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Question about stem length and handling(2 posts)

Question about stem length and handlingdgangi
Oct 1, 2003 1:37 PM
I recently bought a 54cm Fuji road bike and the frame fits me very well. However, this bike was spec'd with a 100mm stem (as are all 54cm bikes) and I was told by a roadie friend of mine to swap it out for a shorter stem (80mm) for the bike to fit me correctly. My torso length is short compared to my legs, so my reach isn't the same as others of my same height, hence the need for a shorter stem than stock (or so I am told).

My question is this -- will the shorter stem dramatically effect the handling of the bike? This is very true in the MTB world, where swapping out a 100mm stem to an 80mm can make the bike feel "twitchy". The same motion of the handlebar produces more motion at the wheel.

Obviously the same laws of physics apply to all bikes...no question there. But it's the application that has me curious. MTB riding is different than a road bike in that handlebar motions are constant -- gotta work with the terrain so the handlebars are always in motion. Therefore you notice any "twitchiness" of the geometry right away. On a road bike, handlebar motion is much less - you lean into turns, not steer into them (you are supposed to do the same on an MTB, but in practice that rarely happens on rocky singletrack), so I am not sure if there would be any noticeable difference between an 80mm and a 100mm stem on a road bike.

What has your experience been with a shorter stem on a road bike?

FYI - before doing a swap of the stem, I am going to get a second opinion from my LBS. The last thing I want is to be cramped on the bike because I followed some bad advice.

Thx...Doug
re: Question about stem length and handlinglyleseven
Oct 3, 2003 7:55 PM
I did exactly what you are thinking about on my bike to make the cockpit shorter. There is a tradeoff with a shorter stem. I feel that it is more sensisitive to turning (or twitching to use your word) which I am not crazy about. A longer stem also gives you the feeling of absorbing more of the road than a shorter stem. Consider adjusting your saddle forward slightly if it doesn't upset anything. Then maybe a 90mm stem. Just a thought...