Fixing a loose stem

Symptoms

My stem feels loose, and there is some play when I wiggle it back and forth. Is this normal? What can I do to fix it?

Causes

All Bike Friday stems have a stainless steel pin welded into the back of the stem collar. This pin is meant to engage a slot at the back of the steerer tube (the fork tube that comes up through the headset) and to keep the stem pointing forward with the wheel.

However, even with this pin there is a small amount of rotational play between the stem and fork with the quick-release or bolt loose, about ten degrees on each side of center.

Solutions

To insure that the stem is secure, first make certain that the stem is all the way down on the fork. Look closely at the slot in the stem clamp to check that the steerer tube is as far up as it will go. If need be, remove the O-ring from the steerer tube (it has no practical function other than to cover up extra threads). This ring can sometimes lift up the stem and keep it from seating properly.

With the stem all the way down, securely clamp either the quick-release lever on the stem or tighten the bolt. A drop of oil on the head of the quick release or the bolt will allow it to clamp tighter.

While clamping the front wheel between your knees, it will always be possible to twist the stem from side to side. You can generate a lot of torque holding the bike this way, a force your bike will not normally encounter while being ridden.

You should not feel the stem move while you are riding, however. If this is the case, go back up to the top of this list and check that the stem is fully seated and the clamp is lubricated and tight.

If you have a stem riser and quill stem, also check that the standard stem is tight into the stem riser. The 6mm Allen hex key wrench supplied with your Bike Friday can be used to check this. If this problem persists, give us a call.

Also see the Guide Article on loose headsets