Question on headset spacers...

Discussion in 'Cycling Equipment' started by jos2thehua, Jul 11, 2009.

  1. jos2thehua

    jos2thehua New Member

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    Hello everyone, I'm new to these forums and fairly new to the sport of road biking having purchased my first road bike seven months ago for Christmas.

    I recently got clip-less pedals and shoes for my bike having dealt with the low quality of the toe-clips for long enough and when I went into the bike shop to get fitted for them the bike manager asked me a few questions about my riding position and aggressiveness on the saddle. He recommended that I take out some of the headset spacers (maybe two) to allow for more weight to be distributed onto my hands and less on the back part of my body.

    My first question is what are the benefits of having more weight on the hands and what are the cons. Will it help my flats but make climbing harder or is that of any concern.

    Also, how easy of a task is this? Could I do this on my own with a couple of allen keys or will this be another trip to the bike store. I really don't want to mess things up as far as fit is concerned but I would much rather do this on my own for the sake of not having to make another trip to the store.

    Here is a picture of the spacers on my bike just to give you all an image of what I'm talking about (even though I'm sure you do). Thanks for the help! It will be greatly appreciated!

    [​IMG]
     
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  2. daveryanwyoming

    daveryanwyoming Well-Known Member

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    First, changing your stack height by moving spacers from below your stem to above your stem is mechanically very easy. About the only catch is that the stem acts as a locknut to secure your headset tension adjustment so when you reassemble the stem into the new lower position you have to reset the headset preload (the top cap on top of the stem does that) resecure the stem (making sure it's pointed straight forward and aligned with the bike) and tighten the stem bolts to secure everything. You'll want enough preload to make sure there's no headset slop (stand in front of the bike looking back towards the seat, hold the front brake closed with your right hand (only the front brake leave the back brake free) and gently rock the bike fore and aft to feel for headset play. Once the top cap is snug enough to remove play, make sure you haven't over tightened it such that it binds or feels tight when you steer the bars side to side. It's actually pretty easy with modern headsets and stems but you have to know what you're trying to achieve, nice smooth steering with no excess headset play.

    BTW, you typically move the extra spacers from below the stem and reuse them above the stem. You'll need them to take up space above the stem if you don't want to cut your steering tube shorter - which you generally don't want to do unless you're absolutely certain your fit will never change and even then it's best to have a shop cut your steer tube to make sure it's cut perfectly straight.

    I wouldn't have phrased dropping the stem in terms of weight on the bars. There's truth to that, but I think of it more in terms of comfortable fit and aerodynamics. If you're comfortable with a flatter lower back and want a bit of an advantage when going fast or pushing into a headwind and the lower position feels comfortable then lowering the bars by swapping spacers makes sense. Yeah it can change your weight distribution but the most noticable thing to most folks is bending over further, possibly reaching a bit further to the brake hoods and being lower, especially when riding in the drops. Try the position out for a while, once you know how to readjust your headset preload swapping back is a piece of cake if you don't like it or going even lower is a possibility if you have plenty of flexibility and tend to ride aggressively or push a lot of headwinds.

    A lower position won't in general help your climbing, but unless you're pushing beyond your flexibility limits and moving towards an uncomfortable position it shouldn't really hurt your climbing either especially since you should typically be climbing with your hands up on the brake hoods or the flat bar tops.

    Good luck,
    -Dave
     
  3. jos2thehua

    jos2thehua New Member

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    Okay, thank you very much for your help. Very detailed and clear. I'm about to go do it. Once again thanks!

    -Josh M. Holloway
     
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