Pros and cons of a shorter stem


I’m reading your section on doing wheelies – very helpful. I saw the note about going to shorter stem to aid in doing wheelies.
I have a 100mm stem. Is there a downside to going to shorter stem?



Hey Rick,

The upside of a shorter stem
A shorter stem aids overall handling. 1) It’s easier to maintain a neutral, athletic attack position. 2) The bars have less “sway” as they turn. 3) It’s easier to get back on your bike for steep drop-ins, hard braking and general ripping.

The downside of a shorter stem
It’s a bit harder to get into your ideal climbing position. If you sit with your arms straight, your torso will be very upright, and you will lose power (especially of you’re used to pedaling with a lower torso).

While you can learn to pedal in the barstool position, you’ll be more powerful immediately if you bend your arms and rotate your hips and spine forward to your 100mm-stem position.

This takes some practice and strength, but once you rip with a shorter stem you won’t go back.

Enduro with 50mm stem. Just as Doctor Sloan intended.

Stumpjumper with 90mm stem. This works fine, but: My arms are much straighter. Part of this reach is the steeper landing. The rest is the longer stem. If the landing was way steeper, I would run out of arm range, and I would get pitched forward.

Recent experiments with a longer stem
All summer I’ve been riding a 2008 Stumpjumper Pro Carbon with the stock 90mm stem. I’ve been using 50mm stems on all of my bikes for more than five years. About the 90mm stem:

1) The bike is more comfortable on long rides. I can keep my arms straight and just cruise. Whoever spec’ed that bike (Brandon Sloan!) knew how to fit a 5-9 rider on a medium bike.

2) It’s a bit harder to get the front end up, and it’s a bit sketchier on really steep terrain, but it works just fine. This bike rips.

Five years ago, a shorter stem would have helped me tremendously. Now that I [mostly] know how to ride, the stock setup works very well.

Suggestion: Get a cheap 70-80mm stem and see how that feels.

For the sake of science, I will try a 50mm stem on the Stumpy and tell y’all how it goes. I know the handling will be awesome. The question is, how will it feel on the long climbs?

— Lee

Read these:

Stem length/rise for a trail bike

Riding wheelies

How to manual – again

6 replies
  1. Vito says:

    Hi Lee, what about cornering?

    Isn’t a longer stem better for cornering since it puts more weight forward? I noticed I can corner my 100mm long stem commuter bike easier than my 60 and 75 mm stem mtbikes. Other than that, I like shorter stems better and I’ve experienced exactly what you wrote

  2. jeff says:

    Hi Lee,

    Whatever happened to bar ends? In a lot of ways, they sure make sense for climbing, and providing more riding positions for the long haul.

    Have you ever run a short stem with bar end combo? Am I stuck in the past? Or is this idea 2 years ahead of the game?

    All the best,


  3. leelikesbikes says:

    Shorts stems + bars ends = the best of both worlds.

    Just ask Greg Herbold.

    I stopped using bar end partially because I wanted the full width of the bar for my hands. Now that bars are running 29-20 inches, there’s plenty of room for everything!

  4. leelikesbikes says:

    BIG TIME !!!!

    Does anyone remember, back in the day, for dual slalom … everyone had bar ends, and they raced one bike for everything … people would make a PVC guard from bar end to bar end, and just bash that through the gates … ?

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