It takes some time to understand the dynamics of a bike and once you start tweaking things, you feel the difference.
This is why it is recommended that you never get satisfied with the default settings of your bike structure because you are missing a lot if you are not playing with the customizable options in your bike.
One of them is adjusting the height of your bike’s handlebar. You may have already noticed how different a professional biker’s bike looks to those who ride casually. Professional riders generally tend to have lower handlebar height than non-competitors, all thanks to the dynamics of a bike that helps them achieve better speed.
In this guide, we will be looking at how you can adjust your handlebar height with a few tools without spending any money. Before that, we will take a look at how this can affect your riding experience and performance.
The effect of handlebar height
There is a big difference in the structure of a professional road bike and bikes that are designed for riding off the road and for casual bikers. This is because speed matters the most for professionals.
A lower height of a handlebar helps professional riders achieve a more aerodynamic position. Their handlebars are generally below the height of their saddle and in this way, they get more traction by having more weight over the front wheel.
This also helps them control the bike effectively but at a certain point, going too lower can negatively affect their performance. Similarly, a mountain bike that runs off the road may need a different handlebar height than a road bike.
On an uphill ride, if the handlebar height is lower, it will be easier to maneuver than going downhill which can be pretty difficult. Therefore, changing the handlebar height depends on your preference and you can only know about your ideal handlebar height when you start to tweak it by yourself.
How to change the handlebar height: Step by step
Adjusting the handlebar height is not difficult at all but can be done by anyone if they possess the right tools. You don’t need special tools for this but if you have the correct ones, it will be easier to secure the stem to the steerer tube like before.
Note that the process of adjusting the handlebar height will be different for threaded and threadless stems. It is easier and less time-consuming to adjust the height of handlebars on threaded stems than on threadless ones. Regardless of the difference, I will show you how you can easily do it.
While you can easily get this done with the help of a set of Allen keys, it is recommended that you also have a torque wrench. As manufacturers have a particular recommended value for securing the stem clamp bolts, a torque wrench does this better than an Allen key.
As you may need different-sized Allen keys for different types of bikes and stems, it’s better to buy a folding Allen wrench set that can also come in handy in other works. On top of that, it is also easier to handle than a single piece of an Allen key that may not provide you with a good grip to properly tighten the Allen screw.
Most manufacturers recommend a value between 5Nm to 8Nm of force that can be easily achieved with a torque wrench than an Allen key which is particularly beneficial for working with carbon parts.
For threaded stems
Step 1: Loosen the stem screw
To adjust a threaded stem, you will need a 6mm Allen key. Hold the handlebar firmly and loosen the screw to the point where you can raise or lower the threaded stem from the steerer tube.
There will be a marking at the bottom of the stem that will indicate the maximum height you can achieve with it. You must keep that marking inside the steerer tube or your stem could snap.
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Step 2: Secure the stem screw
Once you increase or decrease the height of the stem, align the handlebar to make sure that it is at a right angle to the front tire.
Now tighten the screw with the Allen key to the point where you can feel good resistance.
Shake your handlebar sideways by holding the front tire firmly on the ground to see if the handlebar moves from its correct position. If it moves, then loosen the screw and tighten it enough again to avoid its movement.
For threadless stems
Step 1: Loosen the stem clamp bolts
You will follow a different procedure on a threadless stem because a threadless stem is firmly attached to the steerer tube through one or two clamp bolts at the back. The stem does not extend or go inside the steerer tube like the threaded stem and the way to adjust the height here is to use the spacers.
Use your Allen wrench key to loosen these bolts. These may require a good amount of force if you are doing it for the first time and it is advisable to pour some oil or grease on them. When you see that the bolts are loose enough so that the handlebars can be turned to either side easily, it’s time for the next step.
Step 2: Remove the top cap
Threadless stems come with a top cap that is circular and holds a long screw that secures it to the steerer tube. Simply insert your Allen key and remove the screw from the inside.
Now, you can remove the stem from the steerer tube completely and all you have to do is adjust the spacers in a way that can either lower or raise the handlebar height.
Step 3: Adjust the spacers
As you can see from the image below, spacers are circular rings that come in different sizes in height. Their diameter is generally less than 30mm and their height ranges from 2mm to 10mm. These help increase or decrease the height of a handlebar and can be put either at the top or at the bottom of the threadless stem.
If you want to decrease the handlebar height, take the spacers from the bottom and put them at the top. You can exchange one or more spacers depending on your requirement but remember that every single spacer has its effect.
If you want to increase the height, simply put the top spacers at the bottom of the stem and you are good to go. Make sure you utilize all the spacers and do not leave any space empty because this will hinder you from securing the stem in the right position.
Step 4: Secure the top cover and bolts
Once, you are done adjusting the height, put back the stem and then the top cover and put the screw back like before. Tighten it with the Allen key and now tighten the stem bolts using the Allen key or Torque wrench.
Make sure you tighten the bolts after you have adjusted the position of your handlebars to the center and keeping the recommended torque in mind, use the torque wrench to secure the stem firmly.
Now you have adjusted the handlebar height successfully. Make sure you give it a test ride to see what changes it did for you and if the new height is uncomfortable, repeat the steps above to get to the ideal height.
Casual biker but fascinated by how they work. I usually go on longer rides with friends and love to change those gears uphill.