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How high do you have your handlebars?(12 posts)

How high do you have your handlebars?Matno
Jun 20, 2002 5:29 PM
Relative to the seat that is. I know that everybody has different fit and preferences, but I'm just curious as to how high different people have their bars. I'm in the process of experimenting with mine. I've got a relatively short stem (lengthwise, not heightwise--it's an 85mm), but I'm considering trying different lengths/heights. Will I notice more of a difference by lowering the bars or by extending them forward? I'm wondering if my mountain biking has influenced where I'm comfortable since I can't seem to find a comfy position for my saddle when I'm in the drops. Right now my bars are only maybe an inch below my seat, and I can't imagine them being too comfy much lower than that (the main problem being pressure in the crotch). However, most bike pics I see show the saddle considerably higher than the bars. Should my arms be supporting part of the weight (like they do if I tilt the saddle too far forward)? I think I'm fairly average at 5'11" with a 33" inseam.
ignore stem Nazisweiwentg
Jun 20, 2002 5:48 PM
if you're a Cat 3 or better, you MIGHT wish to drop the stem an inch. if not, or even if so, forget it. if you're uncomfortable with a lower drop, that's the way it is. if you're truly determined to lower your stem, do some stretching - I suppose you should do this anyway.
remember, you won't cycle fast if you're uncomfortable.
I'll second thatMr Good
Jun 20, 2002 6:56 PM
Much of what you see in the media and throughout the bike industry is influenced by racing--which doesn't always apply to the majority of cyclists (for instance, super low/long stems). Racers sacrifice comfort in favor of speed and aero efficiency, but that doesn't mean that a low/long stem is right for everyone. Don't obsess too much over it, keep your stem where it feels good.

Stem length does affect bike handling, however. I find that a shorter stem makes steering "twitchy" and longer stem makes steering "stable/slow." Somewhere in between is the perfect length. But if you think your bike handles ok, you don't need to worry about this either.

If you do race, or must have a lower stem, then stretching is half the answer. The other half of the answer is to gradually lower the stem over time, while you get used to it in small increments.

And to answer the original question: one inch below the seat is not out of the ordinary, even for a road racer. My stem is two to three inches below my seat (depending on the time of year), but I'm tall with looong arms, and I'm obsessed with getting aero (I race a lot).
level with the saddle the last 2 years; works greatcory
Jun 21, 2002 7:19 AM
I raised mine (after 20+ years of cycling) after reading Grant Petersen's argument in favor of having them about level with the saddle ( Made a huge difference in comfort and the length of time I could spend on the bike, with no downside that I can see. You can still get aero by riding the drops (which I never did before), but you can sit up and look around when you need to. I dunno if I'd do it if I were racing, but I'm not any slower anyplace I ride than I used to be when I had to reach down to the bars.
Agree, but withscottfree
Jun 21, 2002 8:12 AM
these ridiculous threadless headsets everyone insists on using these days, getting bars up that high is almost impossible. If you're lucky enough to have a quill stem, crank it up there and give it a try. Most non-racers love it if they try it.
Flexibility/Fit general rules.Quack
Jun 21, 2002 8:37 AM
From what I remember, if you cannot touch the ground when bending over, your bars should be even with or slightly above your saddle. If you can touch the ground, 6-10cm below your saddle. If you can touch your palms to the ground, >10 cm below.

If you are feeling pressure on your crotch, you're probably being pulled out onto the nose of the saddle with your current fit. By shortening your reach to the bars, you will find yourself sitting on your sit-bones on the back of the saddle. As a test for fit, slide your seat forward about 2-3 cm. If the fit feels better, check to see if your knee/pedal axle relationship is spot-on or too far forward in the new position. If it's too far forward, you can either leave it that way, raise your bar height, or buy a frame with a shorter top tube. With your current stem at 85mm in length, you will probably have trouble finding a shorter stem that will make a huge difference. You will have to use a riser stem or add a spacer to your stack to make the reach shorter.

As far as weight distribution between bars and seat, you should never feel as though your arms are pushing you onto the seat. If you are continually sliding forward onto the nose while riding, you will definitely need to shorten your reach to the bars.
Flexibility/Fit general rules.Roadfrog
Jun 22, 2002 12:01 AM
I have to agree with the Quack... learned what he said through trial and error, mainly with the saddle position. I think getting comfortable on the bike first is the most important thing. If that means keeping your bars level with the saddle... so be it!
re: How high do you have your handlebars?DINOSAUR
Jun 21, 2002 2:53 PM
2 1/4 inch drop on both my bikes. I find I feel more comfortable riding in a stretched out fairly low position as opposed to having the bars even with my saddle. Of course I'm a long limbed lanky fellow with longs arms. Riding in a upright position kills my back.....
Learn by example. Is this too high?unchained
Jun 22, 2002 7:37 PM

Who said elbows should not overlap knees?

I can only imagine all the grief if he posted a picture of one of his bikes in the gallery!
re: How high do you have your handlebars?JimP
Jun 24, 2002 12:25 PM
This subject has gotten a lot of interest, both here and in the past. Certain groups like to have the bike set up with a mountain bike position, fairly upright, with the bars above the seat. Other groups like the bars somewhat lower than the seat. No "one size fits all" here! The real questions are "What is most comfortable for you?" and "What is your riding style?" I am 59 years old, 6'4" and have long arms and used to race triathlons. I am most comfortable with the bars much lower than the seat - 5 1/2 inches. I also live and ride in North Texas where we usually have wind to contend with - thus I have aero bars and like to get as low as possible to have less wind resistance. Just because you see a picture, or hear some advise about the "correct setup", try to make your ride as comfortable for you as possible. If you aren't comfortable, you won't ride as efficiently and you won't have nearly as much fun.
flexibility and tolerance are keyDougSloan
Jun 24, 2002 1:42 PM
If speed matters to you, you need to get them low as you can comfortably tolerate without losing power. Gradually lower them, if you can, as you get used to the positions. If it hurts, by all means raise them.

For what it's worth, I keep mine as low as they will go on all bikes, with maybe a 4 inch drop to the top of the stem. It might just be coincidence, but almost no one beats me on descents, and I can hold my own on flat ground with much stronger riders. I did a lot of stretching as a youthful runner, and it seems to have carried over to cycling. I can easily put my palms flat on the ground with straight legs together, in fact, I can put my fingers under my feet and pull myself even lower. That probably makes it easier to hold a low position. As long as I (or you) can do that, why not? YMMV

Ah, flexibility...Matno
Jun 24, 2002 6:17 PM
If only I were flexible! I am about as "rigid" as they come when it comes to touching my toes. With a bit of pain, my fingertips can get within 5 inches of the floor. (Not like my brother in law who is actually slightly shorter than my 5'11", but has an honest to goodness 6'4" wingspan!!!) However, I just realized that my bars are not quite as high as I thought they were. In fact, they're about 4 inches below my seat (I guess the elbow pads on the aerobars made them seem higher). Honestly, I've never had a problem with discomfort from stretching. The only problem I have is that when on the drops it puts pressure where I'd rather not have it - my scrotum. However, on long rides, I only really get sore on my sit bones. It remains to be seen whether I will still feel that way after I try my new stem I just installed (went from an 80 to a 130, just to see...). If not, I'll try again. I bought this frame from a pawn shop for $200 in 1992 (brand new with full Shimano 600 - they had it sitting in their gun shop for so long that when I offered them $200, they jumped at it. I guess shooters aren't into biking - except me!). I really didn't shop around for fit. But I've always felt like it was made for me.