How High Should Bicycle Handlebars Be – Bicycles In Motion

How High Should Bicycle Handlebars Be

How High Should Bicycle Handlebars Be

The correct height for your bicycle’s handlebars depends on the style of bike you ride. However, each style size has a proper rise range.

A properly sized road bike should have much lower handlebars than an MTB, and a cruiser tends to have the highest bars of all because of the upright, leisure riding position. How High should bicycle handlebars be?

Recreational road bike handlebars should be set at the same height as the center of your bike saddle, and performance bikes need the handlebars 4-6 centimeters lower for aerodynamic and power-transfer-related gains. A mountain bike needs handlebars set 1-2 inches above the seat because the riding position is different.

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What Is The Correct Height For Bicycle Handlebars

The correct height for bicycle handlebars varies based on the rider’s body position, body proportion, and bicycle style.

Handlebar ‘height’ is called rise, and it indicates how high your handlebars sit above or below the center point of the seat rather than how far they are from the ground.

Standard handlebars range from -2 to 3 inches, which gives you about five inches of space to choose from, but not every set has all the options.

Road bikes have neutral to negative handlebar rise. Most other bike styles have a neutral to a positive height above the seat.

Zero means the handlebars are set at the same height as the center point of your saddle.

Negative numbers indicate how far below your saddle the bars sit. The regular or positive numbers indicate handlebars above the saddle’s center.

Bicycle Handlebar Height Range Chart

Type of BikeTypical Handlebar Rise Height Range
Performance Road-1 to -2 inches
Comfort Road0 to -1 inches
MTB1 to 2 inches above saddle height
Hybrid0 to 2 inches above saddle height
Cruiser0 to 3 inches above saddle height

Handlebar Reach Calculator

There is no handlebar reach calculator to tell you what’s best for you or even what is likely to be the most comfortable.

Some things are about personal taste, like whether you want cycling shorts or bibs and how thick your chamois needs to be so you feel comfortable on a longer ride.

You can get out different reach sizes in a bike shop to see what feels good in your hands.

The reach is the distance between the height at the center of the stem and the lowest point on the drops.

People with big hands may want to start with a larger reach.

The more reach you have, the greater the space to fit your hands, but it also causes the bars to drop lower at their lowest point, which works better if you have long arms and a super low, forward-angled posture.

Correct Handlebar Position Mountain Bike

Mountain Bike Handlebars generally have a 0-100 mm rise option, which is about 4 inches of leeway.

If you are having body pain, then it’s likely that you’ve got either the wrong handlebar rise or your seat is adjusted improperly. Setting your saddle correctly first is a must.

A tipped forward seat causes forward sliding, and tilting too far back can cause groin pains.

Meanwhile, the saddle should be high enough to get an almost perfect leg extension when your pedal is furthest from your body as you ride.

Now your seat is set right, it’s easier to determine the correct handlebar height because the center of your saddle is in the right place.

There is no perfect rise height for every rider or every MTB frame. Instead, it has to do with what is comfortable and natural for your body.

People with proportionally longer arms need a more extreme rise than those typical for their height.

Generally, you’re looking at 1-2 inches above the saddle, but you have to try different rises to get the right fit for your body.

Correct Handlebar Height Road Bike

There are two general styles of road bikes. Your performance road bikes have the lowest handlebars because this helps professional cyclists and serious hobbyists get the most gains from their body position.

These bikes should have a negative handlebar rise, 1-2 inches below the center point of your saddle.

More casual riders with comfort saddles on their road bikes should still usually have a negative rise on their handlebars.

However, this style doesn’t need to drop quite so low. Some cyclists go as high as level with the seat, but usually, it’s no more than one inch below.

How High Should My Handlebars Be On My Hybrid Bike

Hybrid bikes come in different variations, but they tend to have neutral to positive handlebar height. The rise on your hybrid should be zero to two inches above the saddle.

Some specialty bikes, or those with unusual styles, like the excessively long custom ‘ape-hangar-esque’ bicycle handlebars that mimic custom motorcycles, may have even more height for aesthetic purposes.

However, hybrid touring bikes or cruisers will usually have the highest handlebars of the available styles.

Can Bike Handlebars Be Raised

Unless you have a custom-built bicycle with unique, fixed handlebars, then all bike handlebars can be raised or lowered.

Naturally, there are upper and lower limits to where the tube piece holding your handlebars in the stem can sit and still be secure. Still, adjustable handlebars are a standard feature.

If you want a great visual demonstration of how and why you may want to raise your bicycle handlebars, I recommend this video from Gander Flight.

They explain in a dynamic way exactly how this changes the angle of your spine as you ride.

Helpful Tips To Know About How High Bicycle Handlebars Should Be

Handlebar height is vital to how your body interacts with your bike. For a road bike pro, the correct rise can even help them stay more aerodynamic and gain critical seconds in a race.

Here are more helpful tips to know about how high bicycle handlebars should be.

  • The sweep of your handlebars makes a massive difference in your comfort level. Low bars overextend the outer edge of your forearm, causing wrist pain, but high or ‘smiling bars’ may cause a kink in your wrist. If adjusting the rise doesn’t work, take a look at the sweep and consider a new set of handlebars.
  • Having the correct handlebar rise also significantly impacts your comfort level. You change your arm and shoulder position by dropping or lifting the handles. The wrong height can leave you in pain with overextended muscles or other unexpected damage, so always take the time to test out your new handlebar rise before you take an extended ride.
  • If you raise your handlebars too high, it can interfere with your brake cables. Since the cables are cut to fit the bike, a significant height change upward will tighten the lines or may stop the bar from going higher without detaching the hand brakes. Meanwhile, dropping your handlebars down to a much lower rise can cause excess slack in the brake cables.
  • Higher handlebars make a bike feel more stable when it is front-heavy. Lowering your handlebars will give you better control and keep your front end from wandering as you ride.

Final Thoughts

Bicycle handlebars should be set to a height that doesn’t kink your wrists or cause you to strain your arms.

Unfortunately, because humans have different body proportions, even when they are the same height, what works for one person may not fit the nest.

There is no single ideal bicycle handlebar height. You have to adjust the rise and try it in different positions to find what works for you.

However, each set of handlebars usually has no more than about five inches of play at most. Many only adjust within two to three inches, so finding the right fit is not difficult with a bit of trial and error.

If nothing works right for you, try a different set of handlebars or consider changing the style of bike you ride.

Brian Smith

Brian is the founder of Bicycles In Motion and an avid cyclist for 17 years. On the weekends, he enjoys exploring new bike trails and countryside roads to enjoy the outdoors.

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