This is what is called a quill stem. It's the "old fashioned" way of connecting the handlebars to a bicycle, out of favour amongst racers who prefer the slightly stiffer "aheadset" system, but still in use on virtually every utility bicycle. It's a very good system. You can adjust the height of the handlbars simply by undoing the bolt at the top, sliding the handlebars up or down a little, and doing it back up again. Much more straightforward than the process with an aheadset.
This particular quill stem is on a beautiful racing bike on which Hennie Kuiper won the 1983 Paris-Roubaix race. Paris-Roubaix is known as probably the hardest race in the world, a major strain for both man and machine. "The Hell of the North" was immortalized in a fantastic film called "A Sunday in Hell".
Other features of this race winning bike include five speed non-indexed derailleur gears, single pivot brakes, and a steel frame.
So, why is the quill stem of significance ? Last year it was one of the points criticised by a clueless British newspaper reviewing a "the cheapest bicycle in the UK". There were many things wrong with that bike, but having a quill stem was not one of them. It's better to get information about bikes from people who know about bikes, and of course most of the people who bought one of those Asda bikes would have been better off with something like this.
The bike is from the Velorama bicycle museum in Nijmegen. It was on display in Assen at the start of the Vuelta a Espana last year.
Paris-Roubaix is held annually on a Sunday in April. This year they'll be racing for 259 km on the 11th of April. Tomorrow. Well worth watching on the TV if you can't be there. I'll be recording it, as the ligfietsopstapdag is on the same day.
The wikipedia page about Hennie Kuiper says that "His serious introduction to the bicycle was to and from school". That's the case for virtually all Dutch children, of course, which probably goes some way to explaining why the Dutch have been so successful in cycle racing.
You can buy quill stems, threadless stems, and different shape handlebars in our webshop.