Handlebars are the first thing you grab on your dirt bike when you go riding on trails and the last thing you let go of when coming back to the camp. In short, they make your dirt bike go where you want it to go.
In brief, the way the dirt bike handlebars have been set up has a big effect on how your dirt bike performs in different riding styles. In fact, it is probably the most important factor to consider when perfecting the riding ergonomics.
In this article, we will cover the following topics:
- Fundamentals of dirt bike handlebars
- What is the correct handlebar position?
- How to setup dirt bike handlebars
- Other adjustment options to consider
- Getting new handlebars
- Frequently asked questions about handlebars
- and much more!
Similarly, you may be wondering, what is the correct handlebar position for trail riding? Or, how should I set up and position my dirt bike handlebars? Some may wonder, what aspects do I need to consider when setting up the handlebars?
Next, we will answer to all of these questions. We will also show you how to set up the dirt bike handlebars for trail riding.
Fundamentals of Dirt Bike Handlebars
In short, handlebars are the primary steering control for dirt bikes. In other words, their main task is to turn the dirt bike to the direction you want to go. In addition, they control just about everything that makes your dirt bike operate.
Interestingly, most new dirt bike handlebars are made out of aluminum. Above all, aluminum is a great material for handlebars as it is light weight and doesn’t rust. It can also take a hit so your handlebars won’t bend immediately after your first crash.
Additionally, there are two types or sizes of handlebars: 7/8″ bars and 1 1/8″ bars. Also, the 7/8″ bars have a cross brace across the middle of the bars. Whereas the 1 1/8″ bars—sometimes also called fatbars or tapered bars—have a fatter bar through the middle. Additionally, they also have no cross brace across the middle. Therefore, in our opinion, the 1 1/8″ bars are a better choice for trail riding. To sum up, they are stronger and have more flex.
However, the only ones you really need to think about are width, height, rise, and sweep. In short, these measurements tell you the real shape of the handlebars. This way, you will get an idea of which handlebars will work for you.
The width of the dirt bike handlebars is the measurement from one end of the handlebars to the other. In other words, it is measured from the end of the left control length to the end of the right control length. In short, most handlebars are about 31.5 inches wide.
You can also cut your handlebars to preferred width. Furthermore, you should cut the handlebars about half an inch on both sides, when setting up dirt bike bars for trail riding. Additionally, if you add wrap around handguards, they add another half an inch to the total width of the bars.
The height of the dirt bike handlebars is the measurement from the clamp area to the top of the control length, in other words to the end of the bar. Additionally, you can adjust the height of the handlebars by loosening the bar at the clamp area and adjusting it forward or backward.
The rise of the dirt bike handlebars is the length from the clamp area to the first steep bend of the handlebars. You can lengthen the rise by using riser clamps to maximize the overall height of the handlebars. Also, if you are a tall rider, you’ll more likely want to raise the height of your handlebars or use handlebar risers.
The clamp area of the dirtbike handlebars is the bottom of the handlebars where they clamp onto the bike. Furthermore, you can add risers to the clamp area to change the measurements and feel of your handlebars. Finally, the thickness of the clamp area is 7/8″ or 1 1/8″ depending on the thickness of the handlebars.
The control length of the dirt bike handlebars is the area where your grips and forward controls are. The clutch lever and brake levers as well as start/stop buttons also clamp into this area.
The sweep of the dirtbike handlebars, also known as the pullback, is easiest to view by looking at the side of your dirt bike. This sweep is measured from the center of the clamp area to the end of the bars, or to the control length, in the shape of a letter “L”.
What Is the Correct Handlebar Position?
In short, the dirt bike handlebars can be positioned forward, center, or back by moving the risers. You can also adjust the rotation and height of the handlebars and also change the dimensions of the bars.
However, it all depends on your riding style, your height and how aggressive you want your riding position to be. Typically, lower handlebars will allow you to muscle the dirt bike more. But the handlebar rise height should still be relative to your height.
We prefer lining up the handlebars with the line of the forks when looking at the dirt bike from the side. That is to say, not too far forward nor too far back. This is a great starting position. If you are taller than 5ft 8 inches, or 175cm, or have longer hands, you should set the dirt bike bar risers one notch forward from center.
Please note that you may want to adjust this position and move the handlebars forward or back if you cannot comfortably have a proper standing position.
This is the handlebar position that we have found to work best when riding on trails.
How To Set Up Dirt Bike Handlebars
The dirt bike handlebar setup has a big effect on how your dirt bike performs in different riding styles.
As we have earlier learned, handlebars have different sweep and height dimensions. In addition, they can be rotated and moved back and forwards in the triple tree.
But, iIf you are a taller or shorter rider, you most likely will need new handlebars to get the riding ergonomics perfect. You can read more about getting new dirt bike handlebars later in this post.
But for all other riders, there are a lot of small adjustments you can do that can make a big difference on how your dirt bike performs.
Above all, we recommend starting with the factory setup and tuning from there based on your riding style.
In general, there are three things to focus on when it comes to dirt bike handlebar setup: handlebar rise and position, handlebar rotation, plus lever and grip setup.
1. Set Correct Handlebar Position
Firstly, set your dirt bike on the center stand. Next, look at the dirt bike from either side. Finally, the dirt bike handlebar centerline should follow the line of the forks for normal height riders.
At this time, most dirt bikes have four positions to set the handlebars in the triple tree from forward position to back position.
Firstly, set the handlebars to the center position. In short, this can usually be achieved by setting the handlebar clamps to the first threaded hole and making sure the offset of the clamps is set to normal and not turned 180 degrees.
For instance, this neutral position works well for average height trail riders. Additionally, shorter riders (under 5ft 8 inches or 173cm) should adjust the handlebar riser one notch closer from center line. Overall, this sets the handlebar better for shorter hands.
Otherwise, taller riders should adjust the handlebar one notch forward from center line. Additionally, you can add slightly higher risers to bring the dirt bike bars higher or change to a handlebar that has bigger rise height.
2. Adjust Handlebar Rotation
Notice how the dirt bike handlebars have a printed chart in the center of the handlebars? But to see it, you may need to take a look at the under the bar pad if you have one.
To sum up, these printed lines show the center position and incremental lines for rotating the handlebars forward or backward.
Firstly, begin by aligning the handlebars to the neutral or center position.
Next, if you rotate the handlebars forward, it will give you more space and generally helps the dirt bike to turn more aggressively. Furthermore, if you rotate the handlebars backwards the dirt bike tends to be more stable.
Also, see how the ends of the handlebars are pointing higher or lower depending on the rotating angle of the handlebars. Furthermore, notice how the rotation changes the grip end height and grip angle. As a result, this affects the pressure in your palm area of the hand. Due to the high or low position the grips, gripping may become uncomfortable and cause arm pump or carpal tunnel symptoms. In this case, move the risers forward and rotate the dirt bike bars accordingly to keep the grip area closer to level.
3. Fine-Tune Lever and Grip Setup
In addition, after setting up dirt bike handlebars, make sure you align the levers and grips correctly. We see many riders, especially newbies, struggle because the forward controls are incorrectly set.
Firstly, set the grips correctly in place, centered and properly fixed where there is no movement. Secondly, move the levers to a slightly downward pointing angle. In this case, a good starting point is one finger thickness down from the level with the handlebar.
Additionally, check out our ultimate brake and clutch lever positioning guide. To brief, you will learn how to adjust and position the clutch lever, front brake lever and grips to an ideal position in just 15 minutes!
Other Adjustment Options to Consider
In addition to the three key focus points mentioned above, there are also other adjustment options to consider when setting up dirt bike handlebars.
You should also understand, that your riding style affects how you need to setup the handlebars. In short, setting up the handlebars is different for motocross versus trail riding. Most motocross handlebars have different sweep and flex requirement and may not work well in trail riding and vice versa.
In short, the rise can be adjusted up or down. There are all kind of after-market risers you can get in order to adjust the rise of your dirt bike. In effect, you will get a comfortable standing position. You don’t have to reach too far or too low and you will still be able to keep your elbows up.
However, you may need between 0 and 2 inches of rise depending on the shape of your dirt bike and how tall you are. In this case, we recommend getting a kit of swappable risers. What’s more, is that you will be able to adjust the rise in steps and to test and find the perfect rise for you.
Especially if you are a really tall rider, you definitely want to consider adding risers. If your dirt bike handlebars are too low, this makes you slouch when standing up on the bike. As a result, you want sit more on the bike, which is not the ideal riding position.
The risers will change the handling characteristics to a degree and they may reduce front end grip when cornering. But the benefits certainly outweigh the drawbacks. The risers will make a world of difference in your comfort and you will be standing more and sitting less.
Wider dirt bike handlebars make it easier to handle the dirt bike but they also tend to hit trees. Furthermore, you may get stuck between tight trees or thrown off the bike in tight woods.
So, if you feel like your handlebars are too wide, you should consider cutting them. Before cutting them though, make sure you can fit all the equipment on your new handlebars. You may also need to change the clutch-side grip.
If you plan to participate in races, we recommend getting the overall width of the handlebars to 30.5 inches.
Forks and Rake
The forks can be adjusted up or down in the triple tree. This will slightly change the height of the handlebars but, more importantly, it will change the rake i.e. the angle of the forks with the ground.
As a result, the handling of the dirt bike will be massively impacted. to sum up, if the forks are raised as little as 1/8 of an inch, the rake will change by one degree and the steering will be altered dramatically.
Therefore, the steeper the forks are, the twitchier your dirt bike will be. This means that if you move the forks up, the bike will turn very quickly but it will be less stable at high speeds.
If you lower the forks too much, the bike will be harder to turn but it will be more stable at high speeds.
Take a look at our article on how to adjust the front fork height and why. You will learn to adjust the front fork height in just about 15 minutes—and it’s definitely worth it!
On most single tracks, you will continuously get hit by branches, trees, and riders roosting in front of you. Make sure your handguards are set correctly on your dirt bike handlebars so that they protect both the levers and your hands.
If your handguards are set too high and you land or hit something, your wrists may slide under the guards. When the handguards are set low enough this will be prevented. This is important especially with the metal-backed handguards.
Getting New Handlebars
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After setting up the dirt bike handlebars as instructed above, do you still feel that they need to be higher or lower or that reaching is an issue? Then you need to get new handlebars that fit your height.
Stock bikes are set up for riders that are 5′ 8″ to 6′ 2″ tall depending on the make and model. So, if you are taller or shorter or have short or long arms, you may need to change handlebars for a better fit.
When selecting the handlebars, you want to take a look at the rise and shape. You also want to make sure that the handlebars fit the clamps (7/8″ or 1 1/8″) of your dirt bike. In addition, they need to have enough space for all the stuff you have, such as handguards and switches.
In terms of comfort, the rise and bend are relevant. These are not easy to figure out so we recommend sticking with the same type of handlebars that the manufacturer has for the bike.
The width of the handlebars is also something to keep in mind. Wide handlebars make it easier to handle the dirt bike but they tend to bang trees.
In general, we suggest you to try low handlebars if you’re between 5′ 6″ and 5′ 9″ and rotating them down a little closer to you. For riders over 6 feet and above, we recommend taller bars, rotated or moved forward a little.
Best Dirt Bike Handlebars for Trail Riding
All right, so where do you find new handlebars, that are great for trail riding and fit your dirt bike?
To sum up, here are few favorite choices for single track, enduro and trail riders.
Renthal has a great selection of lower or higher sweep handlebars. Additionally, they have a great handlebar size calculator on their site to help choose the correct version to fit your dirt bike and your riding style.
Protaper is another manufacturer that builds quality and reputable handlebars for dirt bikes and off-road motorcycles. For example, KTM and Husqvarna install their bars at the factory on most models.
Dirt Bike Handlebar Risers
Handlebar risers help taller riders adjust the overall handlebar height to fit the riding position and longer hands. You have several options to choose from. When selecting the proper handlebar riser height, pay attention to the bar thickness. The fat bars, or tapered bars have a 1 1/8″ center section, where as the normal bars are 7/8″.
Check your model specific handlebar risers in Amazon.com, here.
Frequently Asked Questions About Dirt Bike Handlebars
You adjust the handlebar position, height, and rotation to match your height and riding style.
The height of the handlebars are defined by your height. Standard height handlebars are good for riders between 5 ft 7 inches to 6 ft 2 inches. Taller riders can add bar risers or higher bars. Shorter riders can buy shorter bars to fine-tune riding position.
Typical dirt bike handlebar height from ground to the top of the bars is around 50 inches. This is with unweighted suspension and bars in a neutral position.
Begin by setting the handlebars to the center position of the 4 adjustments available in the triple trees. If you are taller than 6 ft 2 inches, move them one notch forward. If you are shorter than 5 ft 7 inches, move them one notch closer towards the back. Adjust the rotation of the handlebars center and fine-tune based on feedback.
Align the handlebars by moving them on the triple trees to the center line with the front forks. This is a called a neutral position. Align more forward moving the bar risers for taller riders, and more closer towards back for shorter riders.
Trail riding and single track calls for more narrow bars, typically around 30″. Motocross handlebars and track, wide open enduro and other dirt biking typically calls fro standard 31.5″ wide handlebars. For single track and trail riding, we recommend cutting the handlebar 1/2″ on both bar ends.
Dirt bike handlebars are 31.5″ wide.
Choose the dirt bike handlebars based on your height and riding style. Standard handlebars work well for riders between 5′ 7″ and 6′ 2″. You can then adjust the position(back or forward), rotation and height of the handlebars using risers to fine-tune riding position.
You can use a tape measure to check the width, height, rise, clamp area, control length, and sweep and compare them to standard handlebars. You can find handlebar dimensions online, for example Renthal offers a great handlebar size calculator on their site.
A dirt bike handlebar setup that fits your riding style makes riding more controllable and comfortable.
Sometimes the stock handlebars work just fine but sometimes you need to get a new one. To sum up, whichever you choose to go with, remember to properly set up and position the dirt bike handlebars. This way, your riding position will be better and also your dirt bike will perform better.
Additionally, Keep in mind that this is not rocket science—after all, it’s all about how the handlebars feel to you. If your wrists are sore after a ride or if your back hurts from slouching, it’s time to perfect your riding ergonomics by taking a look at your dirt bike handlebars.
As an added bonus, your dirt bike will be easier to handle on the trails!
- Single track riding tips for beginners
- How to adjust the front fork height and why
- How to clean leaking fork seals on a dirt bike
- What are fork bleeders and why you need them?
- How to align dirt bike forks – aka twisted forks
- How to master static balance on dirt bike
Last updated: March 3, 2023