The Finishing Touch

When I recently described various upgrades that I had made to Why?Bike there seemed to be general agreement that my tatty, creaky, adjustable handlebar stem had to go next. I did think long and hard about going all modern and getting an Ahead converter but I like the looks of quill stems and had secretly got my heart set on a Nitto Technomic – very nice and shiny and much taller than average. This is a small frame and I did need a bit of height. The only snag was the price. Scanning the 'Wanted' adds on the CTC forum I came across someone wanting the 90mm Deluxe version. He had been offered a virtually new 80mm version but had turned it down. 80mm was exactly what I was looking for so a deal was swiftly struck. That just left the minor matter of fitting it!

New stem 002

I was pretty apprehensive about tackling this – there seemed to be an awful lot of disassembly and reassembly involved and lots of scope for things to go wrong. My confidence wasn't helped by the fact that I'd fitted a new bar bag mount to my Roberts the previous day. It should have been a 5 minute job but it had taken me ages to persuade the securing cable to go through the little holes. If an easy job had been a struggle what kind of a mess could I get in with this?

Stage one, remove the handlebar tape. No problem, it came off in good condition, no tears, ready to be reused.

Stage two, remove the STIs. I'd found the instructions on the internet and the main point seemed to be not to unscrew the bolt too much or it would drop out and be very difficult to replace. I approached this very cautiously, loosening it only by the bare minimum. The lever moved but only as far as the bend. Cautiously I loosened the clamp further, dreading that I would lose the bolt. No problem! The lever slid off the bars like a good 'un!

New stem 003

5mm allen key down the groove to the bolt

Stage three, remove the old stem. I expected problems here, worried that it might be seized in. No, it came straight out, covered with plenty of grease.

Stage four, fit the new stem to the bars. It wiggled its way round the bends of the bars to sit nicely in the middle. Tighten the bolt, then fit the stem into the frame and tighten the top bolt. This was going amazingly well!

Stage five, refit the STI lever using a stick and a spirit level to make sure it was perfectly level with the other one.

Stage six, refit bar tape.

Job done! I couldn't believe how smoothly and easily this whole job had gone. I had been expecting all sorts of problems but everything went like clockwork. It looks jolly good too!

New stem 004

The finished masterpiece!

8 comments on “The Finishing Touch”

  1. Ken wrote:

    Superb! Now I know how it's done! 🙂

  2. Chris wrote:

    Very satisfying job, Hilary I'll bet. Did Ahead stems come to us from the mountain bike world? They're functional, certainly, but just not as elegant as a nicely turned quill stem. Just clicked on 'Place Order' to get myself some bike ribbon for one of my old fashioned road bikes. I mistakenly thought I had the right tape in my stockpile, so it had to be done:

    Raleigh Road Ace Shimano 600 stem with Dura Ace handlebars

    It's only taken me two and a bit years to get round to it 🙂

    STI levers frighten the life out of me. On mine I think I will scribe the bar where the brake lever fastens to the bar. (Oh, my stem has no visible bolt where it makes contact with the bar. It's all done internally using an Allen key along the reach of the stem.)

    Raleigh Road Ace Shimano 600 stem with Dura Ace handlebars

    Neat eh?

  3. Kern wrote:

    As easy as one-two-three ... oh, and four-five-six as well.

    Excellent job. I have not had the need (or the nerve) to replace shifters.

  4. Patrick wrote:

    Nice one Hilary, although I'm not too keen on quill stems, probably because they oftem seem to protrude too much above the head tube. It's just an aesthetic thing – I agree a quill stem looks right on some bikes. That one is nice.

    Confession: I've never fitted bar tape!

  5. Chris wrote:

    Oh, I'm willing to forgive the black handlebars rather than the silver ones that your new stem is crying out for, Hilary. At least you colour-coordinated your washing machine with the rest of your finishing kit 🙂

    Handlebar tape came today in a HUGE box about twelve times larger than the tape's own Bike Ribbon packaging. I'm definitely going to do one side at a time...

  6. Hilary wrote:

    I'm willing to forgive the black handlebars rather than the silver ones that your new stem is crying out for, Hilary.

    Yes silver bars would be nice but I like the shape of those 3TTT Morphe and I can't find any silver ones except on Roberta and they are staying put! Actually once the computer and front light are on you can't see the bars anyway.

    I've noticed both Wiggle and Chain Reaction are sending stuff out in enormous boxes with just a tiny little item rattling around in the corner. Don't know what the logic of that is.

  7. Kern wrote:

    sending stuff out in enormous boxes with just a tiny little item rattling around in the corner

    It does seem strange, doesn't it. I believe that overall it's more efficient for delivery services (DHL, etc) to handle standard sized boxes and they price accordingly. It's probably cheaper for Wiggle and Chain Reaction to ship that way.

  8. Mary wrote:

    Well done indeed Hilary, having been where you have now been I know exactly the scary feeling in the pit of the tummy you were experiencing.

    Love your new stem by the way, I prefer the quill type myself, perhaps because its a more traditional style. But..... I do think you need silver alloy bars. Got Cinelli Giro ones myself for less than £25 on ebay, had to strip off old glue with thinners, but they look the biscuit.

    Its a great feeling when its all done and in place, when I was doing Hettie, I found Youtube an invaluable support tool. Pretty well all the big bike jobs I was doing to Hettie I found on that site.

    Even putting on the bar tape. On Hettie though, I let myself down with BLACK stem on silver bars – pig ugly thing at that, but I cant find a suitable riser stem to bring her a bit higher, otherwise her stretch is too long for me.

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