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Bar Height

4/25/2013 10:42 AM

I recently saw the slide show and sound recording of Fabien Barel discussing his new Canyon bike and setup. He had some interesting things to say about bar height (risers and stack height). Basically, he said that in his experience and contrary to popular belief a taller stack height and riser helps him keep the front end down. I've always heard the opposite, that you want low bars so that your weight is over the front tire.

Interview with Fabien: http://www.vitalmtb.com/photos/features/Pro-Bike-Check-Fabien-Barels-Canyon-Strive-AL,5340/Slideshow,0/sspomer,2

Obviously there is a threshold were too low is bad or too high is equally bad, but what have you found to be true in your experience? I've found that I tend to be more comfortable and playfull with slightly higher bars, meaning a few spacers and a little rise on my handle bars. I recently put atlas bars and stem (50 mm and a slight rise) with one spacer. I was thinking about getting bars with a slight rise. Im 6'4" riding an xl enduro. Thoughts?

4/25/2013 4:56 PM

As a fellow tall dude at 6'7", I've always gone by the notion that I need to get as much weight as I can as low as I can, meaning no spacers and even a drop stem on the Dh bike. Maybe there's a sweet spot that tall riders need to get down to and short riders need to get up to. I haven't watched the vid yet, so I'll do so and get back if it changes my mind.

4/26/2013 9:09 AM

When i first started downhilling circa 2001 everybody ran tall bars...i used to run a stab primo with a super tall stratos s8 fork and 3" gazzalodi jr tire and 3" ride protapers....by the time i stopped racing in 2007 everyone was running relatively low bars and i felt they were beneficial..

i just recently got back into pedal bikes and im riding all mnt on a gaint reign xo..my buddy who designs bikes/suspension set it up and i was surprised to see he had a few spacers under a slightly longer stem..very similar to fabiens setup...

ive ridden it a few times and ive been thinking that i should get a short stem and lower it..listening to that is giving me second thoughts..FB knows how to setup a bike..ive ridden one of his protoype stab primos and the thing railed...

4/26/2013 9:34 AM

Thanks for responding. I get the low center of gravity thing. it just makes sense. But I dont feel as comfortable on a bike when Im all hunched over the bars. I guess What I was trying to get at in my original question is if that "uncomfortable" feeling is something I should try to get over or if I should give in to it and go with the taller bars. Sometimes comfort translates well into confidence on a bike or maybe Im just doing it wrong.

Anybody know how tall Fabien Barel is?

Just a quick history. I recently got a shorter stem and moved my seat forward. I loved these changes to the cockpit. Everything felt soo much better. I have also been playing with my rear suspension mount. I was able to slacken the head angle. Again, it felt way good. So now I change the bars and loose the rise and all of the sudden it doesnt feel right anymore. Just trying to get to the bottom of it.

4/26/2013 9:52 AM

BMEnduro wrote: Thanks for responding. I get the low center of gravity thing. it just makes sense. But I dont feel as comfortable on a bike when Im all hunched over the bars. I guess What I was trying to get at in my original question is if that "uncomfortable" feeling is something I should try to get over or if I should give in to it and go with the taller bars. Sometimes comfort translates well into confidence on a bike or maybe Im just doing it wrong.

Anybody know how tall Fabien Barel is?

Just a quick history. I recently got a shorter stem and moved my seat forward. I loved these changes to the cockpit. Everything felt soo much better. I have also been playing with my rear suspension mount. I was able to slacken the head angle. Again, it felt way good. So now I change the bars and loose the rise and all of the sudden it doesnt feel right anymore. Just trying to get to the bottom of it.

FB is around 6'2" i believe

4/30/2013 7:18 AM

i was also wondering if there's a difference between having more spacers under the stem and lower bars, as against fewer spacers under the stem but with a higher rise bar.

“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.” - Ernest Hemingway

4/30/2013 8:31 AM

sysdev1 wrote: i was also wondering if there's a difference between having more spacers under the stem and lower bars, as against fewer spacers under the stem but with a higher rise bar.

Not much difference. I suppose that, depending on the angle at which you set your bars, with a low stem and high bars, you loose less front end length as opposed to spacers and low bars. Plus, I just hate the way a huge stack of spacers looks.

4/30/2013 8:37 AM

sysdev1 wrote: i was also wondering if there's a difference between having more spacers under the stem and lower bars, as against fewer spacers under the stem but with a higher rise bar.

Big Bird wrote: Not much difference. I suppose that, depending on the angle at which you set your bars, with a low stem and high bars, you loose less front end length as opposed to spacers and low bars. Plus, I just hate the way a huge stack of spacers looks.

Ditto. Most of the time you are limited by how short you cut your stem anyway so most people have to rely on a riser.

BTW. Ive decided to keep my flat bars and give them a try. I did a few laps on Saturday and it actually felt better than before. Maybe I just need more time in the saddle to get comfortable with the new change.

4/30/2013 9:06 AM

thanks for the input guys! well appreciated.

“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.” - Ernest Hemingway

4/30/2013 5:28 PM

I think it comes down to one major thing, the riders style. How he chooses to distribute his weight on the bike, how biased he is in corners, on all type of terrains, and what feel he wants out of his bike. Handlebars can make a world of difference, on any bike as long as they feel comfortable and you feel in a natural position.

Fabien is a wizard, if feels and believes that high rise really gives you an advantage and if its where he finds zen, thats optimal. You just gotta find that height/posture on the bike where you can put the most pressure into the tires and still remain in a natural feeling position.

my 2c

steeze or die.

4/30/2013 5:37 PM

I think there was a similar thing on PB a while back, it talked about that many of the pro DH riders were beginning to run higher bars and spacers at the same time a lot of riders were switching to clips. The reasoning in the article was that riding styles of the riders on flats was a "get back and plow through it" style, whereas those on clips rode higher bars to give more centered positioning on the bike, allowing the rider to ride over obstacles versus the former style.

4/30/2013 5:48 PM
Edited Date/Time: 4/30/2013 6:47 PM

Something else to keep in mind: with the old geo, most bikes rode pretty tall bc the fork legs were slammed in the crowns to add rake/decrease head angle, and in the process, the ride height of the bars increased - so slamming the bar/stem step helped negate this imbalance. But now, bikes are getting low and slack right out of the box, so a low bar height is now perhaps well below the hold threshold. I have been raising my bars for the past 3 seasons bc I discovered this the hard way.

My current set up on my Undead, is a bar height of 42 1/4" (ground to center of bar) with the bike in the "slack" position and a HA of ~62º. I'm 5'10" p.s.

There is a point when the bars can get too high and one looses leverage and the ability to really pull up on the bike.

4/30/2013 5:51 PM

commanderagl wrote: I think there was a similar thing on PB a while back, it talked about that many of the pro DH riders were beginning to run higher bars and spacers at the same time a lot of riders were switching to clips. The reasoning in the article was that riding styles of the riders on flats was a "get back and plow through it" style, whereas those on clips rode higher bars to give more centered positioning on the bike, allowing the rider to ride over obstacles versus the former style.

i would think the opposite is true. lower bars would put your weight/position forward and more over the front (your hands drop and you're closer to the front hub basically). higher bars let you get back easier (your hands are pushed back, further from the front hub).

pascal, the ultimate flat pedal rider also has the ultimate high bar set up.

4/30/2013 5:58 PM

I reckon that having a higher bar will allow you to better control how your weight is distributed on the front end, as opposed to a low bar where more of your body weight would fall on the front wheel.
It is true that it will depend on body height, arm length and all that, so in the end it's a matter of testing and choosing the setup that will allow the best control on weight distribution.

4/30/2013 6:31 PM

I am 6' 3'' and I have tried from almost no rise to 2 in rise. Personally I found the 2 in rise was the best option because I felt comfortable and had the most control. You can still climb as well with a flat bar you just need to be more aggressive to keep the front down and you can corner flat off camber corners with a more aggressive stance. On the downs I feel more confident. It depends your style of riding, really, if you don't mind muscling the bike on climbs and flat corners then go with higher bars. If you want minimal input to climb and flat corners then you can go with lower ones. On steep technical descents there's nothing better than the higher bars. I may be wrong but it works for me.

4/30/2013 7:57 PM

depends on the bike! one inch rise fore slope and Fr bikes. and two inches on the dirt jumper. XC is 1/2 inch

4/30/2013 9:17 PM

The odd thing about bar height is that so many people automatically put everything low because they think they're supposed to. It was definitely trendy for a while, but also necessary a few years ago when headtubes were taller, headset bearings were external, and 8" forks were new(er) technology. All of that's changed with zero stack headsets, shorter headtubes, optimized geometry, and the front-end lowering effect of slacker angles. . . but bar height for some reason hasn't recalibrated in response. To get the bars at the same height relative to the ground/bb/front axle etc on my current bike I needed plenty of spacers while on my old bike I needed none. Another thing to keep mind on all mtn bikes when shortening your stem, doing so also effectively lowers your bars because of the headtube angle.

4/30/2013 9:26 PM

I think a lot of depends on personal preference and frame specs. If a frame has a really short head tube a rider may have to run a pile of spacers under the stem to put his/her bars where they're comfortable. Take a look at this photo of Jamie Goldman, now thats a stack!



For me personally I have had bikes where I raise my bar height and bikes where they are slammed, it all depends on the geometry of the frame esp. the BB height in relation to my bars. The space between my feet and my hands has to feel right or I move my bars up or down until it does.

4/30/2013 10:36 PM

Thanks for all the input! I guess thats my answer, I just need to mess around with it until I find whats comfortable for me. Its made me think about body position a lot though. We talk a lot about head angles and bb height and cockpit etc... but often dont hear a whole lot about what the rider has to do, which goes hand in hand (perhaps even more important). I guess thats what the bike geometry can do. It helps you achieve a optimal position similar to an attack stance in other sports. Being too far forward, too far back or too stiff can throw you off in an instant when going downhill.

4/30/2013 10:46 PM

It depends how tall you are, your BB height, fork height, frame geo and where you like your hands to be, there isn't a right answer for how your bars should be set up, but all that doesnt really matter as long as it feels the best for you.. I run a 1" rise bar with a 1" spacer and run a 100mm fork and I'm only 5'8 or 9.

5/1/2013 1:33 AM

wydopen wrote: FB is around 6'2" i believe

That would make him the world's tallest Frenchman.



He's 5'11" (1m82).

5/1/2013 1:59 AM

also at 5' 11" but i'm nowhere near as good as fabien. hahaha!

it's good that i still have some steerer tube space to adjust my bar height and test the settings.

“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.” - Ernest Hemingway

5/1/2013 7:57 AM

Running flat bars. Looks stupid, but my R9 has a tall headtube, external headset and my stem adds a little height. All evens out after that.

5/1/2013 8:49 AM
Edited Date/Time: 5/1/2013 8:51 AM

The part that has been missed so far is that its not just about the bars and hands/arm, but to greater extent about the feet and weight placement. The body is a kinetic chain, follow along:

Whether you chose to weight the front of the bike or not (your style) everything needs to start off in a neutral and balanced position (that means a balanced core) with your weight on your legs (your legs support your body mass, supply balance, and really are what should be powering and controlling the bike) and off of your arms (your arms are great at small yet precise movements--manipulations of bike--but crappy at balance and power (compared to legs), and they don't work well when they are weighted down).

To provide this position--a balance and stable core--you basically have to be half-way through a squat and half-way through a push-up. Now you are able to react, pro-act, etc. Any decent motocross school and/or decent MTB skills instruction should teach this (this is also body movement 101).

Bars too far forward (too low--away from you) means giving up the bend in your arms (range of motion) and your weight will end up tossed (bucked) forward onto your hands (if your arms are already straight, and your front wheel has to drop a foot, your core is going forward, too). Bad news. Too high and your arms will be all cramped up/bunched up in your chest and you won't be able to manipulate the bike effectively, thus you'll start to lean back to to retain a better position and then you'll be too far off the back. (Muscles function the best when the muscle belly is half-way contracted--thus, half push-up, half squat is most effective athletic position for the human body)

So where's this (half push-up, half squat) put your bars? That's the proper height. And, obviously, that can't be perfect all the time because your core should have a dynamic relationship with your bike: supper-duper steeps, they may be a bit too low; a fairly flat and flowy track, now they may be a bit too high. Nothing wrong with making adjustments depending on where you ride, and the difference between even 5 mm can really be felt if you're in tune with your rig. 15, 20 mm's is a huge difference.

Go watch some vid of the top guys--DH or moto-- and this is exactly what you'll see (Gwin and Dungey, great examples).

Really, it doesn't START at the bars, but more like where do the bars END UP when you're in good position on the bike.

5/1/2013 9:43 AM

BMEnduro wrote: Thanks for responding. I get the low center of gravity thing. it just makes sense. But I dont feel as comfortable on a bike when Im all hunched over the bars. I guess What I was trying to get at in my original question is if that "uncomfortable" feeling is something I should try to get over or if I should give in to it and go with the taller bars. Sometimes comfort translates well into confidence on a bike or maybe Im just doing it wrong.

Anybody know how tall Fabien Barel is?

Just a quick history. I recently got a shorter stem and moved my seat forward. I loved these changes to the cockpit. Everything felt soo much better. I have also been playing with my rear suspension mount. I was able to slacken the head angle. Again, it felt way good. So now I change the bars and loose the rise and all of the sudden it doesnt feel right anymore. Just trying to get to the bottom of it.

comfy is quick homie

5/1/2013 10:01 AM

I agree with Fithy above, though, I also look at it from a more calculated standpoint.

In the effort to be a better rider, I try to manipulate my bike and make it do the things *I* want. I'm controlling the bike, not the other way around.

With a long and low stem, how are you ever going to get your weight back far enough, with enough leverage, to manipulate and lift the front end quickly and easily? Manualing and weight transfer all have to do with the ratio between the chainstay length and BB to grip centerline distance/height.

Me, I run a short stem to help get my weight back and keep the front light when I want, and a little more height on the bars to let me quickly snap the front end with more leverage. I also ride large or XL frames(cut seat tube if I can) although I'm only 5'10".

5/1/2013 10:21 AM

In the 90s, DH racers used to have super high bars. makes sense because it's more comfortable and you can get farther back on steeps. Then in the aughts (early 2000s) everyone went to low or even no rise bars. I want to say mainly because it looked cool - mtn biking had it's second identity problem since the early days of purple anodized everything, including those long Onza bar ends, which used to be cool too. Not even full on XC racers were using flat no rise bars. I'm happy this trend died out. Now we're back to balancing things out. This new wheel size debacle will be our third identity crisis for mtn biking. I'm just glad we've (sort of) stopped arguing about SPD vs flats.

5/1/2013 10:57 AM

@ DThuren: yep, for sure. And, with too long of stem/too low bars, you're STARTING OUT in bad position. You won't be able to react properly, much less, actually be proactive with your riding.

@ cuban B: Yeah, MTB has been about identity crisis from the get-go: Well, it was great and unique at first: a bunch of stoners driving around the country in crappy Ford Econolines and racing kooky bikes in the mountains and woods... AND, xc, dh and ds with an overall winner!!!! That was the shit!!!

Then XC'ers wanted to be roadies, DH's wanted to be motocrossers (O.K., guilty), dirt jumpers wanted to be BMX'ers, and street riding mountain bikers (oxymoron) wanted to be roller-bladers.

Maybe we've come full circle w/ this enduro-thing(?). Hopefully.

5/1/2013 10:57 AM

DThuren wrote: I agree with Fithy above, though, I also look at it from a more calculated standpoint.

In the effort to be a better rider, I try to manipulate my bike and make it do the things *I* want. I'm controlling the bike, not the other way around.

With a long and low stem, how are you ever going to get your weight back far enough, with enough leverage, to manipulate and lift the front end quickly and easily? Manualing and weight transfer all have to do with the ratio between the chainstay length and BB to grip centerline distance/height.

Me, I run a short stem to help get my weight back and keep the front light when I want, and a little more height on the bars to let me quickly snap the front end with more leverage. I also ride large or XL frames(cut seat tube if I can) although I'm only 5'10".

I'm with Filthy's kenetic body and Dthuren's making the bike do what you want it to do.

I wonder if the new look at bar height is in relation to riding styles moving more into pumping, popping and directing the bike through terrain, rather than more of the low and fast style of the past.

Higher bars are easier to pop the bike up, but also probably more comfortable to stuff the front tire into the ground when coming back down (with fork compressing added in)

That and head tubes are getting really getting shorter on the latest frames.

P

5/1/2013 11:15 AM

good constructive discussion going on here. unlike other mtb sites i keed i keed.

its definitely true that modern parts and geometry reflect popular riding styles and formats. I think the point that filthyanimal made in his first post - in terms of where the bars end up - is most relevant. I hope in the near future there will be an app/program for a DH/enduro specific geometry, much like roadies have for making custom frames. Only, for Mtb'ers, the variable parameters would have less to do with the tube lengths on the frame and more to do with component placement (bar height/width, crank length, stem length, saddle position) given body measurements. that'd be sweet. those mtb training companies should look into that.
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