Ask a Mechanic: Getting Your Handlebars Straight

Question: Do you have any tips to line up your stem with the front wheel?

Answer: This can be one of the most frustrating jobs to do on a bike without a good system for getting it right.

The system that I’ve found easiest and most accurate is to take a long straight edge such as a level or a broomstick and fasten it to the leading edge of the fork with the front wheel removed. Visually align the handlebars with the straight edge by looking down at the handlebars from above and adjusting them until they line up with the straight edge.

Slowly and evenly tightening down the steerer tube clamping bolts will help to prevent the stem from rotating out of place after you have everything lined up. Double check your work before removing the straight edge and you get it perfect every time.

If it doesn’t look like stem and wheel are aligned when you are done, your front wheel is probably out of dish and needs to be retensioned to bring it into alignment.

Welcome to our Ask a Mechanic column where our expert mechanics Daniel Slusser and Greg O’Keeffe answer your bike maintenance questions. If you have a question for us, please post it on the Art’s Cyclery Facebook Wall or e-mail Daniel directly at To see more great how to videos click on the highlighted link to subscribe to our YouTube channel and stay up to date on each episode of the Art’s Cyclery/VeloNews Ask a Mechanic Series.