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A proper reach to the handlebars is the key to enjoying comfortable rides. If the bars are too close or too far away, you may experience neck, shoulder, back and hand pain. And, it can cause you to scoot backward or forward on your seat all the time. On most bikes, to change length, you must replace the stem. And stems come in a variety of types and diameters. So you may want to have us check your position and suggest a proper replacement.

To check reach at home, put on your cycling clothes, mount your bike on a trainer and make sure the bike is level. Get on and pedal until you're comfortable with your upper body relaxed. Look ahead as if you were looking down the road. For dropped handlebars, rest your hands on the tops of the brake levers. For flat bars with bar ends, use the regular grip position. Now, have a helper look at you from the side (photo) to gauge where a plumbline dropped from the tip of your nose would fall. Optimally, there should be about an inch between the plumb line and the center of the handlebar.

Notes

  • If you don't have a helper, photograph/video yourself from the side and check the picture.
  • If you feel the need to scoot forward on the seat while riding, your stem is probably too long (and vice versa).
  • Indicators of proper reach include: being able to always comfortably bend the elbows while riding, no hump in the back, a natural neck angle and equal pressure on the hands and seat.