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I am worried that my steerer is damaged and don’t really know what to do, because I feel insecure riding my bike now. I hope maybe you can help me to determine what I should do.

I was at a bikefit and apparently my stem has to be set way lower than it is by default. So I took out some spacers and because of the pin-system, they couldn’t be placed above the stem, so I left the part of the steerer above the stem blank.

I rode some time (quite hard) for a few weeks until I felt like this was a good position and looked up the manual because I wanted to gather information regarding the whole build up, for finally shortening the fork steerer.

I discovered, that the manufacturer explicitly states to NOT leave space above the stem (even with spacers) because it damages the steerer tube. (Most likely because the compression device isn’t long enough to work against the stem pressure there.)

Also I red a lot of things on the net from bike manufacturers explaining how sensitive those carbon steerers are to pressure. And now I am feeling unsafe riding my bike, even though there are no visible errors, but I also read carbon doesn’t tend to show signs of damage.

I would change the fork ASAP, but apparently, there are no forks with 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 anymore, at least not in my region or online.

Should I be so worried? I mean are all those saying from bike companies and mechanics made up?

please help :( I wanna ride again but I am very confused.

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    Do you have photos of the stem/spacer configuration you are worried might have caused damage? May 15, 2023 at 19:35
  • I have not heard of a manufacturer saying you can't put spacers above a stem before. Do you have more details about why? May 15, 2023 at 19:41
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    While photos would help, you could always duck into the LBS for advice and perhaps even get them to cut the stem for you
    – Hursey
    May 15, 2023 at 20:57
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    Most likely because the compression device isn’t long enough to work against the stem pressure there. If it were necessary to fill a carbon fiber steerer with something for safety reasons, they wouldn't be sold hollow... May 15, 2023 at 23:15

2 Answers 2

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Although I can't make guarantees, most of the time, the "do not leave space above the stem" clause refers to empty space. As in, ensure the steerer goes all the way through the stem clamp. Carbon forks tend to be quite overbuilt (especially in the steerer and crown) to reduce the chances of failure in this area of the bike where there is no structural redundancy. I also doubt the compression plug is required for structural integrity considering how stiff the steerer tube is already.

Also, manufacturer warnings tend to be quite dramatic (for understandable reasons). They have to account for cyclists who overtighten things by habit and are neglectful of your equipment. There is no need to immediately freak about about the slightest chance of damage.

If anything, I'd be more worried about your headset. How'd you get your headset preloaded without having spacers above the stem? Riding for weeks with a loose headset genuinely does have the potential for damage.

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  • tbh I don’t know how I fixed the whole thing xD I just took out 2 spacers, then gently pushing down the stem against the remaining spacers, tightened it a bit, then tightened the top cap, then loosen and tighten the stem again. (stem with torque wrench ofc) Oh and apparently there is damage on the steerer. I investigated closer and noticed fine white rings, where the stem was sitting. I feel scratches with my fingers, if I rub over them. Cured from carbon parts. Definitly too sensible for a dumbass like me :/
    – user69725
    May 17, 2023 at 14:50
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Lack of spacers above the stem is not a cause for any concern. Like the stem cap, those spacers are only needed to enable the preload to be adjusted before the stem is tightened. Once the stem is tightened, they are redundant.

The only option you have is have an expert examine the steerer. We cannot do this for you, any advice we give has to be taken in context of we have not inspected the steerer.

IMHO, it is unlikely, but not impossible, that the steerer is damaged (if you had the stem torqued up to specification). Manufacturers have a moral and legal responsibility that their components are fit for purpose and are not so fragile they cause potentially fatal accidents because of someone doing something that is quite common (i.e. lowering the stem.

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  • ok thanks, I inspected the steerer closer and I can see (and feel) some fine white, scratches on the carbon surface, like rings around the steerer, where the stem was sitting. I guess this IS indeed some kind of damage. I always used a torque wrench and only the right nm. and tbh this whole thing made me that insecure that I don’t want to ride any carbon in the future. maybe I will switch to MTB. even if I hate the geometry and the flat bars, but there are plenty MTBs made 100% out of aluminium.
    – user69725
    May 17, 2023 at 14:48

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