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Home » Cycling » Tinkering Away Again, Sans Margatitaville: Slamming Stems and Servicing the Headset

Tinkering Away Again, Sans Margatitaville: Slamming Stems and Servicing the Headset

July 2014

The other night I learned a new trick, simply out of curiosity:  I took apart and cleaned the headsets on my Venge and my wife’s road bike.

My wife and I went for a ride Friday and talked about swapping out spacers to start lowering her handlebar.  She decided she was game so I figured I’d do the same for mine.  Then I figured, “hey, I rode in the rain the other day so I should just take the whole fork out, clean and re-lube everything and put it all back together – for both bikes as the wife’s has never been cleaned…

I started with mine first so I’d know what I was doing when I got to Mrs. Bgddy’s. The whole process took about 30 minutes for both bikes and with the thread-less stem setup, it was outrageously easy.  My bike took twenty minutes, Mrs. Bgddy’s only ten and they’re good to go for, at least, the rest of the season (or until we ride in the rain again).

So now my stem is just shy of completely slammed and my wife’s is well on its way to looking like a proper road bike.  Rather than go through the steps in print, here’s a decent video if you don’t know how to clean and relube (service) your headset:

I found out the hard way that servicing the headset is extremely important for someone who puts a lot of miles on a bike.  In my case, I’d never done it and when I developed a creak that sounded like it came from the drivetrain the mechanics at the shop started there and while that didn’t end up being the problem, mine was choked with dust from almost a year (minus the winter months) of high mileage.

My wife and I used our 25 mile ride yesterday to assess the changes – I lowered mine about 1/4″ (one spacer) and my wife’s 1/2″ (two after stating I’d only do one – the way the stack worked I had to do two, there simply wasn’t enough room on top of the stem for the second spacer).  I never told Mrs. Bgddy that I had to go with two so I was interested to see what she thought and for mine, I thought I was already as low as I could go comfortably.  In my case I was mistaken.  Surprisingly, I like the new setup much better – it’s more comfortable but the real test will be a 50 miler this morning with a few of the guys from Tuesday night.  The real reward though was my wife’s love of her new setup.  She was over the moon over the lower bars, in all three positions (top, hoods and drops).

At 15.5 mph average we didn’t exactly burn it up but she did say she felt like she didn’t have to work so hard to maintain her speed.  Ah, the magic of lowering the bars…  15 of the 25 miles were over her normal 16 mph average but we had a couple of slow stretches getting through trail traffic and stopping at the restroom/air/water station on the trail where we met a father and his son out on a 200 mile round camping trip on their touring bikes.




  1. hi says:

    Most likely a silly question (sorry in advance) But when adjusting the stem, do you have to adjust the saddle setup as well?

    • bgddyjim says:

      Not a silly question at all. No you don’t – or I should say not that I know of. I haven’t changed my saddle at all and I feel quite exceptional. I rode 45 today and 25 yesterday with no new pains whatsoever.

      What you will want to watch though is the reach… As you lower the stem you change the reach dynamics a little bit – especially if you go too low for your flexibility. To get really low you might need a different stem. The main thing to watch for would be numbness in the hands and extra sore shoulders. Your neck will be a bit sore from getting used to looking up the road at a different angle but that should moderate with mileage.

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