Clockwork LD stem: What was old is new again.

When he is not “engineering” for Dero Bike Racks, Minneapolis transplant Joel Greenblatt builds Clockwork Bikes and components out of his basement shop in my neighborhood on Milwaukee’s west side (the Best Side). A week ago or so I stopped over to see what he has been up to lately. Joel had a number of cool stainless bikes in production, as custom Columbus XCr and KVA bikes seem to be in vogue right now. In the near future I plan on doing a builder profile of Joel and will feature some additional photos of his excellent work with stainless.

While I dig the stainless look and understand the additional skill it requires to machine and braze, what caught my eye the other afternoon was a mountain bike with old school style. Like custom stainless bikes, retro style mountain bikes are gaining in popularity. Sort of like Fixed Gear Gallery, the Museum of Mountain Bike Art and Technology (MOMBAT) website is dedicated to documenting sweet vintage mountain bikes and preserving the history of mountain bike evolution.

Call me a retro-grouch, but I still have a Zoom stem and Onza bar ends, on my 26″ wheeled  mountain bike. I replaced the Manitou elastomer fork (but I still have it) with a Specialized “Future Shock.”

I remember seeing a few Cunningham, Ibis and WTB mountain bikes at the southern Kettles with the LD (look at it and you figure out what it stands for) stems and Wilderness Trails Dirt Drop bars. I still run similar either Nitto Mustache or On-One Midge flared drop bars on my Waterford 1900.

Note the countersunk hole.

Anyway, Joel built himself a very nice mountain bike frame, complete with his LD style stem, seat post and some genuinely retro components.  With the upright stem, drop bars, vintage short travel Manitou suspension fork and 1.75 tires, this bike seems ideally suited gravel road racing (monster cross) that Denny discussed in his post about the Dairy Roubaix yesterday.

Tubes after coming from the bender

In order to make the tight radius required for the LD stems, Joel has tubing mandrel bent. He then cuts them to length, cuts and files the slots or the clamps at the steerer tube, and adds the braze-ons and bar clamp. If you have a good eye, you may notice that Joel adds one more useful feature not found on the old LD stems. His stems feature a countersunk hole for bolts so they work with Aheadset compression or star washers.  You can also get them sized to fit modern steerer tubes.

Original LD stem

The only feature on the original LD stems I prefer to Joel’s is the double bolt handlebar clamp, which allows you to remove the bars without taking off the tape, shifters or brake levers. I have a Waterford built All Rounder with S&S couplers for travel, and I need to be able to pop the bars off at the airport.  I’m sure if I asked politely, Joel could build me a stem with the clamp I prefer.

Sadly, I am still saving (and waiting) for a new Nikon D800 I ordered, so the sweet LD stem is going to have to wait until I hit it big at the casino. Come on Little Joe, baby needs a new pair of shoes…

About Dave Schlabowske, Deputy Director

Dave was the first full-time staff member hired to open the Bike Fed's Milwaukee office 15 years ago. A former professional photographer and life-long Milwaukee resident, Dave likes wool, long rides, sour beer, and a good polar vortex once in a while.

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