During any given year, I’ll have 10-20 bikes come through my garage for testing. And while the engineers and product managers at each bike manufacturer does a great job of equipping the bike for the average rider’s body, oftentimes there are a few additional tweaks needed to make the fit sublime. So far this year, I’ve had two bikes that have needed stem replacement surgery and the resulting change has made all the difference.
As our first example, lets look at the Kona King Kahuna 29er. The size 18 frame I was sent should have been equipped with a 105mm stem length (according to KonaWorld.com), but mine came with the 120mm stem. The 120mm stem and flat bar really stretched things out well beyond my comfort zone. Many people comment on the short stem lengths I typically use, but for me having an upright position is much more comfortable and relaxed. I’m not talking a little stubby nothing stem, but shorter than equipped.
As you can see below, the Kona AC/BC 120mm stem vs the East EA70 100mm stem makes a big difference and results in a less bus-like feel. For me, this change made the bike feel much more flickable and rideable overall.
As my second example, I dropped stem lengths on the Specialized Stumpjumper Expert Carbon 29 from the Specialized-brand 105mm stem to the Easton EA50 70mm length. The result was a shorter cockpit to compensate for the long-ish top-tube in the 19″ model I received. While the EA50 line is Easton’s lower-level line, the 2010 stem shown is light and strong with a 4-bolt faceplate for added stiffness.
The result was a more comfortable riding position and smoother steering. It is truly amazing what something as little as 20mm can do for the overall feel of your bike.
While not all stems from other manufacturers are reversible, Easton makes it a point to ensure their stems are. Not that having the logo upside-down is a deal breaker, but it sure does look nicer when configured as a negative rise option (which is very common with 29ers).
The most common stem rise is either 5 or 6-degree and most stems can be configured for a positive or negative rise. Taking head angle into account, most negative rise stems actually just make the stem about parallel to the ground, thus keeping front-end height under control, but not dropping your position too far.
Hopping into an Easton EA50 stem won’t cost you much, but changing position could aid an aching back, numb hands or potentially get you into a more aggressive riding stance. Change it up and see what you like best. Also, check out Gene Hamilton’s suggestions on stem length at BetterRide.net (which I agree with completely).
Most of you know this, but it’s worth mentioning. When replacing your stem, you’ll want to keep two things in mind: 1) Make sure you have a few extra spacers in a variety of thicknesses as your new stem may have a slightly lower or higher stack-height and 2) When tightening your stem, be sure to tighten the top-cap first to ensure the steerer, headset and spacers are fully seated, then proceed to tighten the clamp.
Buy Now: Shop for Easton Stems at JensonUSA