1. The most important thing about buying a new bike is to make sure it fits. The only way you'll know if the bike is right for you is to size up the bike and make sure that the bike's geometry matches your body's geometry. Ask questions and do some research.
mtn. biking 101
2. If possible, try to find a shop that will let you demo the bike on real dirt. Five minutes in a parking lot won't cut it. You wouldn't buy a car without a real world test drive, and a bike should be no different.
3. Don't belive the hype. Just because your favorite rider or best friend rides a certain bike, that doesn't mean that's the best one for you. Have an open mind and be realistic about your needs and ability.
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  1. #1
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    Should I shorten my stem?

    Hi guys, new around here so sorry if this is the wrong section for this. I got into mountain biking last fall and I'm loving it. Bought a Airborne Guardian this spring and it was a huge upgrade from my 10 year old might as well have been rigid Diamondback.

    Anyways, as I get more comfortable and more into the sport I'm noticing more things that I would have just ignored before. The most recent one was on a ride yesterday where I realized my arms are pretty much straight when I'm seated. Doing entirely xc riding here in flat southern Wisconsin and last night was a laid back group ride so lots of seated riding. I've also noticed that my back wheel seems to skid when braking at times when I'm not going that fast or on that steep of a hill.

    So I'm wondering if a shorter stem might help me have more bend in my arms (assuming they should be bent when seated?) and get my weight back a little bit. My current stem appears to be 100mm measured center to center, Airborne site says +\- 7 degrees. Or would a different handlebar be the solution? Trees get pretty tight on some of these trails so a wider bar scares me, but maybe a riser or something with more sweep?

    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! And sorry for the long post with a simple question...

  2. #2
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    On my Airborne bike (Zeppelin Elite) I shortened up my cockpit because of the same thing. My arms were too stretched out straight, I was putting a lot of weight on the handlebars (I could feel it on my wrists), and I could feel some discomfort on my knees when climbing.

    I ended up switching from a 90mm stem to a 40mm Truvativ Hussefelt stem, and a zero setback FSA Gravity 350MM Seatpost.

    I ride mostly singletrack trails and fire access roads. For me it made a huge difference. YMMV
    Last edited by blundar; 05-29-2013 at 12:10 PM.

  3. #3
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    Damn 40mm stem on a XC bike? Thats wild.

    OP the steep hill issue is a climbing position error. Or you are in too easy of a gear.

    I started with a 690/105mm stem, I run a 700mm bar/90mm stem now and love it. I have really long arms so real short stems doesn't work for me.

    I have a 725/80 setup on the way. Don't want to go to much shorter or wider on the bike I'm on. Decided I try this after liking a 60/760 setup on a FS trail bike but that's too descent oriented for most my riding. It's cheap to try go for it. You can always swap with friends.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by _Alberto_ View Post
    OP the steep hill issue is a climbing position error. Or you are in too easy of a gear.
    I'm talking about descending, but maybe I'm still just relying on my rear brake too much.

    Sounds like you are usually going shorter stem and wider bar at the same time which I have seen mentioned a few places to maintain a similar feeling of control, but I'm afraid if I widen my bar then I still will have stretched arms even with a shorter stem, right?

    Only guy I ride with regularly has a long stem too

  5. #5
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    Your lbs should have a box of used stems to try out. Go 80 or 70. If you put on a riser bar you can also rotate it back a little.

  6. #6
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    I was not implying that you should switch to a 40mm stem and a zero setback seatpost. You don't have to go to the extreme that I did. I have a long torso with short legs and arms, so for me it was the right thing to do.

    If your arms are too straight, then you should install a shorter stem to adjust your cockpit for proper fit. If you feel some discomfort on your knees while climbing, then you should get a zero setback seatpost.
    Last edited by blundar; 05-29-2013 at 12:09 PM.

  7. #7
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    Also depends on your style/conditioning and how upright you ride.

  8. #8
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    Grab a cheap 80mm stem and see how you like it. Stems are cheap and easy to replace.

  9. #9
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    Your rear brake skidding is probably because you are grabbing a hand-full of rear brake with your predominant hand (I am assuming that you are right handed) so most of your braking power is going to the rear. With any bike, most of the braking capability is actually on your front (left hand brake lever). Some folks say it is actually close to 70% front and 30% back. So the majority of your braking should be with your left hand. A big part of mountain biking is that you are riding on dirt, so keep your braking smooth (skidding is not good).

    You are probably worried about endo-ing (going end-over your handlebar) while heavy braking down hill. For steep down hills you should be getting your butt past the rear of your seat, and dipping your heals down on the pedals (especially heavy braking down steep downhills). If your cockpit geometry does not let you do this because your arms are too stretched out straight, then you need to make some adjustments.

    Everyone is built differently. I have long torso and short legs and arms. For me I need a zero setback seat post and a short stem. I actually also have a 2" riser bar with a tall set of spacers under it for my best possible fit. The average rider does not need this kind of extreme set-up. If you have long arms and legs, you would probably go the opposite direction.

    I noticed that your bike has a setback seat post. If your arms are too stretched out straight, try adjusting your seat all the way forward on the rails to see how that feels (basically closer to a zero setback). Maybe the bike geometry is a tiny bit over-sized for you. Try some steep climbs with this seat position. If it feels good with no discomfort on your knees at all, then you are OK.

    If your arms are still too stretched out, then try out some shorter stems. They are cheap and easy to replace. 100mm is a long stem that is usually only used for +6'0" tall riders. Most average height riders use closer to 80mm - 60mm (assuming the MTB bike frame is properly sized to you).

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