Stems

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How to choose a mountain bike stem: The crucial connector of handlebars and forks, a stem plays a big role in the fit, feel and function of any mountain bike. Stems are available in many lengths, rises, colors and styles. For downhillers and freeriders using dual crown mountain bike forks, direct mount stems, which bolt directly to the fork's crown rather than pinching the steerer tube, are quickly becoming the standard. All-mountain and cross-country riders can greatly alter the feel of their bikes simply by switching to a stem of a different length. Stems are a great place to personalize the ride and appearance of any bike.

Stems

Types

There are two types of stem: direct-mount and traditional. Direct-mount stems are attached directly to a dual crown fork's top crown with four vertical bolts. This allows them to be shorter and provide immediate control of the front wheel. Direct-mount stems can only be used with dual crown forks. Traditional style stems use horizontal pinch bolts to secure the component to the fork's steerer-tube. They are available in many more lengths and rises than the direct-mount variety and can be used with any fork, provided the steerer-tube diameter matches.

Sizes

Stem sizes change according to the demands of a particular riding style. Cross-country stems are available from 60 to 130mm long with rises ranging between 0 and 30 degrees. Downhill and freeride stems range between 40 and 60 mm with between 0 and 15 degrees of rise, and direct-mount versions range between 35 and 60 millimeters in length with similar rises. All-mountain riders can choose to run a short downhill stem or even a long XC model, but most all-mountain stems fall between 50 and 90mm. In general, a shorter stem will provide a more stable feel but may compromise climbing position on steep trails. The large majority of mountain bike stems have a handlebar clamp diameter of 31.8mm.

Materials

Mountain bike stems are almost always made from aluminum, but carbon fiber varieties do exists for cross-country use.

Things To Look For

First, determine which stem dimensions best suit your needs. The length, measured in millimeters, is the biggest factor in determining the feel of a stem. Cross-country riders doing a lot of climbing may want a longer stem (80-100mm) to help keep the front wheel firmly planted on ascents. Downhillers and freeriders should look for shorter length versions (35-60mm) to improve steering and control when in the air. All-mountain riders should choose a length of stem according to the type of trails they ride. The rise of a stem, measured in degrees, indicates the angle at which the component is bent upwards, raising the handlebars (they can also be flipped to drop the bars if so desired).

How Much To Spend

Stems range in price from $25 to $175.

In the $25-$65 range, traditional style stems are available in every length and rise, with some color options. This price range is perfect for the trail rider looking to improve the fit and feel of their bike.

Moving up to the $65-$125 range, direct mount stems become available, as do a wider range of color options and improved construction techniques. At this price point stems are both a functional and fashionable upgrade for any bike.

Models in the $125-$175 range are top of the line products designed to deliver maximum strength at minimum weight. These stems use superior construction techniques and materials and provide professional grade quality.

Product Reviews

Before buying, be sure to do your research and read product reviews. Reviews are a great way to find out specifics about a particular model, user impressions, and things to watch out for. After you've purchased a product and had enough time to thoroughly test it, we encourage you to leave a review for other people to see when they are researching bikes and parts on the web.

We hope you've found this information to be helpful. If you have a question that isn't answered in this guide, our mountain bike forums are a great place to get advice from knowledgeable riders. Your local bike shop is also a great resource.

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