with the old-style stems after all.
If cycling... or sports in general... are all about avoiding injury then no one has learned how to do any of it correctly yet.

Cycling is full of joy... and pain, and ouchies, and maybe even a little fear. Why just remove the "pointy" parts? Maybe if you could remove the "hard" parts too.... or just cover the metal parts with soft foam. That sounds safer/less painful. But maybe it isn't just about the pain of injury as much as the pain and discomfort that comes from the effort cycling requires?

So maybe (while your swapping out pointy parts and covering hard parts with foam) if you add a small motor of some sort... you could also eliminate the pain and discomfort of the effort cycling requires. But motors on bicycles... are really just creating motorcycles. And we all know how unsafe and dangerous a motorcycle is... you know... when compared to a car.

So there is you logical action. Hang the bikes in the garage.... and take the safe and painless car. Problem solved.
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Old 08-31-17, 10:05 PM
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I changed from the lovely old Ambrosio to a new Nitto on my '64 Legnano, which I've had since new. There just wasn't enough stem to get it up to where my 68 year old body felt comfortable. It bothered me at the time, but I got over it. Back in the day there was more bike and less me, now it's reversed. I like the look of the Nitto, with the recessed flush mount hex screw, too.
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Old 09-01-17, 12:09 AM
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I recently found myself grateful for the 73-degree quill stem when I fitted myself to this admittedly-large Centurion thrift-store find.

I ended up removing an intermediate threaded lockring from the original headset, then making an open-top "shorty" hex locknut that fit flush with the end of the shortened steerer.

And to get the handlebar height just perfect, I put a radiused notch at the inside front of the end of the steerer to accommodate the inside bend compound radius of the original Nitto stem.

I didn't think I would quite get there, but I did, with the perfect 2-3/4" drop from saddle to bars I was after. Long legs makes the standover height a non-issue for my mere 5'9" skeleton, incredibly.
So I would say that the 73-degree quill stem makes sense, within the wide range of adjustment possibilities that it was intended to facilitate.
And, most ironically, this factory-supplied stem is a Technomic!

Before-to-after:










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Old 09-01-17, 12:30 AM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr
Nitto dynamic II 0 degree quill stems.
The answer for me. More rise than traditional quill stems and its eliminated the need for comically high Technomic stems.
I just posted this picture in another thread, but since you mentioned comically high Technomic stems, I'll put it here too.



I know not everyone shares this opinion, but even with the stem this high I prefer the look of the classic quill to a dirt drop (and I've got it paired with compact drops). The crazy thing is I could raise this about two more inches before I hit the minimum insertion mark. I actually had to cut a couple of centimeters off the bottom of the stem to get it to go in as far as I wanted it without hitting the tapered part of the steerer.
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Old 09-01-17, 05:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Andy_K
I just posted this picture in another thread, but since you mentioned comically high Technomic stems, I'll put it here too.



I know not everyone shares this opinion, but even with the stem this high I prefer the look of the classic quill of the stem to get it to go in as far as I wanted it without hitting the tapered part of the steerer.
Yes, "comically high" is a good description. My bikes look even more comical because they all have stems with a reach of 120 or 130mm.

I used to think high stems looked fine. But I seem to have crossed some sort of form-follows-function watershed in terms of aesthetics. Although I'm pretty sure I will never cross over to the side of threadless stems (except for the one on my solitary modern bike).

Getting rid of a pointy object is a fringe benefit, not a primary motivation.

I also think that enduring discomfort or even pain for the sake of appearances gets silly really fast. Sure, maybe my PX-10 looked cool with its original 45-22 low gear, but I'd be walking a lot of hills if I'd left it alone. If I went back to slammed-down traditional stems for the sake of appearances, I wouldn't be able to see much or enjoy riding, but by golly, my bikes would look good.

Here's an idea for some enterprising inventor: how about some special eyglasses that deflect your field of vision about 20 degrees upward, so you can look straight ahead even though your head is facing down toward your front wheel? That would make it possible to see where you're going and ride a good-looking short stem. Wouldn't do much for back pain, though.
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Old 09-01-17, 05:35 AM
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You could always get a frame the proper size instead of one that has two fistfulls of seatpost sticking up.

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Old 09-01-17, 05:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Andy_K
I just posted this picture in another thread, but since you mentioned comically high Technomic stems, I'll put it here too.



I know not everyone shares this opinion, but even with the stem this high I prefer the look of the classic quill to a dirt drop (and I've got it paired with compact drops). The crazy thing is I could raise this about two more inches before I hit the minimum insertion mark. I actually had to cut a couple of centimeters off the bottom of the stem to get it to go in as far as I wanted it without hitting the tapered part of the steerer.
looks comfortable to me!
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Old 09-01-17, 06:04 AM
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you guys dont know comically high or bad neck or back or whatever. this is what i call comfortable and i ride thousands of miles a year. this is the bike i currently service the local zagster fleet with. actually its the bike i ride all the time now.
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Old 09-01-17, 06:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Lazyass
You could always get a frame the proper size instead of one that has two fistfulls of seatpost sticking up.
All of my bikes hve 62 or 63cm frames. That's the biggest frame I can comfortably stand over.
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