How To Raise Bike Handlebars In 9 Steps [With Pictures]

Having a bike that fits you correctly is essential, but choosing an appropriately sized bike frame can just be the beginning of the story. 

Knowing how to raise bike handlebars is one of the tweaks you can make to fine-tune your bike’s fit.

By learning how to adjust handlebar height, you can put yourself into a more comfortable riding position. It can even make your riding more efficient and help alleviate back pain while riding, as you’ll be able to ride with proper cycling form.

In this article, we’ll be covering:

  • The Tools You’ll Need To Adjust Handlebar Height
  • How To Adjust Handlebar Height Using Spacers in 9 Steps
  • How To Raise Bike Handlebars By Flipping The Stem in 4 Steps
  • How To Raise Bike Handlebars With A Stem Riser
  • What About Riser Handlebars?

Ready to get into the details of how to raise bike handlebars?

Let’s get started!

How To Raise Bike Handlebars: Title Image

The Tools You’ll Need To Adjust Handlebar Height

You don’t need anything too fancy to adjust handlebar height – often just a multitool or a set of Allen keys. You may also want to get a torque wrench, especially if you’re working with carbon fiber parts.

However, if your bike’s handlebars don’t use hex bolts, you may need a T20 or T25 Torx key.

How To Adjust Handlebar Height Using Spacers in 9 Steps

The easiest way to adjust handlebar height is by adding or removing headset spacers.

Headset spacers are circular rings that sit on top or under the headset. They dictate how high the handlebars sit on top of the steerer tube, altering your riding position.

Step 1 – Secure Your Bike

Set your bike up on a bike stand. You’ll need to have easy access to the handlebars, so a floor-mounted bike stand will make it easier. Alternatively, get someone to hold your bike upright for you.

Next, loosen the clamp bolts on the back of the handlebar stem.

Step 2 – Remove The Top Cap

Removing the top cap of mountain bike handlebars

Unscrew the cap bolt on top of the stem. You’ll probably need a 4 or 5mm Allen key for this part.

Removing top cap from handlebar stem

Step 3 – Remove The Stem

Loosen the clamping bolts on the back of the stem, so you can slide the handlebar stem off the steerer tube. It will come off easily without too much persuasion.

How To Raise Bike Handlebars In 9 Steps [With Pictures] 1

If you have a carbon bike, you may notice that the steerer tube has an expanding wedge. This is called a bung, and you can leave it where it is, as it doesn’t affect your handlebar height.

Step 4 – Adjust Handlebar Height

Showing handlebar spacers on a mountain bike

Now it’s time to set your handlebar height using spacers. Spacers usually come in 20 or 30-mm sizes. You can raise or lower your handlebars by adding or removing the spacers.

Step 5 – Start Putting It Back Together

Slide your stem back onto the steerer tube, and put the spacers you removed on top of it. Make sure that you leave enough space for the cap, and room to tighten it enough to pre-load the headset bearing.

Therefore, make sure you leave a 3 to 5mm gap between the steerer tube and the top of your stem/spacer.

Step 6 – Put The Top Cap Back On

Refit the top cap and tighten it until you feel resistance. This tightness will pre-load the headset bearing. 

Don’t over-tighten the bolt, as you can damage the bearing.

Step 7 – Align Your Front Wheel

How To Raise Bike Handlebars In 9 Steps [With Pictures] 2

The next thing you need to do is make sure your front wheel is lined up with the stem. This may take a few tries to get it perfect, but it is easier to do if you stand over your bike.

Step 8 – Tighten Your Clamp Bolts

Once you’re sure that your stem is in line with your wheel, you can tighten the clamp bolts. It’s best to check the torque settings recommended by the manufacturer, but you can expect the optimum torque setting to be between 5 to 8 Nm.

Step 9 – Check Your Headset

Now you need to check your headset adjustment, which is an easy task.

Hold your front brake, put the other hand on the headset, and gently rock the handlebars back and forth. You are feeling for any movement from the steerer tube inside the head tube.

If you can feel any movement, loosen the stem clamp bolts and tighten the top cap a little more. A quarter of a turn should do the trick.

Keep doing this until there is no movement and your handlebars turn smoothly. If you overtighten the bolts, you’ll feel tightness when you turn the handlebars.

At this point, you may feel roughness when turning the handlebars. This could be a sign that you need to change your headset bearings.

How To Raise Bike Handlebars By Flipping The Stem in 4 Steps

Now you know how to raise bike handlebars with spacers, but what if you’re still not getting your desired riding position?

The first way you can do this is by changing the stem. You can choose a stem with a positive angle, which means it is angled upwards, raising the handlebars slightly. You can even buy adjustable stems that allow you to fine-tune your riding position.

Alternative mountain bike handlebar stem comparison

But if you don’t want to spend any money, you may be able to adjust your handlebar height by flipping the stem. This will depend on the type of stem you have and if it will do what you want it to do.

Here are the 4 steps to flip your handlebar stem:

Step 1 – Remove The Handlebars

Make sure your bike is secure and won’t fall over, and take note of the angle of your handlebars and brake levers. You will need to replicate your cockpit when you put everything back together. You can mark the position of everything using some masking tape.

Once you’ve done this, you can undo the bolts that clamp the handlebars to the stem. This will remove the faceplate, freeing the bars.

Loosening the stem faceplate bolts on a mountain bike

Step 2 – Remove The Stem

Let the handlebars hang to one side of the wheel and follow Steps 1 to 3 above for removing the stem.

Step 3 – Flip The Stem

Now your stem is off the bike, simply turn it over and slide it back onto the steerer tube.

Step 4 – Refit Your Handlebars

Put your handlebars back onto your bike, making sure that you replicate the angles of the bars and brakes.

Check the manufacturer’s torque settings for the stem faceplate, but they will probably be between 4 and 8 Nm. Tighten each bolt up evenly, a little at a time, ensuring there are no gaps.

If you have any gaps or the faceplate is not even, your handlebars are being unevenly pinched. This can damage the handlebars, especially carbon ones. So you’ll need to remove the faceplate again to ensure that it clamps the bars evenly.

Now your handlebars are mounted, follow Steps 6-9 above to complete the job.

How To Raise Bike Handlebars With A Stem Riser

You can buy a stem riser that will lift your handlebars by 3 to 5 inches. These are extensions that fit onto your steerer tube and are simple to install.

All you need to do is remove the stem using the method we’ve already discussed. Then slide your new stem riser onto the steerer tube and fix it into position before refitting your handlebars.

What About Riser Handlebars?

Riser bars are the last resort if you cannot get into the perfect riding position. These are handlebars that you can fit to mountain bikes and commuter bikes that sweep upwards slightly.

You can use riser bars to raise your hand position a couple of inches. It is easy to fit riser bars, but you just need to take note of the position of your brake levers, gear shifters, and anything else you have mounted in your cockpit.

A cyclist rides his mountain bike across a straw-filled field at sunset.

Now You Know How To Raise Bike Handlebars…

You have a few options for adjusting the height of your bike’s handlebars, but the easiest way is to add or remove spacers. However, before you make any changes, it could be a good idea to book a bike-fitting appointment with a specialist.

Any good bike shop will have a qualified bike fitter. They’ll take measurements and use a formula to ensure your bike fits you perfectly. They can advise you on saddle height, crank length, handlebar height, and more.

This way, you can be sure that you can ride as comfortably as possible, and you’ll stand less chance of injuring yourself while riding.

Found this guide helpful? Learn more bike maintenance tips and tricks from the BikeTips experts below!

Photo of author
One of BikeTips' regular content creators, Tom lives in the French Alps. When he isn't writing, he can be found charging downhill on a mountain bike or snowboard. Tom's other passion is fitness, which goes a long way to help him make the most of the Alpine lifestyle.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.