Mick's Tips - Flat Handlebar Set-up.

The shape that your bike was in when it left the shop is not necessarily the best shape for your body. The chances of it fitting you perfectly are extremely low. Here's how to optimise your handlebar ergonomics.

Being very versatile creatures we have a tendency to adapt to the way bikes are rather than make the effort to adjust them to fit. And it's such an easy task that I'm surprised so few people bother to optimise their position..

Lets assume that your bars are in the correct place, that the height and reach are spot on.

nb. These guidelines are intended to be used as a benchmark, a starting point from which you can make your own adjustments.

Looked at from above - flat bars and low-rise bars of the type fitted to mountain bikes and street bikes have between 0 and 10 degrees of 'sweep'. This back-sweep is intended to fit the angle of your hands, so it should probably be set up in line with your arms as you grasp the bars. Having the backsweep flat or aimed downwards puts your wrists in a compromised angle.

Brake levers should also be installed in line with your arms - or (shock horror) even slightly lower. Again, having the levers installed on the horizontal, as is often the case, makes for an uncomfortable wrist position. 45 degrees is a good starting point.

The default position for the brake lever clamp during assembly is butted up against the grip. This is plain wrong, but this is how most folks ride their bikes. I like to see between 25mm and 40mm of empty bar between my grips and my lever clamp (depending on the length of grip of course). And then I set up my shifters in relation to the brakes. Often with a few mm gap between them too. They are not designed or intended to be butted up to each other. Doing so reduces comfort and control. Loosen off the levers and move them around the bar until you find a position where they fall naturally to hand. It's simple.

Bar ends. People often fit them to provide an alternative hand position. Many, I suspect, because their bars aren't set up properly. If you are going to use them try installing them as they were intended, as a climbing aid. Setting them up so that they are at the proper angle (between 5 and 15 degrees from horizontal) still provides an alternative handle on your bars but they also allow you to adopt a great position for climbing out of the saddle. Set them pointing up in the air and they actually become impossible to use. And don't make the classic mistake of fitting them at the expense of handlebar grip. Move shifters brakes and grips inboard a distance equal to the width of the bar end clamp - don't make the mistake of cutting off a portion of grip - you'll leave no room for your hands.

Almost everything attached to a modern flat bar is fastened using 5mm Allen bolts. Adjusting the control components takes only a few minutes - and if you don't like the new arrangement you can always change it back. Nothing is set in stone, it's only by tweaking things that you arrive at the perfect set-up.