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  1. #1
    George Dickel
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    Wide bar/short stem experiment

    Didn't know a better forum to put this, so here goes. I have been interested in trying a shorter stem/wider bar combo - ride a 5"trail bike w/Pike, all-mountainy stuff I guess. I am 5' 10", about average build. Had been running a 120mm stem, then 100mm stem with 27' wide Easton low rise bar. Looked at some 28" bars, finally said screw it and bought the 31.5" wide Gravity light bar - 25mm rise. Threw on a 70mm stem with it and went riding. I feel about the same as far as how upright I am, but obviously my arms feel really wide. First ride felt weird, but adjusted to it quite well, and noticed a few good things - it really seemed to open me up as far as breathing - maybe just my head, but I like it. The big difference for me is the control on technical, rocky downhills - I definitely feel like I am in more control of the front wheel, especially when things are rocky and it's easy to get off course. It doesn't necessarily make me faster downhill, but makes me more confident trying different obstacles/trails. It seems to me that unless one rides in heavily forested areas with skinny trails where width is a concern, mountain bikers (as opposed to roadies) would be better off with short stems and wider bars. Climbing does not seem to have changed, with the exception of the breathing thing. I am not convinced I'll keep it at full width, but I really doubt I will cut it down more than 1-1.5". Would be interested in reading others experiences with some of these really wide bars.
    I once corrected DW about a bicycle related topic.

  2. #2
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    Well I was going to post a similar thread soon but I guess you beat me to the punch.
    I have a Deity Dirty Thirty and a 65mm stem coming my way. You might not feel the difference as I will feel it (due to the length of the stem you replaced) but did reducing 30mm on your stem length make any noticeable difference??

    I'm reducing stem length from 80mm to 65 BTW
    The Easton bar I've got installed is a 26inch EA50, i'll be adding 4 inches to the bar width - it's adjustable anyways...-

  3. #3
    Founder: Dirty3hirties
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    I think during the course of my mtn biking "career", I started out with a 130 stem, 0 degree rise and a 24" flat bar. Ugh...just thinking of that makes me quesy.

    Steadily moved shorter (120, 110, 100, currently 90), but not more than about a 10 degree rise. Flat bar moved to a 26" flat....to a 25" 1/2 in. riser, then a 25.5" 1 inch riser, now to a 28 in. 1 1/4 in. rise.

    Been on the last combo for about 1 year now but I'm seriously thinking of going to a 70 or 60 mm stem.....same bar though. I don't need anything wider than a 28.

    I would never ever go back to a narrower bar or longer stem. The benefits on the descents far outweigh any "negatives". I also agree about the sensation of better breathing.....may be psychological though. I also think the wider bar enhances climbing through technical and steep terrain because you can really pull on the bars to get that extra "umph" on the uphills. The wheel never wanders either.

  4. #4
    Flying Goat
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    i really love the short stems... 50mm stems feel amazing in the techy stuff and it's a lot easier to lean into a corner and counter steer if needed. Also, the widebars makes you keep things nice and low naturally because it keeps your elbows bent... That could be the reason why you feel more comfortable in the downhills. That and wider bars feel less twitchy...

  5. #5
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    i'm currently using thomson x4 OS 50mm 0 rise, with NS Habanero bars 70mm rise 28", just ordered some burgtecs ridewide 50mm 29.5", will report back, always loved shorter stems though.
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  6. #6
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    Yeah agree'd short stems are the way to go unless you need to extend your reach but that would indicate incorrect frame size! More and more people are buying slightly longer frames and running 50 or less mm stems, really makes sense. The WCDH boys dont run short stems for fun, they really do make steering super sharp. Only downside is you dont get quite as much weight over the front wheel when climbing but to be honest i dont find it a problem. Really like wide bars too although i havent tried anything wider than my easton monkeylite DH's as i love carbon bars, takes out all the trail buzzzzzz.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by derekr
    Yeah agree'd short stems are the way to go unless you need to extend your reach but that would indicate incorrect frame size! More and more people are buying slightly longer frames and running 50 or less mm stems, really makes sense. The WCDH boys dont run short stems for fun, they really do make steering super sharp. Only downside is you dont get quite as much weight over the front wheel when climbing but to be honest i dont find it a problem. Really like wide bars too although i havent tried anything wider than my easton monkeylite DH's as i love carbon bars, takes out all the trail buzzzzzz.
    Disagree on the carbon bars though. I can't rely on carbon (I snapped a 120 dollar bar once) but that's just me.

  8. #8
    catskillclimber
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    same here

    I just picked up an 09 Reign 2 about a week ago and had the stem switched form a 90mm to a 70mm and ordered a new bar also. The bar that came on the bike was a 25 inch RaceFace Ride. Seemed way too narrow for this bikes purpose. Sort of surprised Giant speced it on the Reign. I thought I would leave it alone and avoid changing things on the new bike but the narrow bar was driving me crazy after only one ride, being used to a 27 inch bar so I ordered a new one. I'll never go back to a 25 inch bar or xc length stem because it just doesn't seem comfortable to me anymore.

  9. #9
    from 0 - sideways 3.2 sec
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    Get easton lifetime warranty

  10. #10
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    See, and I had the opposite experience after purchasing my trance. Sure it was more comfortable on steep technical dh's or riding slow through a technical section. I think that was mostly because of the upright position.

    Breathing differences? Nah.. roadies used to say the same thing about aero-bars, but actual testing proved that being narrow didn't inhibit the riders breathing. I watched all the top road climbers in the world go up crazy steep roads at fast speed holding their road bars next the the stem and pulling their chests toward the bar like crazy.

    When I wasn't on a the above type sections, which probably accounts for 80+% of my riding, I felt cramped and slow. Going up hills or hammering in tight single track through the trees my knees and elbows were in each others way, and the wide bars didn't always fit well between the brush and trees.

    Plus, my hands always bother me when riding (I tend to do longish rides w/o stoping). Ergon GX1's and bar ends (small ritchey wcs) to allow hand position changes help a lot. Bar ends on wide bars are awkward to say the least.

    My compromise was a medium 110mm stem with 25" bars.

  11. #11
    George Dickel
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    Carbon bars aren't for me simply because I am afraid I will nick it or otherwise cause a catastrophic failure - maybe not totally realistic but I will still stick with AL. For the weight weenies, these wide bars are heavy - my Easton EA70 27" were about 268 grams, the 31.5" grav lights are a whopping 410 grams. I don't care - heck, I run a coil shock and 900 gram tires. Having done a couple of long, non technical rides on the wider bar, I can say they are more comfortable for me - no numbness in the hands at all. Of course that is gonna be personal preference. I have a set of ergons I use on my singlespeed, but I don't think they would work as well as a round grip on bars this wide - no real experience, just my $.02. Even for guys that aren't gonna run real wide bars, I would suggest trying a shorter stem - the 70mm stem even with 27" bars was just fine for uphill and better for downhill than my 100mm stem.
    I once corrected DW about a bicycle related topic.

  12. #12
    Praise Bob
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    Dont go extreme either way

    I found that there is a balance in there. I rode with a 50mm stem on my bike and it was terrible all the way around. The cockpit was so cramped that my knees hit my elbows on tight technical switchbacks. Steering was twitchy and cornering sucked because I couldnt weight the front tire.

    I moved to a 70mm stem and it was a little better. I finally settled on a Thomson x4 90mm stem and 28" wide 1.5"riser bars. that combo made such a huge difference that it is hard to believe. I feel very neutral between the seat and bars and have enough leverage with the bars to sling the bike through the twistys. Another important thing to note is not just the bar width, but the sweep. The raceface and easton DH bars have a nice rise, and a few degrees of backsweep that relieves the pressure on my wrists that I had with previous bars.

  13. #13
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    Has any body noticed that a shorter stem and wide bar combo works better with a slacker head angle???

    For example if I run a 140mm travel fork(Fox 32) on my Blur LT2 a 90mm stem feels right to me. When I run a 160mm travel fork (Fox36) with a 75mm stem it seems to feel more natural. That also takes in consideration the bar height as I use a 0 degree 75mm stem and a 6 degree 90mm stem. I also swap a couple of spacers to get pretty much the same bar height.

    I also notice that a wider bar feels better at the slacker head angle. Anyone Know why???
    Last edited by other aardvark; 11-07-2008 at 05:52 PM. Reason: Stem length, bar width and head angle interplay???

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by other aardvark
    Has any body noticed that a shorter stem and wide bar combo works better with a slacker head angle???

    For example if I run a 140mm travel fork(Fox 32) on my Blur LT2 a 90mm stem feels right to me. When I run a 160mm travel fork (Fox36) with a 75mm stem it seems to feel more natural. That also takes in consideration the bar height as I use a 0 degree 75mm stem and a 6 degree 90mm stem. I also swap a couple of spacers to get pretty much the same bar height.

    I also notice that a wider bar feels better at the slacker head angle. Anyone Know why???
    Shorter stem speeds up the handling, compensating for the slower handling slacker angle.

    You steer more with your body with a slacker head angle as well, the wider bar is a natural complement to that.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by perioeci
    Shorter stem speeds up the handling, compensating for the slower handling slacker angle.

    You steer more with your body with a slacker head angle as well, the wider bar is a natural complement to that.
    Exactly. That's why DH riders use the shortest possible stems ( even direct mounts) and cross country racers tend to use longer stems. Or why roadies use long stems as well.
    Also it's because of your stem's rise angle. You're compensating the 20mm worth of travel by keeping about the same bar height and reaction speed, by changing your stem length and rise angle.

  16. #16
    Anytime. Anywhere.
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    This discussion begs the question, what is a mountain bike's purpose? Well the began by hauling clunkers up in trucks and coasting down and then added lower gears to eliminate the need for shuttles. So, in the beginning it was all about going down hill. I propose that if there were no downhill portions of trails mountain biking would have never happened. I still recall my first ride and the instant rush I felt on that first downward slope. I was instantly hooked and am still addicted to that feeling 21 years later. Yes, hills must be climbed, and I love tight twisty, single-track through the woods but gravity is always in play even if ever so slightly.

    I began as so many others back in the eighties with a long stem and narrow bars because that's how my bike came from the shop. I rode with a long 120-135mm stem and narrow flat bars for years and with this came the white knuckle descents and the inevitable trips over the bars. After 10 years I sceptically tried a wider riser bar and found that my climbing ability did not suffer. A move to Halifax Nova Scotia and its incredible rocky rooty and steep terrain forced a move to a stubby 90mm stem and the confidence level increased proportionately to decrease in length. A few years ago I went on a club trip for a week of DH at Panorama BC and made a few changes to my 5" bike to increase my survivability. One of the changes was a 50mm stem which enabled me to tackle trails so steep that my butt rubbed the rear tire and my chest contacted the saddle. This led to the purchase of a 6" bike which was much more down hill worthy and I installed the 50mm stem with a 28" bar. Mind you the 6" bike has a top tube that is .4" or 10mm longer than my normal length. I was vastly improved in my down hill capabilities and had an amazing time at the next summers Panorama gathering. That winter had me travelling South to Moab, Hurricane (Gooseberry etc), and Bootleg Canyon. The 6" bike was my choice for the trip and I brought 2 wheelsets and the 50 and a 70mm stem so I could transform the bike to suit the days intended trail. On my first big ride of the trip I went up Amasa Back and because the main intent was to enjoy the ride down I kept the 50mm stem. I was taken by surprise at how well the bike climbed this ledgy trail. Moab was cut short by snow so we headed SW to Hurricane where I was sure we could enjoy the trails without the snow that we had travelled South to escape. I was enjoying the 50mm stem, but the trails I had been riding had many short and steep ups and downs and none of the long flowy single-track where I felt that a longer stem would prevail. It came time to enjoy the JEM, Gould’s, Hurricane Rim loop which I would describe as classic single-track. I continued with my stubby experiment and found that my joy and speed was similar to previous trips with a more xc machine. This 6" bike was equipped with a TALAS 36 and I found that the 130mm travel setting steepened the bikes angle to those of my 5" bike and I did this for extended climbs and some flat portions. This did quicken the steering and put my centre of gravity forward in a more climbing friendly attitude.

    Now my 5" bike and my XC hardtail both sport 70mm stems and if they had longer top tubes I would install 50mm stem on them. I can climb as steep a pitch with the 70mm as I could before with 90 or 100mm but the overall ability of the bikes to manuver tight trails and descend steep hills is vastly improved. If I ever buy another XC or trail bike it will have a longer top tube, short stem and wide handlebar. In my opinion using a longer stem to get proper reach has no place in mountainbiking. It is a holdover from road bike fit and the two are not compatible in this regard.
    I got some bad ideas in my head.

  17. #17
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    60mm stem 0 rise plus 29 1/2 bars 17mm rise with a 65 degree HT. Its pretty fun.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Travis Bickle
    Now my 5" bike and my XC hardtail both sport 70mm stems and if they had longer top tubes I would install 50mm stem on them. I can climb as steep a pitch with the 70mm as I could before with 90 or 100mm but the overall ability of the bikes to manuver tight trails and descend steep hills is vastly improved. If I ever buy another XC or trail bike it will have a longer top tube, short stem and wide handlebar. In my opinion using a longer stem to get proper reach has no place in mountainbiking. It is a holdover from road bike fit and the two are not compatible in this regard.
    I met a guy the other day who before he even said hello he blurted out "your bike is to big for you!!!" The funny thing is that he was riding a very old Cannonade with a very short top tube and a whopping 120mm (at least) stem. I have always been on the cusp between medium and large frames but in the last few years I have purchased 2 large bikes and through trial and error I have learned that the short stem, wide bar and long-ish top tube thing works great for most riding.

    I have met a few old school riders out on the trails and they all seem to share a stubborn disposition and ride 10~15 year old high-end steeds. I guess they think that if they dropped a bundle of cash on a bike way back then, it must be the best bike, always...

    PS Im not having a go at people that love riding their old bikes, just people that despite overwhelming evidence that modern mtbs are brilliant to ride they still think old school is always best. I have been riding mtbs for twenty years and, in my opinion, bikes are faster, lighter, cheeper and stronger than ever before.
    Last edited by other aardvark; 11-08-2008 at 12:29 AM.

  19. #19
    TLL
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    Quote Originally Posted by other aardvark
    Has any body noticed that a shorter stem and wide bar combo works better with a slacker head angle???
    Yup. I run a 50mm stem and wide bar with a 160mm fork. I think my HTA is 68 degrees, which is perfect.

    Tho I have run the same bar/stem combo on an XC bike and it felt pretty good.

    Doubt I'll ever run anything longer than 50mm from here on in.
    Hadley rear hub service here and here.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by other aardvark
    I met a guy the other day who before he even said hello he blurted out "your bike is to big for you!!!" The funny thing is that he was riding a very old Cannonade with a very short top tube and a whopping 120mm (at least) stem. I have always been on the cusp between medium and large frames but in the last few years I have purchased 2 large bikes and through trial and error I have learned that the short stem, wide bar and long-ish top tube thing works great for most riding.

    I have met a few old school riders out on the trails and they all seem to share a stubborn disposition and ride 10~15 year old high-end steeds. I guess they think that if they dropped a bundle of cash on a bike way back then, it must be the best bike, always...

    PS Im not having a go at people that love riding their old bikes, just people that despite overwhelming evidence that modern mtbs are brilliant to ride they still think old school is always best. I have been riding mtbs for twenty years and, in my opinion, bikes are faster, lighter, cheeper and stronger than ever before.
    I still see an old school rider with 130mm stem going down the steeps here and I cringe... when his nochos are roasting on the back tire and he's loses control of the front end it's so light. I can just cruise down almost centered on my bike! I suggested he should drop his seat post for this descent and I got the dumbfounded look .

    I'm happy with a 70mm stem and 685mm bars for the trails.

  21. #21
    tiggs
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    After reading threads similar to this one and some on Lee McCormack's website (leelikesbikes.com), I decided to make the switch from my 90mm 10deg rise X4 stem to a 50mm 0deg rise X4 stem. This is on my Yeti 575 with a 36 Float. It's the new frame, which has a longer top tube than previous versions. After riding it for a while, I felt that I was stretched out a bit and couldn't move around the cockpit as much as I preferred. Wow! What a difference! My bike handles even better than it did before, which is saying something. On technical terrain it's such a huge difference. I can weight and unweight the front wheel easier than ever and I can move throughout the cockpit with ease. Much to my surprise, my climbing was only minimally affected. It is slightly harder to climb extreme steeps like those on Slickrock, but changing my body position compensated for that. After a month or so, I switched from my 27inch wide easton bar to a 28inch wide sunline v-one bar. The rise on the two is very similar. I like the wide bars as much as the short stem! For my style of riding, this combo just makes sense.

  22. #22
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    I went from a 110mm stem, 24.5" wide bar to a 90mm stem and 27" wide bar. I'm liking the bar width, but I want an even shorter stem. I'll be purchasing a 50-60mm stem in the near future to try out. I'm sure it will feel right on one of my bikes at least.

  23. #23
    Dirt Deviant
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    I like my Sunline V-one AM stem in 65mm with the sunline V-two bar in 2" rise. I would have gotten the V-one bar but I believe it only comes in a 30mm rise. Not enough for my tastes.
    Look, whatever happens, don't fight the mountain.

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