Step-by-Step Guide on How to Raise Handlebars on Mountain Bikes

By Conrad Kühn

The most important thing we do after purchasing a new bike is to adjust the handlebar. This happens when the handlebar is too high or too low as per your height. Bar height is the measure of where the saddle sits below or above the bars. It is also known as saddle-drop. 

Most users test the tire pressure, saddle height, and other settings. Only a few understand the importance of adjusting handlebar height. A lower handlebar height lowers your COG and increases grip on the front wheel. Leisure time riders are comfortable when the handlebar is above or in line with the saddle.

Generally, a lower handlebar height offers a better centered place between the wheels. This improves the bike control mostly when cycling up a hill. You can feel these effects well on rough roads. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to raise handlebars on mountain bikes.

mountain bike handlebars

Why do you need to adjust your handlebars?

To reduce pain in the lower back

Back pain is the most common side effect most cyclists experience. This happens when your bike’s handlebar is below the seat. It will force you to lean forward as you cycle which causes back pain.

To reduce neck pain

Like pain in the back, neck pain is also caused because of leaning for a long time. It happens when your handlebars are too low. This forces you to curve your back and protrude your neck.

Reduce numbness in the hands 

When your handlebars are low, you will struggle more to reach them. This strains your hands and can cause numbness. Having your handlebars raised reduces the tension on your hands.

To increase visibility

Since mountain bike’s handlebars come a bit below the seat level, they may restrict from seeing ahead clearly. If you notice this, raise the handlebars to have proper vision.

To enhance bicycle performance

Having handlebars at a proper height enhances easy navigation through paths which improves your bicycle performance. This will also make you confident and comfortable as you cycle.

To make it comfortable for children

As a parent, you should consider this essential factor as you purchase a bike for your kid. Since kids grow each year, you don’t have to buy a new mountain bike every year. Instead, raise the handlebars once per year to make them comfortable for your kid.

Tools you’ll require

  • A set of Allen keys
  • Torx, T25, or T20 keys for stems from Ritchey, Syncros,
  • and Zipp
  • A hammer
  • Pre-set Torg key or torque wrench for parts made carbon or lighter ones.

Types of headset

The first thing you should think of before adjusting your handlebar is checking the kind of headset you have. There are two common types of headsets: threadless and threaded.

1. Threadless headset

This type of headset is common in modern mountain bikes. At the top, they have one colossal bolt and the other two at the bottom used for clamping down the stem. Instead of having one continuous metal piece connecting the handlebar, the bolts are used for the attachment.

2. Threaded Headset System

These are the first types of headsets in bikes but are becoming uncommon. Though they have been outstanding in the market for a long time and not available in older models, it is still a discussion topic.

Additionally, it is straightforward to identify this type of headset as a stem that goes up from the frame. This stem bends forward, attaching the handlebars. 

How to Adjust Threadless Headset handlebars

Step 1: Loosening the stem cap

Using the Allen key, loosen the bolt connecting the stem and the bike. Remove the bolt to create room for raising or lowering your handlebars. Take off the cap and keep it together with them both in a safe place.

Step 2: Pulling the stem off

With the same Allen key, loosen the side crews on the handlebars. These screws are on the part of the stem next to your seat. Carefully remove the handlebars without interfering with the brake wires and derailleurs. Remove the screws and pull the stem off the frame tube.

Step 3: Add or remove the circular spacers

Add or remove the circular spacers to adjust the handlebars to the required height. These risers are small rings that you can lower or add to increase the height of the handlebars. Don’t remove the conical piece that connects the stem to the frame at the bottom.

Step 4: Replace the handlebar stem back

Put the spacers back on top of the stem and cover them with the stem cap bolt. Slide the branch over the spacers aligning the bars correctly. 

Step 5: Replace the stem cap bolt.

Replace the stem cap bolt to its original position and tighten it using your bare hands. This bolt does not hinder the turning of the handlebars on the sides. So ensure the handlebars are in the right position before you tighten the bolt. If your bike has a carbon fiber frame, use the torque wrench to avoid cracking any part.

Step 6: aligning the stem with the front wheel

With the bike frame between your legs, squeeze the front wheel to ensure it is focusing ahead. To ensure your wheel and handlebars are in the correct turning position, close one eye as you adjust the handlebars. If this becomes a challenge, tighten the nuts slowly to increase pressure to spin the handlebars.

Step 7: Confirm your headset alignment

A headset is the combination of handlebars, stem, fork, and a front-wheel that enhances your bike’s turning. To check the top bolt attached to your bike’s headset:

  1. Stand with your bike squeezed between your legs and hold the brakes down.
  2. Turn the wheel on both sides to ensure it moves freely.
  3. If it does not, loosen the side bolts, tighten the side ones, and finally, the top bolt.

How to Adjust Threaded Headset Handlebars 

Step 1: Loosen the stem bolt

This bolt points downwards, resulting in pressure that maintains the stem in position. Use your Allen key to loosen it but don’t remove it altogether. 

Step 2: Loosen

Using a wrench, loosen the hex nut. This is the ring that connects the stem and the bike frame.

Step 3: Remove the handlebars

To remove the handlebars from the frame, wiggle, twist, and pull it out. For a new bike, identify where the handlebars rest and make off that point with a marker.

Step 4: Grease stem

Wipe down and clean any grease on the stem using soap and water and dry it with a piece of cloth. To avoid the stem from sticking to the frame after that, grease it at the bottom about 2-3 inches from the stem.

Step 5: Place the stem back

Return the stem, adjusting it to the desired height. Tighten the top bolt and the hex nut carefully. Don’t tighten it too much that you can’t remove it again.

How to Adjust Handlebar Angle

Step 1: Check the type of your bike stem

First, confirm whether your bike’s stem is adjustable. These kinds of stems have only one bolt connecting the stem and the frame. Loosen this bolt to adjust the stem angle, then tighten it back. Test it before moving on to ensure the stem is in the right position.

Step 2: Loosen the screws

Unlock the screws at the end of the handlebar stem to make the handlebars rotate freely up and down. Looking at the bike straight ahead, you will find these screws that are four in number fitted at the center of the bars to a small plate. 

Step 3: Adjust the angle of the handlebars.

Adjust the angle of the handlebars and tighten them before you test. You can ask your friend to test it on you. Ensure the bolts are tightened before this to avoid accidents.

Step 4: Tighten the bolts.

Once you’ve set the angle to the right position, using a torque wrench tighten the bolts to make the bars firm as you ride. Take care not to tighten them too much because you may need to remove the bolts later. 

FAQs

1. Is there a specific width Mountain Bike Handlebars should have?

There is no specific range set for how the mountain bike handlebars should be. The Mountain bike you purchase depends on your taste because different handlebars come with different widths which serve different purposes.

2. Should the handlebars be lower than the saddle?

No, that is not the case. The saddle should be lower than the handlebars. If you are aiming at riding faster, you can raise your saddle a bit higher.

3. Are wider handlebars the best for a mountain bike?

A: Absolutely yes, they give you full control of the bicycle, right balance, and more controlled breathing. Wide handlebars also make you more relaxed, and you won’t get exhausted.

4. Are stem risers safe?

Yes, stem risers are safe for steel or aluminum steerer since they are very strong to break when length is increased. Nevertheless, for a carbon steerer it is a different case. Carbon stretches a lot so has higher chance of breaking when a stem riser is used.

Check out more tips

Conclusion

If you have been living with a question on adjusting the height of your handlebars, you have the answer from our above guide. Nevertheless, you should consider the type of your mountain bike before applying the above tips.

As you adjust the handlebars, bear in mind that you are trying to make your bike more comfortable as you ride. Therefore, don’t fix it to a more sophisticated height. Keep on testing the handlebars as you adjust them by sitting on the bike until it feels ok. 

Different Mountain bikes come with different handlebars; hence, you should ensure that you are using the right handlebar’s right method. Adjusting your handlebars to the correct height will make your ride enjoyable all through. If you don’t know the handlebars’ right height for your bike, you can take it to a nearby bike vendor or expert for advice.

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