The handlebar height can impact comfort or performance. Depending on the assumed position, a handlebar can make the biker take a more relaxed, comfortable riding position, or it can make the biker assume a more aggressive one.
In this case, a biker may perform better or worse and suffer a dip in performance due to discomfort or improper position. Others still have a handlebar or a shorter stem that is probably too short and stretches the rider too much, resulting in stress in the back. That is an uncomfortable position.
Innovation in biking technology led to the development of the stem riser and the adjustable stem. Both promise to relieve the riders of discomfort and deal with those hassles. They promise a far more comfortable riding position, better performance for the rider, or both.
But which is better? There is this stem riser vs. adjustable stem debate going on. So let us look at it deeper to understand what stem riser and adjustable stem are, their difference, and how they can impact our biking experience.
The Benefits of a Stem Riser
The bike stem connects your handlebar to the steerer tube. So this one is an extender, a device for raising your steer tube and, by extension, elevating the handlebar.
The rider can assume a more upright position by extending the handlebar to the intended position. This more relaxed position reduces the strain on the back and can make for a far, more comfortable ride.
Using it is not that complicated; it just elevates the stem and handlebar. It is easy to have one and fit it on your bike. You adjust and use a bolt or two and then have the proper position. Sounds easy and uncomplicated, really, right? But it would be best if you mind some things.
Some Issues with it
This added bike component may not fit all the specs of your bike, especially those at the front. For one, a stem riser can overextend the height of the handlebar. If that happens, you will have an absolute, upright position, which may defeat the very purpose of your biking.
Aside from that, it might impact other parts of your bike. Those shifters and brakes may have cables, and using this “extender” may severely affect them if you decide to put a stem riser. Cables in bikes have definite lengths, customized to a bicycle without a stem riser.
Using it, you might also need different cables for shifters and brakes. That is more upgrades than you want.
The Benefits of an Adjustable Stem
This one has the same purpose as the other, but you can adjust them without removing them. It has clamps, which you loosen and tighten as you adjust the height of the stem.
What also makes it different is that you can adjust the handlebar north or south.
Some Issues with it
The same problem concerning the other is the same one you faced when using this one—the possibility of more upgrades than what is necessary.
More serious, however, is that when you decide to adjust the height and angle of the handlebar, the rise impacts the curve. A higher handlebar height means a handlebar closer to your body, a shorter one, farther.
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Comparing the Two
To know which is better, we can compare several aspects of the two, assessing if one has the edge over the other.
Which Gives More Elevation?
Concerning elevation and stem height, a stem riser can raise the bar height higher than its counterpart. The latter can only adjust up to a certain extent. The former can increase the length of your handlebar to 20cm, while the latter can elevate it up to 10cm, maybe less.
Which One is Easy to Adjust?
You have more leeway using the adjustable one than using the other. You cannot move the stem riser horizontally, and you can do that with the other up to a certain angle.
You can fit them quickly on your bikes. There should be no problem concerning this.
The more fundamental issue is how it impacts those other parts of the bike, such as the cables, as we mentioned.
But where you put it on your bike differs. You put your stem risers into the steerer tube, increasing its height and that of the handlebar. If you choose the other, install it on the original front fork stem, changing the handlebar’s height and moving it to the angle suitable for the rider.
A stem riser costs nearly half less than its counterpart. However, unlike other bike parts, it may not matter much, for the difference is only a few dollars. It should not impact the actual need of a rider.
Which is More Durable?
They are both of aluminum alloy. Aluminum alloy is a light but strong material used in most bike parts. As such, it is solid and sturdy on its own.
However, it would help if you exercise caution when using them, for they must be fit and appropriate for the bicycle and the purpose. Some might not be suitable for extreme biking activities, such as trail riding and mountain biking.
For carbon-made steerer tubes, you must not have the stem one. Carbon-made steerers are significantly lighter, and using them might compromise the component. It might damage the steerer tube.
Meanwhile, an adjustable one is never ideal for a mountain bike. This one is not suitable for strenuous riding activities. A hybrid bike may not benefit from it either.
Both are more suitable for bike use for casual riders, commuting, or recreation. Strong as the two may be, they may not be strong enough to handle extreme pressure from trail riding and the like.
Who May Need A Stem Riser For Their Bikes?
Those who feel uncomfortable may try to install one for their bikes. But aside from comfort, who are the riders that may need to install one?
Those who are into Casual Riding
People who are into casual riding and those who are into recreational biking will benefit most from having a stem riser. They can adjust the stem depending on what suits them. They can change the handlebar’s height if they want a more relaxed position.
On the other hand, if they are in a hurry or want to have a friendly race with their companions or friends, they can adjust it back to the original position or to the desired position to assume a more aggressive riding posture.
Those who are into Commuting
Like those enjoying a casual or recreational ride, those who commute may benefit from using it for their bikes. They can adjust it depending on whether they want speed or comfort while commuting or want both of them.
Road Bike Riders
Road bike riders usually assume a more aggressive biking stance, one that suits the bicycle more. The need for speed necessitates such kind of posture.
But if the rider wants to feel relaxed for a moment, he can adjust the stem and increase the height. It only takes a minute or two to use a hex wrench to adjust the elevation.
Who May Need An Adjustable Stem
It has the same purpose as the stem riser but provides more, making it ideal for specific riders.
Those who Lend Their Bikes
Not all of us have a bicycle, and some lend their bikes or borrow one from their family or friends. Those who borrow bikes may need a different handlebar height or may need to adjust the handlebar to suit them.
This one would be suitable for this purpose. It is quick and easy, easier to use than the other, which you need to remove from the bike and adjust the bolts. It is more of a quick fix to changing the height than the other.
How to Choose One?
Here are some tips when buying either of the two for your bike.
Yes, reputation does matter. There are lots of them available on the market online. Make sure you only buy those that are from reputable biking brands.
You cannot ensure the quality or how good both of them are. Hence, you better rely on reputable ones that produce top-quality bike parts.
It is better to buy from those who offer a warranty, as it guarantees the quality or an item replacement.
Talk to the Expert
Not all of us are very knowledgeable about bikes. If you have questions, the best way is to visit a local shop or talk to a bike mechanic.
They can explain to you what are the pros and cons of using one or the other. They can also practically demonstrate the things we talked about here. Finally, they can show and explain the practical limitations of both components and what they can do or cannot.
They can give you practical advice about which of the two is better for your bike.
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So Which is Better?
The two can help you get the needed elevation for the handlebar and put it at a precise position. It is not an exact science; for a stem riser, adjusting the height may result in too high an elevation. For the adjustable stem, adjusting the height may result in changes in the angle of the handlebar.
The best thing about them is that you have an option, and you need not suffer or endure the uncomfortable position when riding. Having one of the two is undoubtedly better than nothing.
As our stem riser vs. adjustable stem discussion shows, both have limitations and can impact your other bike components. In this case, you need to choose whether it is worth it to have one, for you may need a far more upgrade than necessary without really having that satisfaction.