Top Load or Front Load box stem

Author: Alex Bristol

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Top Load or Front Load box stem

One of the major questions that disturb BMX riders is the type of stem they should consider. When determining the best stem for your bmx, you will have to choose between top loads or front load box stems. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Below are some of their notable differences.

What is the difference between top load and front load box stems?

The major difference between the top load and front load stems is that they have different stack heights. Top loads contain a higher stack height. This means that you can easily increase the height of your bars. In front load stems, the bars usually mount at the front of the stem while on the other hand the bars mount on the top of the stem on top load stems. As a result, the bars are usually higher.

Front loaded stems – During their installation, you will have to remove the front plate so that you can install the bars. The horizontal bolts should clamp the bars on the stem. One of the major problem you might experience when using these stems is that the bolts takes all the impact when landing while on the top load stems, the impact is taken by the metal blocks.

Top load stems –  Unlike the front-loaded stems, here you remove the top plate when installing the bars.  There are vertical bolts that usually hold the bars on the stem. Due to this arrangement, their bars are normally higher than the frontload stems.

Irrespective of your choice, here are some of the most important things you should check before buying a BMX stem

  1. Position – This is the most important factor that will determine whether you should look for a top load or a front load BMX stem. If you love riding when the bars are high, you will need to go for a top load stem. However, if you love using low bars, a front load stem will be the best.
  2. Reach – When using a longer stem, it will create more leverage at the front since it increases the distance between middle of the bar and the fork. Again, a longer stem will cause the bike to be a bit sluggish especially when turning or spinning. This may be a big issue to beginners.
  3. Aesthetic and design– There might not be a notable difference between the two in terms of color. However, you should check the available colors before buying to ensure that you have picked the best. However, you should not pick a BMX stem just because it is attractive. You need to check the materials used to ensure that it is strong enough.


Most people purchase BMX stems by just checking the aesthetics and color even without considering how the stem will influence the geometry of the bike. Understanding the difference between the two types of BMX stems is very important if you want a stem that will provide a great performance. What you need to know is that none is better than the other because it all depends on where you want the bars to be located.  When it comes to replacing  your new stem, it is always a wise idea to ensure you have the right equipment on hand to remove your old BMX stem and replace it with your new one. We’ve put together a guide on how to remove your old BMX stem.



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