What's the ideal chainstay length? It's no secret that mountain bikers love to argue on the internet, which means there have been countless heated debates on this very topic, with the 'shorter is superior' crowd on one side and the 'balanced is better' camp on the other. The distance from the center of the bottom bracket to the rear axle plays a crucial role in how a bike will handle, but it turns out that there's not one magic length that will work for all riders in all situations.
Shorter chainstays can make it easier to snap a bike through tight corners and lift the front end up into a manual, just like longer ones can add additional stability at speed, but there's not an exact science as to how a bike's chainstay length is decided upon. In the end, it's really up to the frame designer to decide what will best suit the bike's intended purpose. The length is also dictated to some degree by the suspension design and travel amount of a bike - it's a lot easier to create a hardtail with a super stubby back end than it is a DH bike with big wheels and loads of travel.
Having different chainstay lengths for different frame sizes makes a lot of sense, since only increasing the length of a bike's front center for different sizes can affect the balance of the bike. 420mm chainstays may feel great on size small bike with a 430mm reach, but they may not be as ideal on an extra-large bike with a 510mm reach. More companies are starting to change the chainstay lengths of their frames for each size, and there are others that offer frames that allow the chainstay length to be adjusted via a flip chip, but it's still not the norm.
But does that mean a tall rider won't like a bike with short chainstays, or a short rider won't be happy with longer chainstays? Not exactly – at a certain point it becomes a matter of personal preference, which is one of the reasons there are so many opinions.
For this week's poll, imagine you were designing your ideal mountain bike. For the sake of simplicity there's no category for this mythical bike – enduro, trail, XC, it doesn't really matter – let's just say it's a bike that you'll be using to go up and downhill on a wide variety of terrain.
First, find the section that matches your height, and then select your preferred chainstay length in the poll below.
Rider Height: 155 - 164cm // 5'1” - 5'4”
Rider Height: 165 - 174cm // 5'5” - 5'8”
Rider Height: 175 – 183cm // 5'9” - 6'
Rider Height: 184 – 191cm // 6'1" - 6'3”
Rider Height: 192 - 201cm // 6'4" – 6'7”