Can You Raise Bike Handlebars? A Beginner’s Guide

You feel uncomfortable riding your mountain bike, and you decide it’s because of its handlebar. It’s too low.

Then, you wonder if you should raise the mountain bike handlebar a little. You ask your cyclist friends for some ideas, but you need clarification.

Many beginner cyclists feel the same way you do. They experience discomfort; thus, they can’t get the most out of their mountain and road bikes.

Fortunately, you discover this article as you search online. So kindly continue reading to learn if you can adjust your bike’s handlebar.

What Are the Bike’s Handlebar Components?

Bike's Handlebar

Aside from affecting the rider’s comfort, the handlebar controls the bike. You adapt your riding position based on its placement.

Here are the essential parts of a handlebar:

Stem                       

The handlebar stem connects the bicycle handlebar and steerer tube. It has two kinds: threadless and quill.

You expand the steerer tube’s bolt to keep the quill stem in place. Generally, it has measurements. Ensure you don’t exceed them if you don’t want the limb to fall.

On the other hand, a threadless stem extends the wedge bolt to the tube.

Spacers

Spacers add height to the bike handlebar. You can raise or lower them by adding or removing spacers.

Faceplate

The faceplate keeps the handlebar in place with bolts and is the furthest component from the cyclist.

Headset

You’ll find the headset on top of the bike frame underneath the headset spacer. You’ll recognize it because it takes the shape of a headset bearing or ring.

Pinch bolts

The steering tube connects to the stem through pinch bolts.

Why Is Bar Height Significant?

If your handlebar has your desired height, you enjoy excellent posture and comfort as you ride your bike.

If the handlebar is too far forward or too low, you’re putting additional pressure on your joints and back.

A raised handlebar allows you to sit more upright. However, many riders prefer it to be of equal height to the bike saddle or higher.

If you prefer to ride faster, you should set the handlebar at most five centimeters below the saddle.

Setting the handlebar height includes trial and error because you must adjust it if you feel uncomfortable while riding.

Ensure your elbows are at a 90-degree angle between your upper arm and torso. Then, you can adjust the brake levers to achieve proper reach and a neutral wrist position.

If recovering from a back or neck injury, you should temporarily adjust the bike’s handlebar.

Bike racers also consider the handlebar position when they want to benefit from aerodynamics and maximize their cycling stature.

Height adjustments differ between recreational riding and racing.

Racers often prefer a low handlebar profile for increased control, traction, and aerodynamics. They also enjoy lowered center of gravity.

A raised handlebar above the saddle provides better posture and greater comfort. If you ride recreationally, you should consider these factors.

Adjust Bike Handlebars with a Threadless Headset Stem

Threadless Headset Stem
  1. You should adjust the bike’s stem height depending on your comfort level.

When you adjust the handlebar, you should bend your arms at the elbows, but you shouldn’t bend or hunch your back.

If you’re a racer, you should keep the handlebar at most four inches below your bike seat for you to crouch aerodynamically.

If you’re a beginner or comfort rider, your handlebar should be higher or at the same level as your seat.

  • Use an Allen key to loosen the stem cap and remove the long bolt.

The stem bolt ensures the handlebar keeps its place on the bike. You should also remove the stem cap and keep it in a safe place.

  • Use an Allen key to loosen the screws on your bike’s handlebar.

The screws are on the stem but closest to your seat. Loosen them to pull the stem and handlebar off the frame tube.

  • Remove the stem from the bike frame.

Slowly remove the handlebar, but ensure you don’t bend or stress the wires attached to the derailleurs and brakes.

To be safe, you should put your bike on a chair or table before carefully placing the handlebar close to your bicycle.

  • Adjust the circular risers to achieve the desired height.

Adjust the handlebar height by adding or removing circular risers.

However, please don’t remove the bearing cover, the conical shape at the stem’s bottom, because it connects to the frame.

Your local bike shop sells spacers; therefore, buy more if you want to raise your handlebar.

  • Return the handlebar and put it over the spacers.

Initially, the bars may need to align perfectly. It will help if you put the extra spacers on the stem top so you won’t lose them.

Then, use the stem cap to cover them later.

  • Tighten the stem cap bolt after inserting it.

You can tighten it with your hand before aligning the handlebar. Use a torque wrench if you have a carbon fiber frame to avoid cracking delicate pieces.

The handlebar should freely turn; therefore, slightly loosen the head bolt if the handlebar won’t move.

  • Align the front wheel and the stem.

Keep the bike frame between your legs; then squeeze the front wheel to ensure it’s directly facing ahead. Ensure the handlebar is at the center with the front wheel.

If the handlebar isn’t in place, tighten the nuts to ensure you put more pressure on spinning it. Tighten the bolts when you’ve aligned the handlebar.

  • Adjust the headset alignment.

The headset includes the front wheel, fork, stem, and handlebar. After attaching the top bolt to the bike’s headset, you should check there’s no odd movement or rocking.

Tighten the top bolt. However, you should loosen the top bolt if you feel a tight spot or struggle to turn the handlebar.

  • You can only adjust a threadless headset a little.

Replace the original stem with a new one if you want to change your bike’s handlebar height significantly. Your local bike shop should have bike stems in stock.

You can get a shorter or longer stem if you’re uncomfortable riding your bike.

Adjust Bike Handlebars with Threaded Headset Stem

Threaded Headset

A threaded headset has a straight stem from the frame and then bends forward to connect to the handlebar.

You can find a nut at the frame’s end to keep the stem in place. Moreover, there’s a bolt on top of the stem.

This type of stem is easily adjustable and older; fixed gear and single-speed bikes have it.

If you don’t find a hex nut on the frame, your bike only has a bolt at the top of the stem.

  • Loosen the bolt atop the stem.

The bolt puts pressure to hold the stem in its place. You can use an Allen Key to unscrew it, but ensure you don’t altogether remove it.

  • Use a wrench to loosen the nut.

Loosen the hex nut using a wrench.

  • Remove the handlebar from the frame.

If you can’t easily pull the handlebar, you should twist and wiggle it.

It would be best to mark where the handlebar used to be because you may need to return it to the original location.

  • Lightly grease the stem.

You may remove the dirt using soapy water, but ensure to dry it using a clean rag.

You can use anti-seize grease at the bottom three inches of the stem so it won’t get stuck in the frame.

  • Your riding style should be a consideration when you buy a new handlebar.

If you want to replace the original handlebar, you should ensure you correctly position the new one for utmost comfort.

If you have a road bike, the handlebar should be slightly lower than the bicycle seat for optimum control and aerodynamics at high speeds.

On the other hand, if you’re a mountain biker, the handlebar should also be lower than the bike seat for better balance and a lower center of gravity when navigating rugged terrain.

Lastly, a cruiser bike requires a handlebar to be slightly higher than its seat for maximum comfort and limited strain.

  • Put the stem at your desired location.

Tighten the nut and top bolt using your hand, so you will find it easy to remove later.

Adjust Bike Handlebar Angle

Determine if your bicycle’s stem is adjustable.

An adjustable stem has a bolt perpendicular to the bicycle. You may loosen it to adjust the stem angle.

Remember to tighten the bolt to move your handlebar. However, ensure to test it for a comfortable riding experience.

  • Loosen the screws and the stem’s end.

The stem runs perpendicular to your handlebar. You’ll notice four screws clamped to a square plate on the handlebar’s center.

Loosen the screws so you can rotate the handlebar.

  • Determine your preferred handlebar angle.

The right angle makes your arms comfortable. You should slightly bend your arms while ensuring you can comfortably and quickly reach the brakes.

Moreover, your back should be at a 45-degree angle from your waist. Angling is a minor adjustment, but if you’re uncomfortable, you should buy a new stem.

The brake levers should point at a 45-degree angle to the ground.

  • Test the handlebar angle.

You should lightly tighten the handlebar as you test its angle. However, ensure you tighten the bolts to prevent your weight from crashing the handlebar.

You may lightly tilt the handlebar if you notice your fingers becoming numb as you ride.

  • Tighten the bolts using your hand.

If you’re comfortable with the handlebar angle, you should tighten the bolts but ensure they’re tight enough to prevent you from loosening them later.

You may set your torque wrench at 5nm strength if you prefer to use it to tighten the bolts.

FAQs

Can the Bike’s Handlebar Be Raised?

It’s possible to raise the handlebar of your bike.

How Can I Adjust the Handlebar of My Road Bike?

You can adjust the handlebar of your road bike with these steps:

  • Loosen the handlebar
  • Move it up or down
  • Retighten the handlebar

How Can I Ensure My Road Bike is Upright?

You can ensure your road bike is upright by adjusting the handlebar and the stem bolts before retightening everything.

How Will I Determine If I Have a Threadless Stem?

You know you have a threadless stem if you notice pinch bolts on the steerer tube.

What is Handlebar Height?

The handlebar height is the distance between the top of the bike saddle and the handlebar. Its other name is saddle drop.

Thomas Kersten

Hi, I am a passionate biker, and I have been riding for more than ten years and share my biking tips and tricks with the world. I've tested more than 300 bikes.

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