BMX Tips

Short Vs. Long BMX Chainstay Length?

short vs long bmx chainstay length

Do you also wonder the real difference between short vs. long BMX chainstay lenght?

Is one better than the other?

It depends.

Every BMX rider knows that the key to a great session lies in skill and the fine details of their bike setup.

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Some of us are more geeky about it than others, but that’s perfectly fine.

The chainstay length is a crucial detail to your bike’s feel and performance.

So, what exactly is a chainstay (CS)?

In simple terms, it’s the part of your bike frame that runs from the center of the bottom bracket to the center of rear hub.

It might not sound like much, but this part of the BMX frame geometry plays a pivotal role in how your bike handles, responds and performs.

In short, CS can make your bike feel a lot more responsive or a lot more stable.

That said, there’s no ideal CS length – the CS is unique to your riding.

Understanding the impact of chainstay length will improve your ride and enhance your overall BMX experience.

Understanding Chainstay Length

What is BMX Chainstay Length Anyway?

The chainstay is the part of your bike frame stretching from the rear axle up to where the crankset is installed (bottom bracket).

This isn’t just any piece of your bike’s anatomy; it’s a crucial component that influences your bike’s behavior.

How Is Chainstay Length Measured?

Measuring the chainstay length is pretty straightforward.

You simply measure the distance from the center of the bottom bracket to the center of the rear axle.

The length of this line tells you the chainstay length of your bike, and it’s usually measured in inches.

The Range of Chainstay Lengths

BMX bikes are known for their versatility and ability to fit the rider’s unique style and discipline, and the chainstay length plays a big part in that.

Typically, you’ll find BMX bikes sporting chainstay lengths ranging from about 13 inches to 15 inches.

However, with the popularity of modern street riding, you can also find frames with 12.4 inch chainstays.


Shorter chainstays bring your rear wheel closer to the rest of the bike, making it easier to manual, spin, and maneuver through tight spots.

On the flip side, a longer CS gives your bike more stability at high speeds and a smoother ride over bumps and jumps

Short Chainstay Length

short bmx chainstay length

Short chainstay lengths typically range from about 12.5″ inches to 13.5″.

This compact measurement brings the rear wheel closer to the center of the bike, essentially tightening up the space your bike occupies on the ground.

Benefits Of Short CS

With a shorter chainstay, your BMX becomes an extension of your body, responding swiftly and precisely.

This means tighter turns, quicker spins, and overall agility that feels like magic under your feet.

Getting your bike into manual with a short CS is also much easier.

Moreover, when it comes to technical riding and all those insane 540s, CS plays a role in it.

Drawbacks Of Short CS

Short chainstays can make your bike less stable at high speeds and in the air.

It’s a trade-off for that agility and might take some getting used to.

I’m currently riding the Cult “Biggie” frame and going from the BSD “Raider” frame, you know I needed to get used to the new geomery.

When To Use A Short CS?

If you need a bike that’s responsive and twitchy, that’s when you opt for a short chainstay length.

In general, street or technical part riders opt for this version because it makes it easier to land tricks.

Long Chainstay Length

long bmx chainstay length

Long chainstay lengths stretch a bit further, typically ranging from about 13.5″ to 15″ or more.

This extra length does more than just add a few inches to your bike – it transforms your ride.

Benefits Of Long CS

One of the biggest benefits of a longer chainstay is increased stability, especially at high speeds or when you’re catching air.

Drawbacks Of Long CS

With great stability comes a slight reduction in nimbleness.

Longer chainstays mean your bike might not whip around corners or pivot on a dime quite as easily.

Also, the longer CS makes tricks harder to land.

It’s not a deal-breaker, but something to consider if tricks are your main trick.

When To Use A Long CS?

Long CS BMX bikes find their groove in scenarios where speed and stability are king.

Racing, where every second counts and stability can make or break your finish.

And dirt jumping, where a stable landing is as important as the jump itself.

A longer CS will be a better option if you’re into flow and riding transitions.

Choose The Right Chainstay Length For You

1. What’s Your Riding Style?

Think about where you spend most of your BMX time.

Are you shredding streets, pulling off tricks at the skatepark, racing against the clock, or flying over dirt jumps?

Your preferred BMX discipline is a huge factor in deciding on chainstay length.

Shorter for agility in tricks and turns, or longer for stability and speed.

2. How Tall Are You?

Your height and body size play into this decision too.

A bike that’s well-matched to your physical dimensions can make a big difference in how comfortable and controlled you feel on your sessions.

Taller riders might lean towards a slightly longer chainstay for better balance and fit, while shorter riders may find a shorter chainstay easier to maneuver.

Further reading:

3. What Feels Right?

At the end of the day, how you feel on your bike is paramount.

Some riders prefer a nimble, responsive bike, while others prioritize stability and a smooth ride.

Consider what aspects of riding bring you the most joy and choose accordingly.

I personally like a responsive bike, but too short CS doesn’t feel right.

Also, I advocate picking larger frames, which compensate for the short CS.

Adjusting & Customizing Chainstay Length

In most of the cases, BMX frames come with adjustable CS lengths.

Meaning, the dropouts are large/long enough, so you can adjust the length by adding or removing chain links.

What I find a bit annoying is that many BMX brands don’t state the slammed and centered CS length.

What’s even worse is that you get only one number, let’s say, 13″.

But that doesn’t tell you much because you don’t even know if that’s slammed or centered.

I usually contact the brand or the shop owner in this case.

One of the most important frame specs, and you don’t know what exactly you’re getting?

Weird, I know!

Still, even if the frame specifications state one CS length, it’s usually compatible with at least another (either shorter or longer).

This gives you room for optimization and finding the chainstay length that suits you best.

Experimenting With Length

When experimenting with CS lengths, small adjustments can make a big difference.

Begin by moving your rear wheel slightly forward or back, and note how each change affects your ride.

Try your adjusted setup in various riding conditions.

Notice how it handles in tight turns, on jumps, or when cruising at speed. This will help you find your ideal setup for different riding scenarios.

And when buying a complete bike at a bike store, ask the staff if you can try bikes with different chainstays.

Conclusion: Master Your BMX CS!

And just like that, we’ve cruised through the ins and outs of BMX chainstay lengths, from short to long.

Selecting the right CS length isn’t just a technical decision; it’s a personal one that shapes your interaction with your BMX bike.

To keep it extremely simple:

  • Choose a short CS if you want a more responsive bike.
  • Choose a long CS if you want a more stable bike.

Remember, every frame has adjustable CS – and yes, shortening or lengthening it for just one chain link makes a BIG difference.

Find the ideal CS length unique to you and ensure even more epic BMX sessions.

FAQs About BMX Chainstay Length

What is the difference between short & long CS lengths on a BMX bike?

Short chainstay lengths improve agility and make it easier to perform tricks by bringing the rear wheel closer to the bike’s center. Long chainstay lengths offer more stability at high speeds and smoother handling in the air.

How does chainstay length affect BMX bike’s performance?

Chainstay length influences the bike’s handling, with shorter chainstays providing quicker turns and better trick capability, and longer chainstays enhancing stability, control, and comfort.

Why would someone choose a BMX bike with a short CS length?

Riders looking for a more responsive bike and easier maneuvering for street and park riding would pick short CS, where tricks and tight turns are prevalent.

What are the advantages of a BMX bike with a long CS length?

A long chainstay length is ideal for riders prioritizing stability and control, especially useful in racing and dirt jumping.

Can I adjust the CS length on my BMX bike?

Yes, most BMX bikes and frames come with adjustable CS lengths. You can shorten or lengthen the chainstay by adding or removing chain links.

What CS length is best for me if I’m new to BMX riding?

For new riders, a mid-range chainstay length can offer a good balance between maneuverability and stability. As you gain experience and define your riding style, you may adjust the length for more specialized performance.

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About Author

Rok has been riding BMX for 20+ years, and when he's not having a session, he binges on videos, new product drops and works on creating the best content (sharing tips, tricks & more to make riding bikes easier for you) for The BMX Dude.