Winging it

Photo: All sorted

Imagine the grating sound of sand in your headset.

That’s what I could hear after recent winter riding along dirty country lanes. Time to remove the forks and saddle post to give the inside of the frame a good clean. Loads of filthy water and grime was forced out of the dark dank tubing. Leave to dry for 24 hours, re-lube and re-assemble. Simple enough.

The following day’s ride to Windsor got interesting. Something didn’t feel right. Then a small misalignment of the handlebars and front wheel.

Maybe I just didn’t tighten the screws enough (I had used a torque wrench to set the correct 5N). Maybe I spread the grease too high up the stem and it couldn’t grip? Maybe it had broken? Maybe I would loose control of the steering?

I stopped to tighten up the bolts. It worked for a while, but on the way home it got worse. By the time I got close to home I was steering by leaning over rather than turning the handlebars.

I needed to fix it that night. I had an important appointment to keep at 07:00 the next morning. Filming for the Alzheimer’s Society.

After trying to tighten them some more and making it worse I realised my mistake. I had put the screws for the stem on from the wrong side, stripping the threads. Schoolboy error.

I couldn’t let the Alzheimer’s Society down so I had to find a way on Friday night to attach the stem. I have a tiny toolbox in London with various bits of fixings. I managed to cobble together a solution. It looked odd, but it worked….

Two plasterboard spring toggles was all I had that fitted. They looked like mini wings either side of the stem. Not elegant, but effective. I made the filming.

Some time ago, a bio-mechanic recommended having a stem 2cm longer. It’s remained on my to-do list for far too long, but not any more. I’ve just fitted a brand new stem.

Whilst testing it on the street in my jeans and normal shoes just now a cabbie stopped and shouted

“Whoooo, whose got a brand new bike then?”

Quite a compliment for a 5 year old bike with 26,052km on the clock. I can obviously look after her appearance better than her mechanics.

My Stats


  • You rode all the way to Windsor and back with your steering held together by a bung and the pressure of the top cap. I’m amazed it held together and you remained upright!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did. I had to keep flicking the handlebars towards the centre to re-align whilst riding. A tribute to my mechanical incompetence. I rode to Woodbridge with David Mason with my new stem. All good, steering works!


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