Generally, one effective fix to a cycling-related back issue is changing the handlebar position. You can do that with either a stem riser or an adjustable stem. But how does a stem riser vs adjustable stem compare?
Both the stem riser and adjustable stem allow you to lift your handlebar. The difference is that an adjustable stem also allows you to pull it back or forward. Note, however, that a stem riser allows you to lift it higher than an adjustable stem.
Overall, the reason for using either option is to improve your cycling comfort. That’s more important if you constantly complain of back pain or wrist discomfort after cycling.
But to help you choose between the two, I will make a side-by-side comparison.
Let’s get into it!
Stem Riser Vs Adjustable Stem: Side By Side Comparison
While both the stem riser and adjustable stem are known to change the handlebar position, they differ in a few ways.
Let’s see how.
From their name, adjustable stems are designed to be adjusted. You can use them to change the handlebar position by moving them forward or backward.
Overall, you can adjust the handlebar by up to 60 degrees back or forth.
In contrast, stem risers allow you only to move the handlebar further up and not back and forth, as it’s the case with adjustable stems.
So, while stem risers offer you the convenience of elevation, adjustable stems provide you with the comfort of drawing the handlebar closer or away.
Verdict – Adjustable stems offer you more adjustability as they allow you to push the handlebar back and forth.
Even though adjustable stems are easily tilted, they offer a firm grip, essential for your bike handling and safety.
Stem risers also promise adequate grip, thus suitable for handlebar handling and cycling safety.
Verdict – Both options offer you enough grip strength to improve your handlebar handling and safety.
Height Range (Elevation)
This is where there is a massive difference between an adjustable stem and a stem riser.
Usually, a stem riser allows you to increase the stem height by as much as 200mm or more and, in the process, lift your handlebar that high.
Yes, an adjustable stem can lift your handlebar by some degree, but the elevation is smaller. In some cases, you may get up to 85mm or 100mm, but that’s about it.
Verdict – A stem riser offers you more elevation than an adjustable stem.
Bike Fit and Installation
Both options mostly come in universal fits to fit an array of bikes. So, they are compatible with a wide range of bicycles.
It’s essential to confirm, however, as it doesn’t apply to all bikes.
Both extenders are easier to fit. You can install them in seconds without expert input.
Verdict – Both options are easy to fit and compatible with most bikes.
Both stem risers and adjustable stems employ more robust materials, mainly aluminum alloy, which promises durable performance.
Overall, their durability depends on usage. If you use any of them aggressively, you are likely to compromise their integrity.
Verdict – There is no clear winner as both extenders come with durable materials.
Stem risers usually are safer when they are fitted on non-carbon steerer tubes. That’s because carbon steerer tubes are weaker and likely to bend.
But overall, they are not safe for aggressive riding as it compromises their strength.
Adjustable stems are also safer and can be fitted on most bikes. You, however, should avoid fitting them on mountain bikes as they are not built for such abuse.
Verdict – While both options are safer to use, they are not the best for aggressive usage.
Stem risers are simple. They feature a small bar that doesn’t weigh much.
They mostly come in aluminum alloy construction, which is lightweight, and they average 200-250g.
Adjustable stems also come in the same lightweight construction material. The difference is that they have more parts which makes them weigh slightly more.
Most adjustable stems average 280-300g.
Verdict – There isn’t a considerable difference in weight between stem risers and adjustable stems. However, stem risers are slightly lighter for featuring fewer parts.
On average, stem risers cost $10-$15, while adjustable stems cost $18-$30.
Verdict – Adjustable stems are almost twice as costly as stem risers. That’s understandable, given that they have more to offer.
Stem Risers Vs Adjustable Stems: Purpose and Working Mechanism
Remember, the reason why you are changing the handlebar position is that you can have more comfort.
So, whether your back is hurting or the cycling is messing up your posture, changing the handlebar position can help.
Ordinarily, you’ve to decide between elevating the handlebar so that you can sit upright or change the handlebar angle.
If it’s the first case, then a stem riser is ideal. And if it’s the latter, go for an adjustable stem as it’s better suited for the purpose.
- Working Mechanism
Stem risers are fitted onto the steerer tube to increase the height of the steerer tube and handlebar in the process.
On the other hand, an adjustable stem is fitted onto the front fork stem to lift the handlebar or lower it at an angle.
Stem Rise or Adjustable Stem; Which One is Better?
Overall, a stem riser is better suited for elevating your handlebar above its maximum extension height.
While an adjustable stem can elevate the handlebar, it’s better suited for adjusting its position. It does an excellent job of pulling the handlebar close or away from your body.
So, choosing between the two depends on your need, but overall, both options can wobble under stress.
They quickly weaken when you hit bumps or apply too much force. As a result, they are not the best for aggressive riding or rough usage.
That means you shouldn’t use them for serious BMX stunts or mountain biking.
If you plan to ride off-road, I recommend using a robust angled stem such as the FOMTOR Bike Stem.
It’s cheaper and allows you to lift or lower your handlebar by 45 degrees. The best part is that it’s compatible with BMX, MTB, most road bikes, and track bikes.
Stem Risers Vs. Adjustable Stems FAQs
1. What Is Adjustable Stem?
An adjustable stem is a bike stem you fit onto your existing bike stem to alter the handlebar position. It allows you to pull the handlebar towards you or away from you by adjusting its angle.
2. What Is Handlebar Riser?
A handlebar riser is a short metallic bar installed into the steerer tube to lift the handlebar.
3. Should I Use A Stem Riser?
A stem riser comes in handy when you have a shorter handlebar and are not ready to replace it. You can use a stem riser to lift the handlebar, which is essential when you experience a back or neck issue after cycling.
4. Are Stem Risers Safe?
Stem risers are generally safe when you pick the right material and fit them correctly. They are, however, not safe on carbon steerer tubes as carbon is naturally weak.
But overall, stem risers are safe for casual riding with bikes like beach cruisers, hybrids, city bikes, and comfort bikes.
5. How Can I Increase My Stem Height?
You can increase your stem height and handlebar using any of these tips:
- Moving the spacers
- Fitting a stem riser
- Flipping the existing stem
- Replacing your current bike stem with a more extended option
- Upgrade to a riser bar
6. Is A Shorter Bike Stem Better?
A shorter bike stem generally allows you to handle the bike better and offers you a responsive feel. But when it comes to having more pedaling leverage, a longer stem is more advantageous.
A longer bike stem puts you in a better pedaling posture, essential on steep slopes.
7. Are Adjustable Stems Any Good?
Adjustable stems are quite good in adjusting the handlebar position. They allow you to lift the handlebar, lower it, or push it away from your body or close to you.
They are, however, only best for casual bikes such as beach cruisers, comfort bikes, city bikes, and hybrids.
Stem Riser Vs Adjustable Stem: Closing Thought
Generally, a stem riser offers your handlebar more elevation, but that’s about it.
Though an adjustable stem doesn’t provide you as much elevation as a stem riser, it allows you to lower and raise the handlebar at an angle.
As a result, it offers more, and that explains why you pay more for them.