Best Bike Stems

Updated December 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

14 Models Considered
5 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
102 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Shopping guide for best bike stems

Last Updated December 2019

You may not give your bike stem much thought, but overlooking this small component is a mistake. A bike stem affects the handling of your bike as well as your position and angle as you ride.

The bike stem is the piece of metal that connects the handlebars to the fork steerer. Shorter bike stems, often found on mountain bikes, give you more responsive handling. Longer bike stems, typically found on road bikes, encourage a less upright position which aids aerodynamics and uphill pedaling. The length of bike stems can vary widely depending on the type of biking you plan to do and your personal preferences. In addition, the rise of the bike stem — its angle relative to the fork steerer — impacts the rider’s position and comfort.

While it isn’t the first part of a bike people think of when considering comfort and control, bike stems play a major role in how you rest on your bike and control the handlebars. To learn more about the varieties of bike stems, read our buying guide.

Though the bike stem is an often overlooked part of the bike, it plays more of a role in handling and comfort than you might think.

Key considerations

There are two primary factors to consider carefully when buying a bike stem: the length and the rise.

Length

The length of a bike stem affects its distance from the fork steerer — the part of the bike that turns the front tire. This has a large impact on the position of the rider, and a shorter stem generally provides better handling. The length of your bike stem should be appropriate for the type of bike you have, but you should also find a length that’s comfortable for you as all riders are different.

Mountain bike stems are usually 35 to 60 millimeters in length for moderately responsive handling.

Road bike stems vary from 80 to 140 millimeters to keep the rider’s weight toward the front of the bike for a more aerodynamic position.

BMX bike stems are generally shorter, around 60 millimeters, for highly responsive handling.

Rise

The rise of a bike stem is its angle compared to the fork steerer. A stem with a 0° rise encourages a stretched-out position that’s good for coasting downhill. A stem with a significant rise of around 10° allows the rider to sit upright comfortably and makes for more responsive handling.

Some road cyclists prefer a 0° rise for a stretched-out position, while others prefer a higher rise of 10° to aid with climbs. The same goes for mountain bikes and BMX bikes, which may have more extreme rises of 45° or more. It’s possible to have a negative rise — meaning the handlebars can drop below the top of the fork steerer — for an extremely low position on the bike. Bear in mind that the relative height of the handlebars can also be adjusted by shifting the bike stem up or down the fork steerer using spacers. The rise of a stem can be inverted by flipping it upside down.

Finding the right fit

Though there are guidelines on stem length and rise for different types of bikes and cycling styles, you should listen to your body before you listen to the pros. Find a fit that is comfortable for you, even if it means sacrificing handling or aerodynamics. You likely ride your bike for an hour or more at a time, and if you’re uncomfortable, it doesn’t matter how well your stem is performing.

EXPERT TIP

Bike stems are fairly inexpensive and easy to replace, but they can feel like a major upgrade when you’re out riding.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Like other bike components, stems vary in their color and material. While these may seem like small details, they can have an impact on the stiffness and appearance of the stem. In addition, bike stems come in different sizes and styles.

Style

While almost all modern bike stems are threadless models that clamp onto the fork steerer, there are also adjustable and quill stems. Quill stems screw into the top of the fork steerer and are more common for older bikes. Adjustable stems are rare and allow you to easily change the rise of the stem.

Material

Bike stems are generally made of either aluminum alloy or carbon fiber.

While carbon fiber stems are often the choice of professional cyclists, the higher price can be difficult to justify for many people. Compared to other larger components, the stem does not increase or decrease the overall weight of your bike significantly.

Carbon fiber is slightly stiffer than aluminum and reduces vibration, which can be useful on road bikes.

Aluminum, by contrast, is far less expensive and may be lighter in weight depending on the design of the stem. While it doesn’t absorb vibration as well, most cyclists still find it a comfortable option. In addition, it is more durable than carbon fiber and less likely to break — though broken stems are rare to begin with.

Less common options include steel and titanium. Steel is inexpensive and heavy, making it a good option for beginners or casual riders. Titanium is the most expensive option and is very lightweight, but it does not dampen vibrations as well as carbon fiber.

Color

Quite simply, the color of your stem should match or complement the colors of your bike or gear. Companies offer stems in a wide variety of colors.

Size

The size of a bike stem refers to the diameter of its handlebar clamp and fork steerer clamp. There’s no wiggle room here; your bike stem must fit your bike properly or you cannot install it.

Almost all modern stems have handlebar clamp diameters of one and a quarter inches. Steerer clamp sizes vary from seven-eighths of an inch to one inch.

EXPERT TIP

The weight of a bike stem plays a smaller role in the overall weight of your bike than other components, like handlebars and wheels.


Staff  | BestReviews

Bike stem prices

Inexpensive: Basic bike stems for $8 to $15 are usually steel or aluminum in construction and are best suited for casual cyclists. There are many high rise stems for mountain bikes in this range.

Mid-range: For $15 to $30 are a variety of stems that may be made of aluminum alloy, carbon fiber, or a combination of the two. They vary greatly in their length and rise.

Expensive: High-end bike stems for $30 to $100+ may be made of aluminum alloy, carbon fiber, or titanium. While most cyclists may not have room in their budget for stems in this range, these high-quality options may appeal to those looking for a lightweight stem that gives them an advantage over the competition.

EXPERT TIP

Almost all modern bike stems are threadless and clamp directly to the fork steerer.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips for finding the right stem

Choosing a bike stem isn’t a science. It’s all about comfort and your riding style.

  • You can invert the rise of your stem by flipping it upside down, so your high-rise stem can easily turn into a low-rise stem. This is generally easier with stems with lower angles.
  • Spacers can be used to easily adjust the height of the stem, which can make a small but noticeable difference in handlebar height.
  • If your elbows are locked, your stem is too long. You shouldn’t have to reach uncomfortably to grasp your handlebars.
  • If you have a road bike, consider your reach in different positions. Riding with your hands on the hoods will feel different from riding on the drops, and your stem length can greatly impact these positions.

Other products we considered

While we stand by our top recommendations, there are a few other bike stems worth covering briefly. One stem that works well for mountain bikes or road bikes is the Control Tech Estro 6 Stem, which features aluminum alloy construction with carbon fiber wrapping. This reversible stem has a +/-5° rise, and it’s available in lengths from 60 to 130 millimeters for more handling or a lower position, making it a good fit for both mountain and road cyclists. A low priced carbon and aluminum stem we like is the RXL SL 25.4 Carbon Fiber Stem, which has a 6° rise and can be used with mountain bikes or road bikes. One popular stem available in a variety of lengths and rises is the Origin8 Pro Fit Alloy Ergo Stem. We love this stem for its reliable performance and sleek, simple look.

Finding the right bike stem is more about choosing one that fits your preferences than one that is appropriate for your bike. Go with a stem that feels the most comfortable to you.

FAQ

Q. How easy is it to install a stem?
A.
If you are familiar with bike repairs, it shouldn’t be an issue for you. If you are concerned about installing your stem improperly, you may want to have your local bike shop do it for you.

Q. I’m not sure about the size of my handlebar or fork steerer. How do I measure them?
A.
You can measure the diameter of both parts using a caliper, but it is possible to get an inaccurate measurement. If you can, look up the manufacturer’s dimensions of each part.

Q. Should you take frame size into consideration when deciding what length stem to get?
A.
Yes and no. The frame should be an appropriate size for your body, but the size of the frame does combine with the stem length to impact how much you have to stretch to reach the handlebars. If you currently find the distance of the handlebars from the seat post uncomfortable, a new stem can help to correct that.

The team that worked on this review
  • Katherine
    Katherine
    Editor
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Peter
    Peter
    Writer

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