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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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How to make BMX racing big again

29 07 2011

If you spend any time at all on the BMX racing forums you’ll notice that inevitably, before long,  the subject of “How to grow BMX” will come up.  Another variation of this thread is “Why isn’t racing as popular as it was in the 80s?”

People will argue that you have to one thing or another…from doing presentations at local schools to embracing the whole Supercross track phenomenon.

The trouble is, none of things is doing much to grow the sport.  Yet time after time the same ideas keep getting trotted out.

The solution might be simpler than the collective BMX racing community thinks.

Get a friend hooked on BMX.

Wasn’t it Chris Moeller who said back in the early 90s that the way to make BMX grow was to build up a bike and give it to a friend? (Actually, I’m not 100% sure on this quote but the  research department is out on a patio somewhere right now enjoying a pint so let’s just go with it, ok?)

Matt Shelley got Malcolm hooked on BMX

Matt Shelley, from BMXActionOnline, employs a similar strategy. He chats up folks at the track, all the while with the agenda of getting them out racing.

Check out Matt’s latest success story:

 I met Malcolm at the Fresno Nationals last year. His kid races 13 challenger. We got to talking and he loves bikes, but never considered BMX until he saw us gray beards having so much fun. I dropped some science on him and figured he would do what he will with the advice.

Fast forward to the start of this season… there he is with a craigslist bike, a license, turning hot laps, and getting a ton of encouragement from his son. He admits to having a long way to go (his gates are horrid, natch), but through sheer force of early (and maximum) participation–He is currently leading the state series in 50-54 cruiser!

Nice going Matt (and Malcolm)!

Could it be that easy?

I think so.

I’ve had a few instances myself where friends and friends of friends have approaching me and inquired about getting a bike. Usually it starts with, “I see how much fun you’re having…”

So if you’re concerned about “growing the sport”…talk to your friends about BMX…and build them a bike if you have spare parts lying around.

Spread the word and get your friends out riding. Once you do that, this “growing the sport” business will take care of itself.





There might be a trend here…

15 07 2010

Looks like there might be more kids traveling in style.

Check out Matt Shelley on a classic Redline cruiser with his daughter riding co-pilot.

Can’t help but wonder if all these kids riding co-pilot with their Dads are going to graduate to sidehacks when they get a little older. This might be a bigger comeback for sidehacks than previously imagined…