A Note from Fatty about the WBR Contest: I have two awesome things to tell you today. I shall reveal them to you in the form of this convenient numerical list.
- Today’s Giveaway from TheFeed.com: Today TheFeed will be giving away a one-month subscription to The Feed – the 14-piece, 19.99 pack — along with a six-pack of Garmin-Sharp Podium Bottles.
- We’ve Reached the Ceiling: Trek’s matching program for the month had the upper limit of $90,000. We’ve reached that limit, and blown right by it So from this point our dollars are not being matched by Trek. This does not however alter the number of chances you will get in any donations you make in the contest for the bike and The Feed. Which means when you donate you still get the same number of bonus chances as when the matching was going on.
I have to say, I love the fact that Trek put together an audacious matching program with a very large matching ceiling — and then donors smashed right through that ceiling, with plenty of days left in the month. That says good things about everyone.
And remember, the Trek Madone Series 7 / ENVE Wheels and Cockpit / SRAM RED bike contest continues through the end of the month, so — if you haven’t already — be sure to donate today.
Aligning the Stem and the Front Wheel AKA Why I am Now Insane
I have ridden in an astonishing number of conditions. In the snow. In rain. Up steep hills with grocery bags hanging from my handlebars. In 111-degree (F) temperatures (last weekend, in fact).
No matter what, though, I love being on my bike. I just do.
Unless and except when I start fixating on one thing. One simple, unimportant — but absolutely infuriating — thing that completely absorbs my attention and has, I’m sad to report, driven me completely insane.
I am speaking, of course, of the alignment of my bike stem to my front wheel.
Now, some of you are cocking your heads in confusion. What could I possibly mean? What problem is there with stem / wheel alignment? The stem points forward, the wheel points forward. They’re aligned.
Others of you, on the other hand, know exactly what I’m talking about, and are nodding sympathetically. You may even be suppressing an urge to reach out and give me a hug, for which I thank you (for the suppression of the urge part, I mean).
For those of you who don’t get it, let me try to explain.
In an ideal universe, your stem should be pointing exactly straight when your front wheel is pointing exactly straight. Like in this very well-drawn illustration:
See how nice that is? The line of the stem is obviously going right down the middle of the front wheel, which means the handlebar is perfectly perpendicular to both the front wheel and the stem.
Unfortunately, real-world space is three dimensional. Which poses a real problem for me. Specifically, neither of my eyes is exactly in the center of my head, so even if the stem is perfectly aligned, when I look down at the stem and bar with just my right eye, it looks like this:
And if I look at it with just my left eye, it looks like this:
And before long, I’m riding along, looking straight down, peering through one eye and then the other, moving my head side to side, wondering not whether my stem is perhaps slightly off, but just exactly how incredibly misaligned it is.
And also, how is it even possible that I’m able to stay on my bike with my handlebar turned so egregiously either this way or that (depending on which eye is open at the moment).
No, Seriously, This IS a PROBLEM
I try to calm myself. I tell myself, “Look, even if the stem isn’t perfectly aligned with the wheel, it’s pretty darned close. I mean, think about your arms for a second. Is one or the other of them closer or farther away than the other when you’re riding?
So I begin to focus on my arms. I look at the left, then the right. They’re out at approximately the same angle.
I look again. I’m not sure, but I think my right arm might be stretched out a little bit further than my left arm. Or it’s possible that the opposite is true. Regardless, I am beginning to be convinced that — one way or another — my arms aren’t stretched out the same amount.
“This must be why my right hand goes to sleep when I ride,” I think. “Because my right arm is stretched out further than my left arm.”
“Or not as far, I guess,” I conclude to myself.
And then I begin to wonder how it’s possible that I’m ever able to even ride in a straight line at all. With my stem so crooked (either pointing too far left or too far right…I’m still not sure), I should be riding in perpetual circles.
Then, just to see whether it helps me figure things out, I try riding around in circles to see which is easier: clockwise or counterclockwise.
The results are troubling, but inconclusive.
Attempts at Diagnosis
Back at home, I stand over my bike. My left eye closed, my neck craned slightly so that my right eye is — I imagine — exactly lined up with the top tube. I position the stem so that it is a perfect continuance of that straight line, then look to see if the front wheel continues that Platonic Straight Line.
It does. Or maybe it doesn’t, quite. It’s hard to tell.
So I do it over, this time with my left eye. In the end, I give up without adjusting anything. Whenever I adjust things, it only gets worse the next ride. “Did I adjust it too much? Or maybe not enough? Is it better now, even a little? Or is it out of alignment now, but just in a different way?”
And then, “You know, I’m not even sure I adjusted it in the correct direction. And now I think my headset is creaking.”
I tell Lisa about this problem, wondering if she does the same thing. She looks at me uncomprehendingly. “My bike is fine.”
What does she know?
Invention is Needed
I go to the Park Tools website. There must be a tool for this, something that makes it mathematically certain that your stem is lined up with your wheel. I can even picture it: two ratcheting clamps, parallel to each other, on a telescoping bar. Fasten one end to the stem, the other to the wheel.
There is no such tool. I consider a Kickstarter to create one, then realize I’m terrible with using tools and may be the single worst person in the world to invent one.
So maybe there needs to be a new standard, I think. Where forks and stems interlock, so they line up perfectly all the time.
Also, by the way, I’d like someone to do the same with seatposts.
And In Conclusion
I’m heading out on a ride now; it is my sincere hope that I will be able to ignore the horror that is the misaligned stem / front wheel.
Further, I am acutely aware that there will be someone who will read this and — having never before given this malady a single thought — will suddenly become obsessed.
And in short, I apologize for having brought this to your attention.