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Handlebar height?

Nov. 16, 2019, 9:03 a.m.
Posts: 114
Joined: Dec. 6, 2017

I get that handlebar height is a PERSONAL preference.

But for riding the Shore, do you slam it down low or keep it up high or in between? Do you have some magical formula or it's just by feel?

I understand the pro's and con's for having it low and high. I would think that it would be better to have it on the higher end for the Shore?


 Last edited by: Ouch on Nov. 16, 2019, 9:34 a.m., edited 1 time in total.
Nov. 16, 2019, 10:27 a.m.
Posts: 175
Joined: Jan. 2, 2018

Despite the fact that both my hardtail and FS are 29ers with 160mm forks, I run 30-40mm rise bars with 20-30mm of spacers under the stem. So basically, as high as possible. I think it's because I have a long torso. 

I find it easier to lean forward more to keep the front end down on steep climbs, or weighted for corners, than to run lower bars and struggle to lighten the front end for drops and such. 

I also totally accept that I might prefer this in part  because I'm a mediocre rider and the high bars compensate for some flaws in my technique, but it definitely helps my confidence and ability to move the bike around.

Nov. 16, 2019, 12:12 p.m.
Posts: 217
Joined: Feb. 24, 2017

I run my bars a little higher than my saddle at full ride height. All by feel though. I look for what I call a neutral position where I don’t feel like I’m leaning on the bars much nor sitting bolt upright. People lean forward on climbs not so much to keep from looping out but also to get better power down. Riders do the same thing powering across flats or on the road. Higher bars for steep drops make sense too. It’s all about finding your personal compromise.

Nov. 16, 2019, 2:41 p.m.
Posts: 314
Joined: May 11, 2018

I find chainstay length and BlackBerry drop has more to do with ease of getting the front of a bike up. I think bar height has most to do with how much you like pedaling. If you like to push on flats and climbs when the saddle is up, a lower bar will allow you to get more power as outlined above. I find there is a fine line when you go too low and your arms are too stretched out resulting in inability to absorb bumps. The difference between optimal and too low is about 2.5mm difference. My saddle is about 5cm above my bar on my bikes. 

This all being said, the best bar height for me can be totally wrong for you. I have long legs, normal arms and shorter torso. 

Finally, having your bar too high will make it harder to weight the front wheel for traction in corners. Higher handlebars put your bodyweight further back and reduce the reach. You may have to ride exaggerating your elbow bend just to get your weight in the right spot.

Nov. 16, 2019, 6:09 p.m.
Posts: 217
Joined: Feb. 24, 2017

Bottom bracket drop?

Nov. 16, 2019, 6:18 p.m.
Posts: 314
Joined: May 11, 2018

Posted by: andy-eunson

Bottom bracket drop?

lower bb's I find harder to get the front end up as you have to pull the bb up and then back. If you had a bb higher than your rear hub the front end would be like a feather. For you to pull up the front end, the bb is where your weight is focused and until your bb is at the level of the rear hub it is traveling forwards and upwards in the arc. That's how I understand it anyways.

Nov. 16, 2019, 6:27 p.m.
Posts: 114
Joined: Dec. 6, 2017

Posted by: RAHrider

Posted by: andy-eunson

Bottom bracket drop?

lower bb's I find harder to get the front end up as you have to pull the bb up and then back. If you had a bb higher than your rear hub the front end would be like a feather. For you to pull up the front end, the bb is where your weight is focused and until your bb is at the level of the rear hub it is traveling forwards and upwards in the arc. That's how I understand it anyways.

I think Andy was referring to your first post, you said BlackBerry drop. Damn autocorrect perhaps?!!! Hahahaha


 Last edited by: Ouch on Nov. 16, 2019, 6:27 p.m., edited 1 time in total.
Nov. 16, 2019, 6:30 p.m.
Posts: 114
Joined: Dec. 6, 2017

I have a longer torso as well. I've increased my bar height by 40mm, feels much better. My seat is 10mm above my handlebar now, so from what you guys are saying......it was way too low before!


 Last edited by: Ouch on Nov. 16, 2019, 6:46 p.m., edited 1 time in total.
Nov. 16, 2019, 9:21 p.m.
Posts: 314
Joined: May 11, 2018

Posted by: Ouch

Posted by: RAHrider

Posted by: andy-eunson

Bottom bracket drop?

lower bb's I find harder to get the front end up as you have to pull the bb up and then back. If you had a bb higher than your rear hub the front end would be like a feather. For you to pull up the front end, the bb is where your weight is focused and until your bb is at the level of the rear hub it is traveling forwards and upwards in the arc. That's how I understand it anyways.

I think Andy was referring to your first post, you said BlackBerry drop. Damn autocorrect perhaps?!!! Hahahaha

Busted. I'm a blackberry hold out and every time I write bb it autocorrects to BlackBerry. I love me my physical keyboard. It's the hardcore hardtail of cellular telephones.

Nov. 16, 2019, 10:17 p.m.
Posts: 858
Joined: June 26, 2012

Pretty easy to play around with headset spacers while out for a ride. I find 5 mm is noticeable.

My observations:

Lower:

- better for flat corners

- worse on steep and rough trails (hips drop back to compensate for being pulled forward)

Higher:

- front end feels a bit more vague on flat corners

- more intuitive handling on steep and rough terrain 

- a bit easier to shift weight around fore-aft since you’re not being pulled forward

So I think a lot of it depends on the trails you’re riding and how you want your bike to feel.

Nov. 17, 2019, 9:19 a.m.
Posts: 217
Joined: Feb. 24, 2017

Autocorrect. My worst enema. Another thing I find is that if my bar is too low, my hands go numb. I’m short at around 5’5” but long limbed.

Nov. 23, 2019, 11:31 a.m.
Posts: 156
Joined: Feb. 13, 2016

Posted by: Kenny

Despite the fact that both my hardtail and FS are 29ers with 160mm forks, I run 30-40mm rise bars with 20-30mm of spacers under the stem. So basically, as high as possible. I think it's because I have a long torso. 

I find it easier to lean forward more to keep the front end down on steep climbs, or weighted for corners, than to run lower bars and struggle to lighten the front end for drops and such. 

I also totally accept that I might prefer this in part  because I'm a mediocre rider and the high bars compensate for some flaws in my technique, but it definitely helps my confidence and ability to move the bike around.

I'm with Kenny on this.  However I agree this is all hugely personal based on your body type and relative dimensions as well as your riding preferences, ability and flexibility.

When I first got back into mountain bike riding a few years ago, I thought low bars were the way to go from my long ago experience in the 90s with cross country type riding.  However, with almost all my riding on the North Shore now I spent much of that first year of riding going OTB on the descents.  Fast forward 4 years and I'm now riding a size large 2017 Transition Patrol 'mullet' bike that started life with a 160 mm fork and 27.5" front wheel, but now has a 170mm 29er fork and wheel, plus a 1.5" rise stem and a 1" rise bar (785mm wide which also makes a difference in this whole equation).  My grips are around 3" higher than my seat and that finally feels about perfect for me.   However, I suspect I am pretty atypical because:

  • I am 95% focused on descending effectiveness.  As long as I can still pedal up (or even walk) I don't care that much how good or fast I am on the climb up.  I just do the climbs so that I can keep in shape for the descents (which becomes harder every year as I approach my mid 50s).
  • I have a medium torso but short legs and arms.  I'm essentially a slightly scaled up dwarf (around 5'9" / 176 cm). 

  • Because of my stocky build, I also feel I have a fairly high centre of gravity.

  • Finally, I don't have super flexible hamstrings, hips and lower back.

With my current bike setup I am able to assume a good 'attack' position on the bike when descending that allows me a lot of fore and aft movement and still keeps my center of gravity low enough and far enough back that I can 'drive' the front end of the bike up, over or though most trail obstacles and rarely go OTB.  The super slack front end on my bike also helps significantly in that regard.

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