How To Raise Your Handlebars (And Make Your E-Bike More Comfortable)

Stefan Mikes

Well-Known Member
Some e-bikes are the "children of the mountain bike". Look at the side pictures of higher class mid-drive motor e-bikes: In many of them you'll notice the handlebars located at almost the same level as the saddle. Such e-bikes are designed to be ridden in aggressive forward position; that's a sporty position. The benefit is reduced air drag but most of us can feel hand numbness or back-ache during the ride. Can it be avoided?

1602719330231.png

A typical design of an e-bike for forward riding position. The stem is at the same level as the handlebars.

Yes, there are e-bikes designed for a more comfortable riding position:
1602719623240.png

As you can see, this e-bike has the seat lower than the handlebars. It allows riding the bike in the upright position.

Now, you have bought an e-bike and you found out you need to lean over the handlebars; you feel the hand numbness and your back hurts. Just several dollars and simple work can make miracles for you (owning a set of Allen keys is a must!)

Stem Riser

Most of modern e-bikes follow the "A-HEAD" 1-1/8" standard of installing the stem (the part that connects the steering tube with the handlebars). Just search Amazon.com for "stem riser extender 1-1/8". You will get plethora of search results; the stem riser is typically less than US$20.

1602720280026.png

A collection of A-HEAD stem risers at Amazon.

I don't want to write a tutorial here. Installing the stem riser is about one of the easiest improvements you can do to your e-bike with just a single hex wrench. This merry guy has explained it all:

Some remarks:
  1. Stem risers are adjustable. Provided (and original) spacers can be installed both below or above the stem to adjust the preferred handlebars height.
  2. Don't buy too a tall riser. Something in the range of 70-75 mm (3" max) should do in most of cases.
  3. Make sure that the cables have sufficient slack post the riser setup; the handlebars need to easily turn left and right.
  4. When you tighten the central bolt, use as much force as there is no wobble in the fork but the handlebars should stil turn easily.
Adding 70-75 mm extra to your existing handlebars height makes miracles by changing your riding position from forward to moderate. Your hands and back will thank you. Important: as long as the stem follows the A-HEAD standard, the specific stem design is irrelevant. It will work for you.

More actions to take to make your ride more comfortable?

Grips with bar-ends

Have a look at grips with reasonably sized bar-ends, for example Ergon GP3:
1602721107521.png

Such handlebar grip allows you riding with multiple hand positions. My favourite one is this:

1602721233438.png

I can ride for many miles with this hand position. My hands get never numb.


Alternative handlebars

There are many types of handlebars for comfort riding. The "Dutch" city style is popular; some people say Jones H-bar is the most convenient. An example of interesting handlebars:

1602721514634.png

Baramind BAM City: shock absorbing comfortable handlebars.

The whole subject of making your rides comfortable is extensive. I will only say: installing a stem riser is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to improve riding comfort for most of us.
 
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steve mercier

Well-Known Member
Some e-bikes are the "children of the mountain bike". Look at the side pictures of higher class mid-drive motor e-bikes: In many of them you'll notice the handlebars located at almost the same level as the saddle. Such e-bikes are designed to be ridden in aggressive forward position; that's a sporty position. The benefit is reduced air drag but most of us can feel hand numbness or back-ache during the ride. Can it be avoided?

View attachment 68621
A typical design of an e-bike for forward riding position. The stem is at the same level as the handlebars.

Yes, there are e-bikes designed for a more comfortable riding position:
View attachment 68622
As you can see, this e-bike has the seat lower than the handlebars. It allows riding the bike in the upright position.

Now, you have bought an e-bike and you found out you need to lean over the handlebars; you feel the hand numbness and your back hurts. Just several dollars and simple work can make miracles for you (owning a set of Allen keys is a must!)

Stem Riser

Most of modern e-bikes follows the "A-HEAD" 1-1/8" standard of installing the stem (the part that connects the steering tube with the handlebars). Just search Amazon.com for "stem riser extender 1-1/8". You will get plethora of search results; the stem riser is typically less than US$20.

View attachment 68623
A collection of A-HEAD stem risers at Amazon.

I don't want to write a tutorial here. Installing the stem riser is about one of the easiest improvements you can do to your e-bike with just a single hex wrench. This merry guy has explained it all:

Some remarks:
  1. Stem risers are adjustable. Provided (and original) spacers can be installed both below or above the stem to adjust the preferred handlebars height.
  2. Don't buy a too tall riser. Something in the range of 70-75 mm (3 in max) should do in most of cases.
  3. Make sure that the cables have sufficient slack post the riser setup; the handlebars need to easily turn left and right.
  4. When you tighten the central bolt, use as much force so there is no wobble in the fork but the handlebars should stil turn easily.
Adding 70-75 mm extra to your existing handlebars height makes miracles by changing your riding position from forward to moderate. Your hands and back will thank you. Important: as long as the stem follows the A-HEAD standard, the specific stem design is irrelevant. It will work for you.

More actions to take to make your ride more comfortable?

Grip with bar-ends

Have a look at grips with reasonably sized bar-ends, for example Ergon GP3:
View attachment 68628
Such handlebar grip allows you riding with multiple hand positions. My favourite one is this:

View attachment 68629
I can ride for many miles with this hand position. My hands get never numb.


Alternative handlebars

There are many types of handlebars for comfort riding. The "Dutch" city style is popular; some people say Jones H-bar is the most convenient. An example of interesting handlebars:

View attachment 68632
Baramind BAM City: a shock absorbing comfortable handlebars.

The whole subject of making your rides is extensive. I will only say: installing a stem riser is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to improve riding comfort for most of us.
I suggest that the first step would be to see if the original stem can be reversed to your satisfaction. I discovered that it was enough of a rise to eliminate any back pain I initially felt. If this works for you the price is right!
 

steve mercier

Well-Known Member
You may also be able to sqeeze a little more lift by rotating the bars counterclockwise up and back towards the rider. The price is also right on this change so try them both before you spend any money.
 

linklemming

Well-Known Member
The whole subject of making your rides comfortable is extensive. I will only say: installing a stem riser is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to improve riding comfort for most of us.
I think you need to add more than a simplistic view of handlebars. There are 'many' options here (i.e. risers).

There are also alot of options with stems(not even mentioned). What if a better option would be a shorter and not higher stem?

What does one do if they dont want to raise their bars 70mm? No doubt raising your bars 70mm will make your ebike more comfortable but maybe 20mm is/was a better solution.

I have never needed to raise my bars that much
 

FlatSix911

Well-Known Member
Some e-bikes are the "children of the mountain bike". Look at the side pictures of higher class mid-drive motor e-bikes: In many of them you'll notice the handlebars located at almost the same level as the saddle.
Such e-bikes are designed to be ridden in aggressive forward position; that's a sporty position. The benefit is reduced air drag but most of us can feel hand numbness or back-ache during the ride. Can it be avoided?
View attachment 68621
A typical design of an e-bike for forward riding position. The stem is at the same level as the handlebars.
Yes, there are e-bikes designed for a more comfortable riding position:
View attachment 68622
As you can see, this e-bike has the seat lower than the handlebars. It allows riding the bike in the upright position.
Now, you have bought an e-bike and you found out you need to lean over the handlebars; you feel the hand numbness and your back hurts. Just several dollars and simple work can make miracles for you (owning a set of Allen keys is a must!)

Stem Riser

Most of modern e-bikes follow the "A-HEAD" 1-1/8" standard of installing the stem (the part that connects the steering tube with the handlebars). Just search Amazon.com for "stem riser extender 1-1/8". You will get plethora of search results; the stem riser is typically less than US$20.

View attachment 68623
A collection of A-HEAD stem risers at Amazon.

I don't want to write a tutorial here. Installing the stem riser is about one of the easiest improvements you can do to your e-bike with just a single hex wrench. This merry guy has explained it all:

Some remarks:
  1. Stem risers are adjustable. Provided (and original) spacers can be installed both below or above the stem to adjust the preferred handlebars height.
  2. Don't buy too a tall riser. Something in the range of 70-75 mm (3" max) should do in most of cases.
  3. Make sure that the cables have sufficient slack post the riser setup; the handlebars need to easily turn left and right.
  4. When you tighten the central bolt, use as much force as there is no wobble in the fork but the handlebars should stil turn easily.
Adding 70-75 mm extra to your existing handlebars height makes miracles by changing your riding position from forward to moderate. Your hands and back will thank you. Important: as long as the stem follows the A-HEAD standard, the specific stem design is irrelevant. It will work for you.

More actions to take to make your ride more comfortable?

Grips with bar-ends

Have a look at grips with reasonably sized bar-ends, for example Ergon GP3:
View attachment 68628
Such handlebar grip allows you riding with multiple hand positions. My favourite one is this:

View attachment 68629
I can ride for many miles with this hand position. My hands get never numb.


Alternative handlebars

There are many types of handlebars for comfort riding. The "Dutch" city style is popular; some people say Jones H-bar is the most convenient. An example of interesting handlebars:

View attachment 68632
Baramind BAM City: shock absorbing comfortable handlebars.

The whole subject of making your rides comfortable is extensive. I will only say: installing a stem riser is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to improve riding comfort for most of us.

Great summary with one minor correction. Hope this helps. ;)

There are 3 basic riding positions when cycling:
  1. Sport - Handlebars lower than the saddle
  2. Neutral - Handlebars even with the saddle
  3. Comfort - Handlebars higher than the saddle
1602723610882.png
 

Stefan Mikes

Well-Known Member
Great summary with one minor correction. Hope this helps. ;)

There are 3 basic riding positions when cycling:
  1. Sport - Handlebars lower than the saddle
  2. Neutral - Handlebars even with the saddle
  3. Comfort - Handlebars higher than the saddle
View attachment 68633
Selle Royal names the three positions: Athletic (45°), Moderate (60°), and Relaxed (90°). They even do not differentiate the forward position from the road-cycling one. Not that I disagree with you.
P.S. Sorry for editing.
 
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Stefan Mikes

Well-Known Member
I think you need to add more than a simplistic view of handlebars. There are 'many' options here (i.e. risers).

There are also alot of options with stems(not even mentioned). What if a better option would be a shorter and not higher stem?

What does one do if they dont want to raise their bars 70mm? No doubt raising your bars 70mm will make your ebike more comfortable but maybe 20mm is/was a better solution.

I have never needed to raise my bars that much
The question on the stem rising is one of the most often asked in the Specialized forum. Ask Vado owners... 😊

Certainly, I haven't discussed all possible options.
 

FlatSix911

Well-Known Member
Selle Royal names the three positions: Athletic (45°), Moderate (60°), and Relaxed (90°). They even do not differentiate the forward position from the road-cycling one. Not that I disagree with you.
P.S. Sorry for editing.
No worries... here are the full range of positions: Comfort, Relaxed, Neutral, Athletic, Triathlete!

The height of the handlebar relative to the saddle decreases along with the angle of attack. ;)

1602729167677.png
 
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steve mercier

Well-Known Member
Great summary with one minor correction. Hope this helps. ;)

There are 3 basic riding positions when cycling:
  1. Sport - Handlebars lower than the saddle
  2. Neutral - Handlebars even with the saddle
  3. Comfort - Handlebars higher than the saddle
View attachment 68633
Wrong. The 3 positions on a road bike = Position A : Discomfort , B : Pain , and C : Getting off and walking.
 
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linklemming

Well-Known Member
The question on the stem rising is one of the most often asked in the Specialized forum. Ask Vado owners... 😊

Certainly, I haven't discussed all possible options.
Well lets discuss the options with pros/cons shall we....You started it

Perhaps we should make the title, "How to make your ebike more comfortable and the front end wash out more":cool:

Raising your handlebars with a stem riser causes quite a weight shift towards the rear. This will manifest itself as less front end grip on offroad level and uphill terrain. When Im really cookin offroad on my ebikes, Im usually limited by front end grip so rising my handlebars is the last thing I want to do (especially 75mm). I reluctantly had to raise the bars on all my bikes 1inch this year due to hand pain and immediately noticed reduced front end grip. I now have to beware of this and purposely lean forward more at times. I went thru quite a 6 month process (grips/handlebar rise/stems/handlebar clocking) and learned alot in the process. Note that I also use a bigger tire in the front for more grip almost always.

In addition to that, raising your bars might actually make it worse although this would be a limited case. When I first got my Bulls Evo eMTB, I had hand pain. Ironically flipping the stem over so it was -6 degree and rearranging the headset spacers to lower the stem worked 'in this case'.

Basically there are two issues causing hand pain.
Weight on your hands
Weight distribution on you hands

Weight on you hands can easily be reduced by shortening the reach to the bars (making stem shorter, more handlebar sweep depending on handlebar design) or raising the bars (higher rise stem, riser bar or stem riser). Note that this also changes the weight on your front wheel. No free lunch here.

You can also move the seat forwards which will have the added benefit of adding weight to the front end. Maybe your bike has a setback seatpost that you could change out.

Weight distribution on your hands can be changed with grips, handlebar sweep (up and back), handlebar clocking (rotating bar in styem) and gloves. You could also try different grip position or something like togs(https://togs.com/) which I use on my acoustic FS mountain bike.

Handlebar width also has effects on both the weight and its distribution.

An then there is core strength. Perhaps the cyclist just needs to do more situps.

Bike fitting can be quite a process and many time non-intuitive (I recommend watching Bike Fit Adviser on youtube, I dont agree with all he does but its a good source of info).

Im guessing using a stem riser works for alot of newer riders (nothing wrong with being a newer rider) as they arnt pushing the front end much (if ever).

Here is a good stem calculator
http://yojimg.net/bike/web_tools/stem.php
 
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Stefan Mikes

Well-Known Member
Thank you for contributing to this thread! Your points are valid. I simply described the fastest, cheapest and simplest way to make an e-bike (specifically: Turbo Vado, which sports several varieties of quite specialized stems) more comfortable. Almost everybody complains on the Vado design with the respect to the forward riding position. Raising the bars is the simplest way.

I should have had the thread named "How To Raise Your Vado Handlebars". You wouldn't believe how many people have already asked such a question... :)
 

Gionnirocket

Well-Known Member
I think you need to add more than a simplistic view of handlebars. There are 'many' options here (i.e. risers).

There are also alot of options with stems(not even mentioned). What if a better option would be a shorter and not higher stem?

What does one do if they dont want to raise their bars 70mm? No doubt raising your bars 70mm will make your ebike more comfortable but maybe 20mm is/was a better solution.

I have never needed to raise my bars that much
My eBike is a 12 year old mtb conversion with a Bafang BBS02B. When I purchased the bike the riding position was great and I enjoyed the forward lean. But over the years it has become less comfortable as my riding style has become less aggressive. The addition of a 120mm stem riser and swept handlebars has made the bike comfortable again. The riser has a minimum height adjustment of 45mm which is near the typical stem stack height. If you really require anything less you may be splitting hairs.
 

FlatSix911

Well-Known Member
Well lets discuss the options with pros/cons shall we....You started it

Perhaps we should make the title, "How to make your ebike more comfortable and the front end wash out more":cool:

Raising your handlebars with a stem riser causes quite a weight shift towards the rear. This will manifest itself as less front end grip on offroad level and uphill terrain. When Im really cookin offroad on my ebikes, Im usually limited by front end grip so rising my handlebars is the last thing I want to do (especially 75mm). I reluctantly had to raise the bars on all my bikes 1inch this year due to hand pain and immediately noticed reduced front end grip. I now have to beware of this and purposely lean forward more at times. I went thru quite a 6 month process (grips/handlebar rise/stems/handlebar clocking) and learned alot in the process. Note that I also use a bigger tire in the front for more grip almost always.

In addition to that, raising your bars might actually make it worse although this would be a limited case. When I first got my Bulls Evo eMTB, I had hand pain. Ironically flipping the stem over so it was -6 degree and rearranging the headset spacers to lower the stem worked 'in this case'.

Basically there are two issues causing hand pain.
Weight on your hands
Weight distribution on you hands

Weight on you hands can easily be reduced by shortening the reach to the bars (making stem shorter, more handlebar sweep depending on handlebar design) or raising the bars (higher rise stem, riser bar or stem riser). Note that this also changes the weight on your front wheel. No free lunch here.

You can also move the seat forwards which will have the added benefit of adding weight to the front end. Maybe your bike has a setback seatpost that you could change out.

Weight distribution on your hands can be changed with grips, handlebar sweep (up and back), handlebar clocking (rotating bar in styem) and gloves. You could also try different grip position or something like togs(https://togs.com/) which I use on my acoustic FS mountain bike.

Handlebar width also has effects on both the weight and its distribution.

An then there is core strength. Perhaps the cyclist just needs to do more situps.

Bike fitting can be quite a process and many time non-intuitive (I recommend watching Bike Fit Adviser on youtube, I dont agree with all he does but its a good source of info).

Im guessing using a stem riser works for alot of newer riders (nothing wrong with being a newer rider) as they arnt pushing the front end much (if ever).

Here is a good stem calculator
http://yojimg.net/bike/web_tools/stem.php
You raise some good points related to EMTBs.
Here is the TLDR summary for the optimum setup:
Lower bars when climbing... Higher bars when descending. We really need a bar dropper! ;)

 
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linklemming

Well-Known Member
My eBike is a 12 year old mtb conversion with a Bafang BBS02B. When I purchased the bike the riding position was great and I enjoyed the forward lean. But over the years it has become less comfortable as my riding style has become less aggressive. The addition of a 120mm stem riser and swept handlebars has made the bike comfortable again. The riser has a minimum height adjustment of 45mm which is near the typical stem stack height. If you really require anything less you may be splitting hairs.
Are you suggesting that people should really only adjust their handlebar height by 45mm increments other wise they are splitting hairs?

I raised my bars 10mm at a time and each time tried different bars(rise/sweep)/stem(length)/grip/gloves/bar/saddle-tilt/saddle-position clocking and did this for 5 different bikes each of which has its own riding parameters (some more offroad, some for windy days on bike paths). I even got down to 5mm to fine tune things. Perhaps Im just more 'in tune' with my bike as I noticed (and took notes on each setup) and even compared timed runs on a very curvy flatish gravel ride.

Most of my bikes ended up about 1" higher than before, some 2". In the end, the overall cornering speed due to loosing front end grip was measurable. Maybe I need to use a more aggressive tire in front now. On the upside, On high speed sections going thru loose sand/gravel I would almost loose the front end many times, having some scary moments. Not an issue anymore. It shows that I should have been leaning back more on the older setup but things are always easier when they dont require this.

I have noticed more saddle soreness from rides now and have to take 1 day off a week and cant do as many longer rides. Perhaps I need to play with different saddles now and/or shorts. This could be $$ for 5 bikes.

For more discussions inline with what Im talking about, go to the MTBR forums.

As I have mentioned before, its not always intuitive as can be seen by this link(sometimes its the opposite) https://bikefitr.com/2017/08/shaking-off-numb-hands/

For newbies, I concede that stem risers might be a great solution. They also complain about saddle soreness so getting a huge comfy saddle should also be added to the list.

By the same token, a sledge hammer is a great tool for killing flies. Guaranteed to always kill the fly but complete overkill most of the time.
 
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linklemming

Well-Known Member
My eBike is a 12 year old mtb conversion with a Bafang BBS02B. When I purchased the bike the riding position was great and I enjoyed the forward lean. But over the years it has become less comfortable as my riding style has become less aggressive. The addition of a 120mm stem riser and swept handlebars has made the bike comfortable again.
We need to make sure we totally understand what is going on here other than a 120mm riser is a solution.

Older MTBs had MUCH lower handlebars and the bars were narrower as well which actually moves you back as your elbows are straighter.

I used to run my 1994 MTB with the bars 5 inches below the saddle (stack of 515mm), I also used a 130mm stem (considered short at the time) and 550mm straight bars with bar ends that made the bar more like 500mm. I now run the bars even with the saddle (125mm more (accomplished with newer fork with longer headtube and 50mm of spacers, 700mm 50mm rise bar and a shorter 80mm stem)). Older MTBs had lower stack height than todays bikes.

Adding 125mm to a newer geometry bike with higher stack height would be ludicrous IMHO. My newer geometry bikes now have a stack height of 600 to 660mm.
 

BrianK

Active Member
They are often frowned upon, but I opted for an adjustable stem riser. Not only did it raise the handlebars, it brought them rearward a bit, decreasing both hand numbness and reach and lower back pain.

One of the Amazon comments regarding any fear of movement of the adjustable stem riser while in use:
The inner portion of the linkage is what's known as a rosette surface. Basically, a bunch of interlocking "V's". The result is that once it's tightened down it doesn't budge.

I also added a Metropolis handlebar, which also improved comfort (by decreasing reach and relaxing hand position) immensely:
I’m riding mostly roads and rail trails on my fat e bike, and I’ve read neither of these options may be appropriate for aggressive eMTB riding.
 
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Stefan Mikes

Well-Known Member
I need to add some extra info. Some e-bikes (and Specialized ones are a good example) have the display mounted on a custom stem, and might have stem integrated headlight. Replacing or rotating the stem is impractical in such case, leaving the stem riser as the only option.