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I adjusted my stem height the other day, and since then, the stem hasn't felt straight. I've attempted to straighten it a few times, but because I'm just eyeballing it, the handlebars don't quite seem right when I ride.

(I have similar problems when I try to straighten my saddle or brifters; is this hard for other people, too, or do I just have some sort of alignment-blindness? :)

Is there a simple way to make the stem objectively straight instead of relying on my subjective (and wrong) judgment?

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One thing I do to help get the stem straight is use a nylon strap (anything will do really) to secure the front wheel to the down tube. It isn't flawless, but it keeps the wheel from flopping around. –  WTHarper Jun 18 '13 at 20:28
    
@WTHarper Would you consider adding that as an answer? It seems like something I should try. –  amcnabb Jun 18 '13 at 20:28
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Keep futzing with it until you go crazy and it looks straight, even thought it's tilted at 45 degrees. –  Daniel R Hicks Jun 18 '13 at 20:34
    
@DanielRHicks That's almost exactly what I did! :) –  amcnabb Jun 18 '13 at 21:45
    
Fat Cyclist posted about this today, so at least I'm not the only one stressed out about this: fatcyclist.com/2013/07/24/… –  amcnabb Jul 24 '13 at 18:44

3 Answers 3

A problem many hit when trying to straighten the stem is that they end up aligning the stem with the bike while the wheel is almost straight. A degree or two isn't noticeable until you are riding and then it really bothers you.

Instead of trying to align three things (bike, stem, wheel), turn the wheel about 45 degrees. Now align the stem (I generally do it with the wheel trapped between my legs and the bike in front of me) to the wheel. It's much easier to ignore the bike when it's not even close to in-line.

Happy riding.

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After making sure your handlebar is properly centered in the stem clamp and it is not bent (from a crash for example) locate the bike over the lines of a straight and well installed tiled floor. Use the crossed pattern as a guide: Align the front wheel with lengthwise lines and compare the handlebar ends with a crossed line. As the Handlebar halves are longer than most stems, any misalignment would be magnified at the ends, thus making it easier to "see" the error and correct it.

To further increase the "precision" of this technique, use only one eye, and try to align that eye with the vertical plane of the front wheel, that means shifting your head an approximately inch to one side.

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I sight down the middle of the bike and line up components on the bike centerline, like the stem, top tube, seat tube, BB shell, etc.

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