The Best Mountain Bike Stems (Review) in 2020

Behind every bike is an adventurer with a plan to conquer as many trails and challenges as possible. High performance,...

Best Choice
Wake 45mm Mountain Bike Stem
Wake 45mm Mountain Bike Stem
Premium Pick
Ritchey Comp 4Axis Mountain Handlebar Stem
Ritchey Comp 4Axis Mountain Handlebar Stem
Best Value
Bavel Aluminum Alloy Fixed Mountain Handlebar Stem
Bavel Aluminum Alloy Fixed Mountain Handlebar Stem

Behind every bike is an adventurer with a plan to conquer as many trails and challenges as possible. High performance, speed and durability all fall under the same umbrella when it comes to quality mountain bikes. Every component must be engineered and designed to deliver the best outcome possible. Bike stems are an example of one small component that makes a world of difference when it comes to steering and riding position. Stems exist in different sizes that cater to different bicycle types, including mountain and cross-country bikes. Choosing the right stem will alter the feel and look of your bike for the better. Luckily, our buying guide below offers you the cream of the crop in terms of features, price, and variety.

The Best Mountain Bike Stem

Our top pick is very popular and an incredibly durable bike component that was designed to further enhance your riding experience. The Wake mtb stem combines comfort with durability with a handlebar center diameter of 1-1/4 inches and a length of approximately 1.8 inches. This sturdy item improves handling and keeps you from leaning forward while steering your mountain bike. It also accommodates tall riders who want to improve their posture. The Wake bike stem is also hollow and can be easily installed on your bike using the four-bolt clamp. Its short design makes it the ideal stem for mountain bikes, fixed gear bikes and most road bikes as well. This model is available in five trendy colors, including gold, red and blue.

Key Features
  • 45mm bike stem for a handlebar diameter of 31.8mm
  • Compatible with mountain, fixed gear and most road bikes
  • Secured using 4 bolt bar clamp  
  • Easy to install hollow design
Specification
  • Brand Wake
  • Weight 4.8 ounces

The Respond mountain bike stem from Race Face is another premium offering from a company with over 20 years of experience when it comes to making cycling gear and bike components. Its stem is made of durable blasted 6061 aluminum to increase performance and give your bike the balance and strength it needs to conquer all kinds of rugged mountainous terrain. It was also designed with fatigue resistance in mind and weighs less than one pound. Riding long distance is possible thanks to the lightweight and dependable body that has an interlocking handlebar clamp shaped like a U. This design takes the pressure off the bolts and allows the stem itself to carry most of the pressure and weight while you ride.

Key Features
  • Made of heavy duty blasted 6061 aluminum
  • Faceplate evenly distributes weight to eliminate stress
  • U-shaped handlebar clamp prevents bolts from breaking due to excessive pressure
  • Available in 2 sizes: 45mm and 60mm- for a bar diameter of 31.8mm
  • Four bolt bar clamp secures the stem in place
Specification
  • Brand RaceFace
  • Model SM40681-p
  • Weight 1 pounds

This Wake model is another premium handlebar with an adjustable feature that gives you more flexibility over the position of the grips. Riding your bike on rough terrain is possible without hurting your back or hunching over the bars. This lightweight design is easy to install and remains stable and in position after installation. It also has a 0 to 60 degree rise and can be connected to the original front fork stem using the four-bolt clamp. This feature allows you to make easy modifications to the height and position of the handlebars in seconds. The Wake MTB stem is compatible with many road and mountain bikes and offers you the best quality possible at an affordable price.

Key Features
  • 110mm stem with 0 to 60°rise
  • Easy to install and weighs only 0.63lb
  • Held in position by 4 bolt bar clamp
  • Compatible with most road bikes, fixed gear bicycles and mountain bikes
Specification
  • Brand Wake
  • Weight 5.3 ounces

The FOMTOR 35-degree bike stem is durable and allows you to adjust the handlebars to your liking. The 35-degree feature gives you better flexibility over the position of the bars and their height. Making the necessary changes can enhance bike performance and provides a stable and reliable foundation for aggressive riding. The FOMTOR stem is made of 6061 aluminum alloy, is incredibly sturdy and reduces muscle strain while riding. Downhill bikes, road bikes as well as mountain bikes can all be upgraded with this stem.

Key Features
  • 70mm stem with 35° rise
  • Easy to install and weighs only 0.3lb
  • Durable body made of 6061 aluminum alloy
  • Compatible with MTB, BMX, DH, track and road bikes
Specification
  • Brand FOMTOR
  • Weight 5.4 ounces

Wake also offers its adjustable stem in another size, so you can easily raise the bars back towards the seat. This feature is accompanied by the same 0-60-degree rise that offers you better handling response and double the paddling comfort while riding your mountain or street bike. Better handling while going downhill is also possible thanks to the short 110 mm design. You can choose any degree between 0 and 60, depending on your riding style and preferred sitting position. This stem is hollow like the above Wake model and is made of durable and lightweight aluminum alloy that was built to last.

Key Features
  • 110mm high intensity stem with 0-60° rise
  • Easy to install and weighs only 0.6lb
  • Durable body made of 6061 aluminum alloy
  • Compatible with all kinds of bikes including fixed gear bikes
Specification
  • Brand Wake
  • Weight 5.3 ounces

The FOMTOR 60mm road bike stem allows you to upgrade your bike and take on more challenges by simply changing the position of the bars. This feature allows you to reverse the stem without compromising the safety and stability of your ride. This durable component is made of CNC machined aluminum alloy, meaning it will not break or bend under pressure. Installing this stem is also a piece of cake and all you need to do is connect up the original front fork stem before embarking on your off-road journey. The FOMTOR stem is another quality product that is available in a wide range of lengths beginning from 60mm and ending with 90mm.

Key Features
  • 60mm high intensity stem with +/- 7°rise
  • Easy to install and weighs only 0.25lb
  • Heavy duty body made of CNC machined aluminum alloy
  • Includes 4 bolt bar clamp that secures the stem in place
  • Compatible with most bikes including BMX and track bikes
Specification
  • Brand FOMTOR
  • Weight 4.2 ounces

Ritchey has more than 40 years of experience when it comes to bike manufacturing and design. This expertise and emphasis on quality is clearly on display in its 4-axis handlebar stem. With so many options to choose from when it comes to length, this Ritchey creation changes the way you ride for the better. This product was designed with an angled steer tube clamp slot that decreases the stress on the carbon steerer tubes.  It has a high-polish black finish and is made of aluminum alloy in order to give you the best performance possible no matter your biking destination. The stem also has a high rise and can be positioned according to your riding requirements.

Key Features
  • 4 axis stem with +/- 84°rise
  • Weighs 0.3lb with a high polish black finish
  • Fits 42mm tall steerers and a faceplate width of 42mm
  • Made of 3D net forged 6061 aluminum alloy
Specification
  • Brand Ritchey
  • Model 4Axis

FIFTY-FIFTY has been designing and manufacturing mountain bike parts since 2012. Its main focus is delivering heavy-duty and high-quality components at an affordable price. Their bike stems were created for 1-1/8 steering tubes and 31.8mm handlebars. They were also designed to help you get the most out of your bike in terms of performance and comfort. Speed and durability are a must when it comes to mountain bikes and so the stems were analyzed and engineered in order to create a product that will not break or bend under stress. They are also lightweight and made of 6061T6 aluminum.

Key Features
  • Close Gap faceplate design suitable for 31.8mm handlebars
  • Weighs 0.29lb with a black finish
  • Easy to install under right bolt tighten torque
  • Developed and designed using finite element analysis FEA
  • Made of high quality 6061T6 aluminum for maximum durability
Specification
  • Brand FIFTY-FIFTY
  • Weight 132g

Cross-country bikes need an equally sturdy and race-ready stem that delivers on durability and fatigue resistance. This model from Race Face is available in black and was designed for trail, XC and all mountain bikes with a bar diameter of 31.8mm. Each Race Face Ride stem was built to last and is made of 6061 aluminum with a four bolt clamp that keeps the bar secure and stable while you venture down all kinds of challenging mountain trails. This affordable item is also available in four different sizes including 60, 70 and 100mm. The rise is reversible as well, so you can easily position the bars in a negative or positive 6-degree rise. Race Face have more than 20 years of experience when it comes to designing and making bike components and their carefully crafted stems are the ideal companion for your ride bar and seatpost.

Key Features
  • Reversible rise + or – 6° made for 31.8mm handlebars
  • Weighs 0.3lb and held in place using four bolt clamp holds
  • Compatible with XC, Trail and all mountain bikes
  • Available in 60, 70, 90, 100, 110mm sizes
Specification
  • Brand RaceFace
  • Model SM40471-p
  • Weight 5.6 ounces

Our final pick for best MTB stem comes from Bavel and weighs 0.66 pounds. This short stem was built for handlebars with a diameter of 31.8mm and is 35mm long. It weighs more compared to other models, but it improves handling and contributes to a more comfortable ride in the long run. This product is also made of tough and reliable aluminum alloy and is available in black.

Key Features
  • Short stem made for 31.8mm diameter handlebars
  • Available in black and weighs 0.66lb
  • Made of durable 6061 aluminum alloy
  • Built for road bikes, fixed gear bikes and mountain bikes
Specification
  • Brand Bavel
  • Model FBA_dms1400013_1
  • Weight 7.2 ounces
Best Mountain Bike Stem Buying Guide & FAQ

Choosing the right stem for your bike involves learning more about the different stem types available and how you can match your mountain bike to the best stem in terms of length and adjustability. The following guide will help answer the most frequently asked questions regarding this vital component and will also show you how you can upgrade your bike by replacing the old stem with a brand new one from our list.

What to Consider When Buying a Mountain Bike Stem

  • Length

Stem length can make or break your overall experience when riding your mountain bike. Increasing or decreasing this length can make a vast difference when it comes to steering, balance as well as posture. Making small adjustments can go a along way and simply upgrading your stem will make your bike feel brand new. Downhill riders and four-cross cycling fans require speed and a shorter stem to gain better control over their wheels. Mountainous terrain can get tricky with so many unpredictable surprises along the trail, so you need a reliable stem that will help you make quick detours to avoid colliding with a rock or a tree. You can easily steer the bike while going downhill and climb off easily if you have a short stem installed.

Long stems are more suitable for cross country cycling that involves forest trails and steep descents. Investing in a longer stem means more stability in terms of steering and a more comfortable riding position. Cycling long distance can cause significant strain on your back and shoulders, so installing a 120mm stem for example will help you steer better and gain more balance while riding down narrow single-track trails. Even weight distribution is also possible with a longer stem and this can be a blessing during long and tiresome rides. There are so many options that you can try before finalizing your purchase and you can always experiment with different stem lengths in order to find the best fit for you and your bicycle of choice.

  • Durability

Durability is an important factor and the key to a long-lasting stem. The last thing you need is for your bike to break down during a race or in the middle of a forest trail. Therefore, investing in a quality component is a must. There are three main materials of choice when it comes to making stems. The most common material is none other than aluminum due to its strength and weight. You will find that many bike manufacturers incorporate aluminum 6061 in their production process. Many mountain bike stems are made of this specific type of aluminum alloy which is also used in aircraft manufacturing. Aluminum stems are budget friendly and are mostly built for road, trail and mountain bikes.

Light and hollow stems are now available thanks to advancements made in forging techniques over the years. There are also more expensive stems out there made of 2014 aluminum alloy and ones made of carbon fiber. A carbon mtb stem is a rare find and is only used in special cases and with incredibly expensive and professional cross-country race bikes. Carbon stems were built for high speeds and intense long-distance cycling, so they are more expensive and less affordable compared to aluminum-made stems.

The third and most coveted option is the titanium stem. These stems are much more expensive, but they are resistant to corrosion. On the other hand, they are flexible and will require large diameter tubes in order to make them stiffer.

  • Stem Rise

You also need to consider the stem rise and this has to do with the angle of the stem itself. The angle is measured in degrees and is directly linked to the positioning of the bike and its handlebars. Some stems have a moderate rise while others like the above Ritchey 4Axis stem model have an 84-degree rise. A stem with a 10-degree angle between the handlebar clamp and the steerer has a 10-degree rise. Moderate rise stems can be reversed, and this turns the rise into a drop. A 10-degree drop allows racers to ride more aggressively and their entire posture changes accordingly. A zero-rise stem is basically parallel to the ground and is usually found on regular downhill mountain bikes. Rise angles can be both positive and negative, so you can easily reverse the stem to lower the bar as well. You can achieve better handling response and more comfort while pedaling by simply experimenting with different rises. Keep in mind that a higher rise will help keep your body in an upright position.

  • Bike Type

The bike you own also dictates the type of stem you need in order to achieve your cycling goals. XC bikes were designed for racing and therefore require a long stem with a zero or flat rise. The ideal XC stem is around 100 to 120 mm long. Trail bikes need shorter stems that are around 60 to 80mm in length with a moderate rise. These dimensions are ideal for quick steering responses on narrow trails. DH or downhill bikes require durable downhill stems with a much shorter length of around 40 to 50mm. These measurements offer the rider more control and precision during descent.

Shiny black handlebar stem

CNC vs. Forged

CNC is short for Computerized Numerical Control and this process involves a computer and a 3D machine that takes the information provided by the computer in the form of numbers and turns it into an actual product with a precise and almost perfect finish. This smooth high-end finish requires more time, but the results are always consistent. CNC machined stems have a better finish compared to forged stems and do not require tumbling or polishing.

The forged stem also starts off as a solid block of aluminum and is forged into an actual bike component by pressing or pounding the metal under high pressure. The end product can sometimes be less angular and rougher compared to CNC machined stems and thus requires polishing or tumbling to give it a smoother and more polished finish. Forging is a faster process compared to CNC and some prefer it over 3D cutters since it delivers a denser grain structure and a stiffer stem.

How to Change Your Mountain Bike Stem

You can easily upgrade your bike stem by following the steps below:

  • The first step involves loosening the bolts that belong to the faceplate. Alternate between loosening the top and unscrewing the bottom bolt in order to evenly distribute the pressure on the bars.
  • Keep one bolt in place and remove the rest but make sure to press the faceplate against the handlebars while you loosen the remaining bolt. The handlebars must remain in the same position while you remove the faceplate. Once this step is complete, you may proceed to hang the bars down without rubbing them against the forks.
  • You also need to remove the top cap bolt and any stem insertions located above the stem. The top cap itself needs to be removed as well.
  • This step involves loosening the stem and this can be done by simply unscrewing its bolts. Remove the stem once you finish loosening the bolts.
  • Grab your new stem and remove the faceplate by loosening the bolts. This step makes installing the handlebars much easier to do later on.
  • The two bolts that belong to your new stem need to be loosened before sliding the new stem onto the streerer tube. Make sure that you return the spacers to their original position once you’re done.
  • Return the top cap to the stem and remember to tighten the bolt before you proceed to the next step.
  • Grab the handlebars and mount them on the new stem before returning the faceplate and then screwing the bolts into the stem.
  • Use the markers found on the bars to line them up properly.
  • Tighten the faceplate by securing each bolt but make sure that you end up with a correctly mounted handlebar.
  • The final step involves lining up and securing the stem. You need to straddle the front wheel in order to properly center the stem. Use your thighs to grip the wheel while you work. Make sure that all the bolts are evenly tightened. Twist and push the handlebars in order to confirm that they are indeed stable and securely connected to the stem.

Best Mountain Bike Stem FAQ:

Q: What is a mountain bike stem?

A:  A mountain bike stem forms a bridge between the steerer and the handlebars. Threadless stems are the most common stem type found on most bikes nowadays. Each stem has a rear clamping end that connects it to the steerer tube of the fork. Mountain bike stems are available in a wide range of lengths with different rises and they are secured to the bike using front and rear bolts.

Q: What size stem should I use?

A: This depends on your personal preference and your go-to bike for recreational cycling. Nowadays, you can easily experiment with different stem sizes by requesting a professional bike fit from the best local bike shop available in your city. Many shops offer this service in exchange for a small fee. You can take advantage of this service to test out as many stem sizes as possible. The key to a more aggressive and aerodynamic style of cycling lies in a longer stem. A comfortable riding position with minimal stretching and less strain on your shoulders and arms can be easily achieved by installing a short stem. This will decrease the distance between the bars and the saddle.

Q: What is the stem height?

A: Every mountain bike has a cockpit where the grips, stem, handlebars and brake levers are located. A slight change in stem height can alter your reach and weight distribution on the bike.  You can control the stem height by simply changing the location of the spacers. Placing the spacers above the stem will lower the handlebars. If your goal is to sit in a more upright position on the saddle, then you can place the spacers right below the stem.

Hands in gloves holding handlebar of a bicycle

Our Top Pick

This number one Amazon Bestseller is also our top choice for mountain bike stem. The Wake 45mm stem is packed with many attractive features that were designed to help you get the most out of your bike in terms of performance, speed and comfort. This design is both affordable and durable without compromising on quality and was built for road and mountain bikes in addition to fixed gear bicycles. Wake have come up with a hollow and lightweight stem that improves handling and can be installed in a few easy steps. The 45mm design is available in five eye-catching colors including gold and red.

Conclusion

Riding a mountain bike professionally or for leisure is essentially a workout for your whole body and the right components can elevate this experience to a whole new level. Upgrading your bike by simply replacing the stem is easy to do and will not break the bank.

Sources:

  1. What are mountain biking categories? – HowStuffWorks
  2. How to Remove a Bicycle Fork and Stem – Livestrong