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!





How tall are your handlebars?

2 05 2011

Are traditional cruiser bars over? The recent post on that question created a lot of discussion.

Maybe it’s time we took a poll to see what everybody’s running.

(This is the first time that I’ve done one of these, so let’s hope it works.)





Renthal reboots the race cruiser bar

16 03 2011

While many in the BMX race world cling for dear life to traditional cruiser bars, it looks like Renthal is ready to mix things up.

A relative newcomer to the BMX race scene, Renthal has long history in motocross.

Red Division, my cruiser blog brother from another (Spanish) mother, is reporting that Keith Wilson from Dialed Bikes is sporting a pair of prototype Renthal bars with a bolt-on crossbar reminiscent of its motorcycle bars. (Keith placed 4th in 45+ cruiser at the 2010 World Cup. )

I have to wonder if there are flex and/or durability issues. It seems to work for them in the motorcycle world so I’m very interested to see how this type of handlebar fares in the bar-banging world of BMX racing.