The Guerciotti Project, Stage 5: All about The Stem

by CycleChick on September 14, 2013

The stem is a very important part of a bicycle. Not only does it serve to hold the handlebars, it also ensures that when you turn said handlebars in a certain direction, your front wheel follows. Nobody loves stem like 2013 Tour de France winner Chris Froome, as you will see from this collection of images my friend Scott shared from the fine (yet undeniably sick) folks at The Sufferfest. Here are some of my favourites:

Looking at Stem while controlling Nibali.

Looking at Stem while controlling Nibali_Zimbio

Looking at Stem beside a lake.

Looking at Stem next to a lake

Looking at Stem in front of Canadians:

Looking at Stem in front of Canadians

Missing the Stem.

Missing the Stem_Planetsport

Did you just look at my Stem? EYES OFF MY STEM!


Stems come in many shapes and sizes, and have about a gazillion different measurements you are supposed to know by heart, presuming you have nothing better to clutter your mind with. If one of those measurements is off, several things will likely happen:
1. your handlebars will not fit into your stem
2. the stem will not fit into the steer tube
3. your bars will be too low or too high
4. your bars will be to far forward or too far back

With me so far?

In addition:
5. your stem could be cracked
6. your stem may have been pried open to remove the bars
7. your stem could be missing a part

Any one of these things could very well cause misery, injury, or death. Of the seven possible stem disasters itemized above, I have now experienced six, and an equal number of stems to match – and that, my friends, is a bullshit number of stems for one bike. It’s a good thing I’m so stubborn. I won’t get into the nitty gritty of all of my stem woes, but suffice it to say there were plenty.

For example, this one was too long. And not quite Italian enough. Plus, since my Cinelli bars  were made prior to 1998, they have a diameter of 26.4mm as opposed to the standard 26.0mm. So they did not fit. Like I was somehow supposed to know that.


These ones were too broken.IMG_4966IMG_5055

I’m PRETTY sure the Hipster wasn’t trying to kill me when he gave me a cracked stem. But you never know – hipsters can be unpredictable.

This one was missing parts.


I have no doubt that Hot Legs Coughlin could have found the handle bar bolt in his garage. Somewhere. Maybe.

Thanks to my new B.F.F. Andrew at Natural Cycle, I now have a stem that fits. Mostly. It fits into the steer tube, and it came with handle bars. Gorgeous handle bars. That fit. It is Abmrosio – Ambrosio is Italian. And it was the correct price. Unfortunately it is also a bit too long, but at this point that is the least of my worries. It fits 67  of the possible 70 criteria items and for now, that is just fine. After all, this is lucky stem #7.

It turns out one of the Adrians at Olympia Cycle has an Ambrosio stem that is too short for him. Perhaps I can prey on his penchant for bottled hops and we can work something out.

In the meantime, with all due respect to Mr. Froome, I have bigger fish to fry. Next up: the drive train.



When do you write the blog about sitting down with the bank about adding to the mortgage so the bike can get finished ? Is that before or after the drivetrain ?

by Phil on September 14, 2013 at 8:35 am. Reply #

These things take time my friend. It has very little to do with money, and more to do with learning skills and finding the parts. And of course there is the pesky “day job” and offspring to deal with. What is up with that anyway? Oh and training for Italy of course. :)

In any case, I hate to be a spoiler, but the bike is, in fact finished. I want to record the process properly here, and in order, but like building a bike, this whole “bloggery” nonsense also takes time.

Perhaps I need more minions.

by CycleChick on September 14, 2013 at 1:21 pm. Reply #

I was going to say that my favourite stem observing moment was Hincapie looking at his handle bar and stem as it separated from his bike during the Paris Roubaix race in 2006. Not quite the pure “stem obsession” that Froome exhibits in your post, but still an awesome stem observation moment none-the-less, and somewhat related considering your need for a custom steerer tube manufacturing that you comment on in Phase 4 of your report – not that I want you to be thinking of that. ; )

by Hal on September 14, 2013 at 3:04 pm. Reply #

Be happy you are tarting up an Italian bike, and a fine looking one it is too. At least they used common metric threads and tubing sizes, except those pesky handlebars. The old French bikes…their own threading, tubing diameters, prissy, hard to find components. Tabernak! Mal de tete. Mon dieu.

The drivetrain should be butter.

by Gianni on September 15, 2013 at 8:15 pm. Reply #

So like the French. To be fair, they do make up for it in sex appeal and exquisite sauces.

by CycleChick on September 16, 2013 at 1:42 pm. Reply #

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