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  1. #1
    MJ1
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    Advantage(s) of shorter stem

    I've been riding the stock 100mm stem on my 29er, with a 700mm flat bar. A lot of folks talk about going to a shorter stem. What are the advantages?

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    Personally, I think forcing yourself to ride a shorter cockpit just because someone said it was cool or worked better is poor reasoning. It really comes down to proper fit.
    Some of the newer bikes are made with a relatively longer top tube, which allows for a shorter stem to provide the same reach - but they usu. come with the shorter stem already installed.
    If you want a more upright or "heads-up" riding position as opposed to the more "head first" XC racing position you might like a shorter stem, but you might also combine that with a higher stem or rise bars.
    If you run wider bars (another case of diminishing returns IMO) you may want a shorter stem to maintain the same body position, otherwise the increased width will bring your body slightly lower to the bars.
    The shorter stem may quicken your steering, but if you go with wider bars that will slow it down.
    The best reason to change the stem is for fit. The "advantage" is comfort.

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    Fleas has some great points.

    Also keep in mind. If you do a lot of climbing during your rides. A short stem can unweight the front end. Causing it to wander, float, flip flop etc.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by MJ1 View Post
    I've been riding the stock 100mm stem on my 29er, with a 700mm flat bar. A lot of folks talk about going to a shorter stem. What are the advantages?
    For us tall drinks of water, 100mm is a short stem.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by BruceBrown View Post
    For us tall drinks of water, 100mm is a short stem.
    they have this new surgical procedure called 'forearmectomy' for those types.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gumbi4Prez View Post
    ...A short stem can unweight the front end....
    Yes...

    Quote Originally Posted by BruceBrown View Post
    For us tall drinks of water, 100mm is a short stem.
    ...and yes.
    I'm running 100mm stem (flipped so it's flat) with a 710mm flat bar. I tried a 90mm of the same stem and didn't like it. Also, a mere 3mm of change in height seems to be noticeable, esp. on longer rides. I'm actually in a somewhat heads-up position, but not too much.

    -F
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  7. #7
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    As others have said, fit is key. However stem length is not the correct way to get a bike to fit, and IMO if you need a 100mm stem to get bar/saddle distance, your frame is too small. Ditching the narrow bar would help.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Joules View Post
    As others have said, fit is key. However stem length is not the correct way to get a bike to fit...
    Right, if the bike doesn't fit at all, then better to buy a new frame and start over.

    However, if you just want to tweak the fit a bit, or change how it handles, then changing out the stem is a very fast/cheap/easy/reversible way to do it... These things are standardized and interchangeable precisely so that they can be changed to "fit" the rider better.

    FWIW, I like a long wheelbase for stability, and I like a high crossbar aesthetically (I'm vain, I admit), so I ride an XL. However, I don't like a long reach to the bars or a lot of weight on my wrists, so have a really short riser stem.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bimmer74 View Post
    Right, if the bike doesn't fit at all, then better to buy a new frame and start over.

    However, if you just want to tweak the fit a bit, or change how it handles, then changing out the stem is a very fast/cheap/easy/reversible way to do it... These things are standardized and interchangeable precisely so that they can be changed to "fit" the rider better.
    The OP should be able to go to his LBS and get a few stems out on loan to try out, and then return with the stems not needed. They usually have a box of demo/used stems to do this. If not, one could easily buy a few lengths with permission to return the ones not needed after the trial.

    Usually, the wider the bars, the shorter the stem - and vice versa - the narrower the bars, the longer the stem simply by the nature of how each of those two avenues dictates your position. You'll sit more upright with narrow bars, and be leaning more forward with wider bars.

    As long as the fit is fine at the saddle/knees/pedals and there is room up front to tinker around with wide/narrow bars and long/short stems - have at it. You might discover something you really like - or really hate.

    Where and how you ride will dictate bar width/stem length preference as well. No getting stuck between trees for me...

    Wider Is Better - The Wide Bar Debated : Mountain Biking News, Mountain Bike Trails, Mountain Bike Forums

  10. #10
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    I used to be the camp of "adjust stem for fit," but since I recently shortened the stem on my Niner to be a bit less stretched out (90~100mm down to 70mm), I'm feeling the front end is a bit twitchy. Possibly, that's due to the slick conditions lately. Maybe it's due to the Knard I'm running up front (but a big tire should increase mechanical trail). But I'm also thinking that stem length needs to be considered with head angle and the front end geometry as part of the whole package.
    FS: Chinese carbony goodness, trade for a steel frame?

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    I run a 100mm stem on my Niner SIR9 (also on my Surly Big Dummy and Troll). On my Kona Honzo, I run a 65mm stem. Geometry, fit, and riding position all influence stem length. The Honzo has wider bars and a longer top tube than the SIR9 and is intended for all mountain rather than XC riding.

    Joules is wrong - 100mm is a very common and acceptable length stem for a bike with XC geometry. There is no way in heck that I would be comfortable on a bigger frame on any of my bikes with that length stem.

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    Quote Originally Posted by seat_boy View Post
    ... since I recently shortened the stem... I'm feeling the front end is a bit twitchy...
    I've noticed the same thing after switching to a shorter stem: the bike seems more twitchy.

    Of course, I'm usually also switching to wider bars at the same time.

    Anyway, I think it makes sense that a shorter stem makes the steering more twitchy, because the axis of rotation is closer to the bar (no, I'm not a physicist).

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    Advantage(s) of shorter stem

    Quote Originally Posted by Gumbi4Prez View Post
    Fleas has some great points.

    Also keep in mind. If you do a lot of climbing during your rides. A short stem can unweight the front end. Causing it to wander, float, flip flop etc.
    Unless you stand while climbing a lot, such as on a single speed.

  14. #14
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    OP, since you're using your stock stem, I encourage you to try something else. You may be a lot happier. Or a lot less happy. It'll be good information in either case.

    +1 to trying with a demo stem before spending money. Though to be honest, it's never occurred to me to ask. I've always bought them, but usually used. It's still a cheap experiment that way.

    There are two sides to stem length. One is they effect the way your bike fits your body. If the reach to your handlebars is too long for you, you'll be more comfortable with a shorter stem. (And vice versa.) My back is pretty picky. On any given bike, assuming I'm sticking with the same bars, I can only ride about one stem size and the height in the spacer stack should be within about a 5 mm band.

    The other is bike handling. Others have already talked about that; certainly I've noticed it too. I'm not sure what the optimal weight distribution is, but I think it exists, at least for each riding discipline, because too little weight on the front wheel can be sketchy and too much weight can make the bike nosedive when one rolls off a drop or through a compression or under braking.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

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