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Stem - Shorter is better - Discuss

Dr TinkleDr Tinkle Posts: 49
edited August 2008 in MTB beginners
I notice that when bikes get a review in the mags, invariably they change the stem for a shorter one to improve the handling. What changes will a shorter stem make and if I do change is there a way to fathom which stem length is better ? I generally ride Swinley Forest , Bracknell or local Chiltern trails, have a much pimped Marin Nail Trail, am 6'2", well proportioned and devilishly handsome.

Is change in the air?


  • Andy BAndy B Posts: 8,115
    A shorter stem will make the steering more nimble/twitchy (depending on how short) 10mm shorter will make a noticeable difference.

    I find 80-90mm works for me on my bikes (Orange 5 & Orange Gringo)

    Can you borrow any of your mates stem's which are shorter to try them out?
  • Dr TinkleDr Tinkle Posts: 49
    Its a good idea Andy but we are all it seems on the same stem length, seems quite long too, around 130mm?
  • Andy BAndy B Posts: 8,115
    130mm is long!

    Buy a cheap stem, say a Tioga O-Bone @ 100mm with the same angle of rise as your current one & the steering will sharpen up considerably, if you don't like it flog it & you won't lose much cash.
  • shin0rshin0r Posts: 555
    A shorter stem tends to make ascending slightly harder but descending better. It's really all about personal choice though. I've tried 100, 90, 70 and now a 50mm stem; for me 50mm is perfect.
  • batch78batch78 Posts: 1,320
    I'll go against the flow here, I removed my 90mm stock stem and replaced with a 120mm one, much prefer a smooth flowy ride than a twitchy on edge one, this, combined with my 390mm seatpost, also helps me look like mint sauce when I ride so I've gotta be right! :lol:
  • I have a really long stem, my mates always go on about how it will snap when I'm doing drops and stuff, but it's not gone yet... lol

    Personally I prefer a long stem, I find it's easier to balance with the handlebars that bit furthere away and my arms stretchd out more
  • XtreemXtreem Posts: 3,066
    With shorter stem it's also easier to perform a Manual.
    Mine it's 75mm.
  • GT DestroyerGT Destroyer Posts: 1,719
    I have a 120mm stem. I went for that due to my size 6 ft 7. I see you are 6 ft 2 which isn't small. I went for the longer stem as it stretched me out more over the bike, a shorter one gave me back-ache - So I'd test it before with a cheapo one like Andy said.
  • Thanks all,

    Looks like a bit of experimenting is needed. Appreciate your time.
  • Thermo1Thermo1 Posts: 75
    It all comes down to personal choice. Find a size that fits you and handles how you want and stick with it. Don't be swayed by magazines or groms who think their way is the only way.
  • wildmoustachewildmoustache Posts: 4,010
    12cm or 13cm here ... much prefer the stability this gives ... esp. for descending.
  • Like GT Destroyer said, as you are a relatively tall bloke you will need a quite long stem for you two sit comfortabley. I changed from 90mm to 60mm i think, and I find it easier to control, and is only a minute effect on my climbing ability, but stem size is a very unique and personal thing, so at the end of the day its what is most comfy :)

    Norco 125 Custom Build + 90's Peugeot Road Bike
  • kegskegs Posts: 204
    it does depend on the top-tube length of the frame though, if it is long for the frame size, like a genesis Gary Fisher, or an On-One, then you'll need a shorter stem. On a bike with a shorter length top tube relative to size, like a Rock Lobster, you'll need a longer stem to get a similar position.

    I quite like the direct steering a short (70mm) stem gives, but I ride an On-One, if I rode a Merlin Malt I'd probably want either a layback seatpost, or something like a 90-100mm stem to lengthen the cockpit so I wouldn't feel too cramped.
  • I have a 2007 gt avalanche 1.0. frame size medium or think it works out as 18 frame as i was told.

    wheelbase 1051mm
    horizontal top tube length 577mm
    headtube length 130mm
    headtube angle 71 degrees
    rake 41 degrees
    stem is a 25 degree rise -is this due to zero stack head tube?
    If i got a stem with a 0-10 degree rise with 50mm length and kept original handle bars, what would this do to the bike?
    If i kept original stem and put a 2 inch riser on what would this do to the bike?
    im 6ft and i would like a more upright position as my hands hurt when i ride (i do wear gloves) but not turn the bike into a bmx :D Anyone with my build done this to one of these bikes ? Doesn't have to be the avalanche 1.0 any of the range 2.0 - 3.0 will do (not sure about the zaskar range .The geometry i dont know about)
    I would like to drop easier( very small drops i may add) without changing the bike to be become sketchy.
    I ride the bike in all situations as its my only bike. ( if only i could afford on one :oops: )


  • kegskegs Posts: 204
    if you got a 50mm stem with less rise you'd pull the bars slightly towards you, and put them down a bit, which would put your weight slightly back.

    whacking 2" risers on there would raise your hands an put you a little more upright, but might feel a bit weird if the stem is pretty long.

    The cheaper one to try would be the shorter stem, but probably the way to get the effect you want would be to use a shorter stem, and riser bars, as that'll move your controls back and up, and will shift your weight more onto the saddle.

    a shorter stem and higher rise would also make it easier to get back on the bike for drops and steep downhills, but a bike with a steep head angle like your is always going to be a bit sketchy when going down steep hills, compared to other bikes.

    Ideally you'd have some mates who have some old bits, or a nice LBS, so you could try a few stem/bar set ups to see what you'd find comfortable.

    Getting squidgier grips might be a much cheaper way of making your hands more comfortable, so might be worth a try, unless you feel you are too far over the front when descending.
  • thankyou for your reply, it was good food for thought. 71 degrees was always gonna haunt me i just knew it.


  • kegskegs Posts: 204
    Shouldn't worry about it too much, 71 degrees is fairly standard for xc biased bikes, mine is only a degree slacker with a 4" fork.

    For cross country trailsy type riding it is fine, it is really the more hardcore hardtails like 456s and Alpines that have slacker headtube angles, but they are far more biased towards going downwards ;)
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