120 or 130mm stem on a XC racing bike?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    120 or 130mm stem on a XC racing bike?

    Anyone still running a fairly long stem in the 120 -130 range?

    I am really thinking of getting a size L specialized Epic this year but I'm pretty sure most people my height would no doubt get an XL. I am 6'3'' with a 88 or 89cm (34.6 to 35inches) inseam (measured with the Fit Kit Inseam tool). FWIW the specialized frame sizing guide for the Epic size L says rider heights 5'10-6'3''.

    I was thinking back to old bikes I had and remembered the 21'' Salsa Ala Carte from I think 2004 (bright orange) and how I rode so well on that and it has a 610mm effective TT and I think I was running a 120mm stem on that. This years L epic has a 620mm effective TT.

  2. #2
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    how wide were the bars on your previous bikes? what width bars do you plan to ride? contemporary theory is wider bars + shorter stem works well. YMMV.

    if you feel fairly certain that one of those two stem lengths will work for you, buy two cheap stems in those lengths and try them both. you can probably get long stems CHEAP from a shop or bike co-op because they are very out-of-style.

  3. #3
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    Try a wide bar(700mm+) and a 90mm stem....you'll LIKE IT just as much!
    "This is a male-dominated forum... there will be lots of Testosterone sword-shaming here" ~ Kenfucius

  4. #4
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    I'm 6 feet tall and ride a Large Epic comfortably with a 90mm stem. At 6'3" I think you are correct that you would need a pretty long stem on a Large frame. If I was 6'3" I would definitely test ride an XL frame before buying.

    Lately the trend has been to produce frames with longer top tubes and equip them with shorter stems. I guess the idea is to provide the same fit but increase the front center for better descending.

  5. #5
    There's always next year.
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    I'm 6'3" as well, and have a 2013 Epic. I'm personally on an XL, and for my riding style, I wouldn't want anything smaller. In fact, if I could, I think I'd stretch the top tube more and run a shorter stem. The bike started with the stock 105mm stem, and has been been replaced twice with shorter ones (down to 90 now).

    I've got stems in the 100mm + range in my parts bin that will never again be used I'm sure. I've been riding since I was a teen, and remember installing a Kore 150mm 0 stem on my first bike with their narrow bars, and am loving the progression of wide bars and short stems.

    Just my 2 cents!

  6. #6
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    I still run a long stem. 120mm, -10 degree drop. I can't stand the wide bar setup. Changes the steering input too much, and the bars are harder to navigate through narrow forest trails. Feels too much like a MX bike.
    My current bars are 640mm, and I couldn't see ever going wider that that.

  7. #7
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    120 or 130mm stem on a XC racing bike?

    580mm, bar ends, flat bar, long negative rise stem. Bar height is about level with the saddle. I don't get this short, high, and wide cockpit thing.

  8. #8
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    Wide bars, long frame, short stem works better. Wider bars just put your hands in a stronger position,much more stable. Short stems let you weight the front wheel better.

  9. #9
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    120 or 130mm stem on a XC racing bike?

    Quote Originally Posted by someoldfart View Post
    Wide bars, long frame, short stem works better. Wider bars just put your hands in a stronger position,much more stable. Short stems let you weight the front wheel better.
    Try doing push-ups with your arm out that wide. It isn't comfortable nor efficient. The stem should be as long as necessary to give you a proper riding position so your arms are taking some of the load instead of your bum. Short stem, high handlebar puts too much weight towards the back of the bike. (OK, I agree you can go with a short stem if the top tube is proportionately longer to compensate, but most bikes come with ridiculously short stems and the top tubes don't look that long.) Climbing steep grades while seated tends to lift the front wheel off the ground. Emulating BMXers and downhill racers when you are cross country riding is just wrong. Bar ends aid greatly in climbing and give you another hand position to keep your hands, wrists, etc from going numb. Yet riders don't use them these days. Just my $.02. I don't follow fashion trends. I don't set my bike up just for going downhill.

  10. #10
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    120 or 130mm stem on a XC racing bike?

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeDee View Post
    Try doing push-ups with your arm out that wide. It isn't comfortable nor efficient. The stem should be as long as necessary to give you a proper riding position so your arms are taking some of the load instead of your bum. Short stem, high handlebar puts too much weight towards the back of the bike. (OK, I agree you can go with a short stem if the top tube is proportionately longer to compensate, but most bikes come with ridiculously short stems and the top tubes don't look that long.) Climbing steep grades while seated tends to lift the front wheel off the ground. Emulating BMXers and downhill racers when you are cross country riding is just wrong. Bar ends aid greatly in climbing and give you another hand position to keep your hands, wrists, etc from going numb. Yet riders don't use them these days. Just my $.02. I don't follow fashion trends. I don't set my bike up just for going downhill.
    And yet, World Cup XCO racers are going wider and shorter, with bars and stems, respectively.

    The only top-30 guy running bar ends is old man Hermida.


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  11. #11
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    120 or 130mm stem on a XC racing bike?

    Quote Originally Posted by Le Duke View Post
    And yet, World Cup XCO racers are going wider and shorter, with bars and stems, respectively.

    The only top-30 guy running bar ends is old man Hermida.


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    Bravo for him. I was a holdout not riding bar ends back in the day. I tried them out and was sold. I bet most riders haven't even tried them. Why did it take so long for 29" wheels to become dominant? I could care less what the pros ride. Most of us aren't pros anyway.

  12. #12
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    Short and wide also makes sense for xc riding, not only dh. My XC HT came with 100mm stem and 620mm bars. Something felt off from the start, even though frame size was correct. Stem changed to 80mm, then 40 (that was way too short) and finaly settled for 60, -6 degrees. Bars from 620width/25mm rise to 700/40 and finaly 750/15.

    Wider, shorter and, just as important, lower has worked wonders for me for all round xc riding. Cornering and control on the rough stuff is where most of the advantages are. I also do a lot of climbing, including some sections steep and loose enough that I'd be better off walking. It's a challenge for my legs and lungs, but the cockpit doesn't hold me back one bit. In fact, the stability from the wide stance is very welcome in such situations. Needless to say that descending I have way more confidence and high speed stability than before, which is nice on 26" XC aluminum hardtail.

    I've never ridden with bar ends. I get why the extra hand positions may be usefull on long rides and steep climbs, but they seem dangerous for narrow trails with lots of trees, branches etc. If I ever get a road bike though, it will probably be of the flat bar variety and I'll give bar ends a try.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeDee View Post
    Try doing push-ups with your arm out that wide. It isn't comfortable nor efficient.
    How wide are your shoulders? Optimal push up position is a good way to look at proper bar width as you bring up...but not many people are comfortable more narrow than 720mm....750 is more comfortable and efficient for most. Try it. It sounds like you didn't try out your own example unless you have super narrow shoulders and a very small frame. If you like narrow bars with ends and a super long stem, good for you, keep riding it. My uncle likes his '66 Vettte, but a 2015 Camry or most family sedans built today destroy it performance wise! So most people have moved on......and from narrow bars and long stems too. narrow/long with ends is not the best set up though for most people in any discipline, including XC....and I promise all of those WC racers have tried narrow with bar ends...and decided it's not as good.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by someoldfart View Post
    Wide bars, long frame, short stem works better. Wider bars just put your hands in a stronger position,much more stable. Short stems let you weight the front wheel better.
    Tell me how moving your weight back put's more weight on the front tire please.

  15. #15
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    120 or 130mm stem on a XC racing bike?

    Quote Originally Posted by Fred Smedley View Post
    Tell me how moving your weight back put's more weight on the front tire please.
    My short stem and wide bars puts me in the same position as a long stem/narrow bars.

    Same back angle; my hands are simply closer but further apart.

    Allows me to drive the front wheel "into" the ground.


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  16. #16
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    I can't believe there is still debate about this.
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  17. #17
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    Fred it's not about getting weight on the front tire but keeping the weight ahead of the rear. A longer top tube lets a rider run a shorter stem for better handling and similar climbing. You don't run a short stem to be more upright for descending, you run a short stem to keep the weight behind the front contact patch yet still be able to weight the front end for better traction. Certainly using a short stem on a short TT frame will not be optimal. Personally I have gone for top tubes of about 23" 585 mm and I am only 5'4". lets me run a 60 stem whereas the next size down is usually 21.5" and then I need at least an 80 if not 100 mm stem. It's the body position of a long cockpit that keeps the front end down. Not a long stem.

  18. #18
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    Running wide bars just never feels comfortable to me. I feel that my hands are too far away from the bike for good control. I feel that bars from the old days (24") were too narrow, but I can't go with the MX bike setup for my XC bike. It is good to have more choices nowadays. I remember adding wooden dowels into the ends of my bars to make them wider than 24", but going over 28" seems too much for me.

  19. #19
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    Well, there's always a point of diminishing returns. There can be too wide or too short where handling or ergonomics start to suffer. If you experiment enough to reach that point, then you will find what's the best compromise for you. Often, it's worth trying as the results may be different than expected.

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