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[Question overhauled after I realised it appeared snobbish, narrow and not in good faith, as pointed out by @gschenk . This sentiment originated due to a recent failure with a critical bolt mechanism which elicited wariness for all 'extra' bolts on bikes at large. Feel free to read the older version.]

This question is not exactly objective, of course, but I intend to get to know the objective merits or anecdotes of the lack thereof to find "reasonable cause" for classifying adjustable stems as either a 'pro' or a 'con'.

In judicial jargon, similar to establishing "reasonable doubt" with a jury.

Having no personal experience with this myself, I cannot possibly have a valuable opinion devoid of bias and speculation. Hence, I request your anecdotes, and opinions based on experience of using adjustable stems.

To be specific in terms of what 'merit' or reasonable cause' counts as, I'm curious about where they fall in the following criteria in particular , although of course, I remain open to other criteria :

  • Reliability & Durability
  • Cost & Value
  • Realistic Extent of Effect On Riding Posture
  • Unique Advantages Not Seen In Standard Parts
  • Level of Precision Adjustment Possible Realistically
  • Severeness Of OCD Possible (or Lack Thereof) Adjusting to the Ever-elusive 'Sweet Epot' (by a Finicky Rider)

How did I come to this question ? What's the original purpose and motivation ? As mentioned in my comment in reply to the aforementioned @gschenck :

...considering if they were a real advantage or a "meh" or if they were solving a problem that didn't exist ( a solid con in my book) when my friend asked me to recommend him a bike and there were two with basically the only component difference being one has an adjustable stem...

Also as mentioned in this comment :

...apologies for the unintended snobbish appearance.

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    Adjustable stems are going to work for some people’s needs, and not for others, so there is no real answer to the question. – Argenti Apparatus Nov 29 '20 at 14:29
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    That's the exact type of question that gets closed as "primarily opinion-based". BTW, they are suitable only for trying out different positions (and that would need two joints but most adjustable stems have only one) and all other opinions are wrong. – ojs Nov 29 '20 at 16:11
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    "All other opinions are wrong" See , @ojs , now you catch my vibe of the kind of discourse I'm asking for – An Ant Nov 29 '20 at 16:38
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    Use the adjustable stem to find the angle that suits you best. Then replace it with a fixed one if that angle. You eliminate two problems: excessive weight and potential failure when working itself loose. (a LBS mechanic told me once) – Carel Nov 29 '20 at 18:50
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    These problems stem (pun intended) from the two major issues causing all bicycle maintenance problems - being worked on by Gorillas with a spanner, and never being worked on. – mattnz Nov 29 '20 at 19:54
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Whether they work: Short answer yes, they do not have major widespread problems. Most problems that do occur are related to undertightening the bolts on them to start with, or adjusting them without following the right sequence (on the ones with the out-of-view bolt underneath the extension) or without proper torque or lubrication. Most of them are designed in a way where they're fairly overbuilt and will get some wiggle long before there's any danger of failure. There are some sketchy ones, but that shouldn't reflect badly on all of them.

They do add a maintenance point and some weight. Depending on a cyclist's priorities that could be a non-issue or a dealbreaker.

Adjustable stems can be a way for multiple riders to share usage of one bike and have the fit accommodate each better. The one-rider-per-bike paradigm has always been more prevalent among cycling cultures that tend towards leisure, and even there we are now in an era where some families are purchasing large, expensive cargo e-bikes for utilitarian purposes such as transporting children, groceries and home goods, commuting, etc. There is often financial and logistical/spatial incentive to buy one that can be shared among family members. Adjustable stems are not a perfect means in all cases to facilitate this by themselves (this could be its own question), since the way most of them work is that you bring the bars way in at the same time you bring them up, but they are part of the toolbox to be sure. In particular, they have limitations when one rider is taller than the other but both want intermediately extended riding positions, but where they're almost the ideal solution is when the riders are fairly close in stature but one prefers or needs a much more upright position.

As for the problem-that-doesn't-exist question more broadly: they can be oversold by manufacturers and dealers as able to solve more fit needs and issues than they're really capable of, but they can also be of use to someone that either needs a very upright position and can't or won't get it any other way, or to someone that may need to start more upright and acclimate downwards a bit and doesn't want to buy new stems along the way. People's physical needs for bike fit do change sometimes; retiree comfort bikes, for example, are a pretty appropriate place for OEM adjustable stems, in my experience.

  • Nathan, my apologies for overhauling the question after you posted your (evidently, by the upvotes in comparison to the question itself) brilliant answer. I do think this still remains very much the same in original intent and what it really asks as the pervious, just with the snobbish crap cut out. IMHO, your answer still is relevant and shines, perhaps even more so now that the question is direct and clear and hopefully a bit more targeted. But I just though I had a duty to inform you. – An Ant Nov 30 '20 at 15:06

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