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Bent Stem [and How I Solved It]

SamanthaJaneSamanthaJane Posts: 27
edited October 2018 in Workshop
Hi all.
Broke down on a long cycle, called for a lift, got the bike strapped to the roof in what I personally considered a risky looking rack, for some good distance at a good speed when the dreaded clattering happened.
Yup, bike fell from the roof of a 30-40mph car...
It’s in amazing condition all things considered. Not too happy about the cosmetic damage, it’s the structural that’s got me worried.
The stem is bent. Pretty badly. In fact I think the housing is looser than it should be too. Now, I can’t get the stem out because the long screw holding the quill is, naturally, bent.
Bending the entire thing back again may help straighten it up just enough to unscrew it, but I don’t know for sure.
What’s your advice?
Thanks ^_^

EDIT: It seems I wasn't entirely clear, my bad! I'm fully intending to ride the bike for many years more. It is a steel frame and there's hardly any damage (by some miracle). What I'm really looking for is advice on removing a bent stem given that's where most of the damage is and I believe it acted as a crumple zone and saved the bike from much more damage.
One suggestion to cut it off is excellent and will be my backup. Getting a full professional inspection is also something I'll consider if I see any signs of further damage. But I'm hoping for some advice on perhaps the best way to bend it back into shape enough to unthread it? Two water pump pliers on either side of the bend and some brute force perhaps?

Photos of bike available here, named for damage or observations. Note general lack of damage (somehow). https://drive.google.com/open?id=1X2hYJ ... ikJEiLVrMP

EDIT: I have now replaced the stem! And I was able to do it without requiring, drilling or cutting anything!
On top of the suggestions to cut the stem, my father suggested drilling out the quill bolt head so that it could be knocked free.
In the end, however, he was able to apply way more torque than me (obviously) and so was actually able to get the quill bolt to turn even with that kink in the stem!!!! So with it loosened off I was able to work the stem free. We also fixed up the bent pannier and tried the wheels.
I’ve updated the photo folder to show the stems (bent and straight) and the fixed bike!
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Posts

  • svettysvetty Posts: 1,904
    Hi all.
    Broke down on a long cycle, called for a lift, got the bike strapped to the roof in what I personally considered a risky looking rack, for some good distance at a good speed when the dreaded clattering happened.
    Yup, bike fell from the roof of a 30-40mph car...
    It’s in amazing condition all things considered. Not too happy about the cosmetic damage, it’s the structural that’s got me worried.
    The stem is bent. Pretty badly. In fact I think the housing is looser than it should be too. Now, I can’t get the stem out because the long screw holding the quill is, naturally, bent.
    Bending the entire thing back again may help straighten it up just enough to unscrew it, but I don’t know for sure.
    What’s your advice?
    Thanks ^_^
    Take it to a bike shop and get a proper damage report although I'm not sure I'd ride it again TBH - probably disassemble for spares and/or sell components and buy a new one. Hopefully you can claim on insurance?
    FFS! Harden up and grow a pair :D
  • Svetty wrote:
    Take it to a bike shop and get a proper damage report although I'm not sure I'd ride it again TBH - probably disassemble for spares and/or sell components and buy a new one. Hopefully you can claim on insurance?

    Nonsense! Never ride it again? I just invested £1000 into making it one hell of a bike. The frame seems to be fine, there are no visible signs of damage other than slightly bent wheels and the stem bending (probably taking the brunt of the impact).
    I’m not giving up on it.
  • If it were my bike, and it had just gone for a trip along the tarmac, on it’s stem, at “30 - 40 mph” and things looked damaged, I’d say it was a write off.
  • webboowebboo Posts: 3,855
    A grand on a bike with a quill stem, unless someone won the tour on it back in the 80’s. Seems a lot.
  • Webboo wrote:
    A grand on a bike with a quill stem, unless someone won the tour on it back in the 80’s. Seems a lot.
    It’s a lovely vintage frame I rescued and gave a new lease of life as an incredibly capable e-bike with 40+ miles of range. A passion project.
    Thanks for your helpful reply.
  • If it were my bike, and it had just gone for a trip along the tarmac, on it’s stem, at “30 - 40 mph” and things looked damaged, I’d say it was a write off.
    But things don’t look damaged. The frame is fine, the stem is literally the only thing that has taken any real damage except the pannier and wheels, which are easily fixed.
    Like seriously, none of the frame is bent, none of the paint is scratched, hell, the seat (which undoubtedly touched the ground at some point) hasn’t even been torn. The brunt of the force was clearly taken by the handlebars and transferred to the stem as the “crumple point”.

    EDIT: I should mention that we were rounding a corner, it came off more sideways than backwards and as such probably avoided a lot of potential damage. As Things are, I came out very lucky.
  • petecopeteco Posts: 178
    It's difficult for any of us to give advice as we can't see the bike.
    If the stem has bent, then the bars may be damaged too, and the head tube. Bending the stem back could damage the frame too, so I would be tempted to cut the stem off, as you can't re-use it.
    It sounds like the frame isn't carbon, so the risk of hidden damage is lower (IMHO).

    I would have a good look all round the frame, and re-use it.

    Pete
  • redvisionredvision Posts: 2,748
    OP what is the point of asking for opinions when you then dismiss/ argue against them?

    If the bike means that much to you then ride it. It's your life.
  • peteco wrote:
    It's difficult for any of us to give advice as we can't see the bike.
    If the stem has bent, then the bars may be damaged too, and the head tube. Bending the stem back could damage the frame too, so I would be tempted to cut the stem off, as you can't re-use it.
    It sounds like the frame isn't carbon, so the risk of hidden damage is lower (IMHO).

    I would have a good look all round the frame, and re-use it.

    Pete
    Hi Pete,
    Thanks for your reply. I'm not seeing a way to upload pictures? I suppose I could upload them to google drive then link them for you?
    It's a steel frame so its pretty hardy, as an engineer I'm quite sure most of it is sound but as you say I'll check it over a few times and do some testing rides but for now removing the stem is the most important thing.
    Cutting it off may just be the best option, I'll keep it in mind as a last resort.
    Thanks again :)
  • redvision wrote:
    OP what is the point of asking for opinions when you then dismiss/ argue against them?

    If the bike means that much to you then ride it. It's your life.

    Simple, I'm not dismissing the advice that's helpful or productive. One suggestion was to cut the stem. Another to take it for a professional inspection. Both are good and I'm taking them on board.
    However, what I am "ignoring" (read: replying to and countering) are off-topic and less helpful replies that haven't given any actual advice about the issue (removing the stem).
    Of course I'll ride it, that's not what the focus is. I'm not surprised you're confused as to why my replies are such when you don't seem to understand what it is I'm actually asking.
    Possibly my fault, I'll go back and make sure its clear that I want advice about removing a bent stem.
  • imposter2.0imposter2.0 Posts: 11,386
    Possibly my fault, I'll go back and make sure its clear that I want advice about removing a bent stem.

    ...which is going to be difficult for anyone to provide without a better understanding of what the issue actually is. A pic would be very useful. Without it, all you will get is speculation.
  • lesfirthlesfirth Posts: 1,207
    I assume the frame is steel. Check it is not obviously bent. If not cut through the stem as high above the headset as possible with a hacksaw. If the bike has been built recently it should be easy to remove the remains of the stem. Fit a new stem and ( if needed) handlebars.
    Then ride the bike.

    OP ,when the advice is obviously total nonsense just ignore it.
  • Imposter wrote:
    Possibly my fault, I'll go back and make sure its clear that I want advice about removing a bent stem.

    ...which is going to be difficult for anyone to provide without a better understanding of what the issue actually is. A pic would be very useful. Without it, all you will get is speculation.

    Which is why I wish there was a better way to upload photos in this forum. However I've already attached one to the original question. For your interest: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1-WDhy ... 1ZnFZcpHeG

    P.S. Speculation is very welcome. Advice on scrapping my bike will fall on deaf ears, I'm afraid.
  • lesfirth wrote:
    I assume the frame is steel. Check it is not obviously bent. If not cut through the stem as high above the headset as possible with a hacksaw. If the bike has been built recently it should be easy to remove the remains of the stem. Fit a new stem and ( if needed) handlebars.
    Then ride the bike.

    OP ,when the advice is obviously total nonsense just ignore it.

    Hi Les, thank you.
    Yes, its a vintage steel frame circa 1970s but in great condition and the stem is modern. Hacksaw sure is looking the way to go. I'm wondering if a pipe cutter may work but they're usually intended for copper and not steel, so probably best to stay safe.

    Good advice, but I like to believe everyone has something helpful to contribute if we can reach a mutual understanding of the matter, leading me to try and clear things up (not always as politely as I should, I admit!)
  • cougiecougie Posts: 22,512
    I think we need to see more of this bike. In struggling to understand what is above the stem ?

    Ordinarily I'd have thought it was hard to bend the stem but there seems to be a lot going on up there. Brute force should release it though.
  • imposter2.0imposter2.0 Posts: 11,386
    Imposter wrote:
    Possibly my fault, I'll go back and make sure its clear that I want advice about removing a bent stem.

    ...which is going to be difficult for anyone to provide without a better understanding of what the issue actually is. A pic would be very useful. Without it, all you will get is speculation.

    Which is why I wish there was a better way to upload photos in this forum. However I've already attached one to the original question. For your interest: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1-WDhy ... 1ZnFZcpHeG

    P.S. Speculation is very welcome. Advice on scrapping my bike will fall on deaf ears, I'm afraid.

    Difficult to get a proper perspective with that pic, but looks as though the simplest option would be to buzz through the neck of the stem just above the headset..
  • Imposter wrote:
    Difficult to get a proper perspective with that pic, but looks as though the simplest option would be to buzz through the neck of the stem just above the headset..
    It bent at the top of the headset, as you say cutting through there is probably the best option.
    I'm uploading more photos now, give me a few minutes :)
  • cougie wrote:
    I think we need to see more of this bike. In struggling to understand what is above the stem ?

    Ordinarily I'd have thought it was hard to bend the stem but there seems to be a lot going on up there. Brute force should release it though.
    Hi Cougie,
    I've replaced that link with one giving more images of the bike. In essence the main damage is a 30º or so bend of the stem at the top of the bearing race.
  • JeemyWJeemyW Posts: 61
    I don't have much knowledge of bikes, but I do have a lot of knowledge of removing broken things.

    The photo you have posted is still singular; you say the link now shows more images but I only see one.

    I am presuming the way it fell has not only caused a bend above the entry point, but some distortion inside the headset, so you now can't extract it.

    Here's how I would approach this problem in simple terms of removing a bent innter metal tube, from a straight outer tube.

    Firstly, I would douse it in PlusGas, GT45, Ferrosol, but not WD40. Whatever you prefer, but not WD40. Every day, several times a day, for a week.

    Secondly I would assume you are discarding the stem, and clamp it in a vice, removing everything bar the frame so you can use the frame as a lever.

    I would give that a go for a few days. Simply using hand-force to try to spin the frame against the stem and get some movement; spraying liberally & regularly with penetrating fluid.

    If after a week or so (I will spend several weeks on removing vintage car parts in similar situations, because re-buying them is not often possible and remanufacturing them can be hugely costly), its still not moving, I would then start to apply heat.

    Gently at first with hairdryer, then propane/butane torch, and finally MAPP gas if the paint will survive and you haven't got any rubber remaining close.

    There is also a freezing spray by Loctite, I've never had a good result with it that I can speak for, but I certainly use it before I go more hardcore.

    If still not moving I would start to shock it with hammer blows.

    And after that, I'd cut the top stem off, and then start to cut down into the centre with a dremel. Eventually you'll weaken its friction grip enough to get movement. So make sure you leave enough to grab. Ideally you would just weld a bar onto it so you can spin it, this would be something you could take to a metalworking shop and they'd probably charge you £5 for it. No joke.

    I hope this has been helpful and if it has not, I really hope you post the final solution because I love stuff like this, and its super-disappointing when you know the OP has sorted it and never told those involved what the final solution was.....
  • jgsijgsi Posts: 5,029
    xX1kr6vFZrJyggT52GKZgZv9utuCJBp14Qhkt7F2Ll89oPBE2vRETjGA72MqzXJpudiI-Nv421pn9ZeEMY4t=w1366-h626-rw

    As a child of the 50s, i never really understood by the 70s why brown was such an in colour.
    My 70s Pug at least was a grim bright orange - matched the rusty bits.
  • petecopeteco Posts: 178
    The addition of the pictures, and clarification of what guidance you are seeking really helps thanks. My thoughts:

    It's a lovely bike - a great modern use of a classic frame. Definitely worth keeping.

    I could not initially understand how you had bent the stem, but those pictures explain it - you have a lot of handlebar etc above the stem which gave the impact a lot of leverage.

    The only way you will sort this is to cut the stem off close to the headset. Then you should be able to access the stem bolt and release what is left of the stem. If you try to bend it back, then i suspect you will damage something else.

    Good luck,

    Pete
  • JeemyW wrote:
    I am presuming the way it fell has not only caused a bend above the entry point, but some distortion inside the headset, so you now can't extract it.
    ...
    And after that, I'd cut the top stem off, and then start to cut down into the centre with a dremel. Eventually you'll weaken its friction grip enough to get movement.
    ...
    I hope this has been helpful and if it has not, I really hope you post the final solution because I love stuff like this, and its super-disappointing when you know the OP has sorted it and never told those involved what the final solution was.....

    Hi Jeemy,
    Thanks very much for your detailed and thorough reply! Regarding the photos (which as a vintage car guy you’ll probably appreciate), I’ve checked and the link works, just make sure to use the one in the original question and not the one lower down I sent specifically to the other commentor.
    I think we got lucky and there may not be any internal bending! The bend at the headset top is quite severe and in my experience bends like this quickly become the point of weakness and we don’t get subsequent bends further down.
    The reason I haven’t been able to extract it yet is mainly due to the fact that as the entire thing is bent, so too is the quill rod inside, and as it’s bent, in a bent shape, I can’t turn it! So yes, the main angles of attack would be straightening it back enough to turn (might not even work) or cutting through the lot and then weaselling it all out.
    I’m in the annoying predicament that the place I’ve ridden to and am staying st for the next week, isn’t exactly a DIY household and is out in the middle of nowhere. So I’ll have to wait for some tools to be brought to me on monday.
    Will do my best to remember to let you know what the solution was :)
  • JGSI wrote:
    xX1kr6vFZrJyggT52GKZgZv9utuCJBp14Qhkt7F2Ll89oPBE2vRETjGA72MqzXJpudiI-Nv421pn9ZeEMY4t=w1366-h626-rw

    As a child of the 50s, i never really understood by the 70s why brown was such an in colour.
    My 70s Pug at least was a grim bright orange - matched the rusty bits.
    Honestly, as a product design engineer I’ve been quite bemused by some colour choices myself! But I felt the “aged copper” and “real almond” gave it a gorgeous vintage look and they really do work together, so those are what I went with.
  • peteco wrote:
    It's a lovely bike - a great modern use of a classic frame. Definitely worth keeping.
    ...
    The only way you will sort this is to cut the stem off close to the headset. Then you should be able to access the stem bolt and release what is left of the stem. If you try to bend it back, then i suspect you will damage something else.

    Good luck,

    Pete

    Thanks, Pete!
    I’m glad you appreciate it! This is the result of two months of stripping down an old frame, building it up, making many custom parts (perhaps some that are just too self-indulgent, like my wooden pedals!) and finally adding the electrical bits. It’s been a real passion project and honestly a good chunk of the money actually ended up going to the paints, of which I needed a surprising amount.

    Yes, I think you’re right. Bending it back could indeed do further damage, looks like cutting really is the way to go. C’est la vie... I’ll let you know how I get on when parts and tools find their way to me on Monday.
  • lesfirthlesfirth Posts: 1,207
    JeemyW wrote:
    I don't have much knowledge of bikes, but I do have a lot of knowledge of removing broken things.

    The photo you have posted is still singular; you say the link now shows more images but I only see one.

    I am presuming the way it fell has not only caused a bend above the entry point, but some distortion inside the headset, so you now can't extract it.

    Here's how I would approach this problem in simple terms of removing a bent innter metal tube, from a straight outer tube.

    Firstly, I would douse it in PlusGas, GT45, Ferrosol, but not WD40. Whatever you prefer, but not WD40. Every day, several times a day, for a week.

    Secondly I would assume you are discarding the stem, and clamp it in a vice, removing everything bar the frame so you can use the frame as a lever.

    I would give that a go for a few days. Simply using hand-force to try to spin the frame against the stem and get some movement; spraying liberally & regularly with penetrating fluid.

    If after a week or so (I will spend several weeks on removing vintage car parts in similar situations, because re-buying them is not often possible and remanufacturing them can be hugely costly), its still not moving, I would then start to apply heat.

    Gently at first with hairdryer, then propane/butane torch, and finally MAPP gas if the paint will survive and you haven't got any rubber remaining close.

    There is also a freezing spray by Loctite, I've never had a good result with it that I can speak for, but I certainly use it before I go more hardcore.

    If still not moving I would start to shock it with hammer blows.

    And after that, I'd cut the top stem off, and then start to cut down into the centre with a dremel. Eventually you'll weaken its friction grip enough to get movement. So make sure you leave enough to grab. Ideally you would just weld a bar onto it so you can spin it, this would be something you could take to a metalworking shop and they'd probably charge you £5 for it. No joke.

    I hope this has been helpful and if it has not, I really hope you post the final solution because I love stuff like this, and its super-disappointing when you know the OP has sorted it and never told those involved what the final solution was.....

    I think you have got the first part of your first sentence right.
  • photonic69photonic69 Posts: 1,252
    Looks like it could be tricky to remove!

    The bend in the stem has caused the tube to deform and become oval and will be pressed really hard against the sides of the steerer tube.

    You can't loosen the quill as the bolt in the stem is bent too.

    I'd remove all the gubbins and handle bars from the stem then first cut the stem as high up as you can to leave as much as possible if you need to grip it in a vice to wrestle it from the forks,

    Hammer the remains of the quill tightening bolt downwards to hopefully release the quill then grip remains of stem with grips or whatever to pull and twist. A good does of lubricant down the outside of the stem would be prudent.

    I'd get the frame checked over by a competent bike mechanic/builder. That sort of impact force could have weakened the welds from the top/down tubes to the steerer tube. Luckily being steel this can be easily remedied. They can also check aligment of the front forks and rear drop-outs etc.

    Good luck. I hope the outcome is good.
  • Vino'sGhostVino'sGhost Posts: 4,129
    what a lovely bike!

    not sure how youd straighten that to get it off and reuse. At least not in a cosmetically acceptable state.
  • Vino'sGhostVino'sGhost Posts: 4,129
    PhotoNic69 wrote:
    Looks like it could be tricky to remove!

    The bend in the stem has caused the tube to deform and become oval and will be pressed really hard against the sides of the steerer tube.

    You can't loosen the quill as the bolt in the stem is bent too.

    I'd remove all the gubbins and handle bars from the stem then first cut the stem as high up as you can to leave as much as possible if you need to grip it in a vice to wrestle it from the forks,

    Hammer the remains of the quill tightening bolt downwards to hopefully release the quill then grip remains of stem with grips or whatever to pull and twist. A good does of lubricant down the outside of the stem would be prudent.

    I'd get the frame checked over by a competent bike mechanic/builder. That sort of impact force could have weakened the welds from the top/down tubes to the steerer tube. Luckily being steel this can be easily remedied. They can also check aligment of the front forks and rear drop-outs etc.

    Good luck. I hope the outcome is good.

    Pretty much this. seconded getting someone to check alignment and welds.
  • JeemyWJeemyW Posts: 61
    lesfirth wrote:

    I think you have got the first part of your first sentence right.

    Excuse me?
  • PhotoNic69 wrote:
    The bend in the stem has caused the tube to deform and become oval and will be pressed really hard against the sides of the steerer tube.
    I'd get the frame checked over by a competent bike mechanic/builder. That sort of impact force could have weakened the welds from the top/down tubes to the steerer tube. Luckily being steel this can be easily remedied. They can also check aligment of the front forks and rear drop-outs etc.
    Good luck. I hope the outcome is good.
    Thanks, Nic!
    Yes, I’m thinking getting some water pump pliers in close to the bend might help me squish the oval enough to get it out a bit easier.
    The alignment looks good to me from an untrained perspective (but having become very familiar with this frame). So, when it fell from the roof it obviously toppled and landed handlebars first. That took most of the force, then because it’s the next highest point, I’m assuming the seat hit. It’s got a rather plush gel cover and I think that plus the crumpling of the stem did an awful lot to dampen the fall. Oh, plus the obvious pannier damage.
    I’ve had a close look at all of the joints and they seem to be okay. All solid, no signs of cracking or anything else the paint would make clear. The joints are brazed though (yup, this bike is old).
    I’ve even sat on it to do a weight test, but as you say, probably wise to get it checked out anyway!
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