Bike Handling – Bar width and stem length combo

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  • Bike Handling – Bar width and stem length combo
  • kenkyujo
    Member

    Not that there was a problem with my original bars, but I had a sheep like moment and followed the fashion of moving to a wider bar, from 685mm to 711mm (did’t want to go to the full 800mm), also from a mid-rise to a lo-rise. Fitted the bars to my 70mm stem and to be honest we’re not getting on very well. The steering feels a lot slower (more than I would have expected from such a small change) and the back end of the bike seems to be light on descents.
    It’s been suggested that I shorten stem to 50mm, but wanted to get the STW consensus.
    Should I persevere with my set-up and just get used to it, go to a shorter stem 50mm (will I notice a difference), or just put the old bars back on?

    johnellison
    Member

    What bike are they fitted to? I fitted a 720mm bar to the 70mm stem on my Orange Alpine 160, but then went to a 50mm stem and it’s just about cock on for everything. Really steep climbs need a bit of thinking about but everything else is just peachy.

    Premier Icon mikewsmith
    Subscriber

    It’s been suggested that I shorten stem to 50mm, but wanted to get the STW consensus.

    Good luck finding that. Shorter should be better but finding one to borrow is the best bet before spending too much.

    nikk
    Member

    It depends what kind of riding you are doing.

    If all you do is downhill, then short and wide may be good. I’m not into that kind of riding enough to know, but it does seem like a somewhat fashion lead thing when it trickles down to less extreme variants of the sport.

    IMHO, if you are doing more trail / XC type stuff, then a longer stem and shorter bars are way better. I aim for the middle ground (flat 640mm bars, 100mm stem), and am very happy, especially for longer days out, climbing etc.

    prawny
    Member

    Got a 720mm Bar 50mm stem combo on my Rockrider (Gnarcore) feels good. I’m tempted to try 60mm but probably no longer than that.

    plyphon
    Member

    i have 740mm bars with 70mm stem, feels a bit wayward at times but I have gotten used to it.

    one thing to try is to lower the stem by a 10mm on the steerer tube if you can, get more weight over the front on corners.

    not sure why that would effect your back end tho.

    Premier Icon kayak23
    Subscriber

    Long stems belong on road bikes imho. Rough terrain, drops, jumps and steep descents are better controlled with a shorter stem and wider bars.
    Look at the first mtbs, clunkers.. nice wide bars. If anything, long stems and narrow bars are a fashion thing, not the other way around.
    Try it out. If you only like going uphill then you’re better off with what you have probably.

    Premier Icon mattjg
    Subscriber

    Yes I think you’ll notice the difference between a 70 and 50 mm stem.

    711mm is not a wide bar. Get some cheap wide ones, as wide as you dare, then cut them down if you don’t get on with them.

    gee
    Member

    100mm stem and 660mm bars on my XC bikes.

    GB

    I aim for the middle ground (flat 640mm bars, 100mm stem)

    I’m not sure this is the middle ground anymore!

    Premier Icon mikewsmith
    Subscriber

    chiefgrooveguru wrote:

    I aim for the middle ground (flat 640mm bars, 100mm stem)
    I’m not sure this is the middle ground anymore!

    between road and very XC?

    any sign of that consensus yet?

    Premier Icon schmiken
    Subscriber

    110mm stem and 600mm bars on my XC race bikes.

    Premier Icon MtbRoutes
    Subscriber

    Moving to a lower-rise and wider bar will have brought your weight forward, hence the back end feeling ‘light’.
    Shorter stem will help and should be noticeable, and experiment with spacers under the stem if bars feel too low.
    There’s a fashion for keeping your front end low, but if you’re a taller rider on typical xc/fr forks it rarely makes sense.

    kenkyujo
    Member

    Left my PC for a few minutes then get all these responses, cheers guys.

    The bars are fitted to an Epiphany with a set of 150 Revs up front, I tend to rides mainly XC trails but also the fun bits around Guisborough Woods, hence didn’t want to go too wide on the bars (tree clearance). I’m definitely not DH orientated.

    My thought were along the same lines as MtbRoutes, that the wider bars with the existing stem might be putting more weight on the front of the bike and hence lightening the back end, the shorter bar might correct this and quicken up the steering.

    Good suggestion about going for a cheap stem first, I might give that a go, any recommendations?

    Premier Icon mattjg
    Subscriber

    I bought a 50mm one of these about a month ago. Hasn’t broken yet!

    http://superstar.tibolts.co.uk/product_info.php?products_id=4

    Narrow bar on short stem must be horrible!

    nikk
    Member

    Stem length depends on your TT length as well.

    I tried a shorter stem and wider 700mm bars, didn’t get on with it, felt too much like driving a lorry 🙂

    I think 540 to 600mm with a 110 to 140mm stem is real XC race stuff.

    700mm+ with 50mm stem is more for DH.

    IMHO it is important to use what is comfortable and practical for you, not what is touted by MTBR or whatever as the ‘go to’ stem length.

    If you are into covering any distance, too wide or too short becomes a disadvantage. Fine for a 1 hr blast.

    Premier Icon curiousyellow
    Subscriber

    785mm and 60mm here.

    Feels pretty good except when the terrain is over 10% ish. Would maybe consider changing the bars to 750 to better avoid trees, but I’d be on my bum if I shortened the stem anymore!

    Even then, I’d get the 785s out for uplift days or for messing around on jumps and so on.

    Premier Icon jairaj
    Subscriber

    It’s been suggested that I shorten stem to 50mm, but wanted to get the STW consensus.

    The usual rule of thumb is if you widen your bars then you also shorten your stem. How much you shorten by is hard to tell.

    Widening the bars will increase the reach and slow the steering down so you compensate by reducing the stem which brings the reach back and quickens the steering up.

    See if you can borrow some stems from mates or see if there are any ebay bargains and give a few a try to see what works for you. Note a 20mm difference is very noticeable, 10mm less so but if you are sensitive then you will feel a difference.

    IMHO, if you are doing more trail / XC type stuff, then a longer stem and shorter bars are way better.

    Depends on the the geometry of the bike. More and more modern frames are being designed with a longer front centre so a short stem here is needed to prevent the frame becoming too long.

    eg On my old C456, which is deigned with a longer front centre, I had 740mm bars and 50mm stem and it felt great with the 70mm stem the steering felt way too slow. On my new Bandit, which has a totally different geom I found the bar stem setup wasn’t right. and now have a 60mm which feels spot on.

    Ride it for a month, then if you still don’t like it think about trying a shorter stem.

    I recently sheeped my way into the wide/short combo – Going 780mm with a 55mm stem. I prefer the way the bike rides now and although the steering is a little slower (most noticably when climbing tight switchbacks)I really like the planted feeling going downhill.

    Depending on your budget, this might fit the cheap stem criteria – Merlin Cycles – Easton Haven 55mm Stem

    It’s oem, hence the price. But looks good…

    Premier Icon surroundedbyhills
    Subscriber

    wanted to get the STW consensus

    😆

    I ride 50mm stem and 711mm bars with 150mm travel front and rear, this does me for EVERYTHING. I don’t change my tyres until the wear out and after 2 years have only just got round to increasing the psi in my shock. 2pence.

    Premier Icon mattjg
    Subscriber

    most of these statements such as “xx mm stem is only for DH” are nonsense

    try a bunch of stuff and see works for you

    prawny
    Member

    Yeah, direct mount stems are for DH, anything else is all good.

    hora
    Member

    The usual rule of thumb is if you widen your bars then you also shorten your stem

    Is this true? Serious question- would love to know, as I recently went to a 70mm stem from a 50mm stem on 711 bars. Fine. Then I fitted a 745 bars onto the 70mm stem and it all seems ‘wrong’.

    Premier Icon mattjg
    Subscriber

    Yes, shorter stem wider bars for (approximate) equivalent fit.

    Tape measure trick: hold the body in 1 hand and the end of the rule in the other. Move hands in/out, up/down, close/far. Vary width for comfort. What feels good?

    I also find wide bars good for out of saddle climbing. Imagine lifting a heavy bar, wouldn’t do it with hands close together.

    Premier Icon curiousyellow
    Subscriber

    I also find wide bars good for out of saddle climbing. Imagine lifting a heavy bar, wouldn’t do it with hands close together.

    Makes it easier to manual too! May be completely unintentional.

    Premier Icon mattjg
    Subscriber

    I can’t manual regardless of bar width.

    Premier Icon curiousyellow
    Subscriber

    More to do with stem length I think. Especially on steep climbs!

    Premier Icon jairaj
    Subscriber

    Depending on your budget, this might fit the cheap stem criteria – Merlin Cycles – Easton Haven 55mm Stem

    It’s oem, hence the price. But looks good…

    Absolute lolz! That’s freaking expensive even with the discount.

    Premier Icon flap_jack
    Subscriber

    Sheep here too. Six months in really not getting on with it. Only went from 685 to 725 but feels horrid. XC use mainly but hated it in Morzine too. Maybe I’m too old to change…

    matther01
    Member

    IMO 70 to 50mm is a massive difference.

    Went from 711/75 combo to 740/60 combo and its massively different…really have to lean over the front on steep climbs.

    See if you can borrow a 60mm stem first before buying a 50mm?

    headpotdog
    Member

    There’s been a number of threads about this over the last year or two and as usual it divides opinion, nearly as much as wheel sizes or tyre options. However I can only speak from experience on making similar changes to my 120mm hardtail.

    Started off with 680mm bars and 85mm stem. Nice balance, but after a big crash I wanted to get a feeling of more control from my set up so I just changed the bars at first.

    750mm bars on 85mm stem. Like you it didn’t feel right as it put slightly more weight forward than I’d had before and slowed the steering down too, so after a few months I changed the stem.

    750mm bars on a 55mm stem. This really speeded the steering up which took some getting used to. My weight had certainly been moved back a bit, but something still wasn’t right so I lowered the stem by about 1cm by putting a spacer over the stem on the steerer.

    This now feels about right. I’ve got a more aggressive, balanced stance on the bike for both decending and climbing. I’ve been outclimbing my mates with narrower bars on the steeper routes lately and it even feels like it’s given me more breathing room.

    I thought this link might be useful and it seems about right given the changes I’ve made too.

    Wide bars

    Recently changed the whole geometry of my bike – 150mm to 170mm forks, HA slackened off to 66ish degrees, stayed at 55mm stem, but gone from 685mm bars to 780mm.

    First got on it and it felt like I was steering a barge (worried I’d made a mistake) – however, took about 2 seconds to get used to and has transformed the ride. Climbing isn’t compromised, forks dropped to 140mm for thrashing or climbing – only really drop them for really steep ups, as the front end just feels right, popping up easily over obstacles. The control is another level though – feels so assured with the extra width, Strava times tumbling on climbs and descents! Thought I’d be clipping trees, but seems fine so far – actually easier to haul the front end round when needed.

    Go wide and short – it’s the way forward!

    Premier Icon mikewsmith
    Subscriber

    What would help people (and LBS’s) is if they had a pile of “DEMO” stems so that you could try things out (even if it’s just in the car park). I was fortunate enough to have a big enough group of riding mates for someone to have one of something spare.

    There is as mentioned a general rule of thumb but you can’t compromise fit/comfort just to get handling right. Look at saddle position too, this is where it’s also useful to get someone who knows a bit to take a look at you on the bike or at least get some pics taken to see your position.

    Tom_W1987
    Member

    Wide and as short as possible.

    Just remember, the wider you go the more you are going to have to lean over the bike to keep your arms nice and relaxed. There will come to a point where you will want to increase bar height to compensate for width changes, if you want to keep your original riding position.

    Premier Icon mattjg
    Subscriber

    there’s some blurb here about the ’14 Kona Process (http://www.bikemag.com/gear/bike-exclusive-konas-2014-process-line/)

    it comes with a 40mm stem as stock, the product guy says (I paraphrase) “long stems and obsession with there being 1 good fit are an inappropriate carry-over from road bikes, but MTB usage is really different” and they also hit on the idea (which I agree with) that short/wide is good for average skill riders too doing varied terrain rather than gnarrr DHers. He’s basically describing me and I agree with him – control gets easier and confidence goes up. What’s not to like?

    spectabilis
    Member

    short/wide is good for average skill riders too doing varied terrain rather than gnarrr DHers. He’s basically describing me and I agree with him – control gets easier and confidence goes up. What’s not to like?

    +1

    50/740 is where its at.

    Premier Icon st colin
    Subscriber

    I don’t know how any of us managed to ride bikes years ago when 700mm probably seemed far too big and a waste of time. There’s much more to how a bike handles the terrain than just changing bars and stems. Yes, it does and can benefit. I have 700mm bars on a 60mm stem and really don’t think I need anything bigger and any trail I’ve ridden. And I’m like Peter Crouch in the arms and legs dept riding a large old style Meta.

    spectabilis
    Member

    I’ve only recently gone above 685mm bars but I’ve been building my bikes with short ?50mm stems since I could afford decent bikes about 15years ago, I don’t see how long stems have made it out the 90`s….

    kenkyujo
    Member

    Thanks for all your comments. I’ve just fitted a 55mm stem and had my first ride out on it yesterday. The steering has sharpened up nicely, still nice and stable on the climbs and the balance of the bike is much better. May experiment with seat position a little next to fine tune. The Easton Haven stem is great quality and looks good in silver with a black faceplate and at £45 not a bad price.

    Happy days

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