I was of the same opinion and bought and rode bikes with short chainstays with preference for a long time. Because of wheelies, manuals and playfulness and flickability and all that :)
I thought I really loved short chainstays.
I discovered my new preference by chance:
After riding the Madonna (at first with hesitation, because of the „long“ chainstays) for a bit and buying it as a backup by impulse (even though it has longer stays) to the Rallon 29 I owned at that time (with similar geo but 10mm shorter stays) I somehow felt very much more comfortable on the bike with longer stays.
The difference ended up being huge in real use, cornering especially was MUCH more natural. I actually sold the Rallon a couple of months later, even though it was beautiful, carbon and three pounds lighter and decked out, I never touched it anymore. I had liked it well enough for a season, before riding the Madonna.
At first you will notice that you need to adjust the technique to pop the front wheel up, thrusting the hips and legs forward, not just leaning back and pulling the handlebars like a BMX. But I got used to it pretty quickly. Now it feels „normal“ and shorter bikes feel strange.
For sure, a smaller, shorter bike will feel more like a bmx. And that can be a lot of fun. There is no WRONG bike, whatever is fun for anyone is right. And there are lots of crazy good riders on basically any geometry.
But I feel that „balance“ is really beneficial for most riding situations. For me, proportionally (to the front center) longer stays have lots of benefits (cornering, seated climbing, stability, traction, tire clearance) which outweigh the cons (lifting the front wheel, fitting into a bike rack).
It is a preference and riders do adjust to different bikes pretty astonishingly imho.
For me personally, my confidence got boosted really by a lot with this different approach. I’ve been riding for 20 years and my progression had stalled pretty solidly. With the Madonna I got a lot faster, without effort. I try new moves and lines and for the first time the ready position feels really natural. I don’t have to think, it just fits.
The most astonishing thing for me, which I don’t fully comprehend though: I’ve been trying to learn to manual for 15 years. I could wheelie for ten minutes, but the proper manual just eluded me, always. I even bought a super short hardtail to learn it, but nada.
After a season on the Madonna, growing ever more comfortable, it somehow just clicked. Once I understood the proper hip movement (thanks to Ryan leech’s excellent video instructions), lofting the front wheel on the long bike was easy enough.
The balance point seems a bit more forgiving. I can manual half a kilometre+ on a street pretty easily now, even with some turns. I don’t tell this to brag, lots of people can do it, it’s just that I feel really elated that I can still learn that stuff at 37 :) I was sure the manual wasn’t in my cards…
And to a certain extent I attribute it to the bike fitting and riding better, because of proportionality.
For smaller or taller riders that may totally differ. Even inseam, arm length and all that stuff will probably make a big difference.
If you have the opportunity, try it. Maybe you like it, maybe not :)
Craw was quicker AND managed to compress what I tried to say into a much more to the point manner ;-)