Leaning over too much on your bike? The handlebars might need some adjustment.
Of course, a more upright position can improve your riding experience. But if the handlebars are too low, it won’t be long before your back and neck really start to hurt.
The good news is that you can fix this problem pretty easily with many bike models.
Let’s get right to it.
Why is Handlebar Height Important
Whether you own a cheap bike or cruise around on a model from one of the best bicycle brands available, one thing is sure: the height of the handlebar can make a huge difference in your riding experience.
Unfortunately, most people pay less attention to bar height.
Instead, you’ll hear many cyclists split hairs fork offset, wheel size, stanchion diameter, and all other setups and components.
Of course, these things are important, but not more crucial than bar height.
Here’s the thing;
You can’t ignore even a small 5mm change in your handlebar height, at least, not for too long! The slightest off-tuning in the bars can significantly affect how the bike handles.
So, why is handlebar height so important?
Here’s a quick rundown to help you understand this better.
The Right Handlebar Height Gives You a Perfect Fit
In addition to choosing the correct frame size, seat height, and handlebar style, getting the bar height of your bars right is part of making sure that your bike is the ideal fit for you.
This means you have more control while riding, so steering or maneuvering isn’t an issue.
Besides, the perfect fit – in this case, the correct handlebar height – will allow you to ride in the most comfortable position.
For utmost comfort, consider raising your handlebars to at least the height of your bike seat. Going a little above your bike seat will even allow you to ride in a more upright position.
Of course, your handlebar height can be lower than your seat if that’s what you want.
But there’s a tradeoff.
You will be “pushed” into the handlebars! That means your back, neck, arms, and wrist will have to bear unnecessary stress.
And the result?
Discomfort, aches, and pains instead of fun!
Good Bar Height Provides the Right Amount of Elbow Bend
The correct handlebar height helps you accomplish two crucial things when riding. First, you will be able to better absorb impacts better. Secondly, it lets you maintain adequate pressure on the front wheel.
Here’s what this means.
At the right bar height, you will have the appropriate amount of bend in your elbows. Think of it like getting into the “attack position.”
Your elbow should have enough bend to push your bike’s front wheel down holes and slopes with the right amount of pressure. Yet, it gives adequate room to handle shock and impact.
You Can Look Farther Down the Path
In addition to making it harder to maneuver your bike, you’ll have a difficult time looking up to the path ahead of you on down slopes if your bar height is too low.
Also, a bar height that’s too low will force you to extend your arms while riding.
That’s because you want to “push” the bike away from you since that’s the only way you can maintain contact with the ground on steep slopes.
Learning how to raise handlebars on a bike will allow you to look up and see the trail or path ahead even on steep down slopes.
You Can Easily Change Direction
The handlebars will feel too close to your chest if the height is too high. In other words, it will feel as if your weight is pushed away from the front wheel.
This can make some cyclists feel somewhat disconnected from the front wheel.
They can feel a bit awkwardly upright, too.
Similar to how you’ll position yourself when riding a two-wheeled, self-balancing personal transporter.
Here’s one other question you should answer.
Do you know what will happen when riding in tightly alternating turns if the height of your handlebars is too high?
Yes, you guessed right! It can be a tad difficult to change directions.
You can avoid all of these by making sure the handlebars are adjusted to suit you perfectly.
Bottom line: You don’t want to ignore the height of your handlebars. It can make all the difference in your riding experience.
Now that we have all that out of the way, let’s get on with how to raise handlebars on a bike.
Tools and Equipment
Here is everything you’ll need to adjust the handlebars on your bike:
- A set of Allen keys, hex wrench set, or multi-tool
- Adjustable wrench (pre-set Torq key or torque wrench will be preferable)
- A hammer (for quill stems)
- Screwdriver (optional)
Let’s get something clear before you head out to buy these tools (if you don’t already have them).
Not all handlebars are adjustable.
Some manufacturers weld the handle on their bikes. While this prevents wheel wobble, it makes it impossible to raise or lower the handlebars.
If that’s your type of bike and you’re uncomfortable with the height of the handlebars, you may have to buy a more appropriately-sized model.
With some other bike models, adjusting the handlebars can be a bit complex but doable. So, if you’ve determined that the handlebars on your bike can be adjusted, go ahead and get the tools listed and follow the steps below.
How to Raise Handlebars on a Bike
The guide below works for road bikes and many other bike types. You might need to tweak it a bit if things are slightly different on your bike.
Step 1: Loosen the Stem Bolts
First, loosen the clamping bolt that holds the handlebars in place. This will allow you to easily slide the bars up or down to suit your preferred height.
To do this, use the Allen key to loosen the bolt on the stem.
Make sure the Allen key is the correct size to avoid stripping the hole.
Step 2: Remove the Top Cap
Next, use the Allen key to loosen the top cap. This will enable you to easily slide the top cap off the steerer tube.
Now, remove the top cap you just loosened. Once it is off, you can effortlessly slide the steerer tube up or down.
Step 3: Determine the Correct Handlebar Height for You
Before proceeding, make sure you have decided the most comfortable height you want the handlebars to be.
Ultimately, this comes down to personal preference. But whatever you do, ensure you raise the handlebars or lower them to improve maneuverability, stability, and comfortable riding position.
Step 4: Slide off the Stem from the Steerer Tube
Once you’ve figured out how high or low you want your bike handlebars, go ahead and slide the stem off the steerer tube.
You might have to pull really hard!
It can be helpful if you use your legs to hold on to the tire while you pull the handlebars upward. Wrenching on the handlebars might be necessary in some cases. But you don’t want to do that too much, or else you will have to re-grease the bearings.
Step 5: Slide in the Steering Tube
Now, slide the steering tube through the bike’s headtube. If you have removed any spaces, now is a good time to replace them (if necessary).
Step 6: Replace the Top Cap and Clamp Bolt
With the steering tube in place, make sure to adjust the height of the handlebars according to your preference.
Go ahead and replace the top cap.
Next, tighten the clamp bolts nicely. You don’t want anything coming apart while cycling!
Step 7: Align the Bars with the Front Wheel
Take a good look at the handlebars and make sure they are parallel with the front wheel of your bike.
You want the bars to be perfectly in a straight position when the front wheel is facing straight ahead.
Step 8: Secure the Handlebars
Tighten all the clamps and bolts to secure the handlebars in place. Use the hex wrench to make sure the top cap bolt is nice and tight.
Step 9: Check the Headset
Lastly, you want to make sure the headset adjustment is not too tight or loose. Readjust the headset if necessary and enjoy your ride!
Riding a bike should be fun. Unfortunately, you’ll likely have less fun if your back, neck, or shoulders are aching because of the wrong riding position.
Often, a simple solution would be to adjust the height of your handlebars.
Thankfully, learning how to raise handlebars on a bike isn’t rocket science. Just about anyone can do it provided they have the right tools.
If your body aches or you’re uncomfortable with your handlebars, follow the steps outlined in this guide and you should be cruising around enjoyably on your favorite bike in no time.
Last Updated on May 29, 2023 by Danijel Cakalic