How to Raise the Handlebars on a Mountain Bike

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While many bike riders will automatically adjust factors like the seat height and bar angle, not everyone knows how to adjust the height of the handlebars on a mountain bike.

Handlebar height is key to comfort and control when riding a mountain bike, and every rider should adjust them to suit their specific body and riding style.

Fortunately, mountain bikes are made so you can easily adjust the handlebars’ height to your preferences.

Let’s look at how to raise the handlebars on a mountain bike.

Why Raise the Handlebars on a Mountain Bike?

There are several reasons to raise the handlebars on your mountain bike. Here are the most common reasons.

Improved Control

Mountain bikes typically have a low handlebar height to reduce your center of gravity and place your weight over the front wheel for improved traction.

However, if the height is too low, the bike can become difficult to control, especially on steep climbs.

Improved Comfort

When the handlebars are too low, your back can be deeply curved while riding. This can be uncomfortable, especially when riding more casually.

Improved Fit

If you have a new mountain bike or are maintaining a mountain bike for a growing child, the handlebars may need to be adjusted to improve the way the bike fits and feels.

Adjusting your handlebars is key to making your mountain bike fit your body and riding style, so it should be part of getting comfortable with any bike. Here’s how to do it.

How to Raise Handlebars on a Mountain Bike

The first thing to determine is whether your bike has a threaded or threadless headset system. Most older bikes and single-speed bikes have a threaded headset, while most newer bikes have a threadless system.

To determine what kind of stem you have, look at the stem where your handlebars meet the bike. If you have a single bolt at the top of the stem, transitioning seamlessly into the fork’s steerer tube, you have a threaded system or quill stem.

How to Raise the Handlebars on a Mountain Bike

To Raise the Handlebars on a Quill Stem or Threaded Stem Mountain Bike

You will need:

  • An Allen wrench or hex wrench
  • A hammer
  • Some lubricating grease

Follow these steps:

  1. Use the hex wrench to loosen the bolt on the top of the stem.
  2. If the bolt hasn’t been loosened in a while, you may need to use a hammer to loosen it. If the bolt is proud of the stem, gently tap it with a hammer. If the bolt is flush with the stem, insert the hex wrench and then tap it with the hammer to free the bolt.
  3. Loosen the bolt, which will free the stem.
  4. Look for any marks on the stem that indicate maximum or minimum insertion marks, and make sure you stay within them.
  5. Adjust the handlebars to the correct height.
  6. Grease the shaft of the stem to prevent future seizing.
  7. Tighten the bolt to secure the handlebars at your preferred height.

If your mountain bike handlebars are attached to the stem with a large bolt and are held in place with two smaller bolts around the stem, you have a threadless system.

To Raise the Handlebars on a Threadless Stem

You will need:

  • A set of Allen keys
  • A torque wrench
  • Stem spacers

To raise the handlebars on a threadless stem mountain bike:

  1. Using an Allen key, remove the top bolt from the top of the stem.
  2. Remove the stem cap.
  3. Using your Allen key, loosen, but do not remove, the two smaller bolts until there is movement in the stem.
  4. Gently remove the handlebars by lifting without twisting or bending. Do not stress the handlebars while removing them.
  5. Add spacer(s) to the stem to raise the height of the handlebars. If you don’t have enough spacers, you can buy extra ones at a bike shop.
  6. Replace the handlebars without bending or stressing them.
  7. Tighten the bolts just to the point where you feel some resistance.
  8. Make sure the stem is aligned with the front wheel before fully tightening the bolts. Stand over the bike’s top tube and make sure the bar is at a perfect right angle with the front wheel.
  9. Once you have aligned the stem and the wheel, re-tighten the small stem clamp bolts with a torque wrench, and tighten the top cap bolt.
  10. Check your alignment by holding the front brake and the headset and rocking the handlebars back and forth. If you feel bearing movement inside the bike’s head tube, loosen the stem clamp bolts, tighten the top cap bolt a quarter-turn, and then re-tighten the stem clamp bolts.
  11. Keep adjusting the alignment until you can’t feel any bearing movement, and the handlebars are still moving smoothly without tightness or resistance. 

These instructions will allow you to raise the handlebars on your mountain bike and adjust them to the perfect height.

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