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Handlebar height adjustment:

Varying the height of the handlebar can make riding more comfortable. It also changes how the bike rides. Higher handlebars make it easier to get back during steep downhills. Lower handlebars are an advantage in climbing steeps, because you can get your weight onto the front of the bike easier.

If you're riding the correct size bike, and if your seat is in the correct position, here's a good rule of thumb for handlebar position: As you pedal the bike, the handlebar should block you from seeing the front axle. See our page on fitting the bike to your body.

The height of the handlebar depends on the stem, the thing that attaches your handlebar to the steering mechanism. With a threaded stem, you can easily raise or lower the handlebars without swapping any equipment. With a threadless stem, you need to take things apart and either (1) insert spacers below the stem, (2) buy and install a "riser" stem, or (3) both.

In addition to spacing rings and a riser stem, you can also use a riser handlebar (see below) which can also give you an inch or two of additional height.

Threaded Headset Stem:  This is a threaded headset. The stem fits INSIDE the headset tube, with a locknut around the stem that secures the steering mechanism. This locknut may also have a compression fitting that holds the stem, so loosen it before adjusting the stem height.

(If the handlebars turn independent of the front wheel after loosening the locknut, just adjust the stem height and tighten the lockring back down. You're done.)

Otherwise, find a hex bolt at the top of the stem (it may be covered by a plastic cap). Turn it until the stem is loose. Adjust the stem height, then tighten the hex bolt back down.

Now tighten the locknut onto the stem. See our section on headset overhaul for additional anatomy.

Threadless Headset Stem: This is a threadless headset. The stem attaches to the outside of the headset tube. You can raise the handlebars a short distance by putting spacers between the stem and the steering tube.

Remember: changing the length or height of the stem will change the way the bike handles! See our page on fitting the bike to your body.

Or, you can buy a "riser" stem that angles upward. See our section on stem replacement for further instructions.

Handlebar Types:

This is a flat handlebar. Flat handlebars will (of course) be a bit lower. This is an advantage in keeping the front wheel on the ground during grunt climbs.

Note how exposed the speedometer would be if there weren't bar ends on this bike!

This is a riser handlebar. The curve in the middle puts the hands higher. It also forms a "protective pocket" where you can put your speedometer, so it doesn't get broken when you flip the bike to take off a flat tire.

This handlebar is also several inches wider than the average handlebar. This keeps the inside hand from turning inside the center of gravity during a hard turn, giving greater stability.

With a riser handlebar that has an upward angle at each end of the bar, you can also change the relative forward or backward angle of the handgrip area. You do this by rotating the handlebar, so the handgrip areas move forward or back. When rotated, this handlebar creates a forward or backward slant of the handgrip area. This lets you put your elbows and wrists into the most comfortable riding position.

Changing handlebars:

Easy. Just strip everything off the old handlebar (grips, shifters, brakes). 

First, you need to get your grip out of the way. This SHOULD take some work. (If the grip pulls off easily, it means the rubber is deteriorating, and it's time for a new grip.)

Use a butter knife to raise up the inside edge of the grip. Pour some water down into the grip.

Begin rotating the grip until it breaks free and slides off.

Take off the brake levers and shifters. The brake levers and shifters are held on with hex bolts, usually found on the underside of each. Loosen the hex bolt just enough to let the shifter slide off the handlebar.

Now detach the handlebar from the stem by removing the hex bolts on the front of the stem (see below).

Put everything back the way you found it. Use the "rub marks" on the old handlebar to match the previous position of brakes and shifters.

Adjust the "tilt" of the handlebar to put the shifters and brakes into the position you like.

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