A mountain bike stem is the bit that connects the handlebars to the fork steerer. They come in different lengths and with different rises. Modern stems are typically between 40mm and 70mm long with two bolts at the rear and four bolts at the front.

The first job you need to do is to work out what stems will actually fit on to your bike. Your fork steerer is almost certainly going to be the usual 1-1/8th” diameter. Handlebar diameter is a bit less straightforward. Modern era mountain bikes will either have 31.8mm diameter handlebars or the rarer 35mm diameter handlebars. Older or cheaper bikes may be 25.4mm diameter.

RaceFace Ride Stem

For cross-country trails

Price: $30

The RaceFace Ride stem is one of those components that makes you question whether you need to spend mega-bucks on parts. It looks better than some (much) more expensive stems. The Ride range is aimed at general cross country riders and light trail use. The stem is forged from 6061 aluminium and then shot-peened to create a hard-wearing finish. The face-plate is machined out for accuracy and a snug fit with the handlebar.

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Funn Crossfire MTB Stem

Best value 35mm diameter

Price: $50

The Funn Crossfire stem is a stem aimed at enduro use, but in reality, it is a stem that's well-suited to pretty much any MTB application. The Crossfire is a zero-rise stem, even though the shaping plays tricks with your eyes and makes it look like a negative rise stem. One neat feature of this design is that it places more body material under the handlebar, so it puts less force on the faceplate to hold everything together.

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Truvativ Hussefelt Stem

For aggressive riders

Price: $40

The classic Truvativ Husseflet stem is pitched at the downhill and enduro end of the market. You never need to worry about stiffness with Truvativ stems, and, true to type, the Hussefelt feels like it’s hewn from girders. Basically, you lean on the bars, and the bike turns with a solid, near-instantaneous response with no discernible twisting or rotating between the grips.

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Spank Split 35 Stem

Best lightweight 35mm

Price: $70

The Spank Split 35's squat stance gives it a purposeful look suited to any trail or enduro bike. The wide clamp locks your bar in a vice-like grip. It clamps the bars securely and resists twisting and deflection incredibly well. It also comes at a price that makes it a very attractive option. And to make it even better, it comes with a branded top cap to keep everything matching.

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Thomson X4 Stem

Best premium all-rounder

Price: $80

Thomson uses a special plating process on the stem bolts to resist corrosion. All the clamp edges are smooth, so this unit works safely with carbon bars. It's a good weight, sleek, durable, and is easily worth the price tag. It doesn't hurt that it's also one of the best looking stems out there too. There aren't many stems we’d fit to our bikes before this one.

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Syntace Megaforce 2 Stem

Best for short stems

Price: $70

The engineering precision incorporates sculpting within the centre of the steerer section, and some aggressively shaped, minimal bar clamps to better direct torsional loads into the stem. The lightweight, titanium bolts are cleverly tucked away from knees within cutaways. The steering precision, sensation of control, and lack of vibration in the hands feel perfect. Syntace really has ticked all the boxes.

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All six of these chosen stems are worthy of your money. They are all really well-thought-out and have a suitable combination of construction, material choice, dimensions, and clamp design. We'll break things down into rider styles then. For heavier or more aggressive gravity-fuelled mountain bikers, we think you can't really go wrong with the classic Truvativ Hussefelt stem. For lighter or more trail riding XC mountain bikers, you should be looking at the no-nonsense and great value Race Face Ride stem.