Thursday, January 02, 2014

Equipment - Steelman Stem, Part Deux

So I have a custom stem from Steelman Bikes. I put up a shot of it on the bike but nothing really detailed. I didn't have time to work on posts and such but now I do so you get to see the stem and all that I've done with it so far.

First the stem arrival and stuff is detailed in this post. Other than the one distorted picture of the stem on the bike you really can't tell much about the stem so now I'll try and explain how the thing looks and how it positions the bar relative to the previous set up.

Distorted picture of the bike.

I went through a thinking/exploration process in the fall after deciding to commit to a custom stem. I could either limit my bar selection to "deep drop" bars (I couldn't find one I liked) or I could use a compact type bar (which I like) and get a stem that would allow me to choose virtually any compact type bar for my bike. The custom stem made more sense so I thought it through and ordered it.

I have to admit the numbers would make even my back ache - a 14.5 cm stem with a negative 32 degree rise. However, once you see where the drops are before and after, you'll see that there is virtually no change in the drop position.

The FSA Energy bars, 15 cm drop, with a Deda Pista stem (-20 degrees, 14 cm).

These bars felt high and the drop shape made them effectively higher than the 15 cm "drop". I grasp the bars where they're a bit curved so I don't use the flatter part, which is where they measure the drop. Therefore the drop to where I hold the bars ends up in the 13 or 14 cm range, not 15 cm.

The FSA Wing bars, 12 cm drop, with the Steelman Bikes stem (-32 degrees, 14.5 cm)
This was during my first trial ride so I hadn't moved the levers/cables over yet.
Note the cut down bars - I cut them down when I first got them an eon ago.

The drops angle isn't quite right but the bars are next to my tire, which is approximately where I need them based on my BB height. Remember, the whole point of the exercise was to promote stability and power in the sprint, which for me is out of the saddle. In such a sprint I only have two main contact points - the bars and the pedals. The pedal position is determined by the bottom bracket location and the crank length - those are not very negotiable. Therefore I need to bring the drops to the right place relative to the bottom bracket.

A slightly zoomed out view of the stem. The bar is next to the tire, give or take.
I took this picture after moving the levers over. By now I'd committed to the stem.

As some sprint experiments showed me the stem works great. However, in its raw steel state even a long week in Florida led to some noticeable surface rust. I decided that before I got back on the bike at home I'd need to paint the stem. I had some zinc-permeated primer (zinc is what they dip car bodies in so they don't rust like they used to in, say, the 70s) and some chassis paint (specifically designed to be chip resistant; I got it for the Expedition) so that's what I used.

In the "paint booth".
The front cap was already black so I left it alone.
Blue tape to protect clamping surfaces and threads.

I will not criticize a paint job again.
The front cap came that color, a matte black.
The next stem, for the black bike, I'll have Steelman powder coat it or whatever for me.

I remember when I had the Z that some people commented on the poor paint. Okay, I had perfectionist body shop guys who work on exotic cars all day criticize the paint, one even doing so unknowingly in front of me. That led to a whispered, "Dude, the guy over there owns this car," and a muttered, "Oh."

I never really noticed whatever was wrong with the Z's paint so it didn't bother me. However even I can tell that I did a crappy job on my stem, just like I did a crappy job on a black BMX bike when I was in high school.

(The BMX bike started out as a 20" wheels TT bike project and I bought the bike because it had tear drop shaped tubes but that's a whole different story.)

I will never criticize a paint job again, at least not until I know how to do it right.

I ended up with what I'll call a "20/20" paint job. It looks fine from 20 feet away or at 20 mph, at least to my uneducated eyes. Maybe those exotic car guys would rate it a 50/50 job. Still, for me, I wanted to keep the rust away from the stem and so far it hasn't rusted so it's good enough for me.

On the bike, with the safety spacers on top.
Note the not-so-shiny part in the middle - that's the 20/20 bit.

Now the bike sits on the trainer, destined to be there for the next couple months. I need to adjust some cable lengths - I already shortened the rear brake cable but I need to shorten it more. The front brake is a bit of a puzzle since the cable ends up snaking up to get to the barrel adjuster on the brake. In Florida I tried to run the cable over the top of the bar but it looked horrible and it didn't reach and I didn't have any extra cables or Nokon housings and liners. Here at home I have both so I might spend some time fiddling with it.

All in all though the position in the drops feels great. I feel hunkered down and stable and that's all that I wanted from the stem.

I don't know if I'll get it ride it outside. Taking pictures of my bike right now is a bit tough so I'm afraid that's what you get for now. All willing it'll be out racing and sprinting in March and I'll be able to get some better shots then.

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