Measuring stem length

I was wondering if you could share with us the method of measuring stem length, and is this method shared by all manufacturers.

I am thinking of possibly stretching out the cockpit just slightly on my Giant STP, and was thinking maybe a slightly longer stem and possibly just a tad more rise in the bars. The stock stem measures in center to center at roughly 2cm or 20mm (I think thats right). I do not want to sacrifice too much of the responsiveness of the steering though as its great as is, its like auto pilot.
Thanks, Corbin

Hey Corbin,

– Measure your stem from the center of your steerer tube to the center of the top of your handlebar. Center to center is standard, just like with frame tubes.

– Your stock stem is probably about 50mm (5 cm). It looks like you’re confusing your inches with your centimeters. The Metric Conversion Act of 1975 was supposed to get all Americans on the metric system, but we were apparently too dumb for that. The metric system kicks butt for calculations, and that’s why scientists and engineers rock the millimeters and meters and grams and kilograms and such.

– If the bike handles like it’s on “auto pilot,” why do you want to lengthen the stem? If it works, don’t mess with it.

– If you install a longer stem, be careful with taller bars. While a short stem and tall bars works well, a long stem and tall bars often does not.

Also read:

Stem and bars — long and low or short and high

Stem length-rise for trail bike

And so you can act smart … The metric system in the United States

Rip it!

— Lee

12 replies
  1. leelikesbikes says:


    I would love to rock some sensible products.

    – Complete pump track bike.

    – Tires. Dude. I have some tire ideas!

    – Lee Likes Bikes workout kit. Hmm … a heavy rock and a pair of shoes? Sorry James!

    – Stickers, t-shirts, jerseys … This one goes to 11!

  2. el_scorcho says:

    Lee – Your products should be all black. Black is like death, and death sells. It’s like “how much more black could Lee’s products be?” and the answer is “none. none more black.”

  3. leelikesbikes says:


    Awesome Spinal Tap reference. If I had all-black stickers, I’d send you one.

    — — —

    Ian: I frankly think that this is the turning point. I think this is…we’re on our way now.
    Nigel: I agree, I agree …
    Ian: It’s time, time to kick arse!

  4. Corbin says:

    Duh! My measurement was way off…It’s more like 4.5cm or 45mm. I measured in the dark. Rethinking it all I may just try new bars with a little more rise and width, stock bars are 25″. I could then roll them forward a bit maybe giving the feeling of a little more room without loosing the responsive steering. It is like auto pilot, you can do some serious knee draggin’ on this bike, GP style.

    I personally would like to see the content of your books Lee in video/DVD format along with the other offerings. As for the heavy rock workout, 5 gallon buckets progressively filled with sand work really well on the cheap.

  5. Corbin says:

    Thanks Chris. I have actually already pushed the saddle back on the rails so far and it helped a lot. I use this bike for pretty much everything and anything except really long XC treks. I am going to still consider bars with more rise but I’ll wait a little before I pull the trigger. As far as the saddle, it has got to go anyway, you really feel it in about 30 minutes or so. Not sure what to change it out with though.

    I totally love this site. You get straight answers from experience and get to bypass the bickering of all those forum sites.

    Lee, You rock for all you do!

    Thanks to all,


  6. leelikesbikes says:

    Thanks Corbin. And thanks again Chris — always the voice of reason.

    Corbin, BTW: 25″ bars are pretty narrow. Unless you’re a little guy, you’ll appreciate something wider.

    WTB and Specialized make some narrow yet comfy saddles.

  7. Chris says:

    On Monday I rode 2.5 hours on a WTB Rocket V, without knicks, in comfort. It was also the narrowest saddle in the shop (it replaced a too-wide-for-me WTB Devo). That’s on my Reign.

    On my STP I run a big fat jump saddle but it is so low it never gets in the road. Seat post is chopped.

  8. Chris says:

    Lee, I recently put a bigger fork on my bike, 5″ to a 6.5″ fork. Would Shortening the stem from a 75mm to a 5omm make the bike just a little more Brapppable? or should i just leave it be?

  9. leelikesbikes says:

    The new fork moved your bars up and back. A shorter stem will magnify that effect. You should probably leave it be, at least for a while.

    Get used to new fork + old stem, then go from there.

    Can of worms!

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