DIY, East Bay, Life

Pake C’Mute Frame Up Bike Build – Headset, Stem, and Handlebars


Part 5 – Headset, Stem, and Handlebars

Stack Assembled

Missed last week’s post? Check it out here

This part of the build provided the most trouble as I didn’t have any existing road bike (or old parts) to estimate the correct lengths and sizes. This group of components largely dictates your riding position and optimizes your pedal efficiency based on the type of riding you’re doing. There are a number of choices involved in the steering assembly and they all create different ways to tweak your body position and steering. While racers strive toward getting a flat back riding position to maximize aerodynamics, most touring riders prefer something more upright that can be maintained over 100+ mile rides. After reading some articles on bike fitting, I decided to shoot for a back angle of about 45 degrees when riding on the hoods of the brake levers. This seems to be a classic road bike position that allows for a more upright position when riding on top of the handlebars while also creating a more aggressive position when riding in the drops of the handlebars.

The headset was the easiest choice as the frame determines the type/style of the headset. I opted to get the proven industry workhorse Cane Creek 40-Series EC34. The stem was the next component I needed to get, so I looked online while using the stem on my mountain bike for a benchmark. The two things you need to decide on when choosing a stem are the length and the stem angle. The angle part was a bit confusing, but after looking at bikes online, I settled on an option that would give me the choice of 83/97 degree stem angle (you can simply flip the stem over). This allows you to adjust the handlebar height without buying additional stems – which was perfect for me considering I had no idea what I was doing. I got an average length stem of 100mm made by Dimension. The handlebar choice was based largely on style and color. I found a great deal on a silver aluminum set from Kona (44cm wide 31.8mm clamp 130mm drop 100mm reach).


DIY Headset Press   DIY Crown Race Setter

Installing these parts required some pretty specialized tools that I couldn’t bring myself to buy (headset press and crown race setter). So in the spirit of DIYing, I scoured the internet and made my own tools. Thanks to jr14 on the forum, I was able to get all the parts to make a headset press at my local home depot for $7. Check out the DIY here. The other tool was the crown racer setter that is used to affix the crown race onto the fork. After perusing YouTube, I decided on using a section of pvc pipe slightly bigger than the fork with a cap on top. In theory, you can then use a mallet to set the crown race uniformly on the fork. Sound crazy? The proper tools run about $209 for both — I’ll take my chances with these first.

Cane Creek 40-Series Headset  Tektro Brake Cable Hanger

After assembling my homemade tools, I started on the headset cups. I greased them up and used the headset press to smoothly press them into the headtube. The makeshift crown race setter was not quite as smooth. I think there was some paint around the fork crown and the race was really tough to set. I actually shattered the end of the pvc pipe about halfway through and needed to recut the bottom and start again. Eventually, it snapped into place and I could continue assembling the front end. I packed the rest of the bearing into the headset and slid the fork through the headtube. I added a brake cable hanger for the cantilever brakes and then some spacers in order to give me some room to adjust the stack height and cut down the steerer tube.

Silver Alloy Stem  Silver Alloy Handlebars

On went the stem and handlebars. After playing around with the stem height to get a comfortable riding position, I decided to cut about ½” off the steerer tube. I used a hacksaw and a miter box to get a square cut. I then inserted the star nut into the fork tube using the headset cap screw and a mallet. All you need to do is thread the screw into the star nut and use a mallet to pound the nut into the fork tube a few centimeters. There are tons of YouTube videos that demonstrate how to do this correctly. Then follow instructions from the headset manufacturer on how to preload the bearing and the order in which to tighten the steerer tube components. I leveled the handlebars with the top tube, although I will likely change things after a get a chance to ride the bike.

  Cutting Steerer Tube

This thing is starting to resemble a bike!

Kona Handlebars Installed

Build Weight Totals
Pake C’Mute Frame – 2551 grams
Pake C’Mute Fork – 1030 grams
Wheelset – 1814 grams
Tires – 500 grams
Inner tubes – 180 grams
Saddle – 330 grams
Seatpost – 285 grams
Crankset and Bottom Bracket – 865 grams
Cassette – 252 grams
Headset – 119 grams
Stem – 137 grams
Handlebars – 325 grams
Brake Cable Hanger  – 26 grams

Next week we tackle the cantilever brakes and levers