I currently have a 27.5 hardtail mtb. I use it for commutes and traveling rather than trails or downhill tracks. I'm planning on upgrading some parts and one of them is the stem.

Will a -17° stem have some benefits or help and improve my riding? Given that I only ride on roads and use my bike for commutes? What can I gain from using a negative stem?

  • 4
    Likely there's not enough information here - like your current posture/stance on the bike, and what you're moving from. Assuming the bar will be moving down, you'll be putting more weight on your hands than before.
    – Criggie
    Sep 28 '20 at 10:13
  • With my current setup, i usually have an upright position and find it hard when overtaking others going slower, or going fast when i need to be. my commutes or travels usually involves routes taking up highways. I usually find myself attempting more aero positions or ducking down but the stock parts and setup only lets me do so little. Sep 28 '20 at 10:58
  • 2
    What stem have you got now? Could you flip it over?
    – Chris H
    Sep 28 '20 at 11:36
  • Is your stem as low as possible? I.e. have you taken out all spacers?
    – Michael
    Sep 28 '20 at 11:50
  • 2
    If you are using an MTB mainly on pavement, I would gently ask if you may want to save up for a more road-oriented bike. I'm not sure how much gain tinkering around the edges with parts will net you. If slick tires aren't on your upgrade list, they should be. I suspect they will gain you much more than a lower body position.
    – Weiwen Ng
    Sep 28 '20 at 18:51

Lowering the hand position will essentially move your shoulders forward and down, in an arc. This will put your head further forward, and you'll have to look up slightly more. It will also put more weight on your hands.

If you currently ride with your elbows slightly bent, then they will end up straighter.

This will also very slightly rotate your pelvis forward too.

I'd suggest confirming your saddle height is good first - assuming you're riding on the road, then it should be high as possible but not enough to make your hips rock side to side. If that happens, lower it by a few mm.

Also if you're riding on road only, you don't need the wider handlebars. Narrower bars let you fit through traffic gaps better, and will be slightly more aero.

  • 1
    Additionally, the OP seems concerned with going faster than other commuters. I recommend purchasing slick tires if the knobbies are still on.
    – Paul H
    Oct 28 '20 at 19:15
  • 1
    Yes, tires will make a much bigger difference than any change in stem height
    – Andrew
    Oct 29 '20 at 2:17
  • 1
    Good MTB tires (even those with knobs) have a surprisingly low rolling resistance. Some seating positions can be surprisingly bad.
    – Michael
    Feb 26 '21 at 15:13

A downwards-pointing stem will lower your hands and shoulders, which usually results in a smaller frontal area and therefore less aerodynamic drag.

What kind of stem do you currently have? Do you have headset spacers below it? You can probably achieve a similar result by removing the spacers. Just make sure to put them above the stem (unless you are cutting your steerer tube) and set the headset bearing preload correctly.

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