How Does A Shorter Stem Affect Bike Handling

Author: Alex Bristol

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How does a shorter stem affect bike handling?

Even before you install or buy a new stem, the first thing you need to consider is the length. This is because the stem not only affect the bike’s fit but it also determines the bike handling capabilities. In this article, we shall explain how a short stem may affect the bike handling.

How does a short stem affect the performance of a mountain bike?

One of the major reasons why you should use a shorter stem on your mountain bike is because it boosts the handling capabilities of the bike. It provides a quick and more responsive feel as compared to when you are using a long stem. On the other hand, a longer stem shifts the body weight to the front of the bike and this gives you a better pedaling position especially when climbing.

The length of the stem also affects the handlebar reach. Reach is determined by measuring the distance between the head tube centre and the imaginary vertical line which is drawn across the bottom bracket. If you feel too stretched when holding the handlebars, it means that you need to adjust the size of the stem. Neck pains, back pains and shoulder pains may also be an indication that you are using the wrong stem size.

How to make your bike comfortable

If you are searching for a perfect way to makes your bike more comfortable, you can reverse the bike stem. Doing this will raise the handlebars to a more comfortable position. You will find that most handlebars are angled for two heights which means that they can easily be flipped.

Stem rise

This refers to the position where the handlebars are located relative to the stem. The stem rise is usually measures as an angle which means that it is measured in degrees. Most of the stems have a rise of 0 to 6 degrees. The zero rise means that the stem doesn’t raise the handlebars while a 6 degrees raises the handlebars higher than the stem.

The best way to adjust the height of the handlebar is by using spacers.

Tips on how to select the correct bike stem size

Practice with different stem lengths- If you are still not sure about the correct length of your bike stem, it is good to try different stems before you pick the best. You can start with a 10mm shorter or longer depending on whether you want to reduce or extend the handlebars reach. Most of the bike stores have extra stems so you can request them to lend you one.

Weight distribution- The length of the stem may determine the maximum weight capacity that can be supported by the front wheel. Longer stems allow more weight to be pushed forward on the bars. As a result, longer stems are the best for stability and speed. However, they have a lower response feel.

Steering- Bike steering is usually determined by the trail and head angel. Shorter stems steer more which enables them to provide immediate response. On the other hand, longer stems provide lower handling which makes it hard to steer. However, they provide the required stability when cycling at a high speed.


The stem is one of the most important parts that determine the comfort of your bike. Failing to choose the correct size means that you are likely to experience problems like lower back pain when cycling. With this guide, we hope that you are now able to make the right decision on the correct length of bike stem you should consider.

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