Is Your Handlebar Position Working Against You?


Ride Engineering

At Ride Engineering, we pay close attention to handlebar position and bar mount height. You’d be surprised just how much a few millimeters from stock can make to improve your body position and overall control. Keeping the bars neutral is another important aspect. By this we mean keeping the bars parallel to the forks within a few degrees. Drastically changing them by raising the bars 25mm+ or moving them forward that much can have a totally adverse effect. This article’s main focus is to explain where the “sweet spot” is for maximum control reinforcing the proper riding position on track or trail. 

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Handlebars that are rotated too far out of parallel alignment with the forks can create adverse handling issues

The first thing that you want to do is pick a handlebar bend that you are comfortable with. Typically, a lower bar will allow you to “muscle” the bike more, but it should still be relative to your height. For example, at my 5’6” stature I like the lowest bends. Currently, my favorite handlebar is the Husqvarna bend Pro Taper Evo. It's 80mm in height at the ends and a little less sweep that my old favorite, the Pro Taper Carmichael. If you’re a bit taller, you may like the SX Race bend with a height of 87mm. Those over 6’, may like the stock Honda bars at 97mm tall (Renthal 971).

Since each bike is different, your favorite bar may still need further adjustment. For example, I love the Husky bar on a Husky or KTM with the stock bar height, but on the 2017 CRF450R, I preferred it 5mm lower. On my current 2018 RM-Z450, I prefer them 5mm higher. I tried the SX Race bend with the stock bar mount height, but they felt too tall for me, even though the net difference was only 2mm more. Also, due to my short arms, in every case I run the bar mounts in the back position. This gives me a good head over the bars posture and maximum control of the bike. Incidentally, the forward holes that come on a stock KX-F and YZ-F triple clamps are too far forward for most riders.

Before you start shaking your head and tell me that the OEMs wouldn’t design it that way if that were true, let me explain further. Because they use a rubber mounting design, which I agree is way better than the old metal on metal system, they have no choice but to put the forward holes 25-30mm out. The rubber cones are over an inch in diameter, so it’s not physically possible to provide a second mounting position any closer than that. Remember, KTM used to have two positions. But back then it was only a 10mm bolt hole, so it was possible to add a second hole 15mm away. Then by using an offset bar mount you could make changes in 5mm increments. Now that they also offer a rubber cone system, they have eliminated the forward position all together.

Ride Engineering bar mounts are typically made the same height as stock (except YZ bar mounts which are the same as the 2017 & older stock mounts and 5mm lower than the 2018) with plus or minus 3mm of adjustability forward or back. We also offer 5mm and 10mm spacer kits to raise our mounts (Ride bar mounts come with posts that unscrew to allow for a height adjustment or to replace in the event they are bent in a crash). Aftermarket bar mounts that are 20 or more millimeters higher that stock are going to put the rider in a less than ideal riding position.

bar mount-neutral.jpg
Neutrally mounted handlebars

Many steering dampers also have this adverse effect. They mount over the stem nut and under the handlebar, so often raising the bar is the only way to make clearance (Ride Eng. offers a damper kit that mounts behind the front number plate, allowing one to keep the bar height standard). Some riders like to go on mellow trail rides for a couple of hours and have found really tall handlebars add comfort. The problem lies when you come across a rider heading in your direction or an unforeseen obstacle that needs an instantaneous reaction. A poor riding posture can contribute to a crash and getting injured. If that happens, any added comfort will be the last thing on your mind.

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Handlebar mounts w/ spacers


Here’s how a few fast guys with a lot of riding experience set up their riding position:

Sean Lipanovich Pro

  • 5’5” - 150lb - 27 yrs old 
  • Years riding from 12 yrs old to present 
  • Slmxschool.com
  • Current ride: 2017 KTM450sxf

Sean has raced professional supercross and motorcross, finished in the top 25 at the 2016 USGP, won the 25+ class at the 2017 Vet World championships and now trains young riders for SL MX School. He’s always couching riders to “put your head over the bars, squeeze the bike with your knees and be on the balls of your feet.”

“I run the stock KTM handlebars (78mm tall) in the back position (bar mounts rotated back) with the Ride Eng. bar mount that is the same height as stock with the bars neutral (not rotated forward or back) to the forks. I feel this gives me the most control of the bike to get on the gas harder.”
 

Kris Keefer Pro

  • 6’ – 170lbs – 40 yrs old
  • Years riding from 9 yrs old to present
  • Keeferinctesting.com
  • Favorite bike: 2018 YZ450F

At 24 years old, Kris started his testing career with Yamaha Motor Corporation which led him to a position at Dirt Rider magazine as associate editor, then eventually to Senior Test editor. Today he’s doing his own testing and pod casts as a new business owner for keeferinctesting.com. Throughout his career he’s raced professional motocross and supercross, the Canadian nationals, Vet World and Loretta Lynn’s. 

“I use the SX Race bend on my YZ450F with last year’s bar mounts (5mm lower) in the back hole with the mounts rotated forward. I like to keep the bars fairly neutral and coach others to do the same. If you have your bars rotated too far back, it’s harder to get your weight forward on the bike when entering corners. If you have them rotated too far forward where the ends are pointing up, you don’t have the right leverage to initiate the turn.”  


Ted Campbell Pro

  • 6’ – 210lbs – 42 yrs old
  • Years riding from 12yrs old to present
  • Current bike: 2017 CRF450R

Ted has traveled the world racing professional supercross and motorcross and has made many lifelong friends because of dirt bikes. He obtained his first pro national number in 1999 and kept a top 100 number for 6-7 years of his professional racing career. 

“I use the Mika Metal’s RC bend (this is a tall bar at 105mm), and like to set up my bike with my bars just behind the forks (bar mounts rotated back) in the neutral position so I can get over the front of the bike. I feel I have more control turning and it puts me more in the attack position. I run my bars back further than most being 6’ tall but it gives me the ability to really feel comfortable turning and leaning the bike over as I’m on top of the bars more.” Ted added a set of Ride Eng. CRf triple clamps which did lower the bar position 5mm and moved it 3mm forward from stock.  
                                                                

Cody Webb Pro

Cody is the 2010 AMA National Trials champion,  2014 and 2017 AMA Endurocross champion and has finished on the podium or won numerous other off-road races like the 2017 Erzberg Rodeo where he finished in 3rd place. 

“I run the PHDS bar mount system (these have +/- 5mm of adjustability) with the Renthal 996 handlebars (93mm tall) on Neken triple clamps with no added bar risers although sometimes I hit my knees on the bars. We place the bar mount in the forward hole (these have two 10mm holes for adjustment) with the bar mounts rotated back. If I have the stock clamps on my practice bike, I run the mounts in the forward position. I also like the bars just a hair rolled back from the neutral position.” Cody’s race results speak for themselves and his “average Joe” set up works great even for a guy 6’3” tall (he only raised his bars 15mm from the stock height).  


I hope this helps everyone understand regardless of your stature, you shouldn’t increase your bar height or move the bars forward too drastically. Small increments of 5mm is ideal. In many cases such as mine lowering the bars will be far more beneficial in reinforcing proper riding posture, getting your head over the bars and maintaining optimal control of your dirt bike. Happy riding.

Adrian Ciomo
President
Ride-engineering.com

  • Vet Int.
  • 5’6” - 150lb - 53 yrs old
  • Years riding from 14 yrs old to present
  • Current ride: 2018 RMZ450

 

About Ride Engineering

Ride Engineering Inc designs and manufactures the highest quality billet aluminum accessories to improve the performance of motocross and off-road motorcycles specializing in handling and braking components. The company combines hands on testing with feedback from past and present professional race teams to bring products to the average customer that are typically not available for sale. Located in Southern California, all Ride Engineering products are made in the USA. For more information on the company visit: http://www.ride-engineering.com/about.php

rideng_logo_website.jpg

 

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Bar position is huge.  I've posted this before, but before you run out and buy new bars or risers, first try raising or lowering the bar ends by turning the bars in the mounts.  Its amazing what a few mm will do.  The Renthal 971 I was running were uncomfortable for standing, I was having to hunch over a bit.  But, raising the bar ends approximately 1/2" changed the whole feel of the bike.  I still have great control sitting, but I can also stand more comfortably.  Try this before forking over a bunch of money for something you may not need.

Edited by cjjeepercreeper
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I always find it amusing when you read people's comments about keeping bar height stock.  It just doesn't make sense.  You adjust the seat and steering wheel in a car to your preference based on height/arm length, torso length, etc..  When you buy a bicycle, you should buy a frame of appropriate size and then raise/lower - fore/aft of the saddle and handle bars based on body dimensions.  Why do we think a motorcycle is any different?  I've risen my bars and it makes a tremendous difference to how I feel on the bike.  I'm not super tall, 6' and now 59 years old, and I really feel better not being crouched over my bike on the technical stuff.  I have a better body position to move around on the bike.

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I personal want to have the grips be aligned with the fork line, not parallel, this makes steering much better as you are in line with the fork and not behind.

To the handle bar height, the height should fit very well when you are standing on the foot pegs, as if so (in my experience) sitting is then not a problem.

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This recommended bar positions based on what others like is total B.S.  Don't believe a word of it.  Like "rroeckel" said up above, it has to fit you and there is not one other person that would have the exact same body as you.  A short dude could have long arms and a tall dude could have short arms.  And the comments in this article about taller riders needing taller bars really is a misnomer.  The popular Carmichael bend referenced is a very high bend all because he is short and got dealt a short set of arms and legs. And on top of all this torso length comes into play which will also alter your correct level.  One of the only valid points I saw was don't compensate for reach problems by rolling the bars way forward or back off the center line drawn in the photo. The best way to set up what you have is loosen the hardware, put the bike on a stable stand, close your eyes in both natural stand-up and sitting riding positions and tighten it down in the best  compromise for both scenarios.  That will only get you halfway there.  Unfortunately, you should buy 3 bars and/or different risers from the low, medium, and high bend categories.  Then mount and set and ride all 3 and Ebay the 2 that are not your favorite.  Once you do that, unless your a growing kid, that bar should go with you from bike to bike till you bend it, and when you bend you buy the exact same one again for the rest of your riding life.  That's how the whole Mcgrath, Carmichael, Windham, etc. etc came about in the first place.  They requested that bend from Renthal their whole career no matter what the bike because they determined it fit right.  If you bought those bends because your a fan of theirs your also a fool, if you bought it because you determined you were very close in stature head to toe, you made an educated guess.

 

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20 hours ago, cjjeepercreeper said:

Bar position is huge.  I've posted this before, but before you run out and buy new bars or risers, first try raising or lowering the bar ends by turning the bars in the mounts.  Its amazing what a few mm will do.  The Renthal 971 I was running were uncomfortable for standing, I was having to hunch over a bit.  But, raising the bar ends approximately 1/2" changed the whole feel of the bike.  I still have great control sitting, but I can also stand more comfortably.  Try this before forking over a bunch of money for something you may not need.

I adjusted the bars on my ttr 230, aka the Little blue Llama, and it worked! I was able to stand more comfortably. Thanks for the tip, although it still does not clean the house or wash the dishes.

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12 hours ago, Mike D. said:

This recommended bar positions based on what others like is total B.S.  Don't believe a word of it.  Like "rroeckel" said up above, it has to fit you and there is not one other person that would have the exact same body as you.  A short dude could have long arms and a tall dude could have short arms.  And the comments in this article about taller riders needing taller bars really is a misnomer.  The popular Carmichael bend referenced is a very high bend all because he is short and got dealt a short set of arms and legs. And on top of all this torso length comes into play which will also alter your correct level.  One of the only valid points I saw was don't compensate for reach problems by rolling the bars way forward or back off the center line drawn in the photo. The best way to set up what you have is loosen the hardware, put the bike on a stable stand, close your eyes in both natural stand-up and sitting riding positions and tighten it down in the best  compromise for both scenarios.  That will only get you halfway there.  Unfortunately, you should buy 3 bars and/or different risers from the low, medium, and high bend categories.  Then mount and set and ride all 3 and Ebay the 2 that are not your favorite.  Once you do that, unless your a growing kid, that bar should go with you from bike to bike till you bend it, and when you bend you buy the exact same one again for the rest of your riding life.  That's how the whole Mcgrath, Carmichael, Windham, etc. etc came about in the first place.  They requested that bend from Renthal their whole career no matter what the bike because they determined it fit right.  If you bought those bends because your a fan of theirs your also a fool, if you bought it because you determined you were very close in stature head to toe, you made an educated guess.

 

Totally agree , only if i had extra cash to buy different bars! lol  I have been riding off and on since i was 13, now 46 still have not found a bar. I am 5'8" short legs long torso I think normal length arms, I really need to check out others bikes ,bar bends and position.   I am still stuck in 97 being i have not bought bars since then!! I dont think they had so many options then

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As a reference point, my bars are in line with the forks.  Here recently, I rolled them forward quite a bit trying to get me further forward on the bike.  As best as I could tell, I didn't really set any further forward, but it put my bar ends at an odd angle, so I rolled them back in line.  I'm 5'7" 155, and arms slightly long for my size.  There are many different styles of bars out there, so I'm not going to let my extreme adjustment condemn them being further forward.  But for now they work well where they are; and as mentioned, it is time consuming and expensive to try many different sets.

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bar position is important yes but it is only one part of a bike fit, meaning fitting and modifying the bike to oneself. BUT on the bar topic a couple few points are missing intuit most of us really would be better off with an asymmetric bar setup. I know some of you are scoffing at this idea, but hear me out. 

I fit bikes professionally, both motorized and pedal. While doing bike fits for the US para olympic blind cycling team i discovered something . One of the tandem captains told me how his blind stoker (pedaler in back) almost crashed them every lap on turns 1 and 3 on the track (velodrome). So I did a bike fit for said stoker on his solo bike he had setup on a trainer at home. Well i couldn't get the front end to calm down he kept fighting the bar position no matter what. Then i loosened the stem had him get off the bars, i ranged the bars to the left , as though he was making a left hand turn. DEAD STILL. He felt as the bike should be turning right as they exited the straight into turns one and three. After the bar twist no more fighting the bike! Point is what our eyes tell the brain and what the rest of the body tells the brain can be very different. 

I'm 52yo , 6'2" 180lb solid B racer and have lots of metal parts

My bars are all mounted in Pro Taper P3 clamps 2.5mm forward of center line 10mm clamp risers  Pro Taper Contour CR High bend rotated to '0' point Right side rotated forward 5' and pushed 7mm to the Right. To my body this is straight

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