Stem length/rise for a trail bike

Hey Lee,

I love the book — every time I ride, I pick out something to work on and try to nail it. But I’m curious…

I want to try a shorter/higher stem to improve my descending and (small) drops. The book says to try 40-70mm and 10-15 degree rise for this purpose. My bike (a large Stumpjumper FSR) came with a 105mm, 8 degree stem. Since I live in NorCal and still have to be able climb for hours after this swap, I went to a shop to look for a 70mm, 15 degree stem. The shop told me I was crazy — they said that was a huge change and I’d regret it. I wound up buying a 90mm, 10 degree stem, which they swear will be perfect for me.

So are those figures you quoted for a freeride bike or something? How short and high can you go on a trailbike without ruining the all-purpose handling? Or should I go tell the shop Lee and I respectfully disagree with their advice?

Thanks Lee… keep it coming…


Hey man.

Thanks re: the book. Sounds like you’re using it as intended.

Oh baby: Infographic nerdism — only at

But your stem … It sounds like the guys at the local shop are still drinking the old roadie Kool Aid. True: A 70/15 would be different. It would descend WAY better, but it would require you to change your climbing form. Over the years I’ve gone shorter and shorter — 150, 120, 110, 100, 90, 70 and now 50mm on all of my bikes (P.3, SX, Stumpjumper, Enduro and Demo). The way I see it, a shorter stem will always give you better handling and descending, and you can adjust your climbing style to get up the hills just fine.

HERE IT IS: For climbing, the position of your hands is NOT important. What’s *really* important: The relationships between your feet, hips, spine and shoulders. Straight arms or bent — it matters not!

Compared to stock, the 70/15 would have moved your bar 35mm closer and 9mm lower. The 90/10 moves your bar 15mm closer and 4mm lower. That isn’t much of a difference — if you want to try something new, make it a real test! Get a cheap stem and try the magic.


— Lee

PS: You can still rock bar ends with a super-short stem. It’s best of all worlds — just ask Greg Herbold.

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