Today’s QT comes to us from Premium Member Greg Titus, who writes:
For those who are perfectionists, aligning your stem/bars can be a pesky issue. Correcting the miss-alignment simply by loosening the stem and trying to nudge the bars has always been an iffy, trial-and-error exercise. Now, with this straight-edge technique, I can nudge it around during a single session and finally get it right without having to set it, go ride to try it out, then re-set, etc. So for me, it works well and gets a faster, more reliable result than what I’ve been doing. Maybe others will, too.
Try this: get a straight-edge that’s longer than your handlebars are wide (like a yardstick or a meterstick). Pass it through your front wheel so that the straight-edge is resting against the front side of both fork blades, and it’s roughly centered (i.e., an equal amount sticks out on each side).
If your wheel, due to spoke configuration, won’t allow the straight-edge to rest on the hub and against the front of the fork (cross-laced spokes might cause this problem), take the wheel out, let the fork sit in contact with a hard, smooth floor, and rest the straight-edge against the fork that way. The idea is that you want the straight-edge to be touching the front of the fork blades and also be parallel with the ground (just as the handlebars are parallel to the ground).
The straight-edge is now exactly parallel to the wheel’s front axle, and makes an exact 90 degree angle with the wheel’s rim (as viewed from above, as you see it when you’re riding; see photo).
(Greg’s notes about the photo: The brake cable housing on the left near the stem clamp is on the front edge of the handlebar and makes the straight-edge look like it’s not quite lined up with the handlebar. This alignment technique is a subjective eyeball process anyway, so the photo doesn’t necessarily capture what it looks like in real life. When I use this technique, I am careful to ignore the tape and just look at the exposed part of the handlebar.)
Straddle the bike’s top tube and eyeball the straight-edge against the front side of the handlebar. Fudge the bars(the stem is not tightened, right?) so that the front edge of the handlebar is exactly parallel to the straight-edge. Tighten the stem. Done.
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—John Marsh & The RBR Team
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