FEEL THE BEND: What is the perfect handlebar position? Grab two pipes, one in each hand, shut your eyes and hold them in front of you where you think your handlebars should be. Open your eyes and you will discover that your hands are about shoulder-width apart and the pipes are angled back about 13 degrees and down slightly. This would be the perfect bar if you never had to rotate the fork to steer the bike.
In the real world, the perfect handlebar position is the one that gives you the most control over the bike, without restricting the movement of your hands or wrist bones. It is always a compromise between standing and seated cycling positions.
TRIMMING FIND THE WIDTH
There is a growing trend by bar makers to offer wider handlebars (over 25 inches wide). These bars may be too wide for all but the tallest riders. The perfect handlebar width is one to two inches wider than your shoulders. This gives you enough leverage to control the bike without overriding vital communication input traveling through the steering geometry from the ground to your hands.
A narrower bar causes the steering to react more quickly and your bike to climb in a straighter line. It also reduces the leverage needed to control the front wheel in technical situations. A wider bar creates more leverage, reduces the feedback though the steering geometry, and requires your upper body to twist when you steer the bike.
Since rider preference plays a role in the ideal bar width, our width rules are not set in stone. Luckily, you can experiment with bar widths before you decide to trim the width (or buy a wider bar).
1 Correct: Loosen the stem’s handlebar clamp so the bar can rotate. Set the grip sections of the handlebar so they are parallel with the ground or sweep slightly upward.
2 Wrong: Angling your bar too high binds the wrists, widens the stance of your elbows, and forces you to steer with your shoulder muscles.
3 Wrong: Angling the bar downwards reduces the strain on your hands and wrists, but limits your power and control while steering.
4 Clamping: If your stem’s handlebar clamp uses four bolts, it is best to incrementally snug the bolts in an “X” pattern (starting with bolt one and finishing with bolt four). Take your time and give each bolt a quarter turn until they are all tight. Same goes for a two-bolt clamp. Don’t tighten one all the way and then tighten the other. Give the top bolt a quarter turn, then the bottom bolt a quarter turn, and keep repeating until the clamp is snug.
5 Be centered: Make sure you are beginning with the bar centered by measuring from the center of the stem to each end of the bar.
6 Trial run: Move your grips and control levers inward and test a few positions. The position is too narrow when the front end feels loose and wiggly. Back out a half inch on each end and you will be golden.
7 Trimming: If you decide to reduce the width of the bar, remove the grips and wrap each end in several layers of masking tape. (This is essential if your bar is constructed from carbon fiber, because the tape will help minimize the unraveling of the carbon fibers.) Determine the amount of bar to be removed. The cut line can be marked with a pen on the masking tape. We used the brake clamp as a guide. Make sure you remove the same length of material from both sides of the bar.
8 Two more times: Make sure your handlebar is installed properly in your stem. Double check your measurements. Be sure the bar is centered in the stem and make sure you are taking the same length off each side. If you goof and cut off too much, you just went over budget by the price of a new handlebar.
9 Clamp it: Secure the front wheel to the down tube or have someone straddle the wheel to steady the bar as you cut it. Use a saw with a sharp, fine tooth blade (32 teeth per inch) that is intended for cutting metals. Start cutting along your marked line with slow, smooth, even strokes. If you are cutting a carbon bar, take care at the end of the cut to avoid splintering the material. After cutting, any burrs can be carefully sanded off with fine emery paper. Do not inhale or touch the shavings or dust, especially if you are cutting a carbon bar. Clean off the dust using a damp cloth and throw it away. Our bare-handed mechanic should know that it is a good idea to wear safety goggles, gloves and a dust mask.
The Garage Files is a monthly feature of Mountain Bike Action. The following links will take you to more Garage Files.
A Quick Refresher On Quick Releases, Click Here.
Curing Brake Noise And Rub, Click Here.
Drivetrain Tips, Click Here.
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