To slam, or not to slam: that is the question.

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I’m a big fan of the Slam That Stem blog. Mostly ‘cuz I love looking at the candy. (Archive of said candy here.) However, I do not agree with their message.

You do not need to put your stem as low as it will go on every bike you own. You should place your handlebars in the position that your body requires, not just what looks cool.

In case you are unfamiliar with the blog or their mission statement, this image pretty much wraps it up with a nice big red bow on top:

slam that stem

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Every once in a while I hear talk about how tall riders put their bars as low as possible as a matter of course. Well, I’m a tall rider. And, I can assure you that such talk is not correct. It all depends on the geometry of the particular bike.

The (good site, you should check it out) post linked above is an example of this issue. The title of the article is What Eros Poli Always Says.

Well, I don’t know what the man said. I googled it, couldn’t find a damn thing. I but can tell you what the images of him racing show with perfect clarity: Eros Poli did not slam his stem.

And, neither should you.

Below is a photo and video of what Eros Poli actually did with his stem from one of the man’s greatest exploits, his win over Mont Ventoux in the 1994. Granted, he rides a pretty aggressive position. But, there is quill showing on that bike. No doubt about it.

Not slammed. Not even close.

Poli on the Ventoux, 1994 Tour de France.

Image source:

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Now, he may have slammed the stem on other bikes. But, that’s the point, isn’t it? Poli let his body dictate what was needed, not the way the bike looked leaning against the wall.

These are three photos of my own bikes. Notice the difference in appearance. I can assure you that each bikes is set up to fit me. The bars may not be in exactly the same position on each bike, but I will point to the inherent limitations of using 5mm spacers as the reason why. The bars are pretty damn close to the same on each bike. As close as I can get them without finding 1mm spacers and totally geeking out. And, yes, we’re talking about the drop from the saddle using a level to the center of the bars as the factor that should be equal. I run about a 10cm drop, which is around 4 inches, on my road bikes.

The stem on my Specialized Allez is right down on the huge, cone-shaped top cap. Look at me! I slammed my stem! Yeah. Not really. I’d probably go a bit lower if I could. But for that traffic cone I’m sporting…

“Allez” means “Come on!”

My Moser is few years old, built back when head tubes were made with the expectation of a quill stem. In other words, back when top tubes were parallel to the ground and head tubes were shorter than they are these days. This is where my stem needs to be. I call it the Poli Position.

This is what the Moser looks like with the bars in the same place relative to the Specialized.

Murdered out black Cinelli quill. Baller.
Murdered out black Cinelli quill. Baller.

This Surly of my mine just looks like hell. Absolute hell. I will grant the Slam That Stem crowd that point. That front end is just plain ugly. And, no, I haven’t ever gotten around to trimming the fat off that stock-length steerer. That would better the present situation, no doubt. What can I say, I’m lazy. And I’ve got three loads of laundry to get through today. How does that explain the last four (or five, or six) years of my not sorting it out? It doesn’t. But that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Stacked up like whoa.
Stacked up like whoa.

I must admit, there is no excuse for my conduct. I have never gotten around (for years!) to properly trimming the steer tube on that bike. Instead, I just staked up spacers like hot cakes and called it good. It is not good. It is retarded.

Trimming issues aside, I am also tempted to lower the stem just to make it look less ridiculous. That giant sized 10m spacer (or 15, or whatever) is about as cool at that massive top cap I’m stuck with on my Specialized. Which pretty much means it’s like school in the summer: No class. But, if I were to put, say, a 5m spacer under that bitch’n Stella Azzurra stem of mine, the bars would then be lower than they are on any other bike that I own. And, that’s just silly, isn’t it?

The choice is between how it looks and how if fits. You’ve got to go with fit. You wouldn’t wear a helmet that was too small because it looked better, would you? Maybe don’t answer that question. Kids these days, jeez.

Forget slamming. Ride what your body requires.

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About big jonny

The man, the legend. The guy who started it all back in the Year of Our Lord Beer, 2000, with a couple of pages worth of idiotic ranting hardcoded on some random porn site that would host anything you uploaded, a book called HTML for Dummies (which was completely appropriate), a bad attitude (which hasn’t much changed), and a Dell desktop running Win95 with 64 mgs of ram and a six gig hard drive. Those were the days. Then he went to law school. Go figure. Flagstaff, Arizona, USA

26 Replies to “To slam, or not to slam: that is the question.”

  1. I laughed out loud when I shouldn’t have at work…

    “Instead, I just staked up spacers like hot cakes and called it good. It is not good. It is retarded.”

    Fuck it, shit is real, Good.

  2. Don’t trim the steerer on your Surly. Bike fit changes with age. When you get older, you’ll want to move those spacers under the stem, and probably use a shorter and/or more upright stem as well.

  3. Dirt bikes aside, slamming gets one used to a full aero tuck like Rupaul’s genitals. I have been slamming my road/track bikes for years.

  4. Technomic stems go on my bikes with 1″ threaded headsets. And if I see anyone come within ten feet of my Surly with a hacksaw I’m liable to shoot their nuts off. Crosscheck with uncut steerer and a riser stem at the tippy-top. The spacers alone probably weigh more than a whole crabon cockpit and I don’t give a fuck. Oh yeah, and my daily driver (old steel HooKoo) sports riser bars and barends. Fits like it’s s’posed to and I like it that way. Rock on, Gianni.

  5. “Forget slamming. Ride what your body requires.” Well said. Most average cyclists don’t have enough flexibility to maintain a long, low position. But then again, being able to properly digest yer food on the bike, breathing and not having pain/discomfort in your neck, back, hands, groin aren’t very PRO.

  6. Jonny, I worked in a shop a few years ago that sold Colnago. We had Ernesto in one year to do fits for customers. Every customer that he fit he got rid of their spacers and slammed their stem. We quickly went back thru over the next few weeks and re-fit everyone so that they were comfortable. It was rad to watch though. He had fitting sheets with recommendations and all of them had red x’s thru the spacers.

  7. Head Tube.

    Most of the modern bikes are designed for fat fondo riders.

    Forget about the slamming, focus on the drop.

    IOW Big Jonny is correct. Ride what’s right.

    if you happen to by one of them Specialized, or Trek things with head tubes as long as seat tubes on a 56cm bike, well you might need to slam it.

    -another tall freak on a bike

  8. …i could use a little “slam, bam, thank you, ma’am”

    …too tied up to get tied down, these days…

  9. Or flip the stem over… (But then my road bike cockpit would look like a… gasp… mountain bike.) People obsess about the position/look of the stem, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is where the bars are. If you want low, ride in the drops. The proper amount of drop changes over the course of a year as fitness changes, and over multiple years as life gets in the way of riding (or injuries, etc.) If you aren’t racing (and often even if you are), there is little need to have the stem slammed. Ride what fits, and let the rest be damned.

  10. For awhile there I was spending more time on my chiropractor’s table than I was in the saddle. Ain’t had much trouble in that regard since I set the bars an inch or two higher than my saddle.

  11. I think you should not be ashamed of the Surly. When you are old and fat and hurt your back doing some goddamn stupid yard work, you will be able to adjust your riding geometry and keep it on the road. These slammer posers are idiots.

    I get good and fat Ullrich style every winter and need to move the stack to make room for my gut and then just keep dropping the rings all summer. As my bro says, don’t cut the steer tube unless it’s just ridiculous.

  12. “…old and fat and hurt your back doing some goddam stupid yard work…”

    Preachin’ to the choir over here, I’ll tell you what.

  13. that slammed stem looks reminiscent of a quill sort of setup. I prefer a more upright stem for most of the miles, isn’t that why you have a drop-bar in the first place?

  14. I’m diggin the cycling visor. Maybe DC should churn out a few of those. Thinkin about flippin my stem up for my 45th birthday.

  15. It was much easier to “slam the stem” and get away with good fit when bikes were made in 1cm increments with every single size having a different length head tube. Now people are looking at bikes that come in 4-6 sizes total to fit everyone from 4’10-6’6″. That’s why you see so many pros using a smaller frame. It’s because they need to have the drop. They are flexible enough to get away with it and don’t have a fat gut getting in the way. Another plus for them is the long stem slows the steering down a bit so shits more stable when you are putting on a jacket or eating in a group of 200 of your closest friends at 30 mph. It also lets the front tire have enough weight and traction when you are in the drops to descend like an anvil dropped out an airplane on roads you’ve never seen before.