Changing the Stem
Depending on your body type and riding style, you may ride better with a
replacement stem. The stem is the metal part that connects the steering
mechanism to the handlebars. There are two variables: the length of the stem,
and the angle that it rises away from the steering tube.
How the stem affects your riding:
The photos in this section assume that you're riding a real mountain bike
with a newer threadless headset. But the same principles apply to stems in threaded
|| A long stem means that you move your
hands and arms more as you steer. The handlebar moves laterally in
the direction of the turn (towards the side), as well as twisting further in a front-to-back
direction. This throws more of your body into the turn. A longer stem allows you
to put more weight on your front end. This makes it easier to fight your way
up ledges, uphill switchbacks, and brutal steeps.
|A short stem steers with less arm and body motion. This can make the bike
feel a bit unstable to some bikers. A short stem lets you get back further over
the rear of the bike during spooky downhills, because the handlebars are closer
to the back end. But also, because it doesn't take as much arm motion to
steer, you can hang back more when it comes time to TURN the bike while
||A riser stem angles upward, putting the handlebars higher. Bikers with long
bodies, but not overly long arms, will find a riser stem more comfortable for
maintaining balance. It can also be easier on the back. A riser stem makes it
easier to get back during steep downhills. It may be harder to throw your weight
onto the handlebars during a climbing maneuver with a riser stem, because as the
bike tilts up, you lose the forward leverage that a flat stem gives you, and the
handlebars are a bit higher in relation to your chest. For a given length of
stem, a riser makes the stem behave like a shorter one during steering.
Summary: Long and flat = advantage uphill, "body" steering. Short
and high = advantage downhill, "twisting" steering. For more
information on selecting a stem (and how it affects the "fit" of your
bike), see our page on fitting the bike to your body.
Placing a new stem:
[Fix-it Index Page]