How to Raise the Handlebars on a Mountain Bike

Mountain biking is something that a lot of people enjoy doing in their spare time. Hitting the tracks can be freeing and give you a good workout. However, if you have handlebars that are too low, you will have a bad time.

Low handlebars affect your riding position.  When you are on your bike, you back will round too much and take too much strain. This can cause pain and will make it harder to feel excited about your next ride.

The good news is that this can easily be overcome. All you need to do is raise your handlebars to the appropriate level.  If you have never had to do this before, do not panic. There are easy steps that you can take to do this, but it will depend on the stem system your bike has.


Raising Handlebars With A Threadless Headset System

To determine if your bike has this handlebar system, you need to look at how the handlebars are kept in place.  If the handlebars have one large bolt and two smaller ones, you have a threadless headset system. These bolts are what keep the handlebars attached to the stem of the bike.

ritchey headset system

If you have this system, you have the slightly harder to adjust handlebars on the market.  To make the height adjustment, you will need to have an Allen key that fits the bolts.

Once you have your Allen key, you need to remove the large bolt from the top of the bike stem.  This should be fully removed before you do anything else. You will also need to remove the stem cap before you can raise the handlebars.

After fully removing the large bolt, you need to turn your attention to the smaller bolts.  Using your Allen key, you need to loosen these bolts. They do not need to be removed fully and only need to be loosened enough to release their grip on the stem.

When there is movement on the stem, you need to slowly and gently remove the handlebars.  You have to be careful to not bend or stress the stem or handlebars as you remove them. This can damage your bike and make it impossible for you to reattach the handlebars.

Once your handlebars have been removed, you can adjust the stem to the height you need.  As you adjust the stem, you have to be careful with the brake cables. You do not want to damage them as you make your adjustments.

adjusting handlebars

If you find that the stem does not offer the height you need, you have to add some spacers to the main tube.  You can purchase spacers from your local bike store or online and they can be removed in the future if you need to make further height adjustments.

When you have the perfect height, you need to carefully replace the stem on the bike.  When the stem is in place and the handlebars have been returned, you need to replace the large bolt and tighten it by hand.  Do not use the Allen key at this point.

As you place the stem, you have to align it with the front wheels.  If you do this incorrectly, your handlebar alignment will be off. Only tighten the bolt once the stem is properly aligned.


Raising Handlebars With A Threaded Headset System

If your mountain bike has a continuous piece of metal connecting the handlebars to the body of the bike, you have a threaded headset system.  These systems are more common on older bikes, single speed bikes and those with fixed gears. The stem of these systems will have a single bolt on the top.

The first step to raising the handlebars will be to loosen the top bolt.  This can be done with an Allen key. You can either fully remove this bolt or you can simply loosen it.

Once this has been done, you need to loosen the locknut with a wrench.  When the stem is loosened, you will be able to move it to the height you want.  As you do this, you might notice an excess of grease on the stem.

adjusting threaded system handlebar

You should remove the excess grease and clean the stem.  If there is too little grease, you will need to apply some to make it easier to move the stem.  When applying the grease, do not overdo this and remove any excess before getting the stem in place.

After moving the stem and handlebars to the height you want, you can tighten the locknut to secure the stem.  Once this has been done, you can tighten the top bolt.


Adjusting The Handlebar Angle

If you only need to raise your handlebars slightly, adjusting their angle might be all you need to do.  This is not something you can do with all mountain bikes and you have to check to see if the stem of your bike is adjustable.  Adjustable bikes will usually have a single bolt that runs perpendicular to the rest of the bike where the stem and frame meet.

If your bike is adjustable, you will need to loosen the bolt with an Allen key.  You should then loosen the screws keeping the handlebars on the frame. There are usually 4 of these screws, but you should not remove them completely.

adjusting the handlebars

Once loosened, you will be able to rotate your handlebars to get the angle you want.  The angle should be the height you need, but you should also be able to easily reach the brake levers.  If you are unable to comfortably reach the brakes, you may need to get a new handlebar stem.

After you have found the right angle, you can tighten the screws.  Before you head out on the trails, you will need to test the bike and see if the adjustments are correct.

Riding a mountain bike with the handlebars too low can be painful as you are in an uncomfortable position.  To overcome this, you need to raise the handlebars to the right level. The steps to do this will depend on the headset system your bike has and how high you need to go.

Now that you know how to raise the handlebars on your mountain bike, check out our guides on mountain bike tires and mountain bike gloves.

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How to Raise the Handlebars on a Mountain Bike — Bike Hacks