I feel that my bike frame is slightly too large because I'm stretching out quite a bit even when on the hoods.

I'm considering swapping out my 90mm stem for a 35mm or 40mm stem

enter image description here

It seems like these aren't designed for road bikes, but would they still be okay to use considering the clamp diameter is identical to that of my roadie's?

  • Have you already rolled the bars up some? Feb 9, 2015 at 23:49
  • In the sense of increasing the angle? I haven't tried that, would that be effective?
    – Trogdor
    Feb 10, 2015 at 0:01
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    It will shorten the reach distance some. It will do so by bringing you more upright as well, but will lessen the overall distance. It would be the cheapest thing to try to start. Feb 10, 2015 at 0:08
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    If the clamp diameters match, you can do it. Though I have to say, that is the ugliest looking stem I've ever seen.
    – Batman
    Feb 10, 2015 at 0:32
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    That's so short I would think it would make the bike a bit twitchy. Feb 10, 2015 at 3:21

5 Answers 5


A relatively cheap way to make the reach shorter without compromising handling is to move grips little closer to you. Applicable on most drop bar handles. Most bicycles have grips set far forward and moving them back 2 centimeters is safe and won't move them up too much. Expenses - new duct tape to fix cables onto place if they are not internal and a screwdriver if you don't have one.


I have a slightly large road bike, which I made a good fit by shortening the stem.

You say you have a road bike, yet I don't recognise the image you've posted. I would expect a stem on a road bike to look more like:

example of a stem

Aside from that, you're proposing quite a large change - I think I shortened mine by about an inch. I don't suggest there's any great technical issue here, but just be aware that a small change in length can make a big difference in terms of the feel of the bike.

The only other thing to point out (caught me!) is that any computer you might have mounted to the stem....it might all get a bit cramped. But don't let that change your mind if the shorter stem works, its just that you might end up buying a new computer mount as well.

  • 1
    The posted stem is a botique one for downhill/freeride mountain biking. Seems like it has a 31.8 mm clamp diameter, which should match some road bars.
    – Batman
    Feb 10, 2015 at 0:32

Swapping the stem may make the riding more comfortable, but you may want to look at other things too

Horizontal position of the seat - most seats will be able to be adjusted forwards or backwards. But if you change the position of the seat, relative to the cranks, you need to think about how this will affect your stroke.

Handlebar width - if the handlebars are too wide you may feel like you are reaching too far forward, when in fact you are reaching too far out. A simple check is to stand across your bike in front of a mirror, put your hands on the hoods, and see how closely your handlebars match the width of your shoulders.

Frame size - it's possible you have a bike that's too big for you. Although this is the most expensive thing to change, after riding a bike like that for a couple of years before finally spending the money on a properly fitted frame, I believe it's worth the money for the extra enjoyment you get from riding.


You can get also get a significant change in position by getting a different set of bars. I would look for various handlebars labeled "short reach or compact". Almost all bars these days have listed the drop and reach. If your current bars are on the long end of the scale, switching bars might solve your problem.

Going to a stem that short is going to have lot's of odd effects on the handling of the bike. For a road bike with drop bars, my experience is that 80mm or so is about the shortest stem you want to use.


A bit late to this question, but another option not listed here: flip your stem.

Most road bike stem aren't a right angle, often they are off by ~6°. This means if you flip your stem then your handle bars will come up and back a bit, this will reduce the reach and hopefully take a bit of pressure off the lower back.

Also you could try rotating the handlebars back, this will have a similar effect. Loosen the bolts of the front of the stem a little, roll them back towards your seated position a degree or two, tighten the bolts back up. EDIT: to be clear, I'm only taking about rotating them back by a few degrees.

I did both of these tweaks to my road bike, plus slid my seat forward a tad, made it much more comfortable. (Yes, I may have bought the wrong size frame, I know, but too expensive to fix it now)

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    If you rotate the handlebars up, this can make it harder to shift and brake from the drops. Casual users may think that the drops are only for aggressive riding, but I don't agree; ideally, anybody should be able their drops position comfortably - not necessarily for hours on end, but at least long enough to complete a descent. Also, moving your saddle forward to get a correct pedaling fore-aft position is fine, but moving it just to shorten your cockpit length can lead to problems down the road.
    – Weiwen Ng
    Dec 6, 2020 at 14:02
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    @WeiwenNg Agreed on that flipping a dropbar is a bad idea, but I think this answer is about rotating the bars a little, effectively changing the angle of the sides and not a complete 180 around the axis of the tops.
    – Criggie
    Dec 6, 2020 at 19:37
  • Not flipping the drop bar, just the stem. Dec 6, 2020 at 21:34
  • Usually the stem is intended to mount the bars above the mounting point. Flipping it will lower the bars but leave them the same distance from the saddle as before. Rotating the bars will mostly move them vertically as well. If horizontal movement is what you want, you need a shorter stem. Moving the saddle can help the horizontal measurement as well. Dec 7, 2020 at 3:39
  • @Ross sorta. Look at this typical road bike roadbikeadventure.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/schwinn.jpg yes the handle bars are higher than the mount point, but the angle of the stem mount and is key, because the head angle leans back. If you flipped this stem the handlebars would come up and back slightly. Dec 7, 2020 at 23:23

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