How to Determine the Correct Stem Length for Your Bike

Written by ehow sports & fitness editor
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Uncomfortable on your bike? The culprit could be your stem, the part that connects the handlebars to the frame.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Bike Shorts
  • Bike Helmets
  • Bike Shoes
  • Bike Stems
  • Bikes

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  1. 1

    Know that there are no hard-and-fast rules regarding stem length. Whatever is comfortable for you is right.

  2. 2

    Use your current stem as a point of reference. Is it too high or too low? Do you feel scrunched up when you ride? Too stretched out? Hunched over?

  3. 3

    Try raising or lowering your stem. As you lower the stem, the bars will get farther away from you. Raising the stem causes the bars to come closer. With a threadless stem, you'll have to add or remove spacers.

  4. 4

    Realize that even 1cm can make a dramatic difference. If you change stems, avoid buying one that's more than 1.5cm longer or shorter than your old one.

  5. 5

    Know that a longer stem will tend to soften the bike's handling, and that a shorter stem will make the steering quicker.

  6. 6

    Realize that if you have to buy a really long or really short stem, your frame probably doesn't fit you well.

Tips and warnings

  • When you buy a new bike, most bike shops will allow you to exchange your stem at no charge, after a few weeks, if you aren't comfortable with it.
  • Consider riser bars for a mountain bike. These will bring the bars up higher and closer without having to change your stem.
  • If your back or neck hurts while riding, your stem may be too low.

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