Bicycle handlebars for comfort – Reducing or extending the reach

If your bike handlebars are too close or too far then you may feel a discomfort in your upper body when riding a bike. One way to solve this is to adjust or replace bicycle handlebars for comfort of cycling. You can also move your saddle and replace the stem. In today’s article we will look at all these different options to bring the handlebars closer or further away. 

Saddle position

If your upper body feels cramped you can slide your saddle back. This will put your position away from the bars.

If you feel too stretched out when riding you may be able to slide your saddle forward along the rails.This will bring the saddle closer to the bars.

To move your saddle, have a look at your seat post to determine the type of saddle clamp.

Bicycle handlebars for comfort

Universal saddle clamp. 

  • Find out what size spanner is needed to fit on the nut.
Bicycle handlebars for comfort
  • Undo one nut just enough to be able to slide the saddle back or move it forward.  
moving saddle on the standard clamp closer or further away
  • When it is in place align it with the top tube and tighten the nut.
Bicycle handlebars for comfort
  • Check that the saddle doesn’t move when you sit on it.
making sure that the saddle doesn't move

Standard micro-adjust seat post. 

Here the clamp is part of the seatpost.

  • Locate the allen key bolt at the back of the seatpost and fit a 6 mm allen key.
  • Turn the allen key anti clockwise to loosen the bolt slightly.
Bicycle handlebars for comfort
  • Move the saddle back or slide it forward.
moving saddle on a standard micro adjust seatpost forward or back
  • When the saddle is in the position that you have chosen, tighten the allen key bolt. Make sure that it is tight.
Bicycle handlebars for comfort

Micro-adjust seat post 2. 

This seat post has two bolts to clamp the saddle to the rails.

micor adjust 2 seatpost two bolts
  • Slightly loosen the front and then rear bolt.
  • Slide the saddle back or move the saddle forward.
moving saddle forward or back on micro adjust 2 seatpost
  • When you’re happy with the position of the saddle, slightly tighten the rear and then front bolt.
  • Make sure that both bolts are tight and remember that tightening just one bolt will change the saddle angle and make a big difference to your cycling comfort.
Bicycle handlebars for comfort

Stem length

To extend your upper body position you can replace your current stem with a longer one.

To bring the bars closer you can replace your current stem with a shorter one.

First ascertain if it is an AheadSet™ stem or a quill stem.

If your handlebar stem only has one bolt at the top and is one piece, then this is a quill stem.

Quill stems come in two common diameters, 1″ and 11/8″.

If your handlebar stem has one or two bolts somewhere on the side then this is an AheadSet™ stem.

Now measure the length of your current stem. The measurement is taken from the middle of the stem bolt to the middle of the bars and is expressed in millimetres.

If you have an AheadSet™ stem and it is shorter than 150 millimetres, or a quill stem not longer than 130 millimetres, then you will be able to source a longer reach replacement.

If your AheadSet™ stem is longer than 30 millimetres, or a quill stem longer than 40 millimetres, then you will be able to source a shorter replacement.

Check the central diameter of your handlebars.

measuring diameter of bicycle handlebars for comfort

There are two common sizes 25.4mm and 31.8mm. Make sure that the new stem is the correct size.

bicycle handlebars for comfort with different central diameter

If you’re not sure how to replace a quill stem then you can find how to do this in easy steps in our article here. Or you can check out our video here where we show you how to do this step by step.

Check our article about AheadSet stem replacement here if you need a help with replacing an A-head stem.

Or watch this video:

If your bike comes with an adjustable stem you can adjust it to move the bars further away from you or closer towards you.

Be aware that moving the stem away from you will also lower the position of the handlebars and moving it closer towards you will also raise the position of the bars. After adjusting stem position you will need to set up your handlebars correctly. Our video here will help you with this task.

Bicycle handlebars for comfort – The reach

If your bike has flat bars and you still need more stretch you can replace them with the butterfly bars.

bicycle handlebars for comfort - butterfly bars

These are great bicycle handlebars for comfort and are usually found on touring bikes offering different hand positions for comfort on longer rides. They can be a good alternative for extending your reach.

touring bike with bicycle handlebars for comfort

Not sure how to replace butterfly bars? Do not fear, you will find all the guidance in our article here.

You can also watch this tutorial:

If your bike has flat bars and you still need to bring them closer then consider “backsweep” handlebars.

bicycle handlebars for comfort with back sweep compared to standard bars

There are many designs available offering different degrees of sweep, up to 30°.

bicycle handlebars for comfort with different level of back sweep

Most standard mountain bike and hybrid handlebars will have up to 8° of back sweep.

bicycle handlebars for comfort on standard bike up to 8 degrees of back sweep

Be aware that fitting the handlebars with a large degree of back sweep together with a very short stem may limit the steering.

bicycle handlebars for comfort may reduce the steering

Replacing bicycle handlebars for comfort

  • Remove the handlebar grips.
  • Now remove the brake and gear levers from the handlebars remembering the order.
  • Remove any other accessories such as bell, light etc.
  • Remove the handlebars.
bicycle handlebars for comfort  -removing old handlebars
  • Attach the new handlebars to the stem making sure that they are positioned correctly.
fitting bicycle handlebars for comfort
  • Slide on the accessories.
  • Slide on the brake and gear levers remembering the order but don’t tighten them yet.
  • Spray the inside of the handlebar grips with a bit of isopropyl alcohol and slide them on.
  • Position the accessories and the brake and gear levers and tighten them.

If after all these adjustments you are still uncomfortable, consider a different size or style of bike. Our article here will guide you through the process of choosing a bike.

You can also check our video tutorial here:

You can also watch the video version of this article here:

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