Join Date: Aug 2009
Bikes: Colnago Super, Fuji Opus III, Specialized Rockhopper
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On a mountain bike, altering stem length has a more profound effect on handling as opposed to fit. There are a few different schools of thought on the subject, based on the kind of riding you will be doing. As the stem length increases, the weight distribution moves forward and the amount one can easily move their weight back (useful for steep inclines, challenging terrain, drops, etc.) is decreased. The real world manifestation of this, is that you are more prone to going over the bars when trail riding/tricking on a bike with a longer stem. Typically, riders who aren't planning to do drops or tricks very often, but rather ride longer distances for fitness or a commute tend to prefer stems in the longer side of the range (~100mm and up) as the longer stem stretches them out, which allows them to feel comfortable in the same position for a long time (ie: more like a road bike. When on the trail, and for those who will be on trails most of the time, a shorter stem gives you better control of the bike in the handling varied terrain sense. This is based on the principle that, on the trail a good rider moves around on the bike a lot to alter their position to navigate trail features. This one reason why trail riding short distances can be more tiring than the same distance on a road. Even so, the shorter stem position begins to feel uncomfortable if you aren't moving around on the bike a lot. Any position/stem length is a compromise between comfort and agility. When establishing your position, you are trying to find the compromise that fits your riding style, terrain you ride on and your proportion. Even then, for commuting on paved roads, a mountain bike is necessarily the best tool for the job.