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by David Rome
November 28, 2017
Photography by David Rome
TECH NEWS BROUGHT TO YOU BY BIKEEXCHANGE
Are my handlebars straight? The old closed-eye look comes into play to check. Out comes the hex key to loosen the bolts on the stem. Tap the bars to the left, tap the bars to the right. Too much. Tap again. Ok, think I’ve got it this time.
No matter how refined bicycles are these days, lining up the stem with the front wheel remains a frustratingly inconsistent procedure. Perfect alignment is achieved with some patience and a decent technique, but it’s not always easy or quick for everyone. German company Tune, a brand best known for its insanely lightweight components, aim to solve this issue with the Spurtreu, a tool specifically designed for the job.
CyclingTips tech writer Dave Rome has been testing this tool for a number of months and gives his perspective in the article below.
Instructions are printed on the back, but it’s quite obvious how to use the Spurtreu.
Visually, there’s not much to the Spurtreu. The CNC-machined aluminium base has three rounded profiles milled into the underside of its cutout body, and a basic laser pointer protrudes from the forward edge. The class 2M laser (don’t look directly at it!) is powered by three easily replaceable CR44 coin-cell batteries. Alignment is set at the factory, but the laser can be readjusted later if needed.
Using the Spurtreu is simple: you just rest the block on the cockpit (it automatically centres on the bar and stem), and the laser pointer indicates how well the cockpit is aligned with the front tyre. Once the dot lines up with the centre of the tyre, you’re done – at least in theory.
The Spurtreu instantly provides an easy solution to a longstanding problem. One aspect that I’ve also come to appreciate is that I can also reliably align the stem when the bike is in a repair stand. After years of wrenching on bikes, this remains an element of luxury.
However, this tool absolutely has its fair share of nuisances.
The Spurtreu’s aluminium base works with the majority of handlebars and stems on the market — almost anything with a nominally rounded profile will be compatible. However, oddly-shaped aero bars, squared stems, or integrated systems will often stop the Spurtreu from sitting square, or fitting at all.
The rounded profiles that Tune used for the cutouts on the underside of the body seem reasonable at first. However, shallow V-block cutouts with straight edges would work with a wider range of cockpit shapes and sizes.
Accessory-laden handlebars like these won’t play nice with the Spurtreu, and removing them won’t be worth the hassle to some.
The tool also needs a clean and accessory-free base to sit on. The handlebar part of the tool is 70mm-wide, and so any accessories on the bars within this distance will need to be moved or removed. Likewise, that computer on your stem will need to move, too.
A look at the Spurtreu’s laser dot. It’s not a tight pinpoint.
Once you get the Spurtreu sitting in place and turn on the laser, you’ll notice the beam is strong and clear, even in a brightly lit room. However, you’ll also notice that the red dot projected on the tyre isn’t particularly sharp at 3.5mm across, or even perfectly round: an indication that the laser used isn’t particularly expensive.
Determining the dot’s true centre is up to interpretation, and as a result, this precision tool instantly loses a key element of its precision. Certainly, a smaller and more uniformly shaped beam would go a long way towards helping the Spurtreu live up to its promise.
Adding to the accuracy woes, you also have to consider the external factors that could potentially affect the precision of this tool. For example, is the wheel you’re lining up with even in dish? Is the fork straight and is the handlebar clamp perfectly orthogonal to the fork steerer? All of these are pretty unusual issues, but they can (and do) exist.
Likewise, tyres don’t always sit perfectly straight on the rim, and some don’t even have defined centre lines to reference. Granted, this is more an issue with road tyres; knobbed tyres are typically far easier to work with in this sense.
Storage and transport can be tricky, too. The tool isn’t huge, nor is it heavy at 166g. However, its 69mm height makes it too tall for most tool chest drawers, nor would you want to haphazardly throw this into the mix of a large plastic toolbox. Likewise, the shape means it won’t fit in a tool roll, or a travel toolbox such as Park Tool’s BX-2.
It’s impossible to overlook the Spurtreu’s AU$119 / US$95 / €69 pricetag, too. Given laser pointers of similar power and quality can be bought on eBay for under US$10, the price of the Spurtreu is a tough pill to swallow. No doubt the majority of the cost sits in the sturdy aluminium base (made by Tune in Germany), but it’s a figure that will turn many away — even those that can look past the tool’s limitations.
The laser element is disappointingly basic, and the lens is prone to damage.
Lastly, there’s also the element of durability, something I only managed to test by accident. My Spurtreu and I had a good relationship for a number of months, and even the battery life seemed pretty decent. But one day I was distracted and accidentally knocked it off the edge of a workbench. It fell over a metre on to a concrete floor. The aluminium base and laser casing were just fine, but the laser’s inner workings were shattered – along with my dreams.
Just like a set of fine digital calipers, this is certainly a tool to baby in use and storage. Tune’s included manual gives a clear warning of its delicacy, and obviously for good reason.
Thankfully, Tune does offer a crash replacement policy on all of its products through its respective distributors, and in the case of this laser, the Australian distributor (EightOneSpices) was able to provide the replacement part extremely quickly and at a low price.
Whether the Spurtreu’s limitations will override its appeal will depend on how you place your priorities. As appealing as the Spurtreu is on paper, it clearly has a number of limitations.
I’m one of those people that spends a little too long trying to align the stem with the wheel, and I’ve previously been willing to repeat the process as many times as necessary. So my wonky vision and I are still happy to see past the Spurtreu’s limitations and have it in the toolbox. And in fairness, I’m also a self-confessed tool hoarder.
I’d also say that bike shops regularly working on bikes without handlebar accessories attached will find similar appreciation in a tool that (mostly) serves a singular purpose well and partly helps to solve a common issue.
However, I have a hard time recommending this to home mechanics; there are certainly more useful tools to be had for similar money. For those home users, though, I’d say to watch this space. The Spurtreu may be a bit flawed and expensive, but I expect similar tools to follow from any number of Taiwanese or Chinese tool brands.