How does it ride with the long stem?
I prefer a 'long' stem on a ride like this. As you can see in my gallery, this bike's first set up was with a Ritchey fork which was quit short (395mm). That made the head tube angle steep, so it handles nervous and quick. Back than I had a 145mm stem to make the handling not to nervous and keep the weight distrubution not to much on the back wheel.
Now I build it up with a M3 which is 405mm (without me on it) to keep it steep. I couldn't find a Ibis Ti of 140 (what I prefer), so it became a 150mm. I didn't ride it much yet, but I think it's OK. I like an XC bike to respond fast, swift and nimble so again with not all the weight on the back wheel so the front has loads of grip... and it does feel like that now. Though I didn't ride it on steep down hill courses yet.... But hey... I think I'm pretty good at steering down a track, so this will be fine. I have to admit that since I'm also aging my dare devil capacities are going the other way than my age does... Don't know how that works yet... Have to figur out how to improve that unbalance... Any ideas maybe ?
Oh yeah, about the tires... I'm not sure yet. The black look great, but weren't age-corrrect.. Maybe I have to get used to the Panaracers. Though, when I walked in just a few minutes ago, I had the idea I'm beginning to like the visual effect of 'm..