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  1. #1
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    How to choose stem length?

    When does one choose a shorter or longer stem? Is it all about final tuning of the stretch or seating position, or is the decision based initially on the sort of steering feel you want?

    My 2 year old bike, with 120mm stem, has always felt a litle 'dead' on the steering as well as (initially) quite stretched. I moved the saddle about as far forward as possible.

    The LBS offers me a 90mm stem for straight exchange. I took it for a brief ride so far and found the steering more 'snappy' . More to my liking and more in line with what I have always been accustomed to.

    So do I make a relatively big jump in stem like this, moving the saddle back say 10mm to a median position on the post and living with bars 20mm closer, or is it a big can of worms to open?

    I read all kinds of info like a longer stem making for better climbing and a more forward saddle for better spinning. Is there really any hard and fast substance to this ?

    Your opinion will be appreciated. Thanks.
    Last edited by Pieter; 07-13-2009 at 01:53 AM.

  2. #2
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  3. #3
    xxl
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pieter
    When does one choose a shorter or longer stem? Is it all about final tuning of the stretch or seating position, or is the decision based initially on the sort of steering feel you want?

    My 2 year old bike, with 120mm stem, has always felt a litle 'dead' on the steering as well as (initially) quite stretched. I moved the saddle about as far forward as possible.

    The LBS offers me a 90mm stem for straight exchange. I took it for a brief ride so far and found the steering more 'snappy' . More to my liking and more in line with what I have always been accustomed to.

    So do I make a relatively big jump in stem like this, moving the saddle back say 10mm to a median position on the post and living with bars 20mm closer, or is it a big can of worms to open?

    I read all kinds of info like a longer stem making for better climbing and a more forward saddle for better spinning. Is there really any hard and fast substance to this ?

    Your opinion will be appreciated. Thanks.
    Just from reading your post, where you note how you're laid out on the bike, and how you preferred the handling that a shorter stem gives, I'd say you should swap out your stem. Cost free for now, and you can always go back.

    "Hard and fast" evidence in the cycling world is hard to come by in general, because there are so many variables that affect how modifications work; instead, our axioms are pretty much empirically-driven at best. Fashion plays into it, too; think of all the riders out there who went to a back-of-the-saddle position, because some guy named Lemond used it. I haven't read anything in particular about longer stems, etc., but I'm biased towards getting fitted comfortably on your bike first, and it sounds like the shorter stem would help.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pieter
    ....I moved the saddle about as far forward as possible.
    .
    As I understand it, the saddle position is based on aligning the knee to the correct position over the pedal and should not be used to adjust reach. Before you choose the length of your reach you should get the saddle in the correct position and leave it there. After that, I would agree with the above that what feels right should be the next starting point. I have 5 different bikes and only two of them have the same reach. Of the other three, two have a 120mm stem and the other has 100mm with a steeper angle as well, According to all my measurements the 100mm stem should be too short, but every time I get on the bike it fits like a dream so I am going with what fits rather than with what the measurements say.

  5. #5
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    Definitely sounds like the shorter stem and not moving the seat.
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  6. #6
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    Thanks for your help.

    The test will be a longish traject, soon, weather permitting, in the drops to see if it feels at all cramped.

  7. #7
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    Once you have your correct frame size and your saddle height and saddle set back correct you can then determine stem length. The general rule of thumb as it has been explained to me is when you have your hands on the hoods the handlebar should block your view of the front wheel hub. This is where the various stem lengths come into play.

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