From the outside looking in, a bike is not a terribly complicated machine. Humans have been learning to ride bikes from the age of toddlers and many people can pick them back up after years of having not ridden one. Even e-bikes, a relatively new evolution of the traditional two-wheel bike, seem straightforward. And in many respects, they are simple and joyful methods of transportation.
However, upon closer examination, there are many new parts and technologies that have been built into modern bikes and e-bikes. Everything from long-range batteries to Presta valves to fenders that prevent mud from splashing on the rider. With new parts comes more customization options and opportunities for adjustment than ever before. Today’s e-bike can be tailored to each rider based on their body type, range of motion, and comfort preferences.
This brings us to today’s topic: the bike stem. Bike stems are an important consideration for amateur and professional e-bikers alike. The right bike stem can improve your riding experience, while the wrong bike stem can ruin it without your even knowing it. We will cover what e-bike stems are, why they are important, and how to adjust your bike stem. Finally, we will discuss what makes the best road bike stems and what to look for in terms of quality and price.
What is a Bike Stem?
The bike stem is the short connection between the bike’s handlebar and the steering column. Common bike stems are threadless and more traditional quill styles found mainly on older models. There is a clamp for the handlebar and a steerer clamp as well as bolts to secure it in place and adjust it.
Bike stems are made in a variety of sizes, styles, and colors, and typically fit a standard range of handlebars and steering columns. Length will often be measured in millimeters and will add or subtract the distance you need to reach to grasp your handlebar. A second measurement to be aware of is the rise of the bike stem (measured in degrees) which lowers or raises the height of your handlebars. The higher the degrees, the more upright of a position you will be placed into on your bike. Some bike stems are also adjustable which we will cover further in the article.
Why is the Bike Stem Important?
The bike stem on your e-bike is important because it will influence so much of your posture while riding. As we pointed out, many riders may not even be aware of the bike stem, let alone the option to swap it out for a different riding experience. There are many ways to reduce specific pain while riding but avoiding neck and upper back pain is paramount to making a habit out of using your bike. This is where choosing the proper bike stem comes into play.
How to Adjust a Threadless Bike Stem
Improper bike stem length or rise can lead to uncomfortable fatigue and pain during your ride. Finding the best e-bike fit for your body can be difficult so we always recommend getting a professional to assist with your bike fitting and adjustment. These tips should be considered as a general guide and may not be suitable for your situation.
The size of your bike and the size of your body are generally fixed so adjusting the stem is a great way to put a little extra personalization into your bike fit. To do so, follow these instructions for adjusting a threadless stem:
Step 1: Loosen the bolt for adjusting the degrees of rise on the stem. Most likely you will need an Allen wrench. Look for the degrees of angle on the stem as some will have markers on the stem. A low or negative rise will require a flexible back or give the impression of a pro look for the bike. A positive or high rise will be more comfortable for many riders.
Step 2: Adjust this position accordingly so that the elbows are slightly bent, and you feel supported. Too far forward and you will find the position unsustainable. Ensure you can comfortably reach the brakes. Ride the bike around the block or path for a few moments to get a feel for the comfort level.
Step 3: Tighten the Allen bolt again.
Step 4: Ensure all clamp bolts are tightened to the bike and handlebar.
In addition to adjusting the bike stem for your specific level, there are many other dials you can tweak to get the perfect ride. Check out our bike size guide for more information on other sizing considerations.
The Best Road Bike Stems
Road bike stems can be found for under $100 and often less than that. Some bike stems are made out of carbon fiber, but these are professional grade and may be expensive. The best road bike stem for most riders will be a standard aluminum alloy adjustable stem with degree markings for easy positioning. The stem should be clean and lightweight and fit the dimensions of your specific handlebar tube and steerer column.
As we’ve seen, there is much more than meets the eye with bike parts and the bike stem is no exception. Now you know what gives certain riders different looks atop their bikes. The important factor is not how you look but that your bike stem is comfortable and securely tightened.
Bike stems will vary in size, and it is crucial to get one that fits your body and riding needs. Do not overlook the adjustment period and do not spend more than $40-100 for a quality bike stem. With these tips in mind, you’ll be a bit more knowledgeable and a bit more comfortable on your e-bike. Happy riding!