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Stem buying advice

jd843jd843 Posts: 59
edited July 2016 in Road general
Hi,

I bought a new bike from planet X recently and I am thinking of changing the stem on it.

My old bike has a frame reach of 364 mm and a 60 mm stem, and I've always been comfortable on it, with no shoulder pain/stiffness even after 60 miles of riding. My new bike has a frame reach of 379 mm and an 80 mm stem (Planet X refused to put a shorter one on it, even though they sell stems much smaller than this). I found I was getting a bit stiff in the neck and shoulders after 2 hours of riding today, so I think I'm reaching too far for the bars.

I was thinking of trying a 60 mm stem, but I'm worried I might still be uncomfortable since the frame reach is still 1.5 cm longer on the Planet X bike. But if I got a 45 mm stem, then the total reach on the PX would be the same as on my old bike. Is there any reason I shouldn't go for such a short stem?

Posts

  • lincolndavelincolndave Posts: 9,441
    Non whatsoever, what's the point of riding uncomfortable with over reaching
  • debelidebeli Posts: 583
    the joy of cycling (in part) is that you can do what you like. There are few rules.

    First: The 15mm difference in top tube (cross bar) length is negligible. If that gives you a stiff neck, then you may have other issues to address with regard either to your own flexibility or to other areas of the bike frame. Or both.

    Secondly: On a road bike (allowing for my point above that there are no rules) a 45mm stem is quite short. Within certain parameters, a shorter stem can give a twitchier ride and more sensitive steering. Why not go with the 60mm?

    I've put crazy-short stems on road bikes for my kids over the years when they were growing and were 'between frames', but it was never ideal. I have a tiny (40mm?) stem from an MTB on an old Langster I use for shopping and pootling, but I wouldn't set up a bike for longer distances that way...

    Thirdly: You still have the 60mm stem from your old bike. Try that. See if you like it. Go shorter if not...

    Lastly: Getting a stiff neck (or similar) for the first few rides on a new set-up is not unheard of. This does not necessarily mean the set-up is wrong.... You may just have 'settled into' another riding position and the discomfort may be a function of you getting out of it.
  • jgsijgsi Posts: 5,029
    Planet X sell cheap bikes as a rule, they are not an LBS.
    If you wanted some kind of bespoke service you should have bought locally.
    Otherwise, do you what you have to need and set up the new bike like the old.
    Is it really that difficult to comprehend?
    If you done have the requisite mechanical skills then you really should'nt buy online.
    Time to learn instead of the modern habit of whinging at every opportunity.
  • jd843jd843 Posts: 59
    Debeli wrote:
    the joy of cycling (in part) is that you can do what you like. There are few rules.

    First: The 15mm difference in top tube (cross bar) length is negligible. If that gives you a stiff neck, then you may have other issues to address with regard either to your own flexibility or to other areas of the bike frame. Or both.

    Secondly: On a road bike (allowing for my point above that there are no rules) a 45mm stem is quite short. Within certain parameters, a shorter stem can give a twitchier ride and more sensitive steering. Why not go with the 60mm?

    I've put crazy-short stems on road bikes for my kids over the years when they were growing and were 'between frames', but it was never ideal. I have a tiny (40mm?) stem from an MTB on an old Langster I use for shopping and pootling, but I wouldn't set up a bike for longer distances that way...

    Thirdly: You still have the 60mm stem from your old bike. Try that. See if you like it. Go shorter if not...

    Lastly: Getting a stiff neck (or similar) for the first few rides on a new set-up is not unheard of. This does not necessarily mean the set-up is wrong.... You may just have 'settled into' another riding position and the discomfort may be a function of you getting out of it.

    Thanks for the advice.
    Yep, I think I will try the 60mm stem from my old bike to see if I feel more comfy. Like you say, it'll probably be okay with only 15mm extra reach, I just thought it was worth asking if it'd be worth getting an even shorter stem to get closer to my old riding position (and it sounds like probably not!) :)
  • AnonymousAnonymous Posts: 79,678
    What size is the frame? 56cm?

    Why does your current bike have such a short stem?

    Sounds like you have one bike that is too big for you, and you have now bought another thats even bigger.
  • jd843jd843 Posts: 59
    Carbonator wrote:
    What size is the frame? 56cm?

    Why does your current bike have such a short stem?

    Sounds like you have one bike that is too big for you, and you have now bought another thats even bigger.

    The PX is a 44 cm frame. My old bike is a 47cm frame, but it's a women's bike, hence the reach being shorter than the PX. I doubt it's too big as that's the smallest Trek make and I'm not that short (about 5' 3"). And it has a short stem because that's what it came with. Maybe it's more common on women's bikes, to make the reach shorter? Not sure.
  • odessoukyodessouky Posts: 264
    JGSI wrote:
    Planet X sell cheap bikes as a rule, they are not an LBS.
    If you wanted some kind of bespoke service you should have bought locally.
    Otherwise, do you what you have to need and set up the new bike like the old.
    Is it really that difficult to comprehend?
    If you done have the requisite mechanical skills then you really should'nt buy online.
    Time to learn instead of the modern habit of whinging at every opportunity.


    Take a chill pill...will you fella...!!

    What's wrong with buying online, and for going with a cheaper choice!!

    I don't see the OP whinging or complaining....he's asking for some advice...

    Instead of giving him a moral lecture...you could have helped the guy....are you a LBS owner by any chance!!??
  • IanRCarterIanRCarter Posts: 217
    jd843 wrote:
    Carbonator wrote:
    What size is the frame? 56cm?

    Why does your current bike have such a short stem?

    Sounds like you have one bike that is too big for you, and you have now bought another thats even bigger.

    The PX is a 44 cm frame. My old bike is a 47cm frame, but it's a women's bike, hence the reach being shorter than the PX. I doubt it's too big as that's the smallest Trek make and I'm not that short (about 5' 3"). And it has a short stem because that's what it came with. Maybe it's more common on women's bikes, to make the reach shorter? Not sure.
    If you look at the geometry charts for a certain bike, they will usually show a longer stem on the larger sizes (and vice versa). It sounded like you were using a short stem to make your old bike fit because the frame was too big. Now we know that it's a relatively small frame, the short stem makes more sense.

    Make sure you check the reach on the handlebars of both bikes and include this in your calculations.
  • leemehleemeh Posts: 16
    Some other factors as well.

    Is the seat position correct (plenty of youtube guides on how to measure height and knee position relating to peddle)

    Height of bars on new vs old bike/how many spacers?

    You can flip the stem so it points upwards rather than down, creates a more upright position. There is also some give in tilting the bar within a certain guide which can be used to tilt them a little closer.

    Dont womens road bikes usually come with more compact bars (smaller hands) so everything else being equal (stem, top tube, saddle etc) you could still have extra reach on the new bike due to hood distance/reach on standard drop bars?

    Start with saddle/peddle position and work from there. Try your old stem for sure, experiment with flipping it and/or moving it upand down with spacers.

    Maybe your old bike was too small but you got used to riding it very upright and now you are more stretched it feels awkward bur it could be fine.
  • ForumNewbieForumNewbie Posts: 1,664
    I have this adjustable stem on one of my bikes that was too big:
    https://www.cyclestore.co.uk/system_ex_ ... lsrc=aw.ds
    It's the short version I have and I have it pointing virtually straight up to shorten the reach. It doesn't look great, but it ensures a comfortable reach and the bike handles fine.
  • pilot_petepilot_pete Posts: 2,100
    This looks like a case of not buying a bike that fits you in the first place. Your old bike frame sounds like it was too big for you (a 60mm stem is very short for a road bike, even a small frame) and you have now bought a bike with a longer reach. It is all very well saying a 15mm difference in reach is negligible (Debeli) but in my experience it can make all the difference. When it is 15mm more than a frame that (I am guessing) was already too big it certainly isn't 'negligible'.

    So my question would be, why buy a bike online if you don't know what the correct size for you is in that model? If you are considering putting a 45mm stem on a road bike I would suggest that frame is too big for you. However, there are other issues to consider - the overall reach may be the same if you do so, but how tall is the head tube on each frame? What is the rise of each stem? What is the reach of each handlebar? And the handlebar drop? What is the saddle to bar drop of each bike? What is the seat tube angle of each frame?

    Even if you achieve the same overall reach between the bikes the differences between all of the above may leave you in completely different riding positions. Sometimes it pays to get advice from someone who knows what they are doing before spending on a bike. If you went to a reputable retailer who has experience of bike fitting they would offer this advice for free as part of your purchase. Many would actually properly fit you to the bike you purchase from them as part of the deal as well. Even if they charge you I am sure you would be able to negotiate a bit off or get bits and bobs thrown in for nothing like bottle cages, even pedals or a discount on kit etc. I know many would change stems and cassette ratios etc for no extra if you need/ want them. That's what you get for spending a little more with a reputable store.

    What may help you is to look at stack and reach of the two frames you have and work out how to get your riding positions matched rather than just simply 'overall reach'. And of course if you were not correctly fitted to your old bike it would be highly unlikely that you are going to get comfortable on your new one by trying to just match one measurement.

    FWIW I recently built a very expensive road bike and I wanted the same overall position to my then current road bike (which fitted me correctly). In order to ascertain which size frame I needed to purchase I went to the retailer and got measured up and he used the official geometry sizes of the new frame to ascertain which frame I needed. In the end they couldn't get the colour I wanted and I had to purchase direct from the factory in Italy. I went back to the shop to offer to pay for the fit and he was very grateful that I came back and offered (as most don't and I hate people who use the retailer in this way and then buy online to save a quid or two, as retailers will eventually go out of business, especially the smaller ones). He refused and said 'just buy something next time you are in'.

    Now I can do basic bike fits for people, but even I wanted to ensure I was getting the exact right size frame so I could fit a sensible size stem and achieve the saddle/ bar drop that I wanted. The wrong size frame is the wrong size frame and it will always be a compromise trying to fit yourself to the wrong sized frame. Buying a new frame/ bike is the perfect opportunity to get the right sized frame...

    PP
  • jd843jd843 Posts: 59
    Pilot Pete wrote:
    This looks like a case of not buying a bike that fits you in the first place. Your old bike frame sounds like it was too big for you (a 60mm stem is very short for a road bike, even a small frame) and you have now bought a bike with a longer reach. It is all very well saying a 15mm difference in reach is negligible (Debeli) but in my experience it can make all the difference. When it is 15mm more than a frame that (I am guessing) was already too big it certainly isn't 'negligible'.

    So my question would be, why buy a bike online if you don't know what the correct size for you is in that model? If you are considering putting a 45mm stem on a road bike I would suggest that frame is too big for you. However, there are other issues to consider - the overall reach may be the same if you do so, but how tall is the head tube on each frame? What is the rise of each stem? What is the reach of each handlebar? And the handlebar drop? What is the saddle to bar drop of each bike? What is the seat tube angle of each frame?

    Even if you achieve the same overall reach between the bikes the differences between all of the above may leave you in completely different riding positions. Sometimes it pays to get advice from someone who knows what they are doing before spending on a bike. If you went to a reputable retailer who has experience of bike fitting they would offer this advice for free as part of your purchase. Many would actually properly fit you to the bike you purchase from them as part of the deal as well. Even if they charge you I am sure you would be able to negotiate a bit off or get bits and bobs thrown in for nothing like bottle cages, even pedals or a discount on kit etc. I know many would change stems and cassette ratios etc for no extra if you need/ want them. That's what you get for spending a little more with a reputable store.

    What may help you is to look at stack and reach of the two frames you have and work out how to get your riding positions matched rather than just simply 'overall reach'. And of course if you were not correctly fitted to your old bike it would be highly unlikely that you are going to get comfortable on your new one by trying to just match one measurement.

    FWIW I recently built a very expensive road bike and I wanted the same overall position to my then current road bike (which fitted me correctly). In order to ascertain which size frame I needed to purchase I went to the retailer and got measured up and he used the official geometry sizes of the new frame to ascertain which frame I needed. In the end they couldn't get the colour I wanted and I had to purchase direct from the factory in Italy. I went back to the shop to offer to pay for the fit and he was very grateful that I came back and offered (as most don't and I hate people who use the retailer in this way and then buy online to save a quid or two, as retailers will eventually go out of business, especially the smaller ones). He refused and said 'just buy something next time you are in'.

    Now I can do basic bike fits for people, but even I wanted to ensure I was getting the exact right size frame so I could fit a sensible size stem and achieve the saddle/ bar drop that I wanted. The wrong size frame is the wrong size frame and it will always be a compromise trying to fit yourself to the wrong sized frame. Buying a new frame/ bike is the perfect opportunity to get the right sized frame...

    PP

    Thanks for the lengthy reply - I appreciate it.

    I admit, I bought the bike online on a whim because it was an absolute bargain. Probably fairly stupid of me, but there's nothing I can do about it now...

    Is there a simple way to compare the geometry of each bike? Using some sort of calculator or something?

    I rode my old bike today and in many ways it actually felt less comfortable... During the ride I mentioned in my OP, I didn't feel overly stretched or anything, and I did have a slight bend in my arms when my hands were on the hoods. Maybe I'm just getting used to a more aggressive riding position on the new bike or something.
  • jd843jd843 Posts: 59
    Leemeh wrote:
    Some other factors as well.

    Is the seat position correct (plenty of youtube guides on how to measure height and knee position relating to peddle)

    Height of bars on new vs old bike/how many spacers?

    You can flip the stem so it points upwards rather than down, creates a more upright position. There is also some give in tilting the bar within a certain guide which can be used to tilt them a little closer.

    Dont womens road bikes usually come with more compact bars (smaller hands) so everything else being equal (stem, top tube, saddle etc) you could still have extra reach on the new bike due to hood distance/reach on standard drop bars?

    Start with saddle/peddle position and work from there. Try your old stem for sure, experiment with flipping it and/or moving it upand down with spacers.

    Maybe your old bike was too small but you got used to riding it very upright and now you are more stretched it feels awkward bur it could be fine.

    Thanks for the reply.

    Seat position feels pretty good, but from what I've heard that shouldn't be used to adjust reach anyway should it?

    The stem on the PX is only 6° compared to 10 on my old Trek, and they're already pointing 'up' on both bikes. The bars have the same reach, but the drop on the PX bars is 5 mm more.

    You may be right about my old bike being too small – I never had a fit on it. On Trek's size guide, my height falls in between frame sizes (at the upper end of 47cm and lower end of 50 cm). Hopefully I will just get used to the new position - I've only ridden it three times because of awful weather...
  • AnonymousAnonymous Posts: 79,678
    jd843 wrote:
    Carbonator wrote:
    What size is the frame? 56cm?

    Why does your current bike have such a short stem?

    Sounds like you have one bike that is too big for you, and you have now bought another thats even bigger.

    The PX is a 44 cm frame. My old bike is a 47cm frame, but it's a women's bike, hence the reach being shorter than the PX. I doubt it's too big as that's the smallest Trek make and I'm not that short (about 5' 3"). And it has a short stem because that's what it came with. Maybe it's more common on women's bikes, to make the reach shorter? Not sure.

    Oh, OK, soz :oops:

    Hope you get it sorted :wink:
  • cougiecougie Posts: 22,512
    Did PX say why they wouldn't fit the short stem? I've had bike fits from them before and they were excellent.
  • jd843jd843 Posts: 59
    cougie wrote:
    Did PX say why they wouldn't fit the short stem? I've had bike fits from them before and they were excellent.

    They just said they wouldn't recommend anything shorter than 80 mm on a road bike.
  • animal72animal72 Posts: 251
    My Mrs, who's the same height as you, has a 44cm with a 60 stem as fitted to her Bianchi as standard.
    Condor Super Acciaio, Record, Deda, Pacentis.
    Curtis 853 Handbuilt MTB, XTR, DT Swiss and lots of Hope.
    Genesis Datum Gravel Bike, Pacentis (again).
    Genesis Equilibrium Disc, 105 & H-Plus-Son.

    Mostly Steel.
  • john1967john1967 Posts: 366
    JGSI wrote:
    Planet X sell cheap bikes as a rule, they are not an LBS.
    If you wanted some kind of bespoke service you should have bought locally.
    Otherwise, do you what you have to need and set up the new bike like the old.
    Is it really that difficult to comprehend?
    If you done have the requisite mechanical skills then you really should'nt buy online.
    Time to learn instead of the modern habit of whinging at every opportunity.

    I don't think the OP was whinging.He was just asking for stem length advice.
    Why do you think going to an LBS is a guarantee of good service?
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