How To Adjust Bicycle Handlebars

Improperly set handlebars can create a bad posture while cycling and can lead to back and shoulder aches and strains. If you feel your upper body aching after a bike ride, it may be time to adjust your handlebars.

Here are the steps for adjusting the bicycle handlebars:

  • Loosen the handlebar screw with an Allen wrench. The handlebar is fixed to the rest of the bike frame with a screw-and-nut combination which can be found along the length of the handlebar stem. If you cannot find the screw, it may be hidden with a plastic cap. Carefully pop the cap off with a flat screwdriver to reveal the screw. If the screw is rusted tight, hit it a few times with a hammer until it loosens.
  • Raise your handlebars at least up to your seat height. Handlebars that are lower than your seat will push your weight against them. This not only stresses your upper body during a long bike ride, it also strains the handlebar frame and increases wear and tear. For mountain bikes, however, it is typical to adjust the handlebars below the seat to spread out your weight between the two components as well as impart a lower center of gravity. Road bikes also need a lower set of handlebars to reduce wind resistance and improve your streamlining profile.
  • Avoid raising the handlebars too high. A minimum length of the handlebar stem must be inserted in the shaft; otherwise, the whole handlebar might slide out or snap when sustained pressure is exerted. This could be exceedingly dangerous while you are biking on a busy street or down a mountain road. If you find the stem is too short for you, visit a cycling shop and find a longer replacement stem that fits your bicycle.
  • Test the handlebars. Ride on the bike, grip on the handlebars then see if you are comfortable. If you are feeling the strain on your arms, then these will surely ache during a long bike ride. Readjust if necessary. Check if the brake lever is also at a comfortable position with regards to your fingers, wrists and arms.
  • Indicate your proper handlebar height. Use a permanent marker or simply scratch the stem to mark the setting. This way, even if someone readjusts your handlebars for their temporary use, you can always reset it to your preferences.
  • Retighten the handlebar screw. Make sure the screw holes on the stem and the frame aligns with each other so that the handlebars turn correctly. Replace the plastic cap, if any.
  • Consult a bicycle repair shop if necessary. Modern bicycles may have complicated handlebar connections which many enthusiasts find difficult to adjust. A bicycle specialist will have the experience and tools to change the settings for you.

Take the time to adjust your bicycle’s handlebars to create a pleasant cycling experience. Make sure to adjust the other parts of the bike to suit your size, as well, including the seat angle, height and position, as well as frame size. Finally, store all your tools properly in case you need future adjustments.


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