Bike fit: shorter stem and higher bars?

Here’s a common theme, but a helpful one.

Hi Lee;

I ride a Gary Fisher HiFi that I am happy with, but I am rather challenged when descending some of the rather steep, short, slippery sections of the trails we ride up here in B.C. (I’m not talking anything like the picture on Page 22 of MMBS, but it feels steep to me)

Recently, a friend who rides a Nomad, suggested that shifting to a shorter stem (say 50mm) and raising it as well, might be helpful. (shortly after I got the bike I went from a 110 to 90mm stem)

He noticed that even though I do a reasonable job of getting my weight out behind the saddle on the steep bits, I’m really stretched out. (more XC than Trail bike I think he said)

Just wondering what your thoughts would be on something like this?

I was kind of thinking that psychologically it might give me a boost as I seem to be in a bit of a negative feedback loop at the moment where I tense up when approaching the drops and tend to brake at the top of the steep bits which compresses the fork etc., etc. you know the drill 😉 Keeping low certainly helps but it is challenging to steer and go down steep bits at the same time I’m finding.

Ultimately some coaching is in the works just not right now.

Cheers Greg

Hey Greg,

You are right on.

A shorter/higher bar position will help you maintain balance on the steep descents. A good rider can still rip with a long/low position, but it’s harder.

I was just talking with Lopes for MMBSii, and you’ll find this interesting:

He has five (5!) Ibis Mojo frames, each with a different build: downhill, slopestyle, super D, cross country and slalom. They all have identical 65 mm stems and 27 inch bars. He tried a longer stem on his XC bike, but he hated it on the descents (Laguna beach is steep) and went back to his standard 65 mm.

BTW: He says he climbs just as well with a short stem as with a long one.

If I were you, I’d buy or borrow some cheap stems and run some tests. 50 mm will make a tremendous difference; you might zero in at 60-70 mm.

Bike setup braaap,

— Lee

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