What size handle bars and stem to order?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    What size handle bars and stem to order?

    I'm looking for a handlebar and stem for the bike, and it is for a 17" Leader 510 H frame I just purchased, as shown below.

    Head Tube Angle: 71.5 degrees

    Seat Tube Angle: 72.5 degrees

    The top tube of the frame is listed as 22.1". I'm assuming that is the length of the actual top tube, rather than effective top tube, so it is a little longer than what I'm used to.

    I'm 5'7.5" tall, with an inseam of about 30", and a wingspan of about 72". So, I guess you could say I have shorter legs and longer arms.

    I tend to have problems with pain in my palms when I ride, particularly in the area of the palm that is connected to the thumb. I'm trying to find a stem/handlebar combination which will minimize pain in my hands when I ride.

    I'm not a very aggresive rider, as I tend to be a little conservative in my "old age" (I turn 40 in January). While I don't need anything overly aggressive, I don't want to get a handlebar/stem combination that isn't aggressive enough...I still do have a little bit of an edge. So, I'm trying to minimize pain in my palms, while maintaining some kind of aggression when I ride.

    I'm pretty budget minded, and don't want to get anything too expensive. I could care less about weight. For the handlebar, I'm seeing different options for the rise angle, and I'm not sure what I should go with. I'm seeing 24 to 50 mm rise, and I'm also seeing different widths (25.4" - 27"). I'm also not sure what stem length/angle to go with - I'm seeing 80 to 120mm, and I already know that I want at least a 10 degree angle.

    Any suggestions would be appreciated. One thing I forgot to mention is that I have about 7" of steerer tube on my fork, so if I need to keep the stem a little higher than the frame, I have a little room to play with.
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    Last edited by getagrip; 08-23-2011 at 07:49 PM.

  2. #2
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    oh man, stems and handlebars are a very subjective thing. the information you gave is very thorough, but in the end it will just come down to experience.

    a stem with a 17 degree rise angle and 100mm length seems be be pretty "standard" these days.

    handlebars are getting wider. 27-31" width is common, but some people still prefer a shorter bar under 25" and bar ends. there are "riser" bars that come up a few millimeters above the stem and flat bars, which have zero rise. backsweep, the angle at which the bars bend backward from the stem, varies widely as well. standard bars usually have less than 10 degrees backsweep, but you have find bars with over 25 degrees.

    25.4mm and 31.8mm are two standards for handlebar/stem clamp interface. 25.4mm has been around forever, but 31.8mm is becoming more and more common.

    that said, I am about your size. I had some wide bars with minimal backsweep. I just replaced them with some Salsa Pro Moto Riser bars and I like them a lot!

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by getagrip View Post
    I tend to have problems with pain in my palms when I ride, particularly in the area of the palm that is connected to the thumb. I'm trying to find a stem/handlebar combination which will minimize pain in my hands when I ride.
    I've been having pain in the base of my thumb recently as well and I find that bars with more back sweep take a lot of stress off the area. I have the 25deg sweep Ragley Carnegie and it is great for me. Something in the 15-20deg range would be a bit less dramatic but I haven't really noticed a downside to the larger sweep.

  4. #4
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    Thanks for the responses.

    I'm looking at handlebars at Pricepoint. Here are a couple that have caught my eye:

    Sette Duo O/S 31.8mm Riser Handlebar - 2014 at Price Point

    This one has pretty good reviews here at mtbr.com, so I'm leaning towards grabbing it. It has a 1.5" rise (about 38mm) and a 10 degree sweep. Would there be any disadvantages of using a handlebar with these specs on beginner singletrack mtb trails?

    Here is another one that I'm looking at:

    Truvativ Hussefelt Comp 2010 at Price Point

    This one is available in 30 or 40 mm rise, and has a 5 degree upsweep

    If anyone has any other suggestions, please let me know - I want to try and get these ordered by tomorrow.

  5. #5
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    Go and get a proper bike fit. Then purchase the sizes that they recommend. Preferably from the store doing the fit.

    Seriously, trial and error is an expensive way to get it right.

  6. #6
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    Previously, I had an 18" Trek 3700 and a few months back also rode a Trek 3900 in the same size and they both fitt pretty good. Tonight I did a little research on the 3700 and did notice that the handlebars have a 30mm rise, although I have no idea about sweep, and the 3700 has a shorter top tube then the one frame I purchased by about two inches. I did test ride a 17.5" Gary Fisher Advance that also felt pretty good, and I just now noticed that it has a 30 mm rise and a 9 degree sweep, which is only 1 degree difference compared to the Sette handlebar listed above. If I go up to a 40 mm rise, how much of a difference will that make?

  7. #7
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    Shalom nailed it. Unless you have some spares, friends stuff, whatever that you can try out yourself, that's the way to go. Wider bars offer more leverage but slow down steering, and bars being wider than your shoulders will make you reach further so a shorter stem, which will speed up steering, will be needed than with bars that aren't wider than your shoulders..... There's just so many combo's of stem length/rise, bar width/rise, and bike fit likes, steering speed likes, that a bike fit may save you time and money to get what you want.
    The only thing I will say is that at first, with wider bars, or longer stem whatever that it might not feel right, but if you have a lbs that you trust, give it some time and you might find you like it better than what you've become used to now.
    My .02
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  8. #8
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    Are you cannibalizing your Trek project to build this, or is it a whole new bike?

    Given that you're not sure how big that frame really is, I'd wait until you've got the fork and wheels for it, then measure the effective top tube or the reach. Get whatever stem makes reach+stem on the Leader match reach+stem on a reference bike - your Trek if you have it fitting you well, or another bike.

    If your Trek fits you poorly, either make it work, or accept that you're going to be buying some stems or paying someone to fit you. Given that stems cost $10 and fits cost $50 and up, a few stems is probably cheaper. Especially if you can use a reference bike to ballpark it.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  9. #9
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    Yeah, I'm basically taking everything off of the Trek and putting it on the Leader frame, minus a few parts, namely the stem, handlebars, seat post, and headset. The Trek geometry feels a little off - not so bad at all when riding trails, but definately off when riding on roads or when going for longer rides. Plus, I wanted the option of putting disc brakes on, so I decided to move up to the Leader frame, which I imagine will be similar to Specialized or Gary Fisher bikes I've test ridden.

    I won't be changing out the forks or wheels right away. I actually like the Dart 2 forks I have, but as soon as the wheels have some wear and tear on them - probably sometime next summer, I will be upgrading to a disc compatible wheelset and disc brakes. I suppose I could just get a headset for now (I have to get a "zero stack" headset for the new frame), and use the current handlebar/stem combination that I have and see if that works, but I definately want to make a change from the 6 degree rise 110 mm stem that I currently have. I rode 52 miles with the original headset the Trek came with after I did the rebuild (I'm not sure what the angle is on it - probably at least 15 degree rise - but its the same length as the new stem), and it didn't feel right - seems like I need something between the original stem and the current stem, but that will depend on the geometry of the Leader frame as well.

    So yes, once again I'm in somewhat of a foggy area that I was in when I started re-building the Trek, trying to figure out what will be compatible with what, but its also part of the learning process. I figure I've spend more than I really needed to on this project as I could have purchased a pretty darn good bike at a LBS for what I've put into this project, but in terms of the knowledge I've gained, its been worth at the very minimum, tuition I'd gladly pay at a community college for a "bike building" course, if such a course were offered.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by getagrip View Post
    Yeah, I'm basically taking everything off of the Trek and putting it on the Leader frame, minus a few parts, namely the stem, handlebars, seat post, and headset. The Trek geometry feels a little off - not so bad at all when riding trails, but definately off when riding on roads or when going for longer rides. Plus, I wanted the option of putting disc brakes on, so I decided to move up to the leader frame, which I imagine will be similar to Specialized or Gary Fisher bikes I've test ridden.

    I won't be changing out the forks or wheels right away. I actually like the Dart 2 forks I have, but as soon as the wheels have some wear and tear on them - probably sometime next summer, I will be upgrading to a disc compatible wheelset and disc brakes. I suppose I could just get a headset for now (I have to get a "zero stack" headset for the new frame), and use the current handlebar/stem combination that I have and see if that works, but I definately want to make a change from the 6 degree rise 110 mm stem that I currently have. I rode 52 miles with the original headset the Trek came with after I did the rebuild (I'm not sure what the angle is on it, but its the same size as the new stem), and it didn't feel right - seems like I need something between the original headset and the current headset, but that will depend on the geometry of the Leader frame as well.
    I don't feel like picking apart this stuff too much. Here's what I think I'm reading.

    You currently have the Trek in fully ridable condition, but the handlebar/stem combo isn't making it quite right.

    You have a different stem for the Trek, that you also didn't like.

    You're going to make the Trek unrideable anyway building up the Leader.

    Since you want new handlebars, you're going to screw up the information you might gain moving the old ones onto the Leader. I say you should just hold off on a new stem for the Leader - get the handlebars you hope will make things work better, try them with both stems, and take it from there. Guessing at sizes for this stuff is for people who don't have a couple stems and a set of handlebars in their parts bins.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  11. #11
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    Yeah, that's pretty much it! LOL

    I actually had to correct some stuff I had written in what you quoted above, but its pretty minimal...see my edit if you really want to know the details.

    Part of the rational for getting a new handlebar and seat post (which I may need anyway because of the new frame) is because I spray painted the original ones the Trek came with, and after the rebuild was complete, the new paint on these parts pretty much scraped right off! So, I wanted something nicer and newer, and I was curious about higher rise handlebars because of the pain I get in my palms when riding...if it means riding with less pain, I definately want to do it. Currently, when I ride, I have to let go of the handlebars with one of my hands for a few seconds to let the pressure dissipate, which isn't always the wisest course of action, especially on a winding course, and like most normal human beings, I want to try and figure out how to minimize pain.

    The stem length is actually a little trickier, but I imagine that I will need something in the range of 80 to 100mm to account for the longer top tube on the Leader. Yes, there are disadvantages of ordering online, but I don't think you can go wrong with a $100 frame delivered. As you suggested, I think what I will do for now is just build the Leader up with the handlebars and stem that I currently have, then make adjustments if needed. Its always more glamorous to buy new parts, but its also kind of stupid if you don't need to...

  12. #12
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    Pics when you get it.

    When you get a few rides in on it, update the thread or start a new one about the hand pain. It's definitely not something you should have to live with, and it's probably solvable with the right cockpit setup. It doesn't seem worthwhile to try to minimize it on your current bike, though, with the new frame already on its way.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by getagrip View Post
    ...of the pain I get in my palms when riding...if it means riding with less pain, I definately want to do it. Currently, when I ride, I have to let go of the handlebars with one of my hands for a few seconds to let the pressure dissipate, which isn't always the wisest course of action, especially on a winding course, and like most normal human beings, I want to try and figure out how to minimize pain.
    Seriously, I cannot recommend a bike fit enough. There are so many other things that could be contributing to your sore hands than just the bars/stem.

  14. #14
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    Yeah, I will definately post pics!

    My guess is that there is probably not a lot I can do about the hand pain that I have. I'm sure that there are little things I can do by tweaking different things on my bike, but the reality is that I'm just getting old and will probably have to live with it. Maybe I can do some kind of stretching or weight training to reduce the pain? I don't know. Currently, I live in an apartment, but I imagine that if I had to mow the lawn, my hands would hurt if I pushed the lawn mower!

    Oh well. Could be worse!

  15. #15
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    Usually when people experience pain riding bikes, and it's consistent and happens early - so not from a fall, or lactic acid buildup - it's poor bike fit. Unless you've got some nerve damage going on, I really think you should be able to set up your bike so it doesn't hurt you.

    Pain is inevitable when people push themselves athletically. But it should be the pushing yourself that hurts you, not the bike.

    If you have a lot of weight on your hands, that's the culprit. I think it's also the most common cause. With correct setup and a little realism about how you ride, you should be able to take care of it. I think the position of the grips is the single most important element, but there are other things that influence it too - padded vs. unpadded gloves, and the squishiness of the grip itself. Also, some people bring it on themselves by gripping too tightly. My current setup is unpadded gloves, lightweight grips, and unfashionably high handle bars, with a relatively conservative reach. They're only a little bit below the saddle.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  16. #16
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    Well, I now have "somewhat" of an idea of what stem/handlebar combination will work. Tonight after work, I went to the Trek store and test rode a 17.5" Marlin 29er. And yes, I know, there are differences in 29" and 26" frame geometry, BUT the test ride gave me an "idea" of what might work.

    The Marlin I test rode felt really good. It had a 15 degree rise stem, which appeared to be around 90 or 100mm in length. The handlebars on it were 620mm wide - I thought the bike store guy said they were 25mm rise, but that seems to be different than what is on the Trek website - maybe he was referring to the diameter instead. I didn't notice any pain in my hands when I did the test ride, but perhaps that is because I was on the bike for only a few minutes - a longer ride might have resulted in pain.

    Only problem is that the effective top tube length of the Marlin is 23.7", but the ETT of the Leader frame is a mystery. All I have is the length of the top tube, which is 22.1", so the actual feel of the Leader will be different. At least I'm one step closer to where I was yesterday...

    The guy at the bike store showed me a cool handlebar which had something like a pair of built in grips on the ends of the bar for added comfort, but at $70, there is no way I could afford them. I did, however, buy a Pedros beer wrench at the bike store to thank the guy for his time and advice, and because I like beer and this was a cool tool! I will say that the Marlin was a pretty sweet ride for anyone who is considering buying one!
    Last edited by getagrip; 08-24-2011 at 07:10 PM.

  17. #17
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    Tonight I picked up everything I need except for a seat post. I went with a Syncros 90mm stem with a 12 degree rise and 30mm rise UNO handlebars with a 9 degree backsweep / 640mm width. This setup is comparable to the Marlin I test rode last night, so I was fairly comfortable ordering. My guess is that with the mid rise semi wide handlebars, the bike should be easy to control, and will hopefully reduce the pain in the hand factor. Will post complete build photos hopefully sometime by the end of next week.

  18. #18
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    Good luck. I hope it works for you.

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