Adjustable Stems - recommendations?

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andrew_s
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Re: Adjustable Stems - recommendations?

Postby andrew_s » 4 Mar 2019, 1:15pm

LittleGreyCat wrote:I mentioned adjustable stems in another thread but that got lost in the noise, so I thought I would ask specifically.
I am tinkering with handlebar position, and an adjustable stem looks to be a logical bit of kit for fine tuning position as it can effectively raise and lower the bars, and shorten and lengthen the stem. Sample of makes from Amazon link below.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/stem-adjustable-Sports-Outdoors/s?page=1&rh=n%3A318949011%2Ck%3Astem%20adjustable

Does anyone use these?
Pos and cons?

The trouble with those examples is that there's only a single adjustment, so the bar height and reach can't be changed independently, so final tinkering is difficult. If you figure the height is correct, but you'd like to try 1 cm less reach, the only way try might be to invert the adjustable stem, and move the clamp quite a lot higher.

I do use a Look Ergostem which allows reach out to 150 mm and height up to +/- 120 mm, or 110 mm reach and 80 mm height together, and which I do find very useful for new bike setup. I got it cheap (£50), but they aren't in production any more, and a quick check on eBay showed about £145.
Generally, once I figure the setup is correct, I measure, and then buy a rigid stem, which is lighter, stiffer, and not prone to the possibility of pothole caused changes of position.
Last edited by andrew_s on 4 Mar 2019, 1:38pm, edited 3 times in total.

Brucey
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Re: Adjustable Stems - recommendations?

Postby Brucey » 4 Mar 2019, 1:21pm

folk do various things; some are careful to tighten bolts properly and they don't wrestle with the handlebars going down the road. Others do things differently to that. I think it is normally OK to have some heavier, less reliable, more maintenance intensive parts on a bike provided they confer some benefit. Unless you have a need to regularly adjust your stem, an adjustable stem just compromises the bike.

Lets put it this way; if the whole bike were built like most adjustable stems, it would be twice the weight, half as stiff, and half as reliable.

cheers
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Mick F
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Re: Adjustable Stems - recommendations?

Postby Mick F » 4 Mar 2019, 1:26pm

I doubt the weight penalty with mine is much at all, and I also doubt it is any more flexible than a normal one of the same size.

It's just ugly, that's all.
Mind you, it matched the ugliness of the Tiagra STIs too.
Tiagra STI.jpeg
Mick F. Cornwall

LittleGreyCat
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Re: Adjustable Stems - recommendations?

Postby LittleGreyCat » 4 Mar 2019, 1:49pm

andrew_s wrote: <snip>
The trouble with those examples is that there's only a single adjustment, so the bar height and reach can't be changed independently, so final tinkering is difficult. If you figure the height is correct, but you'd like to try 1 cm less reach, the only way try might be to invert the adjustable stem, and move the clamp quite a lot higher.

<snip>


My bar height can be changed, but the increments are set by the spacers.

What I am considering is moving the bars up and down (perhaps a bit) in one position, and if it looks as though a bigger move is needed then moving the stem up or down a spacer and then trying adjusting the bars from that position.

If the answer seems to be a shorter or longer stem in one of the spacer positions then I can buy a shorter or longer stem once I have a stable set up.

The adjustable stem seems to make minor tinkering with the set up quicker and more flexible.

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Re: Adjustable Stems - recommendations?

Postby Brucey » 4 Mar 2019, 1:57pm

the one I have on my carrier bike is similar to this 'gazelle switch 3'

Image

you just flip the QR lever and both pivots loosen. They do a seat pin with a similarly swift adjustment too.
Ideal for a bike that sees family use and needs to be adjusted quickly. However the result is (as usual) a stem that is heavy, flexy, and less reliable than normal.

cheers
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Sweep
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Re: Adjustable Stems - recommendations?

Postby Sweep » 4 Mar 2019, 1:59pm

Brucey wrote:
Lets put it this way; if the whole bike were built like most adjustable stems, it would be twice the weight, half as stiff, and half as reliable.

cheers

with respect brucey (no sarcasm/irony I swear) Not a fair parallel surely?

Not suggesting the whole bike follows the same principle.

Anymore than applying the same standards of weight/stiffness/reliability to the rider.

if you have any specific criticisms of the kalloy I'd be interested.

all the best
Sweep

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andrew_s
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Re: Adjustable Stems - recommendations?

Postby andrew_s » 4 Mar 2019, 2:30pm

LittleGreyCat wrote:My bar height can be changed, but the increments are set by the spacers.

What I am considering is moving the bars up and down (perhaps a bit) in one position


If it's the height you want to change, and you think the length is OK, then getting a set of thinner spacers is the way to go.
eg https://www.decathlon.co.uk/alloy-bike- ... 05524.html

Considerably cheaper, and no compromises.
It takes longer to change height, but I'd take the view that you need to give a different height a few days' use to make a proper judgement.

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Mick F
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Re: Adjustable Stems - recommendations?

Postby Mick F » 4 Mar 2019, 3:16pm

Trouble with adjustable stems, is that as you raise them, they become nearer due to the angle adjustment elbow.

Maybe an adjustable stem and a longer steerer and a collection of spacers is the way "ahead" ............ if you pardon the pun. :lol:
Mick F. Cornwall

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Re: Adjustable Stems - recommendations?

Postby Vorpal » 4 Mar 2019, 4:03pm

I like adjustable stems. I use them on on my tourer and mountain bike. I've also installed them on the kids' bikes, to make it easier to change stuff as they grow.

There are a wide variety of designs out there, and some seem more durable than others. The Ritchey one I've got on my tourer, I can recommend, but it's not the cheapest. It's harder to adjust than some, but it has a close fit spline system, and seems quite robust as a result.

The Kalloy ones have this kind of toothed washer ratchet system that is easy to adjust, but is unlikely, in my opinion, to be very durable under load. The cheap one on my mountain bike has a partly splined adjustment, like saddles have. The fit isn't as close as on the Ritchey, and it's relatively easy to adjust. It seemes okay, and I would put it somewhere between the Kalloy and Ritchey ones in terms of durability.
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RickH
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Re: Adjustable Stems - recommendations?

Postby RickH » 4 Mar 2019, 5:04pm

We got one of these Humpert adjustable stems for Clare's tandem.

Image
It seems pretty solid, if not exactly pretty, with the 2x2bolt clamps to fix the adjustment.

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Re: Adjustable Stems - recommendations?

Postby Brucey » 4 Mar 2019, 5:51pm

IIRC the kalloy design uses the same bolt for clamping the serrated adjustment as tightens the wedge. Since I'd normally want to tighten one more than the other, this seems like a compromise.

FWIW I have yet to see a design of serrated adjustable stem that is immune from problems; like single-bolt seat pins with serrations, once they start to go bad they soon go very bad.

cheers
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slowster
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Re: Adjustable Stems - recommendations?

Postby slowster » 4 Mar 2019, 6:19pm

LittleGreyCat wrote:
andrew_s wrote: <snip>
The trouble with those examples is that there's only a single adjustment, so the bar height and reach can't be changed independently, so final tinkering is difficult. If you figure the height is correct, but you'd like to try 1 cm less reach, the only way try might be to invert the adjustable stem, and move the clamp quite a lot higher.

<snip>


My bar height can be changed, but the increments are set by the spacers.

What I am considering is moving the bars up and down (perhaps a bit) in one position, and if it looks as though a bigger move is needed then moving the stem up or down a spacer and then trying adjusting the bars from that position.

If the answer seems to be a shorter or longer stem in one of the spacer positions then I can buy a shorter or longer stem once I have a stable set up.

The adjustable stem seems to make minor tinkering with the set up quicker and more flexible.

The only real benefit of such an adjustable stem would be the scope it gave you to vary the forward reach, not the height of the bars. You already have enough scope to vary the bar height using the existing spacers. Although as you say the increments are set by the spacers, your photograph (copied below) shows that you have a number of different sized spacers, including what look like 5mm and 10mm as well as larger ones. So you can already vary the bar height by increments as small as 5mm by changing the permutation of spacers above and below the stem.

I don't think using an adjustable stem just to vary bar height is practical. It would be pointless using it to fine tune the bar's height by small amounts: 5mm or even 10mm does not make a lot of difference. And using it to make large changes in the bar's height is flawed, because if you rotate the stem through a large angle, you will also make a large change as well to the reach.

It would make sense to use an adjustable stem to determine optimum/preferred stem length, but only if the stem is raised and lowered on the steerer as well using the spacers. So if you thought a shorter stem would be better, you would point the adjustable stem upwards (which would reduce the reach), and then move the bars up and/or down on the steerer to see what (if any) bar height felt right with that reach.

The adjustable stems you have linked to are not really designed for the purpose you want of helping you to identify your optimum/preferred bar height and reach. Look used to sell an adjustable stem (Look Ergostem) which did fulfil that function because it had two pivots in it, not one, but it was never a very popular product.

Given that you also have concerns about your handlebar shape/brake lever position/ability to brake from the drops, you also need to be careful that you do not change too many variables at the same time, because those variables will interact with each other. I would suggest that first you focus on resolving the handlebar shape/brake lever position/ability to brake from the drops, and then consider the reach and bar height.

For example, if you were to decide to replace your compact bars with some which had a more rounded traditional curve, you would probably find that it was easier to grasp the levers from the drops, but at the price of your hands being further forward. That in turn might make you prefer to use a shorter stem than with your current compact bars.

Image
Last edited by slowster on 4 Mar 2019, 6:37pm, edited 2 times in total.

LittleGreyCat
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Re: Adjustable Stems - recommendations?

Postby LittleGreyCat » 4 Mar 2019, 6:21pm

I'm now even more confused (if that is possible).

Apparently with the Ritchey adjustable stem you have to take it off the bike to change the angle.

I was assuming that you could ride a bit, slacken off the clamps, move the angle a bit and tighten up again.
Are all the clamps like this, or just the Ritchey?

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Re: Adjustable Stems - recommendations?

Postby LittleGreyCat » 4 Mar 2019, 6:37pm

@slowster

Thanks for a comprehensive reply.

The Wayfarer comes as standard with 4 * 20mm spacers but I couldn't resist the dinky little bell which is built onto a spacer and so it looks as though I have another two spacers apart from the bell, one very slim. which gives me a bit of extra height adjustment. I had thought it was one unit until I looked closely.

In my head I see myself moving the bars in an arc where the bars are furthest when horizontal, and come back towards the rider when moved up or down. This would, for example, allow me to move the stem one spacer down and then swing the bars upwards to get them into roughly the same position as they started, but closer to the saddle.

I am still moving the saddle position a bit so I will wait for that before addressing the bars.

As you say, once you start tinkering then everything else is in a slightly different place.

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Re: Adjustable Stems - recommendations?

Postby slowster » 4 Mar 2019, 7:32pm

I would add a further comment: IMO reach is more critical than the height of the bars. By that I mean that I think most of us could happily live with - or at least put up with - with a relatively wide range of different bar heights, but that the range of what is a comfortable reach is often narrower (especially when it's a case of being overstretched, as opposed to having the bars too close to you).

I have one bike which I built up using just whatever parts I had available. The stem is 2cm too long, but I didn't have any other stem that would fit the bars, and so I made do and wrapped the bars with tape. Every time I ride that bike, when my hands are on the hoods I am conscious that I am just a little bit overstretched. If the bars on any of my bikes were raised or lowered by 2cm, I would not find it anywhere near as noticeable as a 2cm increase in reach.

Something which I sometimes do if I think the reach on a bike is possibly too great, is ride with my hands on the hoods and then I pull my hands a centimetre or two closer towards me (but still resting on the hoods) to see how that feels in comparison. I find that helps me to decide if it's necessary to buy a shorter stem. When I have done that, I've usually chosen a 2cm shorter stem rather than just 1cm shorter.