The best mountain bike stems are one of the most important factors when it comes to controlling your mountain bike.
It is possible to measure differences in weight between models of stems, and if you’re really in tune with your bike, there are subtle differences in stiffness to evaluate. It’s not easy, but if you ride the same trail over and over with different stems, the nuances begin to become apparent.
Below are our top 8 choices to get you the smoothest ride you can get on the bumpiest trails.
|Best Overall||RaceFace Respond Mountain Bike Stem||
|Best Premium||FIFTY-FIFTY Aluminum Alloy Mountain Bike Stem||
|Best on a Budget||Wake Mountain Bike Stem||
|KS Ether stem||
|FOMTOR 31.8 Stem||
|Ritchey Comp 4Axis Stem||
|Wake MTB Stem||
|Bavel Aluminum Alloy Stem||
Our Top Mountain Bike Stems Reviews
RaceFace Respond Mountain Bike Stem – The Best OverallRaceFace Respond Mountain Bike Stem
Look no further for the best bang for your buck. This stem boasts forged and blasted 6061 aluminum for high strength and fatigue resistance, and four bolt bar clamps hold the bar securely in position.
Interlocking U-shaped handlebar clamp geometry will transfer more load through the stem body and not the bolts, so you won’t have to worry about the bolts coming loose all the time.
The faceplate eliminates stress risers (areas where the stress is significantly greater than the surrounding region), which could cause your bar to bend or break. This stem really has it all if you’re looking for quality at a decent price.
Riders can enjoy better riding position, more control, and easier steering using this stem to get you around. We call it our best overall for a good reason!
FIFTY-FIFTY Aluminum Alloy Mountain Bike Stem – Best PremiumFIFTY-FIFTY Aluminum Alloy Mountain Bike Stem
This is a very lightweight and well-made stem that comes at a high price, but is well worth it. It also comes in five different color choices, to look good on whatever you’re riding.
You will hardly be able to feel this stem when making turns, and it is easy to install with the CloseGap faceplate design.
Much like the previous one, this stem is also made of quality 6061T6 aluminum, which is top of the line material.
If we’re being honest, this is probably one of the best-optimized stems out of all of the ones we have listed. It feels like every little detail is done as well as possible to make the best feeling stem for your bike.
Wake Mountain Bike Stem – Best on a BudgetWake Mountain Bike Stem
This one is a universal short handlebar stem suitable for most bikes. Made from the same quality material as the other stems (machined 6061 T6 aluminum alloy).
Installation is easy, and the four bolt bar clamp holds the bar securely in position. Plus, much like the previous stem, this one also has five different color choices.
Although, what really stands out about this stem is its price. It is the cheapest one on our list so far and the other two do not even come close. If you’re on a budget, this is one of those quality choices you will find for very cheap.
What’s more is that it’s even lighter than the FIFTY-FIFTY stem by a couple of grams. This is another one of those stems you’re going to hardly notice is even there.
KS Ether Stem – Most LightweightKS Ether stem
This stem is a bit of a mystery as it comes in with hardly any reviews despite coming out of a quality brand like KS.
This stem weighs in at 115 grams, making the Ether Stem lighter than most other stems that are similarly priced and the lightest of all the ones on the list.
A nice touch is that the steer tube clamp bolts are nicely tucked-away near the front of the stem, which helps prevent any unwanted kneecap-to-stem-bolt interactions.
However, without many reviews to go off, if you plan to buy this stem you’ll be learning about it as you go. It could be an absolute steal, or it could not work out in the way you expected. I would say look into the specs a bit and see if it is the right call for your bike.
FOMTOR 31.8 Stem – Best AdjustabilityFOMTOR 31.8 Stem
This wonderfully versatile and greatly priced stem is a great buy for those looking for a cheap option for a specific kind of bike.
Some technical specs to think about for this are that it is fit for a handlebar diameter of 31.8mm. So for this stem, it is important to measure that diameter or you may be sending it back and the search continues. However, most bikes will have this diameter measurement.
However, it is great for adjustability and you can move the angle +/- 35 degrees up or down the height of the handlebar so you can really get that perfect position while riding.
It’s both lightweight and durable, weighing in at 130g, and is constructed of that same high-strength 6061 T6 aluminum alloy we see in most quality bike stems.
If you have the right bike for this stem this is a phenomenal purchase, and for the price they’re asking for it, I don’t see anyone who would turn it down.
Ritchey Comp 4Axis Stem – Most SturdyRitchey Comp 4Axis Stem
This stem is a bit of a bulkier one, but it also makes for a smooth ride. Ritchey is a quality brand and is putting this one up for a pretty good price.
It weighs a good bit more than the previous lightweight stems we talked about, but because of this, it is a very durable and sturdy stem that will last you a while.
It is also certainly a very good looking stem, colored black with some white stripes down the side. You can say anything about this stem but you definitely can’t say it doesn’t look good.
Reasonably priced, and well made, this stem is one that doesn’t jump out at you but is a diamond in the rough and will keep you riding comfortably for a long time.
Wake MTB Stem – The HeaviestWake MTB Stem
This absolute beast of a stem is probably the most durable on the list. Because of this, you may think there won’t be much customization with this one, but unlike some others on this list this one can adjust its rise angle from 0 – 60 degrees.
It has a hollow design, so it really is lighter than it looks and has a solid four bolt bar clamp that holds the bar securely in position.
The installation is easy, just connect up the original front fork stem and you’re good to go. Also this is a universal short handlebar stem that is suitable for most bikes let alone just mountain bikes.
If you’re okay with a bit of bulk, this stem comes at a great price and could be a great fit for your bike.
Bavel Aluminum Alloy Stem – Best ValueBavel Aluminum Alloy Stem
This short handlebar stem is suitable for those with a bit smaller of a reach but is still plenty durable and fits most bikes just fine.
Once again, this one is on the heavier side, and checks in as the second heaviest on the list. Despite it being on the smaller side, it certainly packs a heck of a punch.
It is made out of that high quality 6061 aluminum alloy material, and is a flat out comfortable stem to ride around with,
The price may make you a bit weary of this one, but for the most part, those that have bought it have been pleasantly surprised with the functionality, and how long this very cheap stem is.
Mountain Bike Stems Buyers Guide
Now time for a little education. If you are new to the mountain biking scene, you’ll have to learn a ton of new terms. The fact that you’ve gotten far enough to look into different types of stems means you’re doing pretty well though!
Here are a few things to look out for when comparing different bike stems, and how you can find some sneaky good deals out there.
One of the first questions you should ask when choosing a stem is what length you’re looking for. Road riders tend to choose stem length based solely on overall bike fit and positioning, but for off-road riders, the length of the stem is critical to how the bike handles.
Shorter stems have noticeably quicker and more responsive handling that is a big time advantage on downhill tracks or trails with sharper turns. These types of bike stems will sport around 40mm lengths, while at the opposite end of the spectrum, road racing bikes favour long 110-120mm stems.
For most riders, a mid-length stem of 60-80mm provides the right balance of quality steering and pedal-efficient positioning, but these shorter stems work best with the modern trail bikes. If you’re taking it out in the woods, think about buying stems on the shorter side.
You may need to experiment with stem lengths to find the one that offers the right balance for you, because a difference of 10mm can have a huge effect on your ride.
It’s often said that handlebars should match shoulder width, though this is not really the best way to go about it. While it may be a decent starting point, sizing handlebars using this method isn’t likely to result in the best setup.
For off-road riders, handlebars have gotten increasingly wide in recent years as riders are looking for increased stability on rough terrain. The same applies on the road, where a broad handlebar slows down steering and can offer stability and confidence to an inexperienced rider, regardless of their size or shoulder width.
Wider bars may also help people with shoulder tension, neck pain, jaw pain or hand fatigue from the ‘death grip’ they have due to riding narrow bars. This often happens on many women’s bikes, which typically come stock with narrow handlebars to suit narrow-shouldered riders.
However, for more experienced riders, narrow handlebars can offer some benefits. If you find your wrists splay outwards, you might consider trying a narrower bar and finding it a bit more comfortable.
Handlebar width can have an impact on your aerodynamic drag too. In general terms, narrower = faster. For mountain bikers you could be playing a bit of a dangerous game by going fast, as fun as it is, hitting that tiny rock at high speed can result in some grisly injuries.
All in all the best advice we could give is if you’re an inexperienced rider, go for the wider handlebars and value control over speed.
The stem rise refers to the stem’s angle in degrees, relative to the fork steerer tube. In more understandable terms, it affects bike positioning and reach.
A ‘zero rise’ stem, for example, is essentially ‘straight’, while a stem with a rise of 10 degrees has a 10-degree angle between the steerer and handlebar clamp areas.
Most stems will have a moderate rise, most common is around 6 degrees, and can be flipped to offer a lower bar position. This stem can be referred to as having a rise of +/- 6 degrees.
Much like the stem length, you may need to experiment with stem rise to find your ideal positioning for a balance of pedaling, comforting and handling.
Stem rise is however just one way of achieving your ideal positioning, and is one of those things riders will argue about day and night when really it is just up to personal preference.
We’ve seen all kinds of differently constructed stems, and even the ones listed above, have their fair share of variety. You may not realize a stem is poorly constructed until it breaks on you, but there are some ways to recognize it.
The weight of a stem is always worth mentioning, and more times than not, the lighter stems will get much more love than the heavy ones. There aren’t well made heavy stems, but once you get in the 300g range, they can be a task to turn with.
Most quality stems will have that 6061 aluminum we mentioned plenty of times earlier, and cheaply constructed will use similar material, but will lose a lot of longevity compared to the aluminum.
Also if a stem is threadless or not is an important aspect of the construction. While threaded stems can easily be raised and lowered to adjust handlebar height, threadless stems cannot. If you value adjustability, this is an important thing to look at for the right kind of stem.
The Wrap Up
The RaceFace stem may be a bit on the heavy side, but it has everything you could want. Durability, easy installation, and will be a great fit on just about any mountain bike.
Some of the others may have it on weight, but for the affordable price, RaceFace has put out a real treat for us mountain bikers to take on all kinds of rocky trails for a smooth and fun ride!