Determining the height of road bike handlebars

Posted at: Mar 15, 2022

The "handlebar height" of a road bike has a significant impact on speed as well as ease of riding. This section summarizes what happens when you change the height and how to determine the right height.

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What changes with handlebar height

First, it is important to know how the height of the handlebars of a road bike affects the ride.

Road bikes have the opposite construction to city bicycles: the saddle is higher and the handlebars are lower. The reason for this is that it allows for a deep forward lean.

When pedaling a bicycle forward, there are three main types of resistance that a rider receives: road resistance, air resistance, and gravitational resistance. Of these, “air resistance” is affected by the height of the handlebars.

When you pedal a bicycle, you are actually pushing through a wall of air. Driving in a back upright position, as in the case of a city bicycle, is a situation in which your torso is catching all the air coming from the front. This can be reduced by leaning forward.

The deeper the forward lean on a road bike, the higher the aerodynamic performance (aerodynamic effect) and the faster and with less energy you can move forward.

Points to consider when determining handlebar height

If a deeper forward lean is more aerodynamic, it is not enough to “lower it to the limit. There are three points to keep in mind when determining the height of the handlebars.

Set the height so that the posture is not unreasonable.

The lower the handlebar height and the deeper you lean forward, the more you ride in a forward-bent posture, which can make it difficult to pedal and cause shoulder and back pain if your core is not well trained.

There are two causes: one is lack of muscle strength to maintain the posture, and the other is because the handlebars are positioned farther away.

The reason why lowering the height of the handlebars makes the distance farther is because the lowering of the handlebars means that the distance between the shoulders and hands is longer. If you actually try it, you will feel the steering wheel so far away that you can feel it even if the height of the steering wheel is lowered by 1 cm.

When changing the height of the handlebars, it is better to change the handlebar height little by little, using one spacer as a guide.

Let’s review the position of the STI lever.

As the distance from the handlebars changes, so does the feel of the STI lever. In particular, check whether you can get a firm grip on the brake.

The lower the height of the handlebar, the farther away from the handlebar you are and the harder it is to grip the brake lever. Adjust the mounting position of the STI lever and the angle of the handlebar so that it comes to a position where you can apply firm pressure.

If you can’t get a good grip on the brake lever by lowering it too far, then don’t push yourself too hard and raise the handlebars a little higher.

Adjust the position and angle of the saddle as well!

Changing the position of the handlebars not only deepens the forward lean, but also generally changes the distance to the handlebars. As the distance to the handlebars changes, the angle of the saddle that feels comfortable and the distance between front and back also changes.

Even a slight change in saddle inclination can change the discomfort you feel in your crotch, so find a saddle position that works for you. Those who shift positions on the saddle during a ride may want to adjust the front and rear positions as well.

When adjusting the front/rear position of the saddle, be careful not to adjust the saddle “too far forward or too far back. If the saddle is set in a position that does not fit your body, your pedaling efficiency will suffer.

Don’t forget to adjust the column if it’s carbon!

On road bikes, the handlebar height (technically, the stem height) is adjusted by inserting spacers in the front fork column. Changing the handlebar height also means replacing (or removing) the spacer.

In fact, in addition to being a “height adjustment part,” the spacer also has the role of “suppressing the outward force on the column. This is not a problem with impact-resistant metals such as aluminum, but with carbon column forks, if the column is not properly adjusted, the column may be damaged by the force received from the stem.

After adjusting the height of the handlebar, make sure to adjust the column as well.

Handlebar height that is actually very deep

It’s a simple positioning adjustment, “changing the height of the handlebars.”

  1. position of STI lever
  2. saddle position and angle
  3. handlebar angle

This is a deep positioning process that affects the position of three parts of the body. There is no clear correct answer to this question, as there are individual differences in leg and arm length, muscle mass, and other factors.

At first, you will be in a state of groping in the dark as to what angle is best and what distance is best, but each time you ride, you may find yourself thinking, “Is it a little too far? “Would a little angle be better?” Ride thinking, “What is the best position?” and try to find the best position through repeated fine-tuning.

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