Coaches Panel: How to find the perfect handlebar height and extension

A reader asks how to determine the optimum handlebar height and reach.

Hello panel,

I’m working to adjust my bike to fit better. I’m a casual rider. I use a static method, which gave me good starting point. Could you please tell me how can I determine the static handlebar fore-aft?

How can I determine the static handlebar height adjustment?

Do you recommend to use goniometer to fit a bike?

Thank you,

Hello Clod,

Handle bar fore/aft (stem length) is in part driven by feel. It should simply feel comfortable. However, some people are not sure what that is and need a starting point. A comfortable bike fit will typically end up with the angle between the torso and upper arm around or close to 90 degrees. You can simply have a friend hold up a book (90 degree angled corner) to see if your angle between the torso and upper arm is close. You could use a goniometer but, if that is the only use you think you would have for the tool, then a book or even a square piece of paper will do fine.

Handlebar height is also driven by feel or comfort. If you need some more guidance, the torso angle for casual riding is often closer to 45 degrees from the horizontal (an imaginary line drawn parallel to the ground at the level of the hip).

I did some searching and found a Web site with some good side views for reference.

Scroll down the page and see the torso angle drawn onto the cyclist(s). You can see some comparisons as well for different types of cyclists.

If you view the link you will also see an example of torso/upper arm angle to help guide stem length (or handlebar fore/aft as you reference). Notice it is about as close to 90 degrees as you can get.

Happy Pedals-

– Paul Swift

Paul Swift
Paul Swift

An eight-time National Elite Cycling Champion and founder of, Paul developed the Bicycle Fitting System (BFS), which includes products like the Cleat Wedges. The BFS helped bring the “front view” of a cyclist into the bike fitting world. offers tools and education for bike fitters worldwide, helping them to better position humans on bicycles.

Any information or advice offered by the members of the Coaches’ Panel should not in any way be viewed as personal medical advice. The recommendations made in this column are offered as general information for healthy, physically fit amateur and professional athletes. None of the information provided by members of the Coaches’ Panel should be viewed as a replacement for personalized, professional medical treatment or to replace the advice or services of your physician. While some members of the Coaches’ Panel are Licensed Medical Doctors, Licensed healthcare professionals, and certified coaches, their advice in no way establishes a doctor-patient relationship between the writer and readers of this column. If you are beginning or resuming a vigorous exercise program, it is important to visit your health care provider for a complete physical examination in order to identify and treat any potential risks you might face.