I ride now with pretty decent comfort, I have no real back/neck/shoulder pain. As I ride now I feel decent, but I feel as though I might be in too much of an upright position on the bike to get the best performance.

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I have been considering lowering my handlebars in hopes that it might tweak my position a little and help give me a little extra power on the pedals.

I first was going to try moving a spacer or two,(5cm) to see if that might help.enter image description here

Then I considered flipping my stem, but the angle at which my stem sits might be a little to extreme.

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Basically I'm just wondering if adjusting my handlebars would help me performance-wise or if it would really just be a waste of time/effort? If it would help, which way should I go about adjusting it?

  • 2
    Regarding the "extreme" angle of the stem: I thought the same about mine before I tried flipping it. After flipping, it was angled only a few degrees downward (with respect to the horizontal) due to the angle of the head tube. This is only a few minutes of work, so I suggest to simply try what Carel suggests and revert it if you don't like the position.
    – anderas
    Commented Aug 31, 2015 at 8:28
  • You'd have to try it a few times to see if it would work. I'd probably invest in some bar ends as well to give some more hand positions.
    – Batman
    Commented Sep 3, 2015 at 7:37
  • @Batman, that was the thing I've most been considering. If I was made of money I would go for drop bars.
    – Weirix
    Commented Sep 3, 2015 at 21:07

4 Answers 4


If you are looking for pedalling performance, adjusting the seatpost (up and down) and the seat (back and front) is the answer. There are literature about adjusting seatpost so you can look them up on the internet; youtube also have many video demonstration.

Adjusting handlebar height is more about efficiency. In general:

  • the less up-right position, the better the efficiency. This helps a lot when you are riding at high speed (noticeably at speed 20 mph+ or 35 kmph+), or against the wind. However, there is always a compensation for riding aggressively: you tire out quickly

  • the smaller the handle bar, the better the efficiency. The best efficiency is when the arms are shoulder length apart, just similar to the riding position on aero bar.

  • arms at some angle also lower your riding position and improves efficiency.

Your bike looks like a hybrid, which gives out that you mostly ride in urban area. Adjusting handlebar height is thus beneficial because you are likely to hit 20 mph+.

  • Not totally urban. My area is a pretty small county spread over a wide area that is pretty hilly and mountainous. But I do see what you are saying. Thank you!
    – Weirix
    Commented Sep 2, 2015 at 8:56

You can lower the bar first by flipping the stem. Judging from the angle of your stem it will lower the bar by at least 5-7cm (2-3 inches). Which is already a good start

The next step would be to migrate the 2 spacers from below the stem to the top. With two spacers on top it might look a bit awkward but there is no technical argument against doing it.

So far you've changed nothing on the bike and you can revert to the previous setting at any time.

Safety advice: Working on bar and stem can lead to serious injury if not done properly, so make sure to tighten any screw at the correct torque and to re-adjust the headset correctly. There are plenty of videos on YouTube, the Park Tool site and advice on Sheldon Brown's page how this is done.

  • 1
    Your answer only talks about the "How do I do it?"-part, not about the performance aspect. Do you have any hints regarding that?
    – anderas
    Commented Aug 31, 2015 at 8:29
  • 1
    The performance aspect is a matter of trying out the new position. If the position changes too radically the resulting effect may even be a worsening of the performance. It's trial and personal appreciation.
    – Carel
    Commented Aug 31, 2015 at 11:44
  • 1
    "Might look a bit awkward". What? Any bike looks WAY COOLER with the spacers on top!
    – BSO rider
    Commented Sep 1, 2015 at 0:19
  • Bicycles look cooler without spacers. Spacers on top (especially if it’s more than just 10mm) look as ugly as spacers below.
    – Michael
    Commented Sep 2, 2015 at 8:31
  • Placing the spacers on top will be a good way to try out if the position fits. Once you are sure of the position you can think of shortening (having shortened) the steerer and remove the spacers.
    – Carel
    Commented Sep 2, 2015 at 16:23

Define performance? Top speed, efficiency, handling?

If you lower the bar you will be more inclined with less frontal area
Unless you have some really strange air flow you will have less aerodynamic drag
Drag = CD x Area x Velocity x Velocity
CD is the drag coefficient and it can also change with position but it should be pretty constant
Because of the velocity squared aerodynamic drag comes more into play at higher speeds

But if you take drag out then upright is more mechanically efficient
Even racers climb up on the bars

In almost all situation a bike handles better in a more upright position

So in summary on performance of lowering the bar

  • You should have a better top speed
  • It may or may not be more efficient overall
    It might be a less efficient climber
  • Will probably handle worse

Consider what the bike was designed to do and adjust for FIT more than performance. The bike is clearly designed to move the two spacers but I would not do more than that. If that does not feel good (fit) then don't do it.

If you are looking for speed performance then consider a second road bike with drop bars. The bike you have now is designed for agility and comfort.

  • 2
    I disagree with "In almost all situation a bike handles better in a more upright position", but the rest of your post is spot on. Braking favors a more upright position, because it is easier to keep your weight back and brake harder. For almost everything else, a more balanced position with more equal weight distribution makes the front wheel easier to control and improves handling. Commented Sep 2, 2015 at 16:13
  • @ChrisinAK And I would say upright is a more balanced position. On my CX I never take technical sections down in the drops. Even pros take technical sections on the hoods. There is a absolutely no situation that I feel more control in the drops than the hoods. I can come out of the saddle on the hoods if I need to move weight on the drops and that would just feel unstable in the drops.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Sep 2, 2015 at 16:25
  • I wonder how much of that has too do with drop bars themselves. I have always found braking in the drops awkward, combined with the fact that the top of the bar makes changing position harder and not as quick, I'd agree. I was definitely thinking mountain bars when I made my comment. I have various mountain bikes from "aggressively forward" to mostly upright, and I have always found the control better in a less upright position. Commented Sep 2, 2015 at 16:33
  • @ChrisinAK There is a range. Right now that bike does not look overly upright to me. I agree it can so so far that you cannot get weight on the front.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Sep 2, 2015 at 16:40
  • Adjust for FIT would definitely seem to be the first thing to do. My general observation is that fit on a Hybrid bike tends to get a 'not that important' from most LBS's as they only think in terms of seat height on those bikes when in reality the same main fit parameters from road/cx bikes: saddle fore/aft position, saddle height and reach exist for Hybrids. Commented Sep 3, 2015 at 2:09

I know this is an old post, but for those who are following it:

  • migrate a spacer from below the stem to above it FIRST. This will be the least change from your original position. If that works, then move another spacer, then another, until the stem is "slammed:" all the way down.
  • The next move would be to reverse the stem, but then put it back on top of the spacers. EXCEPT that this particular stem is at a sharp angle. Go to a bike shop and get a lower angle stem. That's the one modification that will cost money -- all the rest are free.

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