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Road Racing

Technical FAQ with Lennard Zinn: Where to buy custom stems

VeloNews technical writer Lennard Zinn is a frame builder,a former U.S. national team rider and author of several books on bikesand bike maintenance. This is the second of Zinn's weekly VeloNews.comcolumns devoted to addressing readers' technical questions about bikes,their care and feeding and how we as riders can use them as comfortablyand efficiently as possible. Readers can send brief technical questionsdirectly to Zinn. We'll try to printa representative sample of questions each Thursday. First, some follow-up from last week Lastweek there were a couple of questions that encouraged an

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First, some follow-up from last week

Last week there were a couple of questions that encouraged an ongoing discussion. The first one was from a 6-foot-9-inch-tall rider using a stock frame and wanted a tall and long stem.

Here are some reader responses that add considerably tstemso his options:

1. In response to the post about long stems. Steve Rex of Sacramento,CA  welds custom threadless/quill stems.

2. Rick Hunter of Hunter Cycles ( makes custom stems (steel) for $135. He built my ‘cross bike, and he does beautiful work.  The downside is he’s a typical Santa Cruz boy and he also has a pretty big back log of frames to build right now, so it’d take a couple of months or more to get it from him.

3. For custom stems, try Go under the “product” link. I’ve seen a few of their stems, and they looknice. I imagine that some other custom frame builders may be able to docustom stems as well

4. On the guy needing a huge road stem…Durango Bike Works (970-259-1381)

5. You can still get custom stems hand made right here in SantaCruz, CA by Rock Lobster Cycles wizard Paul Sadoff. Whatever you need, he can make it for you. Contact him at 831-429-1356. Paul proudly sponsors many of the elite/worlds team member cyclists that live and train year-roundin Santa Cruz.

6. We read your Technical Q&A in with some slight dismay this morning!  In the last reader question, (from one tall rider to another…), you mentioned with what I imagine was sadness and wistful memory that “Salsa doesn’t make custom stems anymore.”

Ah, but the rumors of our tragic death are greatly exaggerated!  After a brief hiatus we are once again offering our custom stem program, only now with more protein!  We are offering our US made steel stems in road, mountain, quill, threadless, 1-inch or 1 1/8-inch and with our classic single bolt clamp or our new S.U.L. double bolt face clamp. Did I mention we can paint the stem any color from our frame color pallet selection as well as the always fashionable Back ‘n Black?

For your reader Nick, we can make a longer quill up to 165mm. We offer 50mm to 180mm stem lengths and 70 to 140 degree stem angles as well which makes our custom stems a great option for taller or shorter riders.

Ride and Smile,
Salsa Cycles

7. We are making custom stems here at SOULCRAFT.  Our stems start at $120 retail.  Regarding the question, we definitely would tend to shy away from ultra long quills, but can make extension and rise to fit needs.

8. Anyway regarding custom stems…I know Tom at Spectrum makesthem.

9. For the rider in your online Q&A column who is looking for an extra big stem: SteelmanCycles ( makes custom steel stems.

10. I remember Brew of North Carolina made custom stems that were very nice in quality and not too different from the Salsa product.I believe the customer could work with them based on needs, so appropriate tube thicknesses could be chosen for the size. Many wild paint options, too.

11. The tall rider seeking long stem may be able to get a custom stem from Bruce Gordon ( 707/762-5601

Secondly, regarding the creaking bottom bracket in a Bianchi SL, here is an excellent point, and I have one other thing to add:

1. There was A question about Dura Ace BB or crankset noise.

I have experienced similar, replaced BB with an Ultegra (different design) which stopped the problem.
The Ultegra is a true cartridge BB; all that the left cup does is to support the left end of the cartridge, compared to the DA where the bearing location of the left side is dependent on the BB shell threads being perfectly concentric to each other, and the faces square to the threads.

I have since measured my BB shell with a micrometer & discovered .010 of an inch out of parallel. This is a high quality custom-built frame, but the builder apparently didn’t re-face after welding. I have spoken with several frame builders since, trying to find out what is an acceptable tolerance, no consensus. Some feel that .010 is acceptable, others say.002.

It would seem to me that the closer the better, but what is reasonable? I have had it re-faced, but measuring after it still had an error of .004″ I haven’t had a chance to try the DA BB again to see if it has solved the problem, but feel quite confident that it will.

2. On Phil’s bike, the tick happened sitting and standing. But in cases where it only happens sitting, it is worth checking if the seat post is moving below its clamping collar in the seat tube. On many of today’s frames, a collar is welded, silver-soldered or brazed to the top of the seat tube, and the seat tube actually terminates below the top-tube/seat stay junction, rather than continuing through these joints with an internal or external reinforcing sleeve.

If the seat post extends below the collar, it can sometimes move back and forth against the sides of the seat tube, which is larger in internal diameter than the collar section. It can make a terrible creaking noise, although always while sitting. The fix is to trim the bottom of the seat post off so it extends just below the bottom of the collar sleeve.

This week’s questions

Question: I have purchased your book Zinn & the Art of Road Bike Maintenance and I have a couple of questions. I just installed a new 9 speed Dura Ace groupo on my bike.  When I am in the smallest chain ring a 39 and the largest rear gear a 25 I geta clicking noise I am not sure if the noise is from the jockey wheels hitting the cassette or a stiff link I checked for that, it only does this on the top two gears 23 and 25.

Also when I installed the Dura Ace BB it spins although my old cup and ball bearing bb actually spins more freely, did I install it wrong? Also I actually hurt the plastic sleeve with the screw from the bottom of the BB that holds on the cable routing piece of plastic and does Shimano just sell a piece of a BB?  Is this a good reason to buy Campagnolo? Once I started this I kept debating whether or not I would be having the derailleur  clicking problem etc. with Campy. Is Campy better from a mechanic’s standpoint?

Answer: You said you checked for it, but it seems likely that the chain is being pinched between the jockey wheel and the cog.

The first thing to check is the chain length. The chain should be able to go from the big chain ring over the biggest cog, but the rear derailleur should be stretched out almost straight to do it. If the chain is too long,the derailleur will rotate inward too far and bounce the upper jockey wheel through the chain on the largest cogs.

If the chain length is right, try turning the B-screw on the back ofthe derailleur in (clockwise), it will rotate the derailleur further backaway from the cogs. You do want as much chain wrap as possible for good shifting, but you don’t want the pinching, so there is a tradeoff. Turnin the screw the minimum amount required to stop the noise.

On the BB, there is not much way to install it wrong, at least in away that would affect the freedom of axle rotation. That is assuming it is a sealed cartridge unit. If, however, it is one of the early Dura-Acepipe spindle BBs with two sets of needle bearings and two sets of tiny ball bearings, those never spun great due to all of the contact over so many balls and needle shanks and so much grease shearing. Also, sealing was suspect, so performance dropped rapidly after use in the rain. And on a cartridge-style Dura-Ace BB, the fact is that there is not much space between the big pipe spindle and the inside of the cartridge, so the bearing setup is similar to that of the loose-bearing type I described above. There are lots of tiny balls and needles in there to create drag.

The question about the plastic sleeve leads me to believe that perhaps you do have a loose-bearing type of BB. And yes, you can get a plastic sleeve.

I don’t know if you would have the clicking problem with Campy, butit also requires chain length and B-screw adjustments. From a mechanic’spoint of view, they both can be set up to work great with about the same amount of hassle, or lack of it.

Question: Do you sell, or know where I can buy a fork for my frame with a 27cm head tube?  I’m hoping for light weight, but I’m getting close to settling for anything.  The Kestrel EMS Pro threadless at 310mm is marginal.  It also has a rather heavy steel steerer tube which at 310mm weights as much as the rest of the fork.

Answer: WoundUp makes up to 530mm steerers (aluminum steerers only)!

True Temper AlphaQ (formerly AME) go up to 350mm with a carbon steerer, and, after a hiatus following the sale of AME to True Temper, I am once again getting custom lengths from them up to 450mm (in quantity for tallframes).

Time makes up to 330mm in aluminum steerers.

Question: I have been having mild knee pain just behind my knee cap, at the top and slightly to the outside. I have just replaced the saddle on my road bike and it feels close to the right spot but obviously isn’t. I know that there is some slight adjustment to be made but I can’t remember if it is forward or back, up or down, please help.

Answer: You most likely need to raise your saddle. Your symptoms sound like those of chondromalacia, which is inflammation of the articular cartilage on the back of the kneecap. It is exacerbated by a low saddle, as the quads are pulling straight back on it at the top of the stroke, creating high pressure between it and the track it slides in on the end of the femur. Part of the treatment, besides ice after every ride and keeping it warm during every ride, is increasing the saddle height.

Also, a muscular imbalance between a more-developed quad versus the muscle to the inner side of the knee will pull the kneecap to the outerside of its track and increase the inflammation. Part of the therapy is often leg lifts, with or without weight, through only the last few degrees of knee angle up to straight. (Full-bend leg lifts cause the same pressure behind the kneecap as a low saddle). If you straighten your leg and tighten that muscle, you will feel it harden and get a workout.

VeloNews technical writer Lennard Zinn is a frame builder, a former U.S. national team rider and author of several books including the pair of successful maintenance guides “Zinn& the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance” and “Zinn& the Art of Road Bike Maintenance.”

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