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Thread: why are MTB stems so short?

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    Default Re: why are MTB stems so short?

    Stems have a huge effect on handling feel. I recently tried moving from a 40mm stem to a 50mm on my xl sentinel. The extra cockpit room was nice but the negative effect on front wheel control was very noticeable so I went back. On my more xc hardtail (still long and slack) I have a 70mm stem to prioritize peddling for over handling but it is a trade off.
    I have a though experiment on creating a front linkage like a mini longjohn that would allow long front centers with steep head angles for less flop and maintaining trail through offset. I think the resulting handling would be fun to try.

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    Default Re: why are MTB stems so short?

    I get what everyone is saying- And I do agree that a longer tt, shorter stem and wider bars makes a bike easier to handle and provide better stability downhill.
    But this is not without issues. I have found that more riders are reach/drop challenged than not. A lot of the newer bikes are a total screw for riders of this ilk. And not many good alternatives exist.

    For me- I still like my bikes to fit. When they fit best, they handle best.

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    Default Re: why are MTB stems so short?

    Quote Originally Posted by chasea View Post
    I prefer to think of the short stem/ wide bars less a fit thing and more of a handling thing. I also prefer to keep stem length and fork rake close. So I put people who prefer wide bars and modern bikes with 37mm (27.5" bikes) to 44mm rake (29ers) on 40 or 50mm stems. "Fit" is addressed through reach which means getting them on the right frame.
    This, in a nutshell. And, "fit" isn't nearly as critical on a trail bike as it is on a road bike (or XC bike). So little riding time is spent seated and gripping the bars in a static position that traditional "fit" paradigms don't apply. Short stems handle better on steep, rugged trails - it really is as simple as that.
    Best Regards,

    Jason Curtis
    FoCo, CO

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    Default Re: why are MTB stems so short?

    Quote Originally Posted by boots2000 View Post
    I get what everyone is saying- And I do agree that a longer tt, shorter stem and wider bars makes a bike easier to handle and provide better stability downhill.
    But this is not without issues. I have found that more riders are reach/drop challenged than not. A lot of the newer bikes are a total screw for riders of this ilk. And not many good alternatives exist.

    For me- I still like my bikes to fit. When they fit best, they handle best.
    I'm not following this. Reach/drop challenged as in they physically can't get a lot of saddle to bar drop and you think they should, or the bikes today aren't built to be set up with a lot of saddle to bar drop? And in what way don't good alternative exist? What's lacking in the market?
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    Default Re: why are MTB stems so short?

    Scattered thoughts:

    There's been a seismic shift in mountain bike geo since the dropper seat post. I can't wait for the next few years so I can stop referring to "modern mountain bike geometry." This modern geo came about to address needs of up/down riding with a good amount of elevation gained and lost. And while you're gonna spend 25 minutes up a climb for a 3 minute descent, a little bit front wheel wander/ loss of some nimbleness in the tights is the price you're going to pay for knowing the bike has your back for the part of your ride when the stakes for a fall are much higher. And that's 101. That's even if you're not really handling the thing.

    To dive in a bit more, you don't even ride these "modern" bikes the same way. You don't get back. You get low. (make that a mantra) Getting back was for the days when you had to get behind a seat stuck up in the air and away from steep head angle that was prone to tipping forward with a too-short wheelbase. Older bikes took you for a ride on steeps, and you held on and hoped for a long straight runout. "Modern" bikes need to be pushed around. If you don't handle the bike, if you don't drive the front wheel, they're going to wash and you're going to wind up on the ground. Even with a similar saddle-to-bar length. Even on flat corners. You're going to take a dirt nap. Or you're going to blow a catch berm on steeps and keep rolling right down the fall line. "Modern" bikes aren't any harder to handle, they're just slightly different. But you have to learn to ride them. If you've been riding mountain bikes and switch to a newer geo you have to retrain your instincts. You have to relearn where your weight goes. You have to push them around, muscle them a bit. You're not going to make the switch and get the hang of it in a day or two.

    I do a parking lot suspension set up with every new bike sale. This includes setting a riders sag, rebound, and maybe some compression settings. This is all based on how I know them to ride or how they say they'd like to ride that new bike. After setting sag I ask the rider to pump the bike to start setting rebound damping. I'm looking for someone to burst with the feet and hips/ hands and shoulders equally and equally blow through most of their front and rear travel. You can see right away if someone is going to handle a bike.

    When I hear a customer complain about how a bike handles, how a front wheel wanders on climbs, how it doesn't corner, I don't argue with them. I can't, they're the customer. I say "understand what you're feeling." I try to verbalize as I have here how you have to learn to ride these bikes. I spent over a month questioning if I'd bought a dud before I was (incrementally, mind you) able to trust the front wheel. And then a lightbulb went off. And then it was game on.

    If you're stuck in your ways then you're stuck with old bikes. If it's the new geo and not you then it's just not the bike for you.

    So, yeah, short stems.
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    Default Re: why are MTB stems so short?

    What I mean is that many of the new bikes are too long and low for the riders who want to ride them.
    And you can't alter the reach and height of the bars enough because they are designed to work for riders who are not reach and drop challenged- Already with a very short stem.
    So a guy or girl who needs a shorter reach and/or drop cannot easily get this. A shorter stem on a bike with a really long reach only does so much. Go to a smaller bike and the stack is even lower.

    I actually think bike geometry will swing back a bit- Still with slacker head angles, but with a bit less toptube length, slacker seat angles and longer head tubes.
    The bike industry always swings back- and then calls it something new.

    Quote Originally Posted by chasea View Post
    I'm not following this. Reach/drop challenged as in they physically can't get a lot of saddle to bar drop and you think they should, or the bikes today aren't built to be set up with a lot of saddle to bar drop? And in what way don't good alternative exist? What's lacking in the market?

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    Default Re: why are MTB stems so short?

    Quote Originally Posted by boots2000 View Post
    What I mean is that many of the new bikes are too long and low for the riders who want to ride them.
    And you can't alter the reach and height of the bars enough because they are designed to work for riders who are not reach and drop challenged- Already with a very short stem.
    So a guy or girl who needs a shorter reach and/or drop cannot easily get this. A shorter stem on a bike with a really long reach only does so much. Go to a smaller bike and the stack is even lower.

    I actually think bike geometry will swing back a bit- Still with slacker head angles, but with a bit less toptube length, slacker seat angles and longer head tubes.
    The bike industry always swings back- and then calls it something new.
    Spacers under the stem add to the stack and shorten the reach, as do riser bars.

    We will see stack measurements increase in the coming years, but only as reach continue to increase and seat angles continue to steepen.
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    Default Re: why are MTB stems so short?

    To an extent spacers and riser bars will help- but they don't make a bike with 8-10cm of drop into a bike where the bars are level with the saddle.
    I don't need my bars that high, but I know plenty who do.

    Quote Originally Posted by chasea View Post
    Spacers under the stem add to the stack and shorten the reach, as do riser bars.

    We will see stack measurements increase in the coming years, but only as reach continue to increase and seat angles continue to steepen.

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    Default Re: why are MTB stems so short?

    Quote Originally Posted by boots2000 View Post
    To an extent spacers and riser bars will help- but they don't make a bike with 8-10cm of drop into a bike where the bars are level with the saddle.
    I don't need my bars that high, but I know plenty who do.
    The only bike I can think of with too-low stack on my shop floor is the Fuse. I think that bike is a big miss.

    What bikes are you talking about?
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    Default Re: why are MTB stems so short?

    Trek Top Fuel for one- But many bikes are within abut 1cm of same stack as a top fuel. It is a 120mm bike.

    Quote Originally Posted by chasea View Post
    The only bike I can think of with too-low stack on my shop floor is the Fuse. I think that bike is a big miss.

    What bikes are you talking about?

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    Default Re: why are MTB stems so short?

    That's a race bike made for the negative-rise stem crowd.
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    Default Re: why are MTB stems so short?

    Oh good, the latest top fuel has exactly the same geo as my Fuel EX from 2016 because well you have to re-invent the wheel. So what was a trail bike in 2016 is now an XC bike.

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    Default Re: why are MTB stems so short?

    Quote Originally Posted by boots2000 View Post
    I get what everyone is saying- And I do agree that a longer tt, shorter stem and wider bars makes a bike easier to handle and provide better stability downhill.
    But this is not without issues. I have found that more riders are reach/drop challenged than not. A lot of the newer bikes are a total screw for riders of this ilk. And not many good alternatives exist.

    For me- I still like my bikes to fit. When they fit best, they handle best.
    I am not sure what you are saying. If the reach is too long these rider simply chose the wrong size and need to size down.
    Last edited by sk_tle; 08-05-2020 at 03:34 AM.
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    Default Re: why are MTB stems so short?

    Quote Originally Posted by boots2000 View Post
    To an extent spacers and riser bars will help- but they don't make a bike with 8-10cm of drop into a bike where the bars are level with the saddle.
    I don't need my bars that high, but I know plenty who do.
    I would say there is more challenge in MTB getting the handlebar low thant the opposite. Many XC racers have to resort to special stems and removing the headset cap for example. On my trail bike I like my handlebar higher than I used when racing xc and marathon and had no trouble to do so and could easily put them higher with some spacers. Additionnally there are tons of riser handlebars that can allow for an even higher position.


    If you can't have a grips position high enough with a 2cm spacer and 80mm riser bar (that is 10cm more than a "slammed position"!) what you really need is an omafiet. That is why they exist.

    Last edited by sk_tle; 08-05-2020 at 03:45 AM.
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    Default Re: why are MTB stems so short?

    If you size down- maximum front end height is also reduced. Often a rider who needs to reduce reach also needs more height.

    Quote Originally Posted by sk_tle View Post
    I am not sure what you are saying. If the reach is too long these rider simply chose the wrong size and need to size down.

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    Default Re: why are MTB stems so short?

    How is a 120mm bike a race bike? Because people race it? Basically a 120mm bike works well for many types of riding. And in the realm of full suspension bikes it is getting harder to find a bike with less travel than that.

    I would call a 120mm bike a "basic mountain bike" suitable for use in the most situations.


    Quote Originally Posted by chasea View Post
    That's a race bike made for the negative-rise stem crowd.

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    Default Re: why are MTB stems so short?

    The Top Fuel is not a 120mm travel bike. It has a 120mm travel fork. And its got 15mm more rear wheel travel than a few years ago. That's a headset spacer and a half of verical rear wheel movement. That doesn't negate the tube lengths, angles, suspension kinematics, parts spec and allofasudden its not an xc race bike anymore. Its an xc race bike. The Fuel EX is the better everyday 29er in their line.

    We are past years past xc bikes being the best bike for general use.
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    Default Re: why are MTB stems so short?

    Yes- Except a Fuel EX is a 140mm front/130mm rear travel bike.
    I would venture to say that most of the population does not need that amount of travel.
    And even the Fuel EX is fairly low in terms of stack. Around 60 in medium sizes. Largest size is 62.3.

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    Default Re: why are MTB stems so short?

    Right, I was just making the point that things are going on circle driven by marketing strategies. My Fuel EX is now called a top fuel.

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    Default Re: why are MTB stems so short?

    Quote Originally Posted by boots2000 View Post
    Yes- Except a Fuel EX is a 140mm front/130mm rear travel bike.
    I would venture to say that most of the population does not need that amount of travel.
    This is the sweet spot for a trail bike. I would counter this is what most riders need, assuming mountain bikers on trails. XC is such a tiny niche that it's basically irrelevant to this discussion.
    Best Regards,

    Jason Curtis
    FoCo, CO

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