Evans Cycles
Evans Cycles

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The stem is the attachment between your front forks and handlebars. It plays an important role in steering and it's length and degree of rise can influence the comfort of your position. The vast majority of modern bikes use an A-Head stem however on some older bikes you may need a quill stem. This is a one-piece stem that has an expander wedge that fits inside the steerer tube of the forks.

Presuming you are purchasing an A-Head stem your first consideration is whether you need a standard or over-size clamp, this depends on the diameter of the bars you are running. This applies to both road and mountain bike use.

Before making changes to stem length or rise its useful to have your current riding position assessed, this is more important for road riders than mountain bikers who have a much more dynamic position. When riding on the road you tend to stay in a fairly fixed position, the wrong position can lead to neck pain and injury. Mountain bikers move around on their bike much more so their position is less fixed. For off-road use shorter stems are favoured to allow for faster, more responsive handling on technical terrain.

However many stems are equally appropriate for road or mountain bike use but it's important to consider how robust your stem needs to be. For example a downhill rider will want something that's highly durable and considerably shorter than a lightweight cross-country racer. Pick a stem that meets the type of riding you are doing, for example if you are road racing your focus will be on finding a stem that is stiff and light-weight.

Stems are available in a variety of materials and price points; carbon is a popular choice when looking for something lightweight and ultra stiff, it also tends to be the more expensive option. However a really good aluminium stem is likely to be as light as many carbon options and just as stiff. If you want the aesthetics of carbon at a slightly lower price point an aluminium stem with a carbon wrap is a great option.


This story was last updated on 17/01/2012