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  1. #1
    Singletrackmac
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    Want wider handlebars, need advice on stem length & backsweep

    My AM bike is older and I got it before the wide handle bar craze. I love the geometry and it fits me perfectly. I tried wider handlebars and shorter stem back in '07 or '08 whenever it first became popular, but since I was not sure if this was just a fade or not, I bought whatever handlebar and stem that was on the best sale at the time, without concern for things like backsweep degree. Being an old school mtb rider, I had a hard time getting used to the less aggressive positioning the wider bars put me in. After a few rides, I gave up on the new style set up because it felt like it turned my bike into more of a comfort bike than an aggressive mtb.

    After reading threads here and there since then regarding wider handlebars and shorter stems, I have come to the conclusion it is not just a fad, (even though i have found there are quite a few people very adiment that wider bars is just a fasion statemtent and nothing more, however, I don't think gaining more control down hill, more leverage while turning and reducing the ability to endo has anything to do with fashion).

    I have been looking to get another wide bar/short stem set up and think that the reason I didn't like the set up years ago was because the wide bars I got had a 9 degree backsweep. The bars that my bike came with only has a 5 degree backsweep. My original thinking was that if my hands are placed wider, then I could use a shorter stem and essentially keep the same riding position since having my hands out winder would shorten my reach.

    I now think that not paying attention to the back sweep when buying those bars years ago is why I didn't like the set up. I am not totally sure, but I now think that if I wanted to keep the same riding position, I would have needed to keep my long stem due to the 4 more degrees in backsweep and 5.5inch longer bars.

    So, I have been looking for a 30+ inch low rise handle bar with a 5 degree backsweep, but cannot find one for the life of me. The best I can find is an 8 degree backsweep, but almost ever wide bar has a 9 degree sweep. Does anyone make a wide bar with less backsweep? As far as I see, they are all the same, no differentiation between companies other than the color and graffics, which by the way, is a fashion statement)

    My current set up is a 105mm stem with a 620mm wide bar and 5 degree backsweep.

    If I want to go 760mm+ wide bars and keep my same riding position, what degree backsweep bars and length stem would I need to get?

    Thanks for any help you can give me.
    Get out of the gutter and onto the mountain top.

    "I only had like two winekills captain buzzcooler"

  2. #2
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    I used to be running 685mm bars and a 100mm stem with a 6 degree rise on my giant trance x. Now I'm running 785mm bars and a 50mm with no rise. I haven't really paid attention to the back-sweep angle on either of them but I really like the 785mm bars.

    Here's my current combo.

    Race Face Atlas Stealth Riser
    Race Face 2013

    Race Face Atlas Stem
    Race Face 2013

    Edit: Listed wrong length for handlebars
    Last edited by bassman1441; 06-02-2013 at 10:35 AM.

  3. #3
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    Want wider handlebars, need advice on stem length & backsweep

    According to my rusty trigonometry, a 9 degree 760mm bar would have 25mm less reach than a 5 degree. Many would suggest running a 50-60mm stem when increasing the width that much, but given your current 5 degree bar, I would suggest trying an 80-90mm stem with the 9 degree wider bar.
    Riding slowly since 1977.

  4. #4
    Singletrackmac
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    Quote Originally Posted by bassman1441 View Post
    I used to be running 640mm bars and a 100mm stem with a 6 degree rise on my giant trance x. Now I'm running 785mm bars and a 50mm with no rise. I haven't really paid attention to the back-sweep angle on either of them but I really like the 785mm bars.

    Here's my current combo.

    Race Face Atlas Stealth Riser
    Race Face 2013[/url]
    Thanks bassman. I took a look at your handle bars specs and they have an 8 degree backsweep with a 4 degree upsweep. I am guessing that your previous handles bars had less of a backsweep since it was only 640mm.

    Unfortunately, I do not remember what length stem I used with the longer bars back then. I do remember it was a short stubby stem, so it may have been shorter than 50mm, which cold have accounted for the more comfort bike feel I got with he set up.
    Get out of the gutter and onto the mountain top.

    "I only had like two winekills captain buzzcooler"

  5. #5
    Singletrackmac
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    Quote Originally Posted by CDMC View Post
    According to my rusty trigonometry, a 9 degree 760mm bar would have 25mm less reach than a 5 degree. Many would suggest running a 50-60mm stem when increasing the width that much, but given your current 5 degree bar, I would suggest trying an 80-90mm stem with the 9 degree wider bar.
    CDMC, thanks for the calculation. I am a pretty good athlete, but a terrible mathlete, so I appreciate the help.

    Does this calculation include how the extra length will effect the reach, or just the difference in reach between the backsweep degrees?

    Also, how do I figure the reduced reach amount from placing my hands out wider on the bar. I know this should shorten the reach somewhat, but how dramtically?
    Get out of the gutter and onto the mountain top.

    "I only had like two winekills captain buzzcooler"

  6. #6
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    You may be shooting for too big of a change all at once and just setting yourself up for another disappointment.
    I started back in the 90s with 22"-23" bars and gradually worked my way up to 24.5"-25" bars (I know, very narrow by today's standards). I have one bike with 26" bars and still do not like the feel of those. A half inch to an inch difference is noticeable and you are looking to go from 24.5" to 30".
    Warning: may contain sarcasm and/or crap made up in an attempt to feel important.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by singletrackmack View Post
    Thanks bassman. I took a look at your handle bars specs and they have an 8 degree backsweep with a 4 degree upsweep. I am guessing that your previous handles bars had less of a backsweep since it was only 640mm.

    Unfortunately, I do not remember what length stem I used with the longer bars back then. I do remember it was a short stubby stem, so it may have been shorter than 50mm, which cold have accounted for the more comfort bike feel I got with he set up.
    Looks like my old bars were actually 685mm wide. Sorry about that, I just remembered wrong. I'll edit my other post too. Also they have a 5 degree rearward sweep and a 6 degree upward sweep.

    Edit:
    Here's before and after I swapped stems. Both these have the 785mm bars since I didn't get the stem order as soon as the bars. The left is the old 100mm 6 degree rise stem while the right one is the 50mm 0 degree rise stem. Hopefully that gives you an idea of how the lengths actually look when installed.

    Want wider handlebars, need advice on stem length & backsweep-comparison.jpg

  8. #8
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    This is a fairly helpful tool. It doesn't address sweep but it's still decent.

    Stem Chart

  9. #9
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    Want wider handlebars, need advice on stem length & backsweep

    Quote Originally Posted by bassman1441 View Post
    Looks like my old bars were actually 685mm wide. Sorry about that, I just remembered wrong. I'll edit my other post too. Also they have a 5 degree rearward sweep and a 6 degree upward sweep.

    Edit:
    Here's before and after I swapped stems. Both these have the 785mm bars since I didn't get the stem order as soon as the bars. The left is the old 100mm 6 degree rise stem while the right one is the 50mm 0 degree rise stem. Hopefully that gives you an idea of how the lengths actually look when installed.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    The math works out that to maintain the same reach, decrease your stem length by 10mm for every 25mm increase in bar width. So here, going from your 685 to 785 bars, you would go from your 100mm stem to a 60mm. However, you need to offset that by the change in sweep from 5 degrees to 9 degrees which moves your hand position on the bars back by 25mm. Therefore an 85mm stem should put your reach on the new bars where it is now and explains why a 50mm stem did not work for you.
    Riding slowly since 1977.

  10. #10
    Singletrackmac
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    Quote Originally Posted by trailville View Post
    You may be shooting for too big of a change all at once and just setting yourself up for another disappointment.
    I started back in the 90s with 22"-23" bars and gradually worked my way up to 24.5"-25" bars (I know, very narrow by today's standards). I have one bike with 26" bars and still do not like the feel of those. A half inch to an inch difference is noticeable and you are looking to go from 24.5" to 30".
    You might be right and I will soon find out.

    A few days ago I ordered Funn Full On Riser Bar 2012 with a
    (Width, Rise, Back / Up sweep - 810mm, 7mm, 5 degree / 2 degree)
    and a Funn Arrow Head Stem 2012
    (65mm - 31.8 - White - 0 Deg)

    The 7mm rise bar was the only bar i could find with only a 5 degree backsweep. They were both on sale for around $20 each so i figure if I hate it, I am not out that much.

    The 810mm might be a little much, but I am a big guy with wide shoulders so I am curious how they will feel. Plus, I figure I can allways cut them down.

    I also picked up a Crank Brothers Cobalt C XC Directset Headset 2010 with sealed bearings to replace my old-school AHeadset.

    Hope the new controls work together well.
    Get out of the gutter and onto the mountain top.

    "I only had like two winekills captain buzzcooler"

  11. #11
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    Get the wide bars and clamp-on grips, and experiment with grip placement until you find the ideal bar width. You can always cut bars down, but it isn't easy to make them wider. Get a few cheap stems to try, and when you find the right length buy a nice one.

  12. #12
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    Strangely, I remember when BMX was just starting to catch on, and everyone was making really wide bars to mimic the motocross bikes of the time.
    Cross bars, and a pad to save your teeth was the norm.

    Then as racing became more serious, the wide bars got ditched for a width that was appropriate to the sport and (I assume) the average size rider (kids).

    Question:
    Has anyone ever seen a chart or logical way to determine proper bar width ?


    The rest of the bike is a fit relationship between rider and numbers, so why not one for bar width.

  13. #13
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    The basic idea is that your hands should be in the same position as they would be when you do a pushup. That gives you the most leverage and control. Different styles of riding and different trails favor different widths, as well. If you clip trees with your bars or want better aerodynamics, stick with narrow bars. If not, do a pushup, measure the distance between the outer edge of your hands, and give it a try. Any wider, and you're negating any benefits of a wide bar.

    As for bmx bars, the common width over the last 5 or so years is 28". Street and freestyle riders run narrower bars for barspins, and racers maybe narrower given the elbow rubbing that goes on.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by mountainbiker24 View Post
    The basic idea is that your hands should be in the same position as they would be when you do a pushup. That gives you the most leverage and control. Different styles of riding and different trails favor different widths, as well. If you clip trees with your bars or want better aerodynamics, stick with narrow bars. If not, do a pushup, measure the distance between the outer edge of your hands, and give it a try. Any wider, and you're negating any benefits of a wide bar.

    As for bmx bars, the common width over the last 5 or so years is 28". Street and freestyle riders run narrower bars for barspins, and racers maybe narrower given the elbow rubbing that goes on.
    That's how I've always done it !

    It just seems strange that such logic is being tossed out the door ... Again, as wide bars become the trend.
    Few riders have/use a +30 inch spacing when doing push-ups ... Especially the smaller statured riders.

  15. #15
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    Got the bars/stem in the mail, but am going to wait to put on till this weekend. Decided to take note of some of the tight sopts my local singletracks and took some pics.

    Not much room to maneuver in the manzanita even with the 24" bars:
    Want wider handlebars, need advice on stem length & backsweep-tvrp-st-sign.jpg

    Have got very close to this tree a few times:
    Want wider handlebars, need advice on stem length & backsweep-tvrp-st-wide-bars.jpg

    Have already had a few encounters with the skinny leaning tree in the dead center of the pic. Not with the bars, but my side. Worst encounter, dislocated a rib or two:
    Want wider handlebars, need advice on stem length & backsweep-tvrp-tight-trees.jpg

    Doesn't look too tricky, but the tree in the middle of the pic causes big issues when I don't take the right line:
    Want wider handlebars, need advice on stem length & backsweep-tvrp-s-turn.jpg

    I hope the wider bars give me more control on open fast turns like this:
    Want wider handlebars, need advice on stem length & backsweep-tvrp-st-1.jpg
    Get out of the gutter and onto the mountain top.

    "I only had like two winekills captain buzzcooler"

  16. #16
    Singletrackmac
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    Also, I finally downloaded Strava and created a few short segments on these trails. Some segments tight a twisty, and some open and twisty. I will do a few more runs with the short bars, then see how I do with the wide bars/short stem set up.

    I also ordered some arm and leg armor cause Strava looks like it is going to be painfully fun.
    Get out of the gutter and onto the mountain top.

    "I only had like two winekills captain buzzcooler"

  17. #17
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    Just curious. What did you end up getting for your stem and bars?

  18. #18
    Singletrackmac
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    Quote Originally Posted by bassman1441 View Post
    Just curious. What did you end up getting for your stem and bars?
    Funn Full On Riser Bar 2012
    (Width, Rise, Back / Up sweep - 810mm, 7mm, 5 degree / 2 degree

    Funn Arrow Head Stem 2012
    (65mm - 31.8 - White - 0 Deg)
    Get out of the gutter and onto the mountain top.

    "I only had like two winekills captain buzzcooler"

  19. #19
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    those pics are not tight at all. come out to the northeast were 680 bars are touching the trees on both sides...

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