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Tested: Tall bars on a race cruiser

26 08 2011

A while back the post titled, Traditional cruiser bars: who needs ’em generated a lot of discussion about the trend towards taller bars on 24″ BMX bikes. Part of that discussion also noted how the trend hadn’t really taken hold in the race community.

Racer, BMXActionOnline moderator and today’s guest tester, Matt Shelley thought the idea of taller bars on a race bike was a good one and decided to check it out for himself.

Here’s what he had to say:

The tall bars garnered a lot of interest at the races I attended, and most racers seemed positive toward the idea and feel. The local hot shot, nationally ranked in both 20” and cruiser, balked at the idea, insisting both bikes need to be set up with identical heights and reach. A rider who really liked the feel of my bike replied “all well and good, but if you only ride a cruiser, that rule simply doesn’t apply.”

A concern I had with the test was comparing my “apples” to “oranges”. Stack heights and stems vary from bike to bike, so bar height is not the final word in overall height. I decided I would measure from the top of the headset bearing. Whether internal or cup, this seemed like an appropriate starting point, and the middle of the grip area would be the end point.

Below is my main race bike. The bars are 5.75 inches, and the overall height is 7.5 inches.


I’ve been running this setup for close to 2 years now. It seems typical of most race cruisers and feels pretty good to me.

Here is a picture of a Quad that I recently set up. The bars are 7.5 inches with an overall height on 9 inches.

I’ve raced this bike 3 times now, and two 2nds and a 1st have been the result. After the initial half hour of  “this feels different,” I did not notice the bars much after that. I felt that they gave me better pull when manualing and hopping over jumps, and I got the impression I had much better pump with them on backsides.

Another advantage of the taller bars was leg room. I’m 6 feet tall with an inseam of 33 inches. The 6 inch bars I ran on the quad had to be rotated a bit forward, as I felt they were a little too close to my knees. With the 7.5 bars I can now run them in line with the fork.

The only area I felt these  bars to be too tall was out of the gate. I was now standing taller, and thus could not get all of the “give ‘em” out of my hips and into the pedal that I am used too. Aside from those first few pedals, no other detrimental effects on the track were noticed.

I’m now planning to boost the overall height on my main rig to 8 inches. This should give me that better pull and pump I felt, and still allow for a powerful feeling out of the gate.

So taller bars on a race cruiser? Hey, if it feels good… do it!

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5 responses

29 08 2011
cmc

Great write-up! The only thing I would add is that when the front end of your bike is longer, taller bars can balance out the difference. I think this is true for both cruisers and 20″s.

Like, look back at Brian Castillo riding Powerlite 4 piece freestyle bars in S&M BMX Inferno on the shorter S&M DirtBike. But everyone who rode a Holmes rode full sized Slams.

31 12 2011
Top ten of 2011 « cruiser revolution

[…] 7. Low-rise traditional handlebars for cruisers dying off.  The tall handlebar trend is firmly established in the freestyle end of 24″ bmx but it looks like it starting to take hold in racing too. MattyJo Shelley (of BMXActionOnline) tried it out on his race bike in a special guest post and he found taller bars had advantages for racing too. […]

3 07 2012
James Thomason

I run a Cyclecraft 8″ Fred Z Pro bar w/a Profile front load stem on my Quadangle (cruiser) I LOVE IT – ABSOLUTELY!

31 08 2015
Scott Towne’s sorta bike check | cruiser revolution

[…] [He] had to make a couple tweaks (daddy doesn’t do carbon forks) and of course, taller bars… […]

21 10 2015
Six Six race bar: DK goes bigger | cruiser revolution

[…] while some race purists will argue that lower bars are necessary, our  in-field testing with Matty Jo Shelley showed that bigger bars offered advantages to the race gang […]

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