Handlebar height options & Overall Bike Fit

I've noticed a trend where discussions around options for raising handlebars occur within certain brand/model threads. But, since steerer tube and handlebar diameters are very standardized today, I think a central thread on options would be better - hence this thread, here in Parts & Accessories. I'm not an expert on this by any means - please feel free to add to or correct me as desired. Before I get going, I want to start off by thanking Alaskan for referencing an Ergotec stem in a couple of posts.

There are basically three options for raising the height of your grips without buying a whole new frame:

1) Install a stem riser:
1-18_AHD_xtra_STEM_RISER_blk_298982_1_Tiny_1024x1024.jpg

2) Install an higher angle or adjustable angle stem:

Screen Shot 2019-08-05 at 4.33.14 PM.png or Screen Shot 2019-08-05 at 3.21.59 PM.png

3) Install a handlebar with a higher built-in rise (and/or a larger sweep back):
M7Low_All_Stem-1300x0-c-default.jpg


As always, there are pros and cons to each solution. Some factors include safety, complexity of install, cost, and appearance.

Safety: In general, the safest approach is a new handlebar with more rise, or a sweep backwards. The least safe approach is the stem riser. Without talking about whether Ergotec's products are the best or even good, I think it's worth noting that while Ergotech has handlebars and stems rated "Safety Level" 6 (even 6+), the highest rating stem riser they make is only "Safety Level" 4. I don't know if this Safety Level system is unique to Ergotech, but it is handle. The company has an interactive site for determining the Safety Level they think you should have in your components. A lightweight person riding an analog bike in the city doesn't need as high a safety level as a heavy person on an eBike doing jumps in the mountains. BTW, never stack 2 or more stem risers.

Install complexity: If your cables are long enough, the stem riser might be the easiest to install, closely followed by a new stem (depending on whether the front plate on your existing stem is completely removable or not). However, if you have to re-cable then it becomes a toss up. There is a possibility that moving your shifters and levers to a new bar may work with the existing cables, but that would typically be true only if the new handlebars don't raise the grips as much.

Cost: The cheapest solution can be the stem riser, which can be under $30. But, if you have to pay a LBS to re-cable your bike, that might be the most costly.

Appearance: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but in general a replacement handlebar solution will typically look "normal" while a stem riser always looks cobbled. An fixed high angle stem might look pretty "normal" as well, depending on the type of bike.

It's not just height: It's important to note that height isn't the only variable here. Horizontal reach is also a factor in body position. It's sometimes possible that just going to a shorter stem will help enough, but if you go to a high angle stem, then you might want a longer stem so that it gets raised more, although at the expense of increasing reach. The stem riser or higher rise handlebars can both increase height without increasing reach. A sweep-back handlebar can also reduce reach, and might have other benefits in terms of wrist position.

It used to be that adjustable angle stems were to be avoided. I'm sure there are still many cheap models that don't lock well, but there are now some very high quality versions available. At this point, I personally would try to avoid a stem riser - instead starting with handlebars and then if that wasn't enough and reach isn't an issue going for a high angle stem.

I don't know how new these designs are, but there are now adjustable stems that also have a built-in rise. Take a look at these two:

Screen Shot 2019-08-05 at 3.21.59 PM.png and Screen Shot 2019-08-05 at 4.32.44 PM.png

Note that the one on the left has the pivot point just below the top of the steerer tube while the one on the right has the pivot point above the steerer tube. This not only gives you more height, it potentially increases reach less for the same height increase.


Finally, handlebar height isn't the only issue for comfort. That's just one piece of overall bike fit. I know this is starting to sound like an Ergotech commercial (I have no relationship with them), but they do have some good documentation on different riding positions and adjustment advice, which starts here with posture: http://cyclingright.com/en/posture.html. Then click the tabs for Riding Style, Saddle Position, Handlebar Position, and Steering System.

One could do a whole thread on saddle position - I've seen many riders with saddles too low, too far back ,etc. The basic rules are: 1) With the pedal at the 3 o'clock position the front of your knee should be directly over the pedal axle, 2) seat as high as possible such that your pelvis doesn't tilt as you pedal, and 3) the ball of your foot, not the arch, should be over the pedal axle. Mountain bike riders often want lower positions to handle rough terrain and jumps, etc. - that's where a drop post comes in handy. But again, that's a whole 'nother thread.
 

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6zfshdb

Well-Known Member
The points you make are well taken and worth noting. Thanks for posting the information.

Coincidentally, I use both the stem riser and adjustable stem you mention above on all three of my bikes. I use them with 2.5" rise Jones H bars. I experimented with several other options and discovered this combination works best for me. I have a bit less than 2000 miles on my bike and perhaps 500 on the other two. I ride under a variety of different conditions from paved surfaces to some fairly rough trails. So far, I have had no issues. My single track MTB days are long gone and I wouldn't consider using these products for that type of extreme riding.

I'm 6' 2" and when bike shopping, I was unable to find a brand with a stem high enough to accommodate my upright riding style. Realizing I was going to have to do the conversion, I chose a cruiser style bike with cables long enough to do it.

The benefit of these products is they are easily adjustable for other riders using the bikes.