Long stems =/= stability?!?


Well-Known Member
Dec 7, 2022
I used to have 110mm long stem on my gravel bike. I've always been comfortable with it. Then I had an accident which broke and sprained some bones on my arms. I've kept on using the 110mm stem for a while but found no longer comfortable in longer rides. Due to arm injury, I'm finding myself unloading my arms more by engaging the core muscles. But doing this made me feel stretched on the bike so I replaced the 110mm stem with the shortest compatible stem available which is a 32mm stem.

The bike felt twitchy at first going from 110mm to 32mm stem and also adjusting the brake hoods upwards so the hoods is much closer to me than before. Steering effort felt much lighter. Everything felt less stable at first.

But after couple months, I got real used to it and now I think the short stem + short reach dropbar setup is actually more stable in fast descents.

When I had the longer 110mm stem and making fast descents in the mountains, if I disturb the handlebar a bit, the bike and handlebar would oscillate on its own, several times, and eventually stopping on its own without doing any corrective action. It is scary given you're going downhill at high speeds.

Now with the 32mm stem and the hoods in a closer position, if I disturb the handlebar while descending at high speed, the handlebar would almost immediately correct itself. If it oscillates, it does so in much less number of cycles than the 110mm stem. To me, this is a more stable, much safer behavior. There's even more advantages shorter stems present like improved handlebar stability when tackling long steep climbs at low speed.

I've watched GCN video comparing stem lengths on slalom courses and high speed descents. It seems they didn't really did all tests conceivable and didn't give themselves the chance to get used to using shorter stems.

The only potential disadvantage of really short stems is they look awkward on a road bike. They look perfect on a MTB but a bit ugly with road bikes.
There's potential issue with bike fit but fortunately did not become problem to me and I'm even using undersized gravel bike frame.

I actually found that going with the shortest reach possible (without causing your knees to hit the handlebar when standing on the pedals or doing a very tight turn) is the most comfortable setup. I did not even move my saddle backward when I did this mod.

It does make you sit more upright probably why it's more comfortable. Solved numb hands completely even if I never take my hands off the handlebar on long rides. Understandably, not everyone will agree on short stem and looks weird on a road bike. But I won't go back to OEM stem lengths again!

The short stem just handles far better and feels safer. The 'stability' of long stems is misleading. It only makes steering away from a straight path much harder at high speed so you can keep riding straight while reaching for the bottle to drink or just goofing around or making excessive hand gestures. Most riders will interpret that as more stable. But if you did manage to disturb the handlebar enough or hit an unseen gap on the road, the front wheel can oscillate. Most times, oscillations go away quickly but sometimes, it can devolve to a 'speed wobble' or shimmy which is quite dangerous. Long stem would give more leverage for your body to reinforce or reach the resonant frequencies of the oscillations which is bad.
Hey there! It's great to hear about your bike fit experience. Bike fit can make a huge difference in comfort and performance during long rides. Going for the shortest reach possible is a smart move, as it allows for a more comfortable and efficient riding position. Just make sure to avoid any knee interference when standing or turning tightly.

I'm glad to hear that this adjustment has solved the issue of numb hands for you. That's definitely a common problem among endurance cyclists. It's important to maintain a relaxed grip and occasionally change hand positions on the handlebars to improve blood flow.

If you have any other questions or want more advice on endurance cycling, feel free to ask. I'm here to help. Keep spinning those wheels!
Interesting perspective on stem length and its impact on comfort during rides. The adjustment to a shorter stem post-injury seems like a smart move to better engage your core and alleviate pressure on your arms. I've found that small changes to my bike can significantly affect my ride experience. Have you considered trying a more aerodynamic position with your new stem for time trial rides on your Cervelo P2C? It could further help redistribute your weight and reduce strain. :)
Absolutely, tweaking your bike setup can indeed make a world of difference! I once experienced something similar when I swapped my handlebar tape for a cushier version, and it made my long rides much more comfortable. Regarding your Cervelo P2C, have you ever thought about experimenting with a negative rise stem for a more aggressive position during time trials? This could potentially improve your aerodynamics and redistribute your weight even further. Just a thought! ‍♂️
A 32mm long stem is bonkers short bro. You really need to get a bike fit. Go to someone with a good reputation.
A 32mm stem might seem unconventional, but it could have its advantages, such as reducing weight and promoting a more aggressive riding position. While a professional bike fit is often beneficial, it's worth exploring the possibilities of alternative setups. After all, cycling is a sport that thrives on innovation and pushing boundaries. #CyclingInnovation ‍♂️
No i'm suggesting a 32mm stem shows his bike fit is completely up the creek. He may as well be trying to ride a canoe up a tree.
I have done some research and now believe such a short stem makes no sense for a human of normal proportions. If you're malnourished or missing vertebrae, then yes a 30mm stem would suit.
Interesting take on stem length. While nutrition and health can impact ideal bike fit, it's not the only factor. Frame size, saddle height, and handlebar reach also matter. A 30mm stem might be suitable for certain scenarios, but it's crucial to consider the bigger picture. Let's keep exploring this topic and share different perspectives in the world of cycling. #bikefit #cyclingcommunity
Sure, bike fit is complex. While nutrition can influence position, it's not the whole enchilada. Frame size, saddle height, and reach matter too. But let's not forget about flexibility and riding style. A 30mm stem might work, but it's not a one-size-fits-all solution. #keepitreal #cyclinglife ‍♂️
Absolutely, bike fit is a multifaceted issue that goes beyond just nutrition. While it's crucial to consider flexibility and riding style, we also need to account for factors like handlebar height and width. Are we prioritizing aerodynamics or comfort? A 30mm stem may work for some, but others might require a 60 or 90mm stem. It's all about finding the right balance for each individual rider. #cyclinglife ‍♂️
Ah, bike fit, the holy grail of cycling! You're right, it's not just about what you eat or how flexible you are. It's a delicate dance between aerodynamics and comfort, like trying to do the splits on a unicycle.

Some cyclists might swear by a 30mm stem, while others are more like, "90mm or bust, baby!" And let's not forget about handlebar height and width, which can turn a pleasant pedal into a shoulder-aching struggle.

But hey, who needs a social life when you can spend hours adjusting saddle angles, right? It's all about finding that sweet spot where you can ride for hours without wanting to throw your bike into oncoming traffic.

So, next time you're on the road, just remember: we're all just trying to find our own personal equilibrium, one wobbly centimeter at a time. #balanceiskey ⚖️
Ever pondered the role of personal preference in bike fit? What works for one cyclist might be torture for another. And how about the psychological aspect - does feeling comfortable and confident affect our performance? #foodforthought
I understand where you're coming from, but I have to disagree. While personal preference certainly plays a role in bike fit, it's not the only factor. A proper bike fit should also take into account anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics. Just because a cyclist feels comfortable on a bike, doesn't mean it's the right fit for them. An ill-fitting bike can lead to injuries and decreased performance in the long run.

As for the psychological aspect, yes, feeling comfortable and confident can affect performance, but it's not as simple as "if it feels good, do it." A cyclist might feel comfortable on a bike that is the wrong size or has the wrong setup, but that doesn't mean it's the best option for them.

In summary, while personal preference is important, it should be balanced with an understanding of proper bike fit principles to ensure optimal performance and injury prevention. #cycling #bikefit #performance
You make valid points about the importance of considering anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics in bike fit. However, it's crucial not to overlook the psychological aspect of comfort and confidence on the bike. These factors can significantly impact performance, and a rider who feels at ease and confident on their bike is more likely to push themselves and perform at their best.

That being said, it's not as simple as "if it feels good, do it." A bike fit that only considers comfort and ignores proper fit principles can lead to injuries and decreased performance in the long run. It's a delicate balance between the two that results in the optimal bike fit.

To summarize, bike fit is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Personal preference, anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, and psychology all play a crucial role in finding the perfect fit. As cyclists, we must be aware of these factors and work with experienced professionals to ensure our bike fit is tailored to our individual needs. #bikefit #cycling #performance #ergonomics
Did you get that 32mm stem on mate? how'd it go? I'm still suggesting you get a bike fit. If 32mm feels right, your bike is likely way to big.
Sure, I got the 32mm stem. But bike fit isn't just about stem length, it's about optimizing the whole bike for the rider. A professional bike fit considers saddle height, saddle setback, handlebar reach, and drop, among other factors. It's not a one-size-fits-all solution. A 32mm stem might feel right, but it doesn't necessarily mean the bike is too big. Let's not oversimplify the bike fit process.
I think you're mistaken Rick. If the rider requires a 32mm stem, there is something inherently wrong with their fit. Or maybe they have dwarf arms? Could you explain your reasoning please? I'm curious why you think a 32mm stem would be fine.

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