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Changing handlebar height can require know-how and parts you may not have. So, we recommend using these tips only to gauge adjustment. If you discover that you need a change, we're happy to provide the parts needed and install them if you like.

The first bar-height check is comfort. If you're sore during or after rides particularly in the lower back and/or neck, the bars may need adjustment. Inspect bar height by standing your bike on a level surface and viewing it from the side comparing the height of the seat to the height of the bars (photo). For road riding, a difference of 1 to 4 inches is optimal, even slightly more, if you're a flexible racer. For off-road use and recreational riding, bar height should be equal to or up to 2 inches below the seat height. Keep in mind that these are guidelines that work for most people. Sometimes it takes a little experimentation to find the most comfortable position.

Notes

  • If you'd like to measure the difference between your seat and bar height, rest a straightedge on the seat (if the seat's not level, level the straightedge) so it extends over the bars and measure the difference with a ruler.
  • It's important to realize that there's a limit to how much you can raise the handlebars. The amount of adjustment depends on the frame and component design. In some cases, it may be necessary to install longer cables and housing to raise the handlebars, too.
  • Tall riders (long arms and large hands) usually favor lower handlebars and short riders prefer higher ones.
  • Achieve a comfortable back angle of approximately 45 degrees (depending on your degree of flexibility).
  • When the bars are the right height, it should feel natural to look ahead (no neck craning).
  • Another way to "raise" mountain-bike handlebars is to replace your flat bars with a riser model. These can be an inch or two higher than flat bars.
  • It's usually not a good idea to raise the handlebars too much. Once they're higher than the seat, your body weight is shifted more over the rear of the bike, which can mean greater jolts from bumps in the road. This can lead to discomfort and pain.