Without threads on our steerer tubes like your dad's old 10-speed has, we need to tighten our headsets some other way. To do that, we usually start by pounding a jam nut, AKA the starnut, down into our steerer tubes before using it as an anchor to pull everything together. It all sounds a bit rudimentary, doesn't it? OneUp thinks so, and their new EDC Stem employs a clever, integrated preload system that does away with the need for a star nut. Of course, it isn't exactly a coincidence that getting rid of the star nut makes it possible to install OneUp's steerer tube-mounted EDC tool
The EDC stem can be had with the preload system as shown here for $115 USD, or you can buy it without for $85 if you'd prefer to stick with the starnut.
EDC Stem Details
• Intended use: DH / enduro / trail
• Material: Aluminum
• Integrated preload system w/o starnut
• Lengths: 35mm, 50mm (tested)
• Stack height: 38.5mm
• Weight: 189-grams (50mm, w/ preloader)
• MSRP: $115 USD
• More info: www.oneupcomponents.com
Guess what the EDC Stem is called when you buy it without the EDC preloader? The Stem. Please, OneUp, never ever change. You can get it in either 35mm or 50mm (tested) lengths, but only with a 35mm clamp zone.
From left: An O-ring for display purposes only, the cone that goes above your headset topcap, the preloading collar (hidden inside the stem when installed) that pushes it down when you tighten the 3mm bolt, the stem itself, and OneUp's EDC spacer and aluminum cap.
Reviewing a stem goes something like this: ''It sure feels stiff, it didn't creak, and it looks... Like a stem.'' Okay, so there's usually not much to say, but OneUp's new EDC Stem has another job besides holding onto your handlebar and steerer tube: It also tightens your headset while letting you skip the proven starnut routine.
In typical OneUp fashion, it's a clever little thing. There's a collar trapped under the bottom of the stem and hidden from view when it's all installed. A conical washer goes under that collar, but on top of your headset, and when you tighten a screw on the collar it pushes the conical washer down to take up extra room and preload your headset.
The system calls for an extra piece of hardware on the stem - the tiny preload screw that requires a 3mm hex key and the matching nut - but you ditch the starnut and big M5 bolt that threads into it. You'll also need the interlocking EDC headset spacers if your steerer tube sticks out above the stem (remember, there's no topcap anymore).
The cone is wedge-shaped, with the preloading collar sitting on top of it. Tightening the collar pushes the cone down to take up the slack and preload your headset bearings.Installation
To install the stem, you'll first need to remove that ancient starnut as you won't be needing it anymore. You'll also have to get the preload collar and tiny preload nut into the bottom of the stem (facing the correct way), which requires using a 4mm hex key to compress it slightly while wedging into the groove. It seems a bit finicky for a guy like me who's all thumbs, but it's not difficult. After collar and the clamping bolts are in, you slide the greased-up black cone down onto your steerer before doing the same with the stem.
But don't tighten anything yet, please.
The cone goes above any headset spacers you're using and below the stem.
Before you tighten any bolts, is the top of the steerer sitting a few millimeters below the top of the stem when it's at your desired height? Normal, non-interlocking headset spacers can go below your stem to tweak handlebar height, but not on top of it. So, if the steerer is above the stem, you can add OneUp's interlocking spacers until you've got a bit of real estate on top. They snap into each other, and then the anodized aluminum top cap snaps on top of it all.
Now comes the part I'm gonna moan about.
This is when you need to push the stem down by hand to try and take most of the free-play out of the headset, but you'll also be busy trying to get your stem properly aligned while also needing to tighten at least one of the two clamping bolts to hold it in place, and hopefully all before you drop the hex key just out of reach. I'm not gonna lie: A starnut seems unrefined, sure, but a caveman could do it without much trouble. I suspect he'd struggle to install the OneUp stem with its preloading system, and depending on how you feel about working on your bike, that may or may not matter to you.
Once the stem is straight and the clamp bolts are tight, can you take up the remaining slack by tightening the small preload screw on the side of the stem. Doing so squeezes the collar, which then pushes the conical washer down to preload the headset bearings, but don't go past 3Nm of torque. If the headset has too much play in it for the preload system to take up, you'll have to repeat pushing it down by hand. When the play is completely gone but everything is still turning smoothly, you lock it in place by tightening the preload locknut on the opposite side with a 4mm hex key.
Bottom line: Installing the EDC stem isn't exactly difficult, even if it might take you a few tries to get the stem straight and the free-play out of your headset. That said, it's not nearly as foolproof as dealing with a traditional starnut.
I had mixed results with the EDC Stem and its preloading system.Performance
I had my headset rattle loose a few times on the trail after I first installed the stem, and it turned out that I must not have gotten enough slack out of it when I first pushed the stem down by hand; there seemed to be too much for the preloader to take up. After standing on the side of the trail, trying to compress the headset by hand as much as possible while simultaneously trying to hold it straight four or five times, I began to really appreciate the primitive simplicity of the starnut.
Eventually, when I had to start testing a different bike, I moved the OneUp cockpit to it but used the already-installed starnut instead of the preloader and had zero issues.
If you use the EDC Stem, you have the option of storing your EDC tool in your steerer tube without needing to cut threads into its inner wall. Alternately, you can also store it in the handle of their impressive pump.
It deserved a second attempt, though. While the stem itself looks great, I didn't get along OneUp's headset preloading system until I recently installed it on the Norco Optic
. Since then, the headset has come loose only once on the trail, and I was able to take up the slack without issue. That's great, but I guess my question is this: When did the starnut do you wrong?
I know, it seems a bit crude to be whaling on a component with a hammer, but starnuts sure do work well. You can use a cheap guide to make sure they go in straight, but you don't even need that; if you're careful, you can tap them in straight using just a hammer and the bolt itself. Expanding plugs do the job when it comes to carbon steerers, too, but when it comes to aluminum steerers, I'd rather deal with a hammer and big ol' bolt than a tiny screw and more little pieces.
Maybe I'm just closed-minded about this one, but put the damn EDC tool in the handle of OneUp's very good mini-pumps instead of down your steerer tube, and then combine the OneUp stem with a boring starnut. It just seems like a lot of trouble to put your tool somewhere it was never intended to be. As a bonus, the stem is $85 without it, saving you $30 USD.
Stem is solid, trouble-free on its own+
Can ditch caveman-esque starnut+
EDC or SWAT tools fit in steerer tube
Headset preloader is finicky-
Need to hold stem straight while pushing down by hand-
The starnut did nothing wrong