Stem length: going shorter from 90mm.... 80mm or 70mm?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    New question here. Stem length: going shorter from 90mm.... 80mm or 70mm?

    I've got a 90mm / 10deg stem (thomson x4)... love the stem, reach is good, and stability is good... however was thinking of easing my position reaward just a bit... So thinking of trying a slightly shorter stem (and move seat rearward about same amount)... I want to experiment if it will help traction slightly on climbs (especially when out of saddle) and maybe make hitting rock gardens and logs a bit easier (less prone to endo if you are further back is what i'm thinking)

    So I was thinking either an 80mm / 0deg or 70mm / 0deg... (Thomson doesn't make 10deg stems <90... but that's fine, i've got flexibility with my stem spaces for height adjustment)...

    Would 80mm be a noticeable from 90mm? or should i just try 70mm since i'd notice that more? I'm just not sure if 20mm is considered a drastic length change or not, and/or if 10mm would even be noticeable... from both a feel standpoint and steering quickness standpoint... (also I wouldn't want to unload the front too much to compromise front tire cornering grip and/or front wheel lift on seated climbs)...


    thnx

  2. #2
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    You'll never know if it's for you without trying, but here is what happenned with me:

    The one thing I would say is to remember to actually move your riding position back as opposed to only having your hand position moved rearward. It doesn't just happen from using a shorter stem and if you don't make a conscious decesion to move your whole position rearward, it makes you prone to go OTB if you're not careful. I didn't actually go OTB, but had some close calls before I adjusted consistently.

  3. #3
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    I don't think there is any reason to get an 80mm, it's just not that much different, try a 70mm, and you might even like a 50mm, I rock one and climb easily enough on it... Also, If you really pedal you bike your saddle position should be based on creating the optimal relationship between your ass/knees and the bottom bracket for efficient pedaling, and nothing else. That dosn't mean you shouldn't do it, it will actually give you more power, but won't spin as well. In any event I always thinks its best to change one thing at a time, you might like sitting more upright... and the true benifit of the shorter stem will only come out when you're off the saddle anyways.

  4. #4
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    Currently I too have a 90mm stem on my pedally bike, but in order to just simply have more fun on it, and to really be able to use the 160mm travel setting on my fork, I think I am going to move down to something like a 65mm stem. I'm about 6', my bike has a fairly long toptube (24 point something...) and while 90mm is rideable, useable and all that... I don't really go above 130mm up front and it can feel a little bit awkward doing drops and hitting jumps. Longer stems can slow down the steering... so in order to compensate for a more raked out head angle (slower steering), the shorter stem is my choice. That way I can run longer travel up front for the steep stuff, I will be in a better position to handle the steep stuff, and on skinnies and such, the handling won't feel weird and "floppy".

  5. #5
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    I went from 90 to 60 and found it was too much...upped to 70mm and that is a very happy compromise. The beauty of it is you can try and if it doesnt work out, sell it.

  6. #6
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    I am also running a 90mm / 10deg Thomson x4 on my medium Heckler and find it perfect for the general trail riding I do. Stretched out just enough for stability on the singletrack yet I can still lift the wheel if needed for jumps, drops and other obstacles. For the heck of it I tried a 70mm stem for a few rides and it just totally ruined the precise handling I had with the 90mm. I am sure if I gave it more time I would get use to it but really saw no advantage with the 70mm for the riding I am currently doing so I switched back to the 90mm. I may put the 70mm back on temporarily for some lift assisted downhill runs I plan to do later this year. Bottom line you just have to test the different stems for yourself and choose which is best for you and the type of riding you do.

  7. #7
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    Here's a diagram of what the different stems you are looking at will do to your bar position.

    stem length.jpg


    You'll see that the 80/0 has almost no difference from 90/10 in front/back location. I just picked an arbitrary headtube angle. A different angle will yield different stem/bar positions.

  8. #8
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    very helpful diagram! thnx Bubba!

    if i went with 0deg, i'd likely raise them 10-15mm to get the height back compared to the 10deg.... but that certainly gives a good visual...


    cheers

  9. #9
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    80mm is the sweet spot.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by dogonfr
    80mm is the sweet spot.
    for everyone?
    don't you mean Blitz II? (assuming you are just spouting out stuff...)

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    I have done the same thing

    I have been happy with a 90x6deg WCS Ritchey. And for the same reason felt compelled to go shorter. Went with a 70x25 Hope thought I might as well get some height at the same time. In the end it descended with more confidence at the expense of less control everywhere else particularly climbing, you now have to consciously weight the front while climbing. Fwiw I have an almost new as in two rides a Hope stem 70x25 and very light they claim I think 160 grams for sale. Going back to my ritchey, see in my case its a Giant Trance X with 5" at each end perhaps if I had more travel this experiment would work better.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by CharacterZero
    for everyone?
    don't you mean Blitz II? (assuming you are just spouting out stuff...)
    I run a 50mm on the Blitz II, for everything else I find the 80mm works great.
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  13. #13
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    The diagram clearly illustrates why short stems & riser bars go together so well. Although it is a bit misleasing - why is the 90mm stem the only with 10deg rise?

    I went from 100 to 90, to 75 to 60 to 40 before finally settling on a 50mm stem (for 22" ETT). The 50mm stem I have has a 15deg rise, and I've also found one of my bikes feels better with a 2" riser bar (that's the STP), whilst the other bike feels fine with a 1" to 1.5" riser (giant alias).

    There is no real way of knowing, I'd tend to say, go for a 70mm because there is a bigger differece and a more noticeable change. But then some people settle on 80, some go for less. Just try to find a cheap stem first up until you find the best length for you.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by ducktape
    The diagram clearly illustrates why short stems & riser bars go together so well. Although it is a bit misleasing - why is the 90mm stem the only with 10deg rise?
    Because that's what the OP said he has currently, and the 80mm0 and the 70mm0 is what he is looking at buying.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by ducktape
    Although it is a bit misleasing - why is the 90mm stem the only with 10deg rise?
    Thomson only makes the 90mm and above in 10deg rise (also 0deg). The 80, 70 and 50mm stems from Thomson are 0deg only. But that's not a big deal since I have flexibility up and down with my current stem spacers.

    (reason I'm sticking with Thomson, is a) I like their product, nice and solid, and b) I find it a great match to my easton monkey like xc carbon bars (50mm rise) - a 4-bolt clamp is a must IMO for carbon bars)


    peace

  16. #16
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    I ordered a 70mm / 0deg Thomson X4. Will know soon which I prefer.

    After doing some more reading in the AM board on stem length, etc, I think I'll like it. (this post in particular made a lot of sense, especially the post by "drewactual" down towards the bottom... http://forums.mtbr.com/showthread.php?t=311026)

    If I don't move my seat back, or move it less than the 20mm difference, I'll also be able to hang off the back of the seat better for descents/drops.

    I know some say (like on the leesbikes.com site) to go higher when you go shorter. But the way I view it, I'd like to maybe have my arms a bit less stretched while retaining my current back angle. So picture holding the back angle constant, and pivoting your arms down. As the arms rotate down (from the 90/10 to the 70/0), they also move towards you. I plan to put the 70/0 at 10mm higher than what I have my 90/10 set to. So if I end up with the 70/0 at 5-10mm lowever overall, while being about 15mm closer, I should be fine.

    As I was riding yesterday, I was trying to be conscious of how the 90mm felt and how a 70mm *might* feel. While the steering response should become quicker from 90 to 70, I think it will end up being a bit more stable, since the 90mm, having more leverage, is also more sensitive to small side-to-side force inputs. The 70mm requiring about 22% more force might actually more stable. Will soon find out...


    Thanks for all the input



    cheers

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by MI_canuck
    I've got a 90mm / 10deg stem (thomson x4)... love the stem, reach is good, and stability is good... however was thinking of easing my position reaward just a bit... So thinking of trying a slightly shorter stem (and move seat rearward about same amount)... I want to experiment if it will help traction slightly on climbs (especially when out of saddle) and maybe make hitting rock gardens and logs a bit easier (less prone to endo if you are further back is what i'm thinking)

    So I was thinking either an 80mm / 0deg or 70mm / 0deg... (Thomson doesn't make 10deg stems <90... but that's fine, i've got flexibility with my stem spaces for height adjustment)...

    Would 80mm be a noticeable from 90mm? or should i just try 70mm since i'd notice that more? I'm just not sure if 20mm is considered a drastic length change or not, and/or if 10mm would even be noticeable... from both a feel standpoint and steering quickness standpoint... (also I wouldn't want to unload the front too much to compromise front tire cornering grip and/or front wheel lift on seated climbs)...


    thnx
    I would go with 20mm difference. It is enough that you will notice it, but not too drastic. If you like it but it is just too much, then go to 10mm, but if you start with 10 you may not feel what it is doing differently, though when it comes to really fine tuning, 10mm is does make a slight difference.

    Keep in mind that if you current position feels good, then as you shorten the each, you probably want to raise the bars a little as well. Just going to a shorter stem with the angle will actually lower the bar slightly.

  18. #18
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    i went from a 90 deg 10. one to a 50 deg 10 one ... and also from a riser bar, to a flat bar that is 1 inch shorter ... (my seat was already as far back as possible on the rails, so got a seatpost with a larger offset and moved it back just a little more) ...

    i have noticed a huge difference, not as much weight on my front fork now ... less i lean forward ... and overall it feels more stable to me ...

    but its like the 'what saddle is the best' question ... you just have to experiment to find what works for you.

  19. #19
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    also making a change

    this has been an interesting thread for me, but I'm going TO a 90/10 set up. I had been running a 110/10 on my AM, mainly for the long climbs. But I want to improve my jumping and descending so 90/10 seems like a good compromise, going with the "20 mm to feel it" minimum. I'm also going to superwide 745mm V-1 handlebars which will have way more width but half the rise than my current bars. So I'll think I'll raise the stem position which I can do since my new Thomson X4 has less stack height than the old one.

    Should have offered to buy the OP's X4 as that new one set me back serious coin. Hope I like it!

  20. #20
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    Shortening the stem and adjusting to the new steering position is fine but I'm not so sure about pulling the saddle back to compensate. Especially with full sussers. It just makes the bike that bit more sluggish on the climb or straights. By compensating with a heavier settings, then your shocks may become too harsh overall.

    Happened to me, hence I work on the the hand positions and riding style....floating and pumping the bike.

    Riding a motolite small, stem changes as follows:
    110mm 5 degree thomson Lo-rise 665mm x 1/2" bar, 3 cm spacer stack to
    90mm 5 degree thomson Mid rise 685mm bar x 1.5", 3cm spacer stack to
    70mm 10 degree RF DIabolus(same mid rise bar), 5mm spacer stack to

    65mm 0 degree Sunline V1 AM stem (same bar), 15 mm spacers stack.
    Just finished a full day ride on this....Perfect (for me)

    Remember to adjust fork settings after changing stems. Lots of people complain that after going shorter and or higher rise, the front of the bike just won't stay planted on the steep climbs. Compare your sag before and after stem change, should be pretty evident what needs to be adjusted..

  21. #21
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    i had a opposite problem, i was loosing rear traction, and was shortening stem length, it had no effect other than the feeling that my cockpit was i little bit cramped, it did however feel better in the air and descents. i am now adding a inch of length and swapping the flats for a set of lo-rise.

  22. #22
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    That must be something mental - if anything you should get MORE rear wheel traction with a shorter stem.
    Mainly because your weight is a little further back - less over the front and more over the rear... resulting in less fork sag, and more rear shock sag.
    Should give you more traction.


    You really ought to re-set both front and rear shocks when you change it.

  23. #23
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    nope, it was the tire, not the stem at all.so i put it between, i went from 90 to 45 to 70.

  24. #24
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    If it was the tyre that was giving you poor traction - why did you change the stem?

    Something sounds wierd to me - if a tyre doesnt give enough traction, you change it...

    Changing the stem to one which will put LESS weight onto the tyre wont give you more traction, it will give you less.

    That said, weight distribution isn't a main deciding factor in what length you choose - steering speed and cockpit feel are far more important.

  25. #25
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    Last edited by blahwtf?; 07-26-2008 at 10:25 AM. Reason: double post by accident.

  26. #26
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    its a HT, and my front is good,

    i changed the stem because it felt too long to begin with, i am on a sml. frame, and went from 90 to 45 and now my 70 is being shipped, with the 45, i changed the tire back to a heavier but agressiver pattern and it performed much better, this being said, it was the difference between a fast roller and a knobby, i am going to put something inbetween on next.

  27. #27
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    Ml_Canuck - adding spacers to the bottom of the stem stack will also slightly move the position back - the more relaxed your head angle, the more the position will move back... Gives you a little to play with there too!
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    try zip tying a pipe/ old set of bars to your stem and existing bars (wooden spacers near the grips will help stability) to give you an idea of how a shorter / taller stem/bar combo will feel,,,, ok you wont be doing any DH with this set up but a GENTLE spin around the block will give you a better idea of how it feels + you should still be able to reach the brakes,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, it worked for me

  29. #29
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    Got the 70mm/0deg Thomson today... installed it (raised it 10mm vs the 90/10 - so bar height ends up about even) and took a spin around the block... so far so good - even a 20mm length change is subtle but noticeable, in comparison to the 90/10 i feel just a touch less stretched out... feels more "balanced" when launching over curbs and doing bunny hops... plus just that much easier to hang back behind the saddle (amazing what a few mm can do)...

    And the steering feels a bit crisper, a bit more direct (obviously expected, but what i mean is it's not too direct or fast which I thought might happen - but it turns out it's just right.... i think the extra quickness is balanced out by the slight increase in effort)

    The real test will be when i hit my normal trails (and hit log piles, drops and rock gardens), but i think i will like it...


    cheers




    Last edited by LCW; 08-01-2008 at 07:01 AM.

  30. #30
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    Thanks, good thread. I am struggling with this very issue on my new RFX build. My first Trail/AM bike. Been riding XC's and I'm glad to say i'm DONE with those. Currently have 90/7 and am thinking that I need to go shorter.

    The hard part for me is I'm a roadie too and would never go to 70 or even join a discussion about 45 on a roadie. 85 is pretty radical for those things.

    I had 130 on my XC and went to 110 then to 90 after a bad crash, so I started at 90 on the RFX and think that's too long.

    Another thing I am struggling with is how many spacers to put under the stem. I have a fork tube that is pretty tall and can be cut down so I am still experimenting there. Seems so far that the spacer height is similar to roadies, ie, don't go much over 1 inch and probably half that is a good spacer height above the headset. Any thoughts?

  31. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by EricofAZ
    Another thing I am struggling with is how many spacers to put under the stem. I have a fork tube that is pretty tall and can be cut down so I am still experimenting there. Seems so far that the spacer height is similar to roadies, ie, don't go much over 1 inch and probably half that is a good spacer height above the headset. Any thoughts?
    The measurement of spacers under the stem has to do with getting the bars to the right height for you. I would look at where you wan the bars in relation to the saddle and go from there. That could mean no spacers or over an inch of them. Granted, if you have an inch and a half of spacers you could just go with a higher rise stem or bar, but there is nothing wrong with it.

    EDIT: To further address the question, keep in mind that you will probably want the bars a little higher in relation to the saddle than you did with the xc bike. Part of the reason for this is that the longer travel fork will dive more than the xc fork did.

  32. #32
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    EricofAZ - like kapusta said, spacers is just something you'll have to experiment... Trial and error. You could probably start with the bars even with the seat, or even bars 1" higher than seat and ride... then adjust as necessary... You might want to buy combinations of spacers to allow you to fine tune... that's what i did... and i ended up with the 20mm beneath, and a 5mm above... but i had tried 10mm below, and a 10+5 on top, then a 10+5 on the bottom, 10 on top, and so on...

    I've got 50mm rise bars (Easton hi-rise) and love the height (and the width - 685mm/27")... I can tackle rock gardends and log piles with more confidence, and the beauty of a higher bar position is it's makes standing up for those rocks gardens and log piles very easy and comfortable (ie. not hunched over too much if I stand), not to mention feeling at ease on gnarly descents and going over drops, as well as being easy to get behind the saddle... As for climbing, just need to adjust my weight forward just a bit, not a problem, but it's a fine line between front wheel lift and rear tire spin...

    My setup ended up being the top of the grips being about 2.5" higher than the top of my saddle... might seem extreme compared to others - and XC - (although for AM, higher bars seems to be more common), but all personal preference (and also body geometry ie. arm length vs torso length vs leg length, etc)... i tried the bars about 1" higher than the seat and it gave me the feeling that I'd go over the bars on rougher terrain... Very happy with my current setup... Super comfy, and not too much pressure on the hands, yet confidence inspiring on the rough stuff...

    there's no set rules... try different settings and see what works best for you and your riding style, as well as being comfortable and stable...


    cheers

  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bubba74
    Here's a diagram of what the different stems you are looking at will do to your bar position.

    http://forums.mtbr.com/attachment.ph...0&d=1216653456


    You'll see that the 80/0 has almost no difference from 90/10 in front/back location. I just picked an arbitrary headtube angle. A different angle will yield different stem/bar positions.

    Maybe I am seeing things wrong, but I just want to point out that 90mm forms the hypotenuse of that right triangle, and there is no way that the large leg is greater than 90mm (3.54"). Putting on a 3.54" stem is not going to increase the reach by 6 7/8"!

  34. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by MI_canuck
    Got the 70mm/0deg Thomson today... installed it (raised it 10mm vs the 90/10 - so bar height ends up about even) and took a spin around the block... so far so good - even a 20mm length change is subtle but noticeable, in comparison to the 90/10 i feel just a touch less stretched out... feels more "balanced" when launching over curbs and doing bunny hops... plus just that much easier to hang back behind the saddle (amazing what a few mm can do)...

    And the steering feels a bit crisper, a bit more direct (obviously expected, but what i mean is it's not too direct or fast which I thought might happen - but it turns out it's just right.... i think the extra quickness is balanced out by the slight increase in effort)

    The real test will be when i hit my normal trails (and hit log piles, drops and rock gardens), but i think i will like it...


    cheers




    I have a dumb question. I just installed one of these on my Surly Big Dummy, and I noticed how that cut-away in the stem exposes my bare fork tube. What's the normal tactic here to keep the elements off that exposed fork? Just smear that spot with grease after the stem's installed?

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by mangoman
    I have a dumb question. I just installed one of these on my Surly Big Dummy, and I noticed how that cut-away in the stem exposes my bare fork tube. What's the normal tactic here to keep the elements off that exposed fork? Just smear that spot with grease after the stem's installed?
    It's ano so it doesn't matter... and even if it weren't it shouldn't matter.
    "It looks flexy"

  36. #36
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    I was referring to the exposed steel of the fork's steerer tube.

  37. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by mangoman
    I was referring to the exposed steel of the fork's steerer tube.
    What gticlay said.

    Steer tubes are usually made of aluminum lower end models steel, if it steel you can add a little color if you must.

    Thats allot os spacers there.
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  38. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by CharacterZero
    I went from 90 to 60 and found it was too much...upped to 70mm and that is a very happy compromise. The beauty of it is you can try and if it doesnt work out, sell it.
    Ahh i do this with every component! It's like once you've dropped the money once, you can try any component in that price range, all you gotta do is pay shipping and eBay fees. Or nothing if you go craigslist. I never thought i'd bite the bullet and get a Fox fork, but once i did, i went through 5 of them in just over a year. lol couldn't figure out which one i liked best! i ended up sticking with an 08' TALAS 36

  39. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bubba74 View Post
    Here's a diagram of what the different stems you are looking at will do to your bar position.

    stem length.jpg


    You'll see that the 80/0 has almost no difference from 90/10 in front/back location. I just picked an arbitrary headtube angle. A different angle will yield different stem/bar positions.
    That diagram is freaking awesome. Some genius programmer should crank out a web app that can compare a few different options like that!

  40. #40
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    The thing Ive learned about stem length is, if youre running short stems to match wide bars, you better start with a longish top tube.

    I've went down to a 70mm stem on a properly size bike 22 inch TT frame, and I got plagued with a sore lower back. Had to run at least a 90.

    When I bought a new bike, I bought a 23.2 TT frame, and I can run a 70 and 50 with no physical problems.

    This doesnt matter if you dont ride for more than 2 hours. To heck with standover

  41. #41
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    This thread is offically a zombie
    It came back after being dead for 3 years

  42. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by WarBoom View Post
    This thread is offically a zombie
    It came back after being dead for 3 years
    No such thing when you consider "SEARCH".

  43. #43
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    Knees down hill and switch backs

    Stem length will effect a lot of other riding areas
    A high stem will relieve some lower back pain.
    Hight is comfort and preference.

    Short stems allow you to really get behind your seat.
    Shorter stems will respond faster to input
    Down hollers sue short stems 50mm or less
    Too short and the front tire will feel a little light and wander on climbs
    Way too short and your knee will prevent some tight turns.

    Long stems are great for tall guys
    The put more weight on the front tire
    Good for climbing
    Slows response times to user input. Less twitchy
    Too long could affect decents - getting weight far enough back
    Too long in tight areas may wear you out more and be too slow.

    In general start with your sag, seat height and position.
    Then get a stem you feel comfortable with.
    A real short person or down hiller may opt for a 50mm Thompson.
    An average person might go for a 70-90mm.
    A tall person may go well beyond 100mm
    Hight is comfort
    Length get one you feel centers your weight over the bottom bracket.
    Make sure it is short enough you can behind your seat
    Long enough your front end doesn't wander.

  44. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by debodawg View Post
    A real short person or down hiller may opt for a 50mm Thompson.
    An average person might go for a 70-90mm.
    A tall person may go well beyond 100mm
    Wait, what? Are you just assuming they are all using the exact same bike? How else could you possibly say this without any consideration taken to the size or geometry of the frame, or the proportion or riding style of the respective person?

  45. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by StreamRider View Post
    That diagram is freaking awesome.

    I'm a CAD nerd and an engineer

  46. #46
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    I went to a 70mm from a 90mm stem on my GT and I have hand and finger numbness when riding. I have been on 5 rides and am changing back to the 90mm. If it ain't broke.....

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