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  1. #1
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    Stumpy -- reducing stem length?

    my 2011 stumpy fsr elite is stock with 90 mm stem (Specialized XC, 3D forged alloy, 4-bolt, 31.8mm clamp, adjustable rise). i've been wondering if i'd be able to get more control for manuals, bunny hops, jumps/drops, etc (which i can do now, but would like to be able to do more aggressively) if i reduced the stem length, maybe to 70-75 mm. has anyone done that? what's been the positives and negatives? would it really compromise hill climbs (which i love to conquer)? with a head tube angle of 68.5 degrees, i recognize a shorter stem could/should lead to some trouble in hill climbs, but curious what has been other people's experiences. i'm 5'11" if that matters, and with the 90 mm stem i can take most hills seated if i want to, but past a certain incline i'm either partially seated or fully standing. would a shorter stem materially change this to require me to be fully standing 'most' of the time on hill climns?

    appreciate any feedback.

  2. #2
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    I've done the same move. It does affect a climb but only at the most extreme angles. You will most likely have to move off the saddle at those points but the trade off of being able to whip the bike around far outweighs standing on some climbs.

  3. #3
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    what size stem did you move to? did your climbs just change to being more out of the seat pedaling or did the climbs actually become harder overall?

  4. #4
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    90mm to 70mm Thomson Stem. Just more out of the seat to get over the front tire more to compensate for the angle and not really much harder in overall climbing.

  5. #5
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    Its an easy/minimal adjustment to make on the climbs, but a shorter stem pays big on the downs, so in my opinion its worth it. The most important relationship in terms of climbing is your hips to the bottom bracket, where your hands are matters less than you think.
    I run a 50mm stem and 30" bars on all my bikes (I have broad shoulders). Wider bars and short stems go hand in hand together. The wider bars give you an effectively longer reach. Also sometimes when you go to a shorter stem, you may have to raise it slightly inorder to maintain a similar position.
    Here is a good link:
    Lee Likes Bikes

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by morandi View Post
    Its an easy/minimal adjustment to make on the climbs, but a shorter stem pays big on the downs, so in my opinion its worth it. The most important relationship in terms of climbing is your hips to the bottom bracket, where your hands are matters less than you think.
    I run a 50mm stem and 30" bars on all my bikes (I have broad shoulders). Wider bars and short stems go hand in hand together. The wider bars give you an effectively longer reach. Also sometimes when you go to a shorter stem, you may have to raise it slightly inorder to maintain a similar position.
    Here is a good link:
    Lee Likes Bikes
    +1 on this.

    Go to your LBS and see if they have any old stems that you can play with.

  7. #7
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    I run a 70mm stem on my Stumpy. Minor difference climbing, major improvement descending. Wide bars also help.

  8. #8
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    I also installed a shorter 70mm stem and wider 710 bars. The combo has made a significant different in downhill handling without giving up anything on climbs.

  9. #9
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    you will have to make very minor adjustments in how you climb if anything with a slightly shorter stem. the pros far outweigh the cons.

  10. #10
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    much appreciated to all for the feedback. definitely points to testing 50-70 mm stems, and my bias right now objectively would be 50 mm, but will decide on-site which feels best. downhill is not my issue (only because where i am there isn't much of it), but looking for overall better control in sketchy terrain (which is more fun). basically, i want to be able to flick the bike in all ways alot easier than it is now. some jumps make me feel too stretched out and sometimes it's too hard to quickly react to the trail easily in manipulating the front end the way i want to.

    does it matter if the stem is a Specialized product or can any manufacturer's stem work just as well in terms of fit/strength/etc.?

    morandi -- thanks for link to "Lee likes bikes". oddly, i actually just picked up his book a couple weeks ago and have just got around to skimming it and saw some references he makes to short stems. it was that and the fact that i'm looking to be more agile with my bike that prompted the question. i never got around to checking out his website ... until now. excellent complementary source of info.

  11. #11
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    Any stem will work as long as it has the right clamp size for your bar. If you can get your hands on a couple different lengths of the Specialized stems with the adjustable rise feature that would be helpful to play with too.

  12. #12
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    I ditched the standard 90mm stem off my old Stumpy FSR Elite and went with a 70mm Easton Haven stem and went to some slightly wider bars too (from the stock 640mm bar to an Easton EA70 Monkey Bar at 685mm) made quite a big difference. If you are going to go shorter in stem length I would also widen your bars.

    It made the bike a lot easier to flick around in the tighter technical stuff and gave an overall feel of being a lot more lively to ride. As for climbing I can't say it made a significantly noticeable difference like it did with the flat or downhill stuff. I'm not much of a fan of climbing though

  13. #13
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    i have the stumpy elite as well.. I have reduced it to a 70mm with wider bars. looking at going to a 50mm..for me I think that will be the sweet spot. also when iget the chance i am moving up to a 150 travel fork. i dont notice much difference in the climbs but in the technical area's i have more control.

  14. #14
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    stock right now is 90 mm stem with 680 mm width of handlebars. what would be the recommended handlebar width to go with 75 mm? 60 mm? 50 mm? could the stock handlebar still work well with 75 mm without any notable twitchiness?

  15. #15
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    The stock bars could work with a shorter stem. It all depends on your body. Do some pushups, then measure the distance between your hands. That's a good starting point for your bars.

  16. #16
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    In order to retain the same steering speed, you should increase handlebar width. 680mm is not unreasonable for a 70mm stem but how it fits your body is a huge factor. My suggestion: If you can afford it, get a 740 handlebar, give it some time and if you find it's too wide cut it to 720. I've made the change recently and I'm 110% pro short stem/wide bars. What I lost in the climbs is really insignificant compared to how much fun and in control I feel now. I can still climb silly inclines, just have to use stronger body language.

  17. #17
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    excellent! thx for the practical advice guys ... will be checking out a shorter stem this week, but like some others i prefer to change one thing at a time so will hold off on longer bars unless bike feels twitchy or steering feels off. looking forward to more control of the front end in tricky technicals,

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by martinizer View Post
    I also installed a shorter 70mm stem and wider 710 bars. The combo has made a significant different in downhill handling without giving up anything on climbs.
    Good to hear. I've just ordered that exact same combo of HB/Stem. What size bike and what's your height if I may ask?

  19. #19
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    I'm 6'0" and ride a large.

  20. #20
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    bars need to be wider or just get used to what i have?

    i've changed to 60 mm (+10 degrees) stem and love the extra control, but am starting to feel too much twitchiness and having trouble with technical sections that i didn't have before (with prior stock 90 mm stem). my bars are still stock at 680 mm (27"). as a reminder, i'm 5"11" on a large 2011 spec stumpy fsr elite fwiw.

    i've done the push up test and find that i'm most comfortable with 33" width between hands. i also measured what's most comfortable for me doing hanging chin ups (mimics pulling handlebars inward towards the body as in mountain biking so could be more relevant than the pushing movement in pushups) and it's 29" width between hands. so, the question is what should i be aiming to do?
    1) adjust to the 27" bars i currently have?
    2) try new bars with 29" width (735-740 mm)?
    3) try new bars with 28" width (720 mm)?

    appreciate any feedback from those that have the same circumstances (bike, size of bike, stem size, height).

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by weekendthrasher View Post
    i've changed to 60 mm (+10 degrees) stem and love the extra control, but am starting to feel too much twitchiness and having trouble with technical sections that i didn't have before (with prior stock 90 mm stem). my bars are still stock at 680 mm (27"). as a reminder, i'm 5"11" on a large 2011 spec stumpy fsr elite fwiw.

    i've done the push up test and find that i'm most comfortable with 33" width between hands. i also measured what's most comfortable for me doing hanging chin ups (mimics pulling handlebars inward towards the body as in mountain biking so could be more relevant than the pushing movement in pushups) and it's 29" width between hands. so, the question is what should i be aiming to do?
    1) adjust to the 27" bars i currently have?
    2) try new bars with 29" width (735-740 mm)?
    3) try new bars with 28" width (720 mm)?

    appreciate any feedback from those that have the same circumstances (bike, size of bike, stem size, height).
    With a shorter stem, your weight on the bike is balanced now in a different way, which is causing the twitchy feeling. Just always aim to keep your weight centered.
    That being said I am a huge fan of wide bars/short stem combo. I run 31" bars with a 50mm stem. Bars ultimately aren't that expensive, I would highly recommend giving them a shot. I would start with a bar in the 750-780mm range because they can always be cut down. You will know after the first ride when they are too wide, don't judge them in a parking lot test because a lot can change on the trail. I never thought I would be on 31" bars, but man they just work well for me. Combined with a short stem, they give a much more in the bike feel, which I like, and give you lots of leverage in the corners to lay the bike over, and give you tons of stability in the rough. I also ride some pretty tight trails and never find them to be any sort of hindrance.

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