My 2011 Trek Gary Fisher X-Cal 29’er hardtail is going to have to do duty as an all-mountain bike this year because A) I’d like to ride one or more gravity enduros; and B) I can’t afford full squish yet.
So this past week, I upgraded to a:
(I’m somewhat less than mechanically-inclined so I needed a little rescuing from Stew Moyer & Ryan Hutchinson at Mike’s Bikes.)
I rode all of Lebanon Hills Mountain Bike Trail yesterday and I can tell already: the wider bars and shorter stem is a change for the better. It felt awkward at first but I quickly realized that the wider bars helped to keep my arms bent and chest down more which translated to more leverage and stability when hitting rocks and roots at speed. The shorter stem seemed to help me keep my hips ‘hinged’ more instead of crouching. All that translates to being more in the attack/ready position.
I was a little worried about hitting trees, since my old bars were 625mm. But it turned to not be a problem, as I’m pretty good at reflexively leaning my bike anyway.
I was most concerned about how it would affect my technical riding. I was relieved when I cleaned Leb’s long, twisting log skinny on my first attempt. But I didn’t immediately feel confident riding over big rocks and and off ledges. My timing seemed off. I’m too worried, though. It’s a big change and I should be able to adapt.
Lots out there on the interwebs about these changes. Just search on the words ‘wider bars shorter stem’ to get started. Blog posts by mtb instructors Lee McCormack (here) and Gene Hamilton (here) helped convince me. Another good blog post here on the topic by AimFor Harkor.