Question: I notice that lots of riders have their handlebar height much lower than their saddle height. What’s the right way to determine this relationship? — Dwayne C.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: There isn’t a single best handlebar/saddle-height differential that works for all riders. The correct relationship depends on a number of factors, including the length of the rider’s arms and upper body, flexibility, riding style and the use for which the bike is ridden.
Many pro riders have their bars very low for better aerodynamics. Pros are young, flexible and talented, so this position works for them. They also look extremely cool, which is why many recreational riders imitate their bike setup. Too often, the result is back and/or neck discomfort.
In general, most recreational riders will do well when the handlebar on their road bike is 1-2 inches below the top of their saddle. Remember, your hands will most likely be resting on the brake hoods, which are a bit lower than the top of the bar.
The best way to arrive at this key factor for comfort and performance is to have a professional bike fit by a good shop, qualified cycling coach or physical therapist who works with cyclists.
For do-it-yourselfers, RBR’s eBookstore has a few eBooks that contain illustrated advice on all aspects of bike fit. Just click the Bike Fit tag below this article to pull up all our bike fit resources.