12 February, 2016

The Thing About Goosenecks

by Igor

The purpose of a stem is to connect the handlebar to your fork's steerer. This can be accomplished by using either a quill or threadless type stem.

A quill type stem uses an internal expander to wedge the quill into the steerer. This is most common on bikes which use a 1" threaded steerer, like our Campeur, as well as most older bikes. All of our quill stems are designed for 22.2mm sizing, but they can be modified to fit the French 22.0mm size. Quills are easy to adjust vertically by loosening the bolt on top. Changing handlebars is more of a pain because the faceplate is most commonly fixed, but once your cockpit is tested and set up, there isn't much reason to change your stem. In addition, traveling with a quill style is easier due to the two-bolt removal and install procedure (one quill and one faceplate).

A threadless or not-anymore-so-commonly-referred-to "aheadset" type stem uses a clamp on both ends. One end clamps around the smooth, threadless steerer and the other end clamps around the handlebar. This makes handlebar and stem changes extremely easy due to the removable faceplate inherent in threadless stems. In addition, this style of stem is typically stiffer than their quill counterparts due to the wider cross-section, so this style is more popular with speedy bikes (Pass Hunter) and bikes meant to take beatings (Piolet). Our threadless stems come in a variety of sizes and rises, all based around the 1 1/8" steerer size. Traveling with this stem is a bit more involved as you need to take care not to lose spacers as well as the 7 screws (4 faceplate, 2 steerer clamp, 1 top cap) which hold your cockpit together.

All of our stems measure the same way, center to center - center of clamp/quill to center of handlebar clamp along the rise or drop angle. The stem pictured above is 90mm.

The VO quill stem gives a more upright position, perfect for tourists or those who just want a more heads-up position.

The Grand Cru Quill is a -17 degree position. Most traditional headtube angles hover around 73 degrees (give or take a degree or half), so when the stem is installed, the classic number 7 look is achieved.

For the best of both worlds, we also offer a quill threadless adaptor. This allows you to use a threadless stem for the convenience of a quill's quick adjustability and a threadless stem's easy handlebar and stem switches. Simply install the threadless stem on the adapter and proceed just as you were installing a quill stem.

The Tall-Stack Stem uses the -17 degree position to take up spacers as well as provide the number 7 look we know and love. This stem is available in only 31.8, but we offer reducing shims for 25.4 and 26.0 handlebar clamps. This stem is not compatible with the quill threadless adaptor since the steerer clamp is longer than the adaptor's.
Ok, so now that we have the technicals out of the way, the following is not a representation of VO or what any subsidiaries believe, and it is only the written and verbally expressed views of the author: quill stems are better and slamming your stem for the sake of looks is ridiculous.
Having ridden both extensively, quills are more comfortable and look nicer. They flex a bit over rough terrain, giving you an all-around smoother ride without sacrificing performance. Also, their slimmer profiles visually blend more nicely into the bike, giving a better, complete package aesthetic.

Slammed stems, ugh. If you have a steel, threadless steerer, raise your stem as high as you want. It's better to ride your bike and be comfortable than not ride your bike because you lean too far over. Break out from the conformity of wanna-be pelaton'ers and internet "experts". Embrace your comfort and reject those who bring you down.


Mark Holm said...

This post contains a flat out lie. It is a very common lie, but still a lie. Nothing about quill stems requires them to use a single bolt handlebar clamp! This is not an "inherent" aspect of quill stems. Nothing about threadless stems requires them to use multi-bolt handlebar clamps! This is not an "inherent" aspect of threadless stems. The type of handlebar clamp on any stem is a design decision independent of the type of stem-steerer connection. Multi-bolt handlebar clamps are uncommon on quill stems because designers think that is what the market wants.

My challenge for VO: design and sell a quill stem with a multi-bolt clamp! The design part will be easy.

Jean-Francois Caron said...

Removable faceplates aren't "inherent" in threadless stems. The move to threadless just happened around the same time that companies started making stems with removable faceplates. Unfortunately because many people believe in (and reiterate) the connection, few quill stems are made with a removable plate even tough it's possible.

If you dig through a Co-op's stem bin or leaf through a few catalogues, you can find threadless stems without removable plates, and quill stems with them.

I a quill stem with removable plate and it's really the best of both worlds.

Unknown said...

When you said, if you have a steel steerer, raise your stem as high as you want, do you mean to suggest the maximum height marking can be ignored? I'd be happy to keep my current stem and raise my bar to saddle height instead of buying a new high rise stem.

Paul Gong said...

The voice of reason. How refreshing it is within the topic of bicycles.

VeloOrange said...


I should have clarified. You must heed the maximum height on a quill stem. On a threadless steel steerer, you can raise that stem up.

@Mark & John,

You're right. There are frequently threadless stems with a single bolt in front, and there are quill stems with removable faceplates. IMO, those styles of stems just don't really look good. They look too bulky in my eyes. And if you find an elegant one like the Nitto Crystal Blue, they are often times negative rise stem with low quill lengths. I know the Salsa ones with rise are plentiful, but those welds leave much to be desired.

Keep a lookout on the blog in the next month or so. I think you'll like what you see.


Mark Holm said...

Threadless stems exist largely because they save bike manufacturers a few cents on the cost of threaded steerers. Also, as is usual in the bike marketing world, their supposed advantages were trumpeted simply to make them seem novel and exciting. Secondarily, they are a bit stiffer and stronger for heavy, strong riders who really punish their bikes. Now, with decades of experience, we know that the threadless stem hype led us down a bad road.

Quill stems, and this is an inherent feature, offer easy adjustability and a wide range of heights in products readily available. Three years ago, I bought a bike for my son. It had a threadless stem, because that was all I could find in my price range. After the first ride, my son said the bars were too low. I had to put on a stem extension, and replace the cables that the manufacturer had also made with no expectation of adjustability.

A bike with a threadless stem is, for many purposes, a poorer bike than one with a quill stem.

Mark Holm said...

See the Nitto UI-2 at the bottom of this page.

editorque said...

While we are cataloguing variations, what about a tall-stack gooseneck threadless stem?

S said...

That comment is a bit too much of a tease, don't you think? You've got me dreaming of a quill stem that's Technomic height with a removable faceplate. The problem with vague suggestion, it makes the receiver fill in the blanks with their own desires.

drew beckmeyer said...

If there is a nitto quality quill with adequate height AND with removable faceplate in the works.... Oh man.

Anonymous said...

What do you use the high-stack stem with (if not the quill stem adaptor)?

janedual said...

If the steerer is left uncut and the cables set for max height a threadless stem offers all the same functionality as a threaded steerer, even if it is less attractive.
Further, if a bike with a tall quill stem has the cables set for low stem height the handlebars can't really be moved up very much on the go.

I prefer quill stems myself and had always considered threadless inferior but having purchased a bike with threadless steerer recently i can't see it as black and white anymore

orc said...

Looking across my living room at my pile of bicycles, I've got to object to "slammed stems, ugh" -- some old slow riders are really more comfortable with their handlebars nice and low. Slamming your stem is not solely in the realm of the fashionistas (and, really, who cares about them?) and it's somewhat ridiculous to rule any cockpit configuration out just to not be like the hipsters.

John Elliss said...

Very good post which suggest the bike fitting and all other things to consider before going to cycling race.

D Ketterling said...

If you climb lots of mountains all summer, a low stem offers the leverage you need. A tall stem is a definite handicap climbing. I've done over a hundred of the top Tour de France climbs, both Pyrenees and Alps, and dozens of Italian Dolomites Giro climbs. On a 100 lb touring bike. Tall stem: no leverage.

John said...

"even if it is less attractive"

The whole thing about cutting steerers as low as possible is even an aesthetic choice over the functionality of choosing your handlebar height. But people who aren't die hard cyclists have no concept of a lot of spacers = unattractive. Along with a high rise quill with removable faceplate how about a nice high rise threadless stem?!

John Hurley said...

When it comes to appearance, I think it is a matter of proportion. A chunky modern threadless stem looks out of place on a slender steel-framed bike. A skinny quill stem looks out of place on bike with oversized aluminum or carbon frame. For this reason I've never understood the threadless stem adapter being offered as a solution for fitting out a classic-type steel bike with a stem having a removable faceplate. The result just looks goofy to me.

I also agree with others in wondering why the few modern quill stems available with removable face plates have to be so ugly.

Marcie Bodeaux said...

I vote for the quill stem with rise and removable face plate. Like the VO quill but removable face plate. Salsa made one