How to Raise Handlebars on Mountain Bikes: A Step-by-Step Approach

By Conrad Kühn

Whether you’re a professional mountain biker or an enthusiast, it’s important to know how to maximize bike performance, comfort, and safety. Today, we’re going to look at how to Raise Handlebars on Mountain Bikes.

There are a few different methods for raising handlebars on a mountain bike. The setup your bike has (specifically the type of headset seam it contains) will determine which method you should use. In this post, we will cover methods for both threaded and threadless headsets. 

Whether you want to learn how to raise the handlebars on a child’s bike because he/she is growing taller or you simply want to ride your bike more comfortably, our step-by-step guide has got you covered.

mountain bike handlebars

Why Would You Raise Your Handlebars?

A lot of racing riders prefer a position where their handlebars low so that they can crouch for better aerodynamics. However, when handlebars are lower than they should be, it can lead to a lot of discomfort and some health problems. 

Here are a few common health signs that indicate you should raise the handlebars on your bike: 

1) Pain in the lower back – this is something that a lot of cyclists (both pro and amateur) experience. When the handlebar is positioned much lower than the horizontal line from the seat, it requires you to always be leaning forward. If you ride your bike a lot, this can unsurprisingly lead to back pain.

2) Numbness in the hands – the lower the handlebar is the more you have to reach for it. This in turn places a bigger load on your hands, potentially leading to numbness. By elevating the handlebars, you shorten the reach and reduce the tension on the hands. 

3) Pain in the neck – Neck pain, like back pain, is also a result of being hunched over your handlebars for long periods. The healthy way to lean forward is by solely pivoting with your hip but if your handlebars are too low, this may not be enough. Instead, you’ll also have to arch your back, causing your neck to protrude as well. 

In addition to health issues like this, you might also raise your handlebars to improve maneuverability. You should be able to reach the handlebars comfortable so that you can have complete control of your bike at all times. 

How to Raise Bicycle Handlebars

If you’ve determined that you need to have your handlebars raised, let’s look at how we can do it.

Figure Out What Sort of Headset Your Mountain Bike Has

What is a headset? The headset is a set of bearings that allows a rotatable connection between the head tube of a bicycle frame and the bicycle fork, allowing you to steer the latter along with the front wheel. 

If the headset is working correctly, then you won’t notice it. However, you’ll become aware of it if it starts to wear out because your steering will become stiff.

Most bikes will come with one of two types of headsets: threaded and threadless. The first step towards adjusting your handlebar is figuring out which one you’ve got:

Threaded Headsets
Threaded headsets are becoming more uncommon in bikes as it’s now a bit of a legacy system. However, since it has been the industry standard for a long time and you do find it in older bikes it’s still worth talking about.

 How do you identify a threaded headset? 

Threaded headsets have a stem that goes up from the frame, bending forward and then attaching to the handlebars. The stem moves up and down a thread that’s cut into the steerer tube when you want to adjust the height There’s an adjustable lock nut placed where the handlebar stem comes out of the frame and it’s used to keep it in place. On top of the stem, you’ll find an expander bolt. 

Threadless Headsets
With threadless headsets, you don’t get one continuous metal piece that comes out of the frame and connects to the handlebars. Instead, you have one large bolt on the top and two smaller bolts that assist in clamping down the stem.

How to Adjust Nike Handlebars (Threaded Headsets)

What you’ll need:
• Allen Key
• Wrench

1) Using a measuring tape, measure the portion of the handlebar stem that is visible above the adjustable lock nut.

2) Find the head of the expander bolt which is usually hexagonal-shaped. Unscrew it a few turns to loosen the handlebar using an Allen key.

3) With the expander bolt loosened, loosen the lock nut using a wrench.

4) Stand in front of the handlebars and steady the bike by straddling the front tyre. Try and turn the handlebars. If they don’t turn, tap down on the expander bolt’s head with a hammer. Now you should be able to pull out the handlebar stem from the frame by twisting and turning.

5) If the bike isn’t brand new, then you’ll notice some grease and gunk towards the bottom of the stem. Clean it off using soap and water or simply wipe down with a rag. Gunk can sometimes cause the stem to become stuck to the frame.

6) Position the handlebar to your desired height and make sure the stem is correctly line up with the front tyre, which in turn should be lined up with the bicycle frame.

7) Once you’re satisfied screw the expander bolt to lock the stem in place.

How to Raise Handlebars on Mountain Bike (Threadless Headset)

What you’ll need:
• Allen Key
• Handlebar spacers

1) Locate the bolt on the stem cap which keeps the handlebars on the bike. Using an Allen Key, loosen and pull out the bolt. Now you should be able to remove the stem cap. Make sure that you store both of these safely so that you don’t lose them.

2) Loosen the bolts present on either side of the stem just enough so that you can wriggle the handlebars and the stem free off the bike frame.

3) Pull out the handlebars slowly so as not to damage any of the wires that run down to the brakes and derailleurs. We’d recommend having the bike near a table so that you can place the handlebars on it.

4) Add as many bicycle stem spacers over the bearing cover (the conical part that connects the frame to the stem) as it takes to bring the handlebar up to the desired height. These can be bought from your local bike shop or online.

5) Place the handlebar stem over the spacers and insert the stem cap bolt that you removed previously. Proceed to tighten it by hand. Don’t worry if the handlebars aren’t perfectly aligned yet. The top bolt doesn’t restrict the sideways movement of your handlebars so it doesn’t matter if you tighten it before aligning.

That being said, don’t tighten the top bolt too much. Make sure that you can still turn the handlebars without having to overcome resistance.

6) Straddle the front tyre and position it so that’s perfectly in line with the bike frame. Then adjust the handlebars so that its centerpiece lines up with the front tyre. It might help to close one eye to see the alignment more accurately.

Once you’ve found the right position, proceed to tighten the bolts on the side of the stem.

And that’s all about how to adjust the handlebar height on mountain bikes with threaded or threadless headsets. Of course, when it comes to adjusting road bike handlebar height, the methods are pretty much the same. However, a lot of mountain bikers like to set their handlebars lower for the aerodynamic advantage.

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