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Clamping dimensions aside, are all stems rated for all the cycling disciplines, especially in the MTB domain?

In other words, are stem manufacturers liable to guarantee their products to be safe to use on any bike, from XC to DH?

In the documentation coming with stems, I almost never see intended/certified usage for the product to be stated. Some web shops do list intended usage for stems on their product page, but I take those are recommendations.

It surely does not make practical sense to install an e.g. 100 mm carbon stem, clearly intended for an XC frame, on a modern gravity-oriented "Enduro" frame. But there is a range of stem lengths and types for which the intended/safe usage is not apparent from how just the product is sized or looks.

Is a random 31.8mm × 50 mm stem I've found in Decathlon safe to use on a bike with 170 mm of travel? What about stems usually found on commuter bikes?

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Many manufacturers list an intended use for their stems. How they go about conveying that information can be haphazard. Some spell it out very clearly in included printed product instructions:

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For others the guidance is there but it's part of the marketing copy:

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If you look around you can see some reference to ISO standards for stems: enter image description here

And so a proper answer to this question would probably need to include material from the paywall-protected ISO documents.

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You ask whether manufacturers are liable. That gets into legalities quickly and is hard to answer unless you're not only a lawyer but a niche one. For what it's worth, as a mechanic who handles a lot of stem brands available in the US, some manufacturers put a lot of legalese, instructions, and intended usage guidelines in the box, and many more basic repair type ones do not.

For practical purposes, it is very important to understand the intended use of a given stem. For the most part they can be divided between road-specific ultralight stems, midweight stems that are good for anything up to trail usage, and stems made for the gravity disciplines, and a very large amount of what's out there is the middle category. The mainstreaming of aggressive riding has shuffled it up a bit, where some XC-leaning all-arounder mountain stems of the past really wouldn't be appropriate for a modern trail bike. But no, a random basic stem from Decathlon should not go on a 170mm fork, and likewise there are weight weenie stems that should only go on weight weenie bikes. But for the most part, it takes a lot of defiance of common sense for any of it to matter.

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  • Thanks! It baffles me that MTB frames are usually rated to a category from 1 to 5, but no such rating is given to stems, or handlebars. In my opinion, frame/stem/handlebar failures are equally dangerous in offroad riding. Compared to e.g. wheels, a stem is more likely to fail catastrophically; wheels are more prone to "gradual degradation" with so many spokes. And yet, wheels are often categorized the same way as frames are, but not stems. Jul 31, 2022 at 19:09
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    @GrigoryRechistov It's true, it would seem like more explicit guidance there would be better for everyone. I don't claim expertise on the legal and financial pieces of being a stem maker, but one way things can play out is say you do have a rating system and then someone interprets it badly even if it's still obeying the letter of it, like someone at the upper end of a weight limit also doing aggressive riding for example. It's possible to imagine a situation where it breaks and you're more liable than you would have been if your guidance was vague or nonexistant. Aug 1, 2022 at 4:09
  • @GrigoryRechistov some manufacturers put their stems in these categorys. For example: sixpack-racing.com/en-GB/disciplines/gravity/millenium/…
    – airace3
    Aug 1, 2022 at 8:46

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