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How to Raise the Handlebars

A higher handlebar can do a lot for your riding. You will have a more upright riding position, allowing you to see more taking weight off your hands and arms, and usually taking strain off your lower back. The first step to raising your bars is identifying they type of headset and stem that you have. Compare your bicycle to the diagrams below.

Threaded Headset with Quill type stem

A. Threaded Headset with Quill type stem
Threadless Headset with A-head and Clamp-on Stem

B. Threadless Headset with A-head® and Clamp-on Stem

Follow the steps below to get those bars up.

For Threaded Systems
For small frequent adjustments this type really is the easiest.

  1. Simply take a wrench that fits the bolt at the top of the stem and loosen it a turn or two. No need to remove it completely.
  2. The bar and stem should now be turning independently of the fork. Gently move the bar/stem right to left and lift up.
  3. Raise the bars to the desired height. There will be a line etched into the stem marked "Min Insert" this is the maximum height for your stem.
  4. Realign the bar and front wheel and retighten the bolt on top of the stem.

Still not high enough? More drastic measures may be in order. You may need to look into replacing your stem with a long quill model, or perhaps a stem with some rise to it.

For Threadless Systems
Threadless systems can be raised too, the amount of work involved depends on how high you need to go, and how your bike was set up by the manufacturer.

Look for spacers above the stem clamp. You can just rearrange the stack order to put all the spacers below the stem to get some extra height. Many road stems have a little drop too them and they can be flipped over. Otherwise you will need to replace the stem with one with more rise in the angle. Threadless systems are a little more involved than a quill stem set up as removing the stem involves readjusting the headset.

To remove the stem on a threadless system.

  1. Remove the bolt and top cap of the stem.
  2. Loosen the stem clamp pinch bolts
  3. Gently lift the stem off the steer tube
  4. Rearrange spacers or flip stem over or replace stem as needed.

To install a stem on threadless systems.

  1. Restack stem and spacers on steertube. It is important that the top of the steer tube is between 2 to 4mm lower than the inside top of the stem, if it is too low you risk stem or steer tube failure, if it is too high you will never get the headset tight. In the case of a stem replacement it is common to have to add or remove a spacer to account for differing stack heights.
  2. Reinstall stem top cap with bolt. In threadless systems the top cap applies preload to the headset bearings.
  3. Realign the bar and front wheel and tighten the top cap bolt until resistance is felt.
  4. Ensure stem pinch bolts are still loose.
  5. Turn top cap bolt 1/4 turn.
  6. Tighten stem pinch bolts.
  7. Check the headset adjustment by rotating the handlebars parallel to the top tube with the front wheel on the ground and rocking back and forth. Turn the handlebars the other way and repeat.
  8. If there is play in the headset loosen the stem pinch bolts, and repeat steps 4 though 7. Once the headset is adjusted properly tighten your stem pinch bolts to the torque spec provided by your stem manufacturer.