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Thread: Inverted Stem

  1. #1
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    Inverted Stem

    We met up with a couple of real nice guys this past weekend and got to talking shop. I mentioned climbing. A few times (on steeper climbs) I've come close to doing a wheelie. Although I know the technique of getting your face down towards the stem, on steep climbs this usually results in loosing traction, spinning my rear wheel, and slowing the momentum of my climb to the point of worrying I'm going to have to "Clip out or Fall".

    The discussion turned a little bit to "being between frame sizes". At 5'-9" with a 30" inseam, I'm riding a 17.5" 29er. The guys then told me they also felt the same thing going on in relation to body/frame size while climbing.

    Their solution was to flip the stem over to create a flat rather than upward sweep to the bars. They told me it made a big difference for them. You can see what it looks like here on their bikes:



    I know I'm going to try this, but I'm looking for feedback from you guys to see if anyone has done this and to see what you think.

    Thanks in advance,

    Hank

  2. #2
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    Before & After


    Before

    After

    After, After...

    That was easy...Will see how it feels next ride...

    Hank
    Last edited by DirtyHank; 11-19-2012 at 09:44 AM.

  3. #3
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    My take is that it's not about a stem being upright or flipped. It's about bar height.

    I went from flipped, slammed (no spacers underneath) stem on a 26" bike, to flipped stem/ straight bars on a 29er to low rize bars with an extra spacer under the stem.

    My climbing did not suffer at all, but it made controlling my bike in the descents easier. That needed to happen, because the difficulty of the trails I rode rose rapidly.

    For climbing, it's all about balance, front/rear and sideways. Where my bars are only changes the amount of bend in my arms. Where my upper body is and what I do with it, is what matters. Maybe by flipping your stem, you are making things a little bit easier, but it's not the solution to conquer seemingly impossible climbs. And you'll be asking questions about controlling your bike on steep descents after some time...

    My advice would be: Leave your bike as it is and focus on skills. Improve your balance with trackstands. Practice dynamic traction climbing. That's Brian Lopes term for pulling up the bar a bit at every downstroke, pushing the rear wheel into the ground. That's how you keep traction when your nose is on the stem.

  4. #4
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    Flip your stem to get a negative rise !

    Yes - good choice ! this will put you in a more aggressive riding postion, adding a little more weight over the front wheel. hence, help you climb better without feeling like you will go over backwards. it may feel strange at first, but after several rides you'll get used to it !

  5. #5
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    Thanks for your comments so far.

    I will give this a shot and see if I notice a difference.

    JeroenK: I agree that “It’s about bar height” Although mechanically I wouldn’t be comfortable with “no spacer”. I could (correct me if I’m wrong) configure the stem so as to have one (of the two) spacer on top and one below the stem. That would give me an additional 10mm of drop. I could use smaller spacers but this bike is too new and I’m too noob to justify cutting my fork.

    yetimeister514: I really wonder if I’ll notice a difference. Just looking at my bike and the slight change in relationship between the seat and the bars looks geometrically better.

    Hank

  6. #6
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    I invert my stem as well. However, looking at your pictures, there was really no point in inverting yours, since there are still spacers under it... you could've simply lowered the stem for the same effect.

    If that's still not low enough, then you can invert the stem.

  7. #7
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    Like voodoo5 said...you can play with the spacers to get the height you want. Take one of those 5mm out of the bottom and add it on top of the stem for now. It's amazing how much of a difference that little bit makes. Once you have the height dialed in cut the steerer or get your lbs to do it.

  8. #8
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    I've been thinking about doing this for awhile now. I've lowered my stem using the spacers, but still don't think it's enough. I might try this now.
    Nathan

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by voodoo5 View Post
    I invert my stem as well. However, looking at your pictures, there was really no point in inverting yours, since there are still spacers under it... you could've simply lowered the stem for the same effect.

    If that's still not low enough, then you can invert the stem.
    Voodoo5: Gotcha! Thanks. For now (at least for my first ride) I will put one of the spacers on top and one on the bottom. Any more than that I'll feel like I'm looking at a tree stump of a fork tube.

    Hank

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    It will vary for everyone, but I'm 5'10" and I think 31" inseam, ride a 19" Trek 29er and recently went from the standard 105mm, 7 degree stem, to a 90mm 5 degree which I flipped, and then slammed right to the bottom. The difference is incredible. Again it depends on whether you felt right on your bike in the first place, but it's helped to shift my weight forwards and now I'm faster, much more stable, and feel perfectly balanced F/R, no feeling of going OTB and few traction issues on climbs.

    It's all trial and error, I think I nailed it first time so I got lucky, but if you're feeling your bike isn't quite right it's worth a shot.

    A Specialized Multi Stem would be a good place to start for those in doubt, it's not super lightweight but the adjustable shim lets you set different angles. I did have one on order but the Specialized retailer I chose was run by the laziest Cs on earth, so I never ended up getting it!

  11. #11
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    I bought riser bars for my bike not long after getting it to take pressure off my lower back and wrists. It certainly helped at the time, especially downhill, but as my riding progressed and I got used to the cycling position I found that I needed to bring the bars back down. I really like the bars (Easton Monkey Lite) so I just flipped over the stem. I actually like the way the bike looks and feels now. I've had a few people not knowing the history mention it seems a bit silly to have a riser bar and inverted stem but each to their own.

    Just a note on being between sizes, I'm a nats appendage shy of 6' and found myself between large and medium. The advice I got varied alot between shops as well. I went large at the time and bought a slightly shorter stem but sometimes wonder If I should have gone the other way.

    Added pics for show and tell
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Inverted Stem-lores.jpg  

    Inverted Stem-lores2.jpg  

    Last edited by Dummyrunner; 11-18-2012 at 03:12 PM.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dummyrunner View Post
    I bought riser bars for my bike not long after getting it to take pressure off my lower back and wrists. It certainly helped at the time, especially downhill, but as my riding progressed and I got used to the cycling position I found that I needed to bring the bars back down. I really like the bars (Easton Monkey Lite) so I just flipped over the stem. I actually like the way the bike looks and feels now. I've had a few people not knowing the history mention it seems a bit silly to have a riser bar and inverted stem but each to their own.
    +1 I bought a 30mm riser to make the bike more "comfy"

    After 5-6 rides I flipped the stem, basically negating the riser bar. I climb much better, less wheelie prone, I feel better in the corners. Live and learn. I could go back to positive rise stem and a flat bar but I like my bar...



  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dummyrunner View Post
    I bought riser bars for my bike not long after getting it to take pressure off my lower back and wrists. It certainly helped at the time, especially downhill, but as my riding progressed and I got used to the cycling position I found that I needed to bring the bars back down. I really like the bars (Easton Monkey Lite) so I just flipped over the stem. I actually like the way the bike looks and feels now. I've had a few people not knowing the history mention it seems a bit silly to have a riser bar and inverted stem but each to their own.

    Just a note on being between sizes, I'm a nats appendage shy of 6' and found myself between large and medium. The advice I got varied alot between shops as well. I went large at the time and bought a slightly shorter stem but sometimes wonder If I should have gone the other way.
    +1 -- I am running the inverted stem and risers, for the same reason as you and Alberto. Plus I made the head angle a bit slacker and raised the front end with a longer travel fork, so I ended up with my grips too tall. I found that, as I rode more and my core body strength improved, it becomes more and more comfortable to make my upper body more horizontal in the attack position, and I no longer need the upright feeling I got from having the bars higher.

  14. #14
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    There have been several treads lately on this subject so I'll say again what I've said before. I have a 6º negative rise stem on one of my bikes and it's fine but there is a caution. There is a chance that your brake levers and shifters can contact your frame, especially in a crash situation and you could damage your frame so check it out.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Inverted Stem-img_2466.jpg  

    The trouble with having an open mind is that people will insist on trying to put things in it.

  15. #15
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    Having your stem in the negative or positive position is just another adjustment for setting your handlebar height. If you have some spacer stack on your steerer tube, you can achieve the same height with the stem flipped up or down depending on your spacer placement. This goes hand in hand with the choice between riser or flat bars, which are just another height adjustment.

    For instance, one of my 29ers has a 90mm, 6 degreee stem slammed to the bottom of the steerer tube, in the positive rise position holding a low rise bar. Steerer tube is cut to place only one spacer above the stem. On the flip side, my other 29er has 90mm/6 degree stem inverted with a couple spacers underneath holding a flat bar. Bars are roughly the same height.

  16. #16
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    Flipping your stem lowers the bars AND also extends the distance to the bars.

    This places your hands lower and further forward on the bike.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by antonio View Post
    Flipping your stem lowers the bars AND also extends the distance to the bars.

    This places your hands lower and further forward on the bike.
    Like this....

    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/7166535@N05/8101686400/" title="Maon's Silver Dos by BBcamerata, on Flickr"><img src="http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8046/8101686400_c26184c6b1_z.jpg" width="640" height="391" alt="Maon's Silver Dos"></a>

    Or the new Flatforce stem from Syntace: Syntace

    Here's the tool to compare what a stem flip would do to bar height and reach: Stem Comparison Tool | yojimg.net

  18. #18
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    Play around with the spacers and the stem.
    Maybe you could exchange one of the spacers for 2 smaller spacers.
    Once your comfotable with your new riding position, cut the steerertube.
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  19. #19
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    Wow, Thanks: thasingletrackmastah, antonio, CycleAddic, Ronnie, Jfloren, Dummyrunner, furiousgibbon, Ctraut5, lots, of good tips, and _Alberto_, I'm not too sure that's a good place to leave...or even ride your bike near.

    Thanks for the links BruceBrown
    Stem Comparison Tool | yojimg.net
    I checked out the Syntace site but could not find pricing or a dealer in Los Angeles. How much is their Flatforce stem?
    That Salsa Setup looks way Rad!

    I reconfigured the spacers (one bottom one top) and posted another picture in post #2 (above). If the change is as noticable as people are saying then, that's "enough for a noob fo now". Looking forward to my next ride. I'll let you know the results.

    Thanks again,

    Hank
    Last edited by DirtyHank; 11-19-2012 at 09:48 AM.

  20. #20
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    Stem Comparison Tool | yojimg.net

    I really like this calculator for seeing how different stem lengths and angles will alter my cockpit. Pretty big different between +6 and -6 on most stems and the difference is obviously exaggerated on longer stems.

    I find that stem length has as much to do as height with getting into a good climbing position, but you also must consider descending performance. Long and low in the cockpit makes for a bike that will climb like a rocket but also puts a lot of weight on your hands for descending and makes it harder to shift your weight backwards.

    For me at least, it's easier to get weight forwards on steep climbs with a shorter stem than to get weight backwards with a longer stem. Bars that are too tall make it harder to weight the front end when cornering and raise the center of gravity too much.

    You dont really need to limit yourself to the Syntace stem - any road/XC stem with +/- 17 degree will get you the same drop. Thomson X2 are very strong and hold up well on lighter duty mountain bikes, Ritchey, 3T, etc are all strong enough for MTB use if you're not hucking.

  21. #21
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    It really depends on the geometry of the frame and what kind of fork you are running.

    My two geared 29er's have 6 deg. stems setup negative. I run my single speed 29er with a 6 deg. positive stem. Whatever works for you... don't do it merely because someone else does.

  22. #22
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    The stem calculator a few people have shared is an excellent tool.

  23. #23
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    No spacers, flat bar, -17* stem on mine.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by DirtyHank View Post
    Thanks for the links BruceBrown
    Stem Comparison Tool | yojimg.net
    I checked out the Syntace site but could not find pricing or a dealer in Los Angeles. How much is their Flatforce stem?

    That Salsa Setup looks way Rad!
    That Salsa is a MTBR.com poster who lives over in Poland.

    The Syntace - according to the US representative - said the Flatforce stem will be available in the three shorter sizes starting the end of December and the longer one will come out by February.

    Your bike has room for experimentation with the spacers and your stem being flipped positive or negative to try a few things out before buying anything new. It's taken many of us quite a few tweaks and tries to get the 29"er fit correct after moving over from 26" wheels. Add to that, the myriad of bar widths and stem lengths available.

  25. #25
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    I have found that to get the bar height I want on a 29er I need to use a +/- 17 degree stem inverted. They are not as easy to find but worth the effort.

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeroenK View Post
    . Practice dynamic traction climbing. That's Brian Lopes term for pulling up the bar a bit at every downstroke, pushing the rear wheel into the ground. That's how you keep traction when your nose is on the stem.
    Up?
    I pull back and down on the bar, opposite the pedal power stroke, drives the rear wheel into the ground.

  27. #27
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    it's probably worth mentioning that if your saddle is already level or higher than your bars, you probably don't need to flip the stem or drop it unless you're uncomfortable or really like riding in the 'attack' position. All depends on the terrain and style you're riding, and whether your bike actually fits you properly to start with.

    The 19" frame I ride is probably too big for me at 5'10", but interestingly the 17.5" medium Trek is exactly the same height in the front, it's just the standover and top tube length that differs... weird. Anyway, I cut my steerer tube down yesterday and put some carbon spacers in, which I think I can post photos of after this (10 post count).

    Just a tip, the bike shop told me to use a hacksaw, but a dremel with a heavy duty cutting disc was so much easier. I made a nice clean, straight cut and left a good 2-3mm for the 5mm spacer to sit on while leaving enough space for the beveled top cap to sit in.

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  29. #29
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    Hank, I'm curious how long you've been riding on the trails? I ask as what you've done is just adjust the height of your bar and moved them forward just a tad, how this happens doesn't matter, no spacers, inverted stem, ,rise stem etc. I will bet though that if you're new (from your description of technique I assume so) as it's all about how you place your body and distribute your weight, a very fine balancing act for sure when it gets really steep and the surface is very loose.

    You need to stay on the saddle most times on these climbs and learn to float there so you easily move your weight for or aft on the saddle as weight is needed to keep traction on the rear wheel or further forward to keep weight on the front. You also need to constantly adjust the position of your upper body to help distribute your weight in tandem with shifts on the saddle, it's a fine balancing act that you will master over time, just persevere and don't give up and you will get there.

    You've tried one thing in inverting your stem, now go give those climbs a go and see if it helps you keep your weight lower over the front, but don't forget you need to be constantly shifting weight on the saddle also. FYI, I run my stem on my Prime inverted, not because I have to as I have spacers under the stem so I could run it "normal" and remove the spacers, but to keep the steerer tube long in case I need to switch the fork to another bike with longer HT or maybe sell it.
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    First Impression

    From the minute I got on my bike in the parking lot it felt good. I did much better on my climbs and to my surprise the bike seemed more responsive. Downhill seemed to require a bit more attention as the bike seemed more sensitive. But I think I rode better and felt more in-tune with my bike last Saturday than ever before. So thanks for the advice everyone.

    Hank





    Last edited by DirtyHank; 11-26-2012 at 08:50 PM.

  31. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by LyNx View Post
    TL;DR

    But jesus... I would slam that stem so hard...

  32. #32
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    And then my reach would be 4mm longer and my bar height would be 10mm lower AND my steerer would be limited to that length HT.
    Quote Originally Posted by voodoo5 View Post
    TL;DR

    But jesus... I would slam that stem so hard...
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  33. #33
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    Hank, glad you're getting the bike fit dialed in. One thing to keep in mind when making cockpit adjustments: Shifting your weight towards over the front wheel can change your fork sag. If the bike felt more responsive (or 'twitchy') on the descent, you should double check your fork sag to see that you're not riding too far into the travel. It's a slight change in where you were, but it can make a difference on how the bike performs.

    I too am riding a riser bar and -10* stem, because a) I like the bar width (710mm) and sweep (9*) I currently own, and b) because I want to keep an extra bit of steer tube on the fork for future flexibility. I might someday swap the bar out for a wide flat bar and revert the stem, but for now I don't have any reasons to do so.
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  34. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by LyNx View Post
    And then my reach would be 4mm longer and my bar height would be 10mm lower AND my steerer would be limited to that length HT.
    I'm just teasing you. I guess it all depends on how tall you are. I did the same when i got a road bike, but now i'm used to the position and i slam everything i see.

  35. #35
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    Better pic of mine. -6 degree stem




  36. #36
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    I think for us shorter fellows (5'6" riding a 15.5"), if you don't flip it you will be riding too upright. I have flipped the stem on my Stumpy..think it gives me a neg 8 deg or something like that...its just about right. I have a small spacer below and above.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Inverted Stem-img_1625.jpg  

    Last edited by TiGeo; 11-30-2012 at 07:10 PM.
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  37. #37
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    I felt my bike handled better with a flipped stem

  38. #38
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    Be sure to submit a pic of your bike here after you've inverted your stem and slammed it down to the headtube:
    SLAM THAT STEM

  39. #39
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    Flipping the stem made all the difference in the world to me with the 29er. It definitely improved my position on the bike.
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