Words by: Reamonn Ryan
Handlebars are easily one of the best components on a bike to upgrade. Everyone has a different bike, a different body shape, and a different preference so sometimes the stock bars that come on your brand-new bike just aren’t going to be what’s best for you. The rise of your handlebar always seems to be the main focus of anyone looking to upgrade their cockpit so we will stick to that topic for today.
Handlebars are your main point of leverage and control with the bike. As you lift or steer them, the bike follows, so having a set up that fits you perfectly is pretty important and it can even help acquire those handling skills you’ve been looking for.
As you increase the rise of your handlebars, you create an easier platform to lift up or “jump” depending on what your goals are. The increased rise will also slightly shorten your reach and straighten out your back. This means you will not be as leaned over the front end of the bike which can help in many situations but also hurt you in others.
An Increased rise helps with the maneuverability of your bike as we have already gone over but it also helps you on those steeper technical descents. Pros have been using this tactic for quite a while depending on the courses they race. The higher your handlebar set up, the more you are able to shift your weight to the back of the bike. This helps you maintain stability and braking power while descending. A lower front-end helps push you weight forward, making you rear endless stable which can lead to skidding. Another disadvantage of having a low front end on steep descents is that since your weight is shifted forward, you have a greater chance of going over the bars if your front wheel catches on any small features out on the trail.
A straighter back, better braking, more maneuverability, why wouldn’t you want a higher front end? Well, it depends entirely on your intention for riding. A higher front end shifts your body weight back but when you spend a lot of time climbing, you want that weight shifted forward for your best performance and the most stability. Climbing with a front end that is too high can make you feel like you’re hanging off the back end of the bike or like you’re on the edge of popping into a wheelie on steeper climbs.
Well, the handlebar is often a cheaper product that can be easily swapped around. I suggest that riders looking to explore the option of going with a higher rise mess around with different stack heights on their headset spacers, if that doesn’t work, there are plenty of affordable alloy handlebars that you can test out without dropping a hefty amount of money. Ride the set up for a few rides, if it doesn’t feel right, mess around some more. Remember that the more time you spend on a product, the more comfortable you will get.
I personally chose to ride the PNW Range Handlebar which features a 30mm rise. Coming from a background in playful bikes, I wanted something that would keep the bike super fun on any trail and something to keep it poppy in any situation. I personally am not the best climber and don’t care too much about Strava PRs or getting to the top of the hill quickly so a 30mm rise works perfectly for my situation on having the most fun jibbing around.
This article was written / authored by Reamonn Ryan. Reamonn has worked in the bicycle industry for 6 years now and currently runs our Instagram account along with testing products, editing video content, and writing blogs like this one you just read. Reamonn was a die hard BMX kid for over 10 years and once he started at Worldwide Cyclery made the switch to mountain bikes where he can send stuff better than most guys at the shop. If you like any of our Instagram posts or have gotten any responses from your DM's it was most likely from Reamonn, so give him a thanks. As with all of our employees, Reamonn is a key part of making Worldwide Cyclery the "Best Damn Bike Shop in the World".