If you only ride a full carbon-fibre or aluminium frame then read no further. This article only concerns those of us who still believe that ‘steel is real’. And perhaps most of those, being wiser and less foolish than this contributor, will never have committed the heinous crime of allowing an alloy component to become stuck in a steel frame.
Let us say that we have an alloy stem which won’t be moved. Here are the standard methods, in ascending order of violence, of dealing with the problem. There may be others, which the more facetious among you may like to submit, but for now let us consider the following five alternative or combined procedures:
Number 1. Speak nicely to your recalcitrant bits of metal and explain that what is to come hurts you more than it hurts them. Having loosened the binder bolt (all you ‘A-head’ people can leave the room now), deal it a smart blow with your heaviest hammer. It is considered a good idea to interpose a stout bit of wood at the point of contact to avoid distorting the head of the bolt out of all recognition, especially if you are unable to confine yourself to a single bash and fall into a psychopathic rage, raining down a torrent of blows as per an Alfred Hitchcock movie. Some favour a rubber hammer but that seems a bit like the thing that circus clowns use on the Krazy Car. Get help to hold the beast and yank the bars as hard as possible, but do not overdo this bit if you are prone to hernia.
Additionally, by inserting a ‘drift’ – some bit of piping the same diameter as the stem – in at the fork-crown end of the head tube and giving it the Hammer Horror treatment once more, some co-operation may be induced. Obviously the frame itself needs to be firmly supported for this little episode of persuasion, and try not to accidentally belabour the fork-end dropouts too much with your weapon of choice.
Number 2. Get the binder bolt out and plug the lower end of the stem with a pared down cork from a wine bottle. You may need to consume several bottles before you get this right. Upend the whole machine and fill the head tube with coca-cola. Leave overnight and repeat with fresh coke the next day. Go on with this for a week or so, after which continue as per Number 1. Do not drink the leftover coca-cola, (in fact do not ever drink coca-cola.)
Number 3. Proceed as for Number 2 but use something called ‘Plus gas’ instead of the fizzy drink. It is quite possible that this stuff is no longer made. Older folk in garages and bike shops will nod sagely and say they have heard of it and know about it but have never actually seen it; rather like unicorns. Dark rumours of it being sniffed to give a high of some kind are hinted at. Unless of course it is a conspiracy to foist an elaborate practical joke on a gullible cycling public.
Number 4. Again, proceed as for number 2 but this time use caustic soda (sodium hydroxide we believe). This unpleasant compound used to be obtainable from hardware merchants and old-style chemists, but these days you are probably liable to get arrested merely asking for it. Give your name as Dr Crippen if requested. Ingenious methods of delivering this nasty stuff include propping the machine up so that the head tube is at a slight incline to the horizontal and passing a piece of string through to carry a constant drip along inside the stem; apparently this is supposed to act like a saw cutting a groove through the alloy, after which the brutalized stem ought to come quietly.
Number 5. Take a hacksaw and amputate the top off the stem. Anaesthetics need not be used, but should you be squeamish about this procedure tell the patient that it is only for its own good, or alternatively that it has only brought it on itself through stubbornly failing to co-operate. Then bring on the ‘shock and awe’ by means of a blow torch and melt the bleeder out.
Naturally you will appreciate that the head bearings may not be in perfect condition afterwards and the stem itself will not be so great either. To say nothing of your cherished stove-enamel ‘flam’ finish.
Remember the moral is always to be really lavish with the grease before any of the above becomes necessary. Next edition: “Brain Surgery for Beginners’.
(This article was first published in the January 2018 Redmon Quarterly Newletter.)