The lowly mountain bike stem seems to get no love from mountain bikers. In our annual survey, we asked readers which stem was their favorite, and we received dozens of responses like “who cares?” and “whatever came on my bike.” A couple people even answered, “don’t have one,” which either means they don’t have a favorite stem, or much more concerning, they don’t use a stem at all.
A mountain bike stem is a small, fairly simple part of our mountain bikes, but important and necessary nonetheless. Not only that, as mountain bikes have evolved over the past several years with longer top tubes, riders are seeking to “upgrade” to shorter stems to pair with ever-widening handlebars.
Looking at the most popular brands of stems suggests that many mountain bikers do prefer to stick with whatever comes on their bike. Specialized and Bontrager, Trek’s house brand, make appearances among the top 6 brands overall, but so do Thomson and Renthal. Race Face is the most popular brand overall, thanks to the company’s strong OE (original equipment) and after-market popularity.
- Race Face
If you’re in the market for an upgraded stem, or are swapping out your OE stem for a shorter one, you can’t go wrong with any of these top choices.
#1: Race Face Atlas
Race Face markets the Atlas stem for trail, all-mountain, and even DH riding (depending on the version), which makes it one of the more aggressive choices on this list. This stem also happens to be the heaviest among the top 5, weighing in at 170g for the 65mm version. However, at a suggested price of $100 USD it’s priced just right, and in my opinion, it’s the best looking stem in the group.
Race Face Atlas 35mm MTB Stem - 65mm x 35mm x 0 deg Black | Stems
$80.38 Wiggle US AD
#2: Thomson Elite X4
Mountain bikers seem to like the Thomson Elite X4 because it’s a high quality stem at a reasonable price. Thomson offers the Elite X4 in lengths from 40mm all the way up to 130mm, and in both silver and black finishes. The 70mm Elite X4 weighs 141g, and is priced at $99.95 USD.
Thomson X4 Bicycle Stem Face Plate (Black)
$10.95 Amazon AD
#3: Renthal Apex
Renthal says the Apex stem “combines All Mountain strength, Enduro stiffness and XC lightweight.” Among the alloy stems on this list, it’s the second lightest at 140g for the 70mm version. Priced at $109.95 USD, it’s also one of the priciest stems on the list.
#4: Enve Carbon Stem
The Enve Carbon stem is the only non-alloy, carbon fiber stem among Singletracks readers’ favorites. The 70mm Enve Carbon Stem weighs only 99g, which is far less than any stem of comparable length on our list. Reviewers say the Enve Carbon Stem damps vibration better than alloy and even titanium stems. However, that light weight and high performance comes at a price: $265 USD, to be exact. But don’t let that stop you: Enve offers a payment plan starting at just $23 a month.
ENVE Enve Carbon Brake Pads - Set of 2 One Color, Shimano/SRAM
$29.99 Amazon AD
The Race Face Turbine seems to offer the best value among the stems on this list, at least for XC, trail, and all-mountain riders. While those who are looking for a short stem may find the shortest, 60mm Turbine unworkable, everyone can appreciate the light weight (just 124g for the 70mm version) and the affordable $94 USD suggested retail price.
Race Face Headset Spacer Kit with Top Cap Black
$12.74 Amazon AD
Your turn: Which mountain bike stem do you plan to buy next?