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Handlebar stem removal

Old 09-30-21, 04:39 PM
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gthomson
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Handlebar stem removal

I've decided I don't want this light on the front stem any longer (batteries pop out over every bump) and don't want to put back the original reflector on it so I attempted to take it off. I unscrewed the hex nut keeping the reflector mount in and then unscrewed the quill stem(?) but it would not come out.
I don't really have any way of using leverage to give it a good pull and I gave it a few taps with the rubber mallet but that did nothing.

Any thoughts?
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Old 09-30-21, 04:53 PM
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Originally Posted by gthomson View Post
I've decided I don't want this light on the front stem any longer (batteries pop out over every bump) and don't want to put back the original reflector on it so I attempted to take it off. I unscrewed the hex nut keeping the reflector mount in and then unscrewed the quill stem(?) but it would not come out.
I don't really have any way of using leverage to give it a good pull and I gave it a few taps with the rubber mallet but that did nothing.

Any thoughts?
Stuck stems will not usually respond to a rubber mallet, they normally need a sharp rap to knock it loose.

That being said, if you don't have a brass hammer or the like you can use a piece of aluminum to lessen the potential damage.

Assuming you knocked the wedge loose with bolt?
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Old 09-30-21, 04:57 PM
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Stem could be stuck. After you loosened it, did the stem bolt (and its wedge or expander) fall down when you hit it with the rubber mallet? If not, then there's your first problem. And do you have a dedicated headset wrench so you can adjust the headset after you have loosened the headset lock nut?

merziac ,
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Old 09-30-21, 06:04 PM
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Exactly what did you tap with the rubber mallet and in which direction did you tap? Do you realize that you should loosen (not remove) the bolt on top of the stem and then give it a sharp whack (not just a tap) downwards with a hammer (use a piece of wood to protect the finish) which should cause the expander wedge or cone on the bottom of the stem to release from the steerer tube. Pulling or hammering upwards on the stem before doing this will do exactly nothing.

If the above doesn't work, then you should search the forum for the many threads on freeing stems that are stuck due to corrosion.

Also, something that is of concern is that your photo shows a stem that appears to not have been inserted far enough into the steerer. This can cause the threads at the top of the steerer tube to become deformed and then to fail catastrophically, a very dangerous situation. Once you get the stem out you should check to ensure that the expander is located below the lowest threads on the steerer and if not you should get one of the available extended stems (Nitto makes a couple).
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Old 09-30-21, 06:08 PM
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Uggh, no and no. I didn't hit the stem to loosen the stem bolt because I don't have a dedicated headset wrench to adjust it. I'm too worried of damaging anything because I don't really have a collection of parts to replace it and most bike shops around here don't carry older stuff.

I guess I'll take it to the LBS and see if they have a good technique.

thanks
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Old 09-30-21, 06:14 PM
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Originally Posted by SurferRosa View Post
Stem could be stuck. After you loosened it, did the stem bolt (and its wedge or expander) fall down when you hit it with the rubber mallet? If not, then there's your first problem. And do you have a dedicated headset wrench so you can adjust the headset after you have loosened the headset lock nut?

merziac ,
Back at ya.
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Old 09-30-21, 06:26 PM
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Originally Posted by gthomson View Post
Uggh, no and no. I didn't hit the stem to loosen the stem bolt because I don't have a dedicated headset wrench to adjust it. I'm too worried of damaging anything because I don't really have a collection of parts to replace it and most bike shops around here don't carry older stuff.
Hitting the stem bolt (hit the bolt, not the stem) will not damage anything and also will not affect the adjustment of the headset. Whacking the bolt downwards causes the expander wedge/cone that is screwed onto the bottom end of the bolt to move downwards away from the stem thereby releasing the grip that the expanded stem has on the steerer tube. It's easy enough to tighten back up once you loosen it. Headset adjustment is done by turning the large headset nuts with the wrench you don't have (these are relatively cheap though) and will be needed to get that lamp off. You may be able to get by with a large crescent wrench, though those cost more than headset wrenches.
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Old 09-30-21, 06:28 PM
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Originally Posted by davester View Post
Exactly what did you tap with the rubber mallet and in which direction did you tap? Do you realize that you should loosen (not remove) the bolt on top of the stem and then give it a sharp whack (not just a tap) downwards with a hammer (use a piece of wood to protect the finish) which should cause the expander wedge or cone on the bottom of the stem to release from the steerer tube. Pulling or hammering upwards on the stem before doing this will do exactly nothing.
I removed the stem bolt and pulled/tapped lightly under the handlebar to try and remove it. As you said, that did nothing. For some reason, on a previous bike I had I was able to just unscrew the stem bolt and the stem and handlebar just came right out?

I'm trying to learn how to work with these vintage bikes but damn, they are all unique and don't come with much of an owners manual ha ha
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Old 09-30-21, 06:31 PM
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Originally Posted by gthomson View Post
I'm trying to learn how to work with these vintage bikes but damn, they are all unique and don't come with much of an owners manual ha ha
The Park Tools website and Sheldon Brown's web pages have extensive descriptions and often videos and photos of pretty much anything you might want to do on a bike, vintage or otherwise. Way better than a manual. ...or, you could just ask here at bikeforums.
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Old 09-30-21, 06:36 PM
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Originally Posted by davester View Post
The Park Tools website and Sheldon Brown's web pages have extensive descriptions and often videos and photos of pretty much anything you might want to do on a bike, vintage or otherwise. Way better than a manual. ...or, you could just ask here at bikeforums.
I appreciate it Davestar and just thought maybe it was simpler than this. I'll check out the videos on youtube, RJ the bike guy is another good source. When this pandemic ends, hopefully I can get into the coops to get some hands on experience working on my older bikes.
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Old 09-30-21, 06:39 PM
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Originally Posted by merziac View Post
Back at ya.
I guess the ignore works.
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Old 09-30-21, 06:44 PM
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Originally Posted by gthomson View Post
I removed the stem bolt and pulled/tapped lightly under the handlebar to try and remove it.
Look at online pictures of a quill stem, its bolt, and its wedge/expander, so you will know how this system works. Sheldon Brown shows pics and all the information you need. Likely what happened is you pulled the bolt out, but the wedge/expander is still in place. I would thread the bolt back in place a little ways and then hammer it down with something soft like a wooden mallet, so I could remove the wedge/expander from the bottom of the stem.
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Old 09-30-21, 06:48 PM
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Originally Posted by gthomson View Post
I appreciate it Davestar and just thought maybe it was simpler than this. I'll check out the videos on youtube, RJ the bike guy is another good source. When this pandemic ends, hopefully I can get into the coops to get some hands on experience working on my older bikes.
It may be, if you didn't knock the wedge loose, it may be all you need to do, you can tap most of the chrome steel bolts pretty hard with out damaging them. If they don't let go, stop and use a block of wood or softer metal. you should be able to carefully use a bigger adjustable wrench to tighten the HS when you get there.
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Old 09-30-21, 06:52 PM
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Originally Posted by gthomson View Post
I don't have a dedicated headset wrench... I guess I'll take it to the LBS.
They may charge you twice the cost of a headset wrench, and won't even overhaul the headset, which you could do now and whenever needed in the future if you had a simple headset wrench.
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Old 09-30-21, 07:04 PM
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Stems can definitely get as badly stuck to a steerer tube, just as bad as seatppsts do in seat tubes.
So, you could be in for a big, long fight to get it out.
Worst stock stem I had, took about a month to remove from my Vitus Carbone's steerer tube.
Tried all sorts of penetrants and chemicals the forum suggested and it never budged, even after soaking and pounding with a dead blow mallet, for weeks........
Till I tried CRC's Freeze-Off as a last resort. Magically, with very strategic application of the ultra cold penetrant, it came off just about a minute and a half, after spraying it on. The cold temperature literally cracked the corrosive bond between the aluminum stem and the steel steerer tube. Same went for the also stuck BB cups on the frame.
That's why I always recommend trying Freeze-Off to remove stuck stems and seatposts.

Last edited by Chombi1; 09-30-21 at 08:12 PM.
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Old 09-30-21, 07:16 PM
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Ok, just watched RJ the bike guy and he goes through this grueling video on "removing a quill stem, worst case scenario" Holy crap, that looks like hell! I don't think it's frozen because I don't see any signs of rust along the edge of the stem into the head tube and can even see a bit of grease (being optimistic here).

I was worried the stem bolt acted like a tent pole bolt, where you tightened it one way, and it expanded into the stem to tighten further. Glad to say I'm wrong.

I have an adjustable wrench that I can use to remove the hex nut and will try tapping the stem bolt to see if that loosens the wedge.
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Old 09-30-21, 07:40 PM
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If you remove the reflector bracket you often find out you need to replace it with a spacer or the locknut bottoms out on the top of the steerer tube before tightening to lock in the adjustment.
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Old 09-30-21, 07:48 PM
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Originally Posted by SurferRosa View Post
I guess the ignore works.
...you have no idea. I just checked, and currently my ignore list stands at 41 people.
A lot ot that is from teh P+R, but still, it demonstrates just how crabby I've gotten in my old age.
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Old 09-30-21, 07:54 PM
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Originally Posted by gthomson View Post

I have an adjustable wrench that I can use to remove the hex nut and will try tapping the stem bolt to see if that loosens the wedge.
...there are a couple of adjustable wrenches that have jaws narrow enough for this headset adjusment buisness, but in general, the jaws are too fat and the set screw for the jaws is too wobbly for them to work well in this application, They tend to slip off and damage or round the corners. These work OK, but not as well as a real headset wrench in the proper size.

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Old 09-30-21, 08:02 PM
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I recently had a stem wedge that was really stuck in the bottom of the stem. Took a few rounds of penetrating fluid and many whacks with a large hammer on the bolt itself to knock it out. I didn’t see any obvious corrosion. Stuckage happens.
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Old 09-30-21, 08:11 PM
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Originally Posted by gthomson View Post
will try tapping the stem bolt to see if that loosens the wedge.
I usually have to do that with every stem I have. That's the way this works.

I like putting something soft on the top of the bolt and then hitting it with something hard. Sometimes, I'll just grab whatever is close by, like the spine of a hardback book.
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Old 09-30-21, 08:25 PM
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Originally Posted by SurferRosa View Post
I usually have to do that with every stem I have. That's the way this works.

I like putting something soft on the top of the bolt and then hitting it with something hard. Sometimes, I'll just grab whatever is close by, like the spine of a hardback book.
I used to just use my thumb, but after a while that seemed like a bad idea.
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Old 09-30-21, 08:42 PM
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A super recalcitrant stem is one where the cone expander had bulged the steerer…

infrequent but can happen
gorilla mechanics are out there.

usually 3-4 revolutions of unscrew then tap will free the works. On these old bikes the stem and the headset are independent…
if one has removed the long bolt- re-engage it finger tight, back it out 4 turns and “ bang bang Maxwell’s brass hammer came down upon its head…”

that said there are exceptions “headclip”
stem and headset assemblies- thankfully rare and uncommon.
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Old 09-30-21, 08:44 PM
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Originally Posted by SurferRosa View Post
I usually have to do that with every stem I have. That's the way this works.

I like putting something soft on the top of the bolt and then hitting it with something hard. Sometimes, I'll just grab whatever is close by, like the spine of a hardback book.

...reported to the library.
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Old 09-30-21, 08:47 PM
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