No matter how small it is, every part of your bicycle has a significant effect on your ride. For example, some bikes have longer chainstays than others. So, how does chainstay length affect ride quality?
A bike’s chainstay length affects ride quality in various ways. A bike with shorter chainstays is lighter in weight. Also, it has quicker handling and better traction. On the other hand, bikes with longer chainstays have better stability and bigger tires allowance.
Again, a bicycle with longer chainstays is less prone to redirections caused by strong winds and other road irregularities.
What Is Chainstay Length On A Bike?
For most seasoned riders, they understand what chainstay length is. But let us revisit for the sake of beginners.
Basically, chainstay length refers to the distance from the center of the rear axle to the center of the bottom bracket.
You can take this measurement from the bike’s side view ignoring the z-axis. Therefore, you disregard the thickness of the axle or the bottom bracket.
When dealing with the horizontal dropouts, consider the shortest possible distance as your chainstay length.
How Does Chainstay Length Affect Ride Quality– Short vs. Long Chainstays
There are many unverified ideas as to how the length of chainstays affects ride quality. Therefore, the best way to clear the air is to look at the effects of short and long chainstays. Actually, there are good and adverse effects of each one of them.
What Are The Advantages of Short Chainstays?
For a long time, the cycling world has had the idea that shorter chainstays are better for the following reasons.
Enhanced Rear Wheel Traction
Definitely, shorter chainstays will bring the wheel closer to the rider. As such, the tire’s point of contact comes closer to the cyclist’s center of gravity.
Therefore, the tire gets more flattened because most of the rider’s weight is closer to the wheel. In addition, the wheel’s contact patch with the ground becomes bigger without reducing the air pressure in the wheel.
So, with shorter chainstays, you get better rear-wheel traction which essential when riding on tough terrain.
Also, due to improved rear-wheel traction, you are likely to have an easy time climbing out of the seat as there are fewer risks of the wheel slipping.
Actually, folks characterize single-speed bikes such as the Mongoose Legion Freestyle BMX Bike as having better traction than bikes with long chainstays. It has a Hi-Ten steel frame and has axel pegs for professional performance.
They Are Easier To Handle
When your bike has shorter chainstays, the rear wheel is closer to the front wheel. This distance between the centers of the two wheels is known as the wheelbase.
Consequently, when a bike has a shorter wheelbase, it becomes more agile and easy to handle, even in rough terrains.
So, with short chainstays, the bike allows you to take corners faster as you maneuver through extra twisty trails.
Better For Performing Stunts
With short chainstays, the rear wheel is closer to the rider. Therefore, riders who participate in trick riding such as wheelies, bunny hops, drops, and manuals, can easily get their weight behind the bike.
So, bikes like the Razor High Roller 20” BMX/Freestyle Bike used in stunt riding have shorter chainstays. This bike has favorable weight distribution, which is a great aspect of trick riding. In addition, it has front-wheel pegs.
Stiffer Drivetrain – Better Acceleration
Shorter chainstays dictate that you will have shorter seat tubes and seat stays. As a result, the bike will be lighter in weight than a bicycle of the same make with long chainstays.
In addition, a bike with short chainstays will have a shorter drive train which will be stiffer.
Consequently, the extra stiffness of the drive train makes power transfer efficient.
With less weight and enhanced power transfer, a bike with shorter chainstays has better acceleration than longer ones.
All the same, other factors such as cassette, type of frame material, and frame design affect the weight and acceleration of a bike.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Short Chainstays?
The benefits of a bike with short chainstays sound cool, but they also some downsides that also affect the quality of your ride.
When riding along the trails, a bike with short chainstays is quite agile. A short bike rear help in those snappy turn during stunt riding. Unfortunately, this agility may become unpredictable.
Actually, a bicycle whose handling is too quick is both exhausting and greatly dangerous.
Extremely short chainstays make a bike less predictable. For example, since the rear wheel is very close to the rider, it may slide under the cyclist and throw them off the bike when they least expect.
Imbalanced Bike Geometry
Extremely short chainstays would certainly lead to weird bike geometry imbalance. Technically, short chainstays put the rider’s body weight close to the rear wheel.
When climbing steep slopes, the front wheel of a bike with short chainstays tends to come off the ground. It becomes hard to keep the C.O.G. between the two wheels when the front wheel is constantly trying to lift.
Also, when going downhill, there is the risk of bike looping.
Therefore, to eliminate the issue of looping, bikes designed for cross-country such as the Mongoose Title 24 BMX Race Bike (View on Amazon) have longer stems and chainstays.
So, short chainstays do not guarantee quality rides if they don’t match your riding style and the geometry of the whole frame.
Other challenges of having short chainstays include:
- Tire clearance limitation
- Reduced heel clearance
- Limited Chainring Size
- Limited space to fit racks and fenders
What Are The Advantages Of Long Chainstays?
On the other hand, longer chainstays also have their pros. So, let’s see how chainstay length affect ride quality.
The major advantage of lengthy chainstays is that they are more stable as compared to the shorter ones. Notably, a longer wheelbase provides more stability even when riding at high speeds.
In addition, longer bicycles are less prone to redirection by strong winds or road irregularities. Thanks to the longer chainstays that make the bike’s rear less jumpy.
Also, when riding up a steep slope, the front wheel stays grounded, unlike in a shorter bicycle. Therefore, there are reduced chances of bike looping.
Reduced Vertical Displacement
When riding a bike with short chainstays, they are quite jumpy. On the other hand, bicycles with longer chainstays have smoother rides.
Since the rear wheel is farther from the rider, most of the weight will remain more to the center of the frame.
As such, the rider will more or less feel like one seated next to a lever’s pivot. Though there will still be some vertical displacement, they will be mild.
Therefore a bike such as the Schwinn G.T.X. Comfort Adult Hybrid Bike, which has longer chainstays, gives you a smoother ride even when riding on bumpy trails.
Better Heel Clearance
With a longer bike, you will get better heel clearance when you put rear panniers. If you like carrying your luggage on a bike rack, then you should go for a bike with longer chainstays.
Although the size of panniers and how you mount them also matter when it comes to wheel clearance, the length of your bike’s rear is a prime factor.
Reduced heel clearance can be catastrophic. Therefore, a bike with a long tail is better for panniers.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Long Chainstays?
On the other hand, lengthy chainstays also have some drawbacks that affect the quality of your ride.
They Are Less Agile
Bikes with longer chainstays are more stable due to the wider wheelbase. All the same, that stability comes at a price; your bike becomes less agile.
In addition, the bike becomes less maneuverable over tight corners. If you have to ride in twisty trails, the bike may feel a bit rigid and bulky.
Heavier Bike Frame
Bikes with longer chainstays will definitely have more material for the frame, which translates to extra weight.
Specifically, longer chainstays dictate that your seatstays and the chain have to be longer. As such, the bike’s acceleration may be adversely affected. Also, the extra weight will affect you when riding uphill.
However, unless you light super-light bikes, the extra weight may pass unnoticed by most riders.
Also Read: Are single speed bikes Worth it?
In summary; does chainstay length affect ride quality?
Yes, it does affect. Notably, long and short chainstays have their advantages and disadvantages.
Basically, short chainstays result in a light bike that is easy to maneuver and ideal for stunt riding. Unfortunately, the bicycle is also less stable and can be dangerously squirrely.
On the other hand, longer bikes are heavier and harder to maneuver. Furthermore, these bicycles have more room for accessories like racks and panniers. In addition, they are stable even on rugged terrains.
Therefore, chainstay length affects ride quality when it is long or short.