Road bikes are one of the most used types of bikes because of their frequent use on paved roads and cycling competitions/races. So you want to have a comfortable riding position when you are in a competition or just out biking.
One of the things that makes a road bike comfortable and fit for proper riding is the STEM.
It is necessary that your road bike’s stem is oriented on the bike in a way that suits you because this will determine your comfort, stretch, reach, posture, speed, etc.
If you are uncomfortable with your bike, flipping the stem is what you should be considering, which you probably are.
Can You Flip a Road Bike’s Stem?
The road bike’s stem is that part of the bike that connects the handlebars and steerer tube. It comes in different lengths and aids in proper handling and comfort.
The road bike’s stem also comes in different types which determine how it is attached to the steerer tube. It could be “threadless” or “quill”.
You can definitely and easily flip a Road Bike Stem in a few easy steps. This will ensure a straight back or a position that is more comfortable for the rider.
What Does It Mean to Flip Your Road Bike’s Stem?
Flipping the stem means simply changing the angle of the stem by turning it over.
If it was previously facing downward and you turn it upside to face upward, then you have flipped it, and if it was previously facing upwards and you turn it to face downwards, this is will also be called “flipping”.
So you can either flip your road bike’s stem up or down. It just means you have changed its position or angle.
If you have a 15-degree stem, for example, flipping it up will give your road bike a 15-degree positive rise (steerer tube to handlebars), and flipping it down will give your bike a 15-degree negative drop, which can affect the height and position of your handlebars considerably.
Before making that kind of change to your road bike, you should make sure it is absolutely necessary for you to do so.
You may want to consider……..
1- The Fit
If the present setup and stem position of your road bike gives you comfort and suits your build, then you don’t need to flip the stem.
Most modern bikes come with stems that are stretched almost straight (horizontal), or a little downward, which some people find very difficult to adapt to. It gives a very stretched-out position which may look cool but not comfortable enough to ride long distances. In this case, you may need to flip it to angle it upwards (a bit) to give you a more upright position.
If you’re someone given to aesthetics, then you may be more interested in how cool your bike looks, or if it conforms to the present fashion trend.
Some cyclists flip their bike’s stem to conform to a fashion sense, which may not be suitable for them. It may look good, but if it isn’t a good fit for you, you would only be hurting yourself and ruining your cycling experience.
You may end up with back and wrist aches. You may also sustain more injuries in the long run.
Road bikes’ stems facing down look more traditional and cool. This is why most modern road bikes come with their stems angled a bit downward. If it doesn’t give you problems, then you should leave it that way.
If the fashionable position doesn’t make you comfortable, then you may have to trade beauty for comfort. It all depends on you and what you prioritize.
3- Talking to an Expert
Before flipping your road bike’s stem, you should identify the problems you have with the current setup of the bike and ask experts if flipping the stem is the answer.
Not all riding/ steering issues can be fixed by flipping the stem of your bike.
Road bike stems come in different lengths and angles to suit individual preferences and body build. If the stem length for your road bike is not the right one for you, flipping it will not fix the issues you may have with it.
For example, if you want to lengthen your reach or put your body in a more aerodynamic position, flipping the stem upward will not be as effective as replacing it with a longer one. Shorter stems make steering fast.
So before flipping your stem, talk to an expert and be sure that it is what is needed to fix the issues you may be experiencing with your road bike.
Sometimes, instead of flipping the bike's stem, you may just need to adjust the spacers to give your handlebar the angle and height that fits you.
Pros and Cons of Flipping the Stem
We’ve already established that the stem can be flipped at an upward or a downward angle. Let’s talk about the pros and cons of each, so you can decide which will be a good fit for you.
Flipping the Stem Downward
There are many benefits of flipping the stem down, which is why many riders prefer it. It is best for people that are flexible and not uptight at all.
1- The distance from the seat to the bar is lengthened. When this happens, your weight slightly rests forward and this increases speed handling because drop is increased. If your body is flexible and you love speed, then you may find this position more comfortable and fit for you.
2- It helps a rider to achieve a more aggressive position and less energy is needed to maintain speed.
1- Because your weight is pushed forward slightly as a result of the drop, your wrists may bear the brunt. Most of your weight will rest on your wrist and it may take a while before you get used to it.
2- If you aren’t flexible, it would be difficult to get used to this flipped stem angle. It requires more upper body strength for the low position to be maintained. This can lead to back pain if you’re uptight.
3- If your stem is too low, you are probably going to experience tension in your shoulders, due to which you’ll have to lift your head a bit. This will lead to a higher aero drag signature.
Flipping your stem to angle it down can cause a whole lot of aches that make riding difficult over time if it isn’t the right fit for you.
Tip: If your body isn’t getting used to it, flip it back up or see an expert that can fit your bike to your body build perfectly.
Flipping the Stem Up
1- Riders usually feel more comfortable riding when their stem is fixed to have a rise. This is because the higher the rise (degree), the more upright your position will be. This helps to relieve tension in the lower back.
2- This stem position is best for older men and riders that are less flexible.
3- It also relieves your body pressure and takes the weight off your wrists and arms, because your weight distribution goes back a bit, although that depends on the degree of the rise.
1- The disadvantage may be that it doesn’t look cool or fashionable.
2- It also may not be a correct fit for you. Flipping the stem down is more ‘roadie’ and generally acceptable.
You should however go with a position that is fit for you. Comfort should be considered over beauty.
How to Flip the Stem
Flipping your road bike stem is pretty simple with the right tools and steps.
STEP 1: Loosen the bolts around the stem and the faceplate (If your faceplate is removable). Undo and remove them gently until the handlebar swings free. Set bolts aside.
STEP 2: Allow the handlebar to rest gently against the bike.
STEP 3: Remove the top cap on the stem (use a correct sized Allen key), undo the bolts around the steerer wheel (2 or 4), remove them, and set them aside. There may be a spacer on top of the stem, remove that before removing the stem.
STEP 4: Flip the stem by turning it upside down(invert) and fix it back to the steerer tube. Replace the spacers as you saw them. Bolt the top cap.
STEP 5: Tighten the 4 bolts and put the handlebars in place at the other end. Tighten the bolts there too. Make sure you tighten evenly and bolting the stem too tight. This can affect your cycling, fit and cause injuries.
You can flip your road bike stem, either up or down. There is no correct stem angle, position, or length. It all depends on your body build and fit.
If the current stem angle on your bike gives you no problem, then you should let it be that way. You don’t have to change it just to please others.
If you need to flip your bike stem to make you ride more comfortably, it’s perfectly okay to do that and it is quite simple too, as explained. Follow those steps above and be careful not to damage your bike.