My Take On The BMX Handlebar Trend

from Rookie’s Keyboard

Hello, friends

I received an e-mail yesterday from a reader under the name Sam asking me about my take on the use of BMX handlebars in other disciplines such as mountain biking. It seems that the practice is becoming increasingly common. 

And today, I am going to follow up on the request with a post as I didn’t have a pre-selected topic. 

The reality is as follows – with some adjustments (e.g., a new stem), it’s possible to mount BMX bars on pretty much any bicycle including XC models, enduro…etc. 

But by doing so, you will change to the geometry of your bike more than you could imagine. And once that’s done, you will lose the original handling. I’d say that in most cases, the quality of the riding experience will go down.

Why are people doing it, then?

Three reasons:

  • To Gain Height

BMX bars come with an 8″-8.75″ (20-22cm) rise. The height is there to make up for the small frame and keep the rider in a position facilitating the execution of tricks such as bunny hops.

  • To Gain Strength

BMX bikes are among the strongest if not the strongest in the world. And the bars aren’t an exception. To prevent failure, manufacturers use reinforced materials (4130 steel) and stable, high-IQ architecture.

  • To Look Cool

Of course, another crucial factor is appearance. Let’s be real. Some people throw BMX bars on their machines simply for the looks and street credit. 

What are the negatives?

Glad you asked, bro. There are many…

Unnaturally Upright Riding Position

BMX bars will make the back angle of the rider significantly more vertical. That position will reduce the stress on the wrists, elbows, shoulders, and neck, but it isn’t aerodynamic and stresses the sit bones tremendously unless you have a saddle designed for city riding.

Climbing with this stance is a nightmare due to the extra drag and weight on the rear wheel. (The more weight there is on the rear wheel, the harder it becomes to spin uphill.)

A Hit In The Chest

Due to their height, the bars could get dangerously close to the cyclist’s chest. During landings, they may come in contact with the sternum area. The outcome could be…pain…massive pain.

Out of The Saddle Riding = Discomfort 

When riding out of the saddle, the rider is normally pulling the handlebars up.

But when the bars are stupidly high as in this case, you can’t pull them up because you are too far below them. The only option left is to pull them back.

But this technique doesn’t improve the rider’s pedaling output as much because the pull is “horizontal” and causes a loss of efficiency in conjunction with weird handling.

A Shortened Hip Extension

Tall bars make the rider stand upright with the hips close to fully extended. This alternation of the bike fit turns the pedaling motion into a “step-up” exercise and decreases the force production because the hip extensors (hamstrings + glutes) cannot contribute as much.

Extra weight

Below is a table comparing the weight of popular risers and BMX bars.

Freestyle BMX BarsWeightRiser BarsWeight
Fiend Reynolds Bars774gProcraft Sport II Riser330g
Odyssey Lumberjack XXL789gTruvativ Stylo T20390g
Cult Crew Bars816gRitchey Trail 2X 31.8 Flat276g
BSD GRIME754gRace Face Ride XC 19288g
United Supreme Bars1079gTruvativ Hussefelt 40 mm 390g
BSD SAFARI Oversized771gPRO FRS345g
MUTINY COMB848gFSA Comet313g
Demolition Paradise941gRenthal Fatbar® 35315g
SALT PRO903gSpank Spike 777 FR350g
Animal 4AM771gSQlab 311 MTB 27.0320g

Well, bros. You can see that freestyle BMX handlebars are a lot heavier (about 154% on average) than MTB bars. 

The next table contains the weight of BMX race bars:

Racing BMX BarsWeight
Box One Alloy Triple Taper465g
JET BMX Expert Race Bars500g
S&M Race XLT Bars725g
Box One Chromo685g
S&M 5.75″ Cruiser Slam861g
S&M Race Bars730g
Avian Alloy 4.5″311g
Answer PRO Cr-mo632g
Tangent 31.8 Flatiron 62805g

BMX race bars require less material (lower rise) and are often made of aluminum. Consequently, they’re notably lighter than freestyle models. However, even race bars are heavier than average MTB bars.

Damage Control

There are two ways to avoid the negatives of using BMX bars on non-BMX bikes:

A. Don’t use them (lol)

B. Stick with “low rise” bars.

Low risers are smaller BMX handlebars with 3 to 5 inches of elevation.

Those are very common in the dirt jump circles, but due to the low demand, you don’t have many models to choose from. 

The Technical Process

If the shortcomings listed above don’t scare you, I have prepared a simple guideline for migrating to BMX bars even if your bike isn’t designed for them.


  • BMX handlebars have a 22.2mm diameter clamp area.
  • Modern stems are designed for 31.8mm bars. (MTB and road bars are made of aluminum. To increase the strength of the bars, they are thickened near the clamp area.)

There are four ways to make a bike compatible with BMX handlebars:

1. Find BMX bars with a 31.8mm diameter clamp area and combine them with your existing stem.

2. Replace the stem with an MTB version engineered for 22.2mm bars.

  1. Switch to a BMX stem.

Note: If you replace your stem with a BMX one, you will need extra spacers because BMX stems tend to be thinner than MTB ones.

4. Keep your existing 31.8mm stem and use a shim around the bars (not ideal due to stability issues).

Once you have the right stem and bars, the switch is simple.

  • Remove the shifters and brake levers from the old bars.
  • Remove the old bars by unscrewing the faceplate bolts of the stem via a 5 or 6-mm Allen key.
  • If you are keeping the existing stem, you can mount the new bars and retighten the faceplate bolts to the required settings.
  • If the stem has to go, you will have to remove it by unscrewing the stem bolts as well as the star nut bolt.
  • Mount the new stem on the fork’s steerer tube. Make sure you don’t “unpack” the headset.
  • Keep the stem straight in relation to the front wheel, retighten its bolts and then install the handlebars.

More Reach Without BMX Bars(my recommendation)

I will be real with you. 

Most people should avoid the switch to BMX bars (apart a small fraction of unique cases) because there is a better way to get the benefits without the negatives. 


Just use MTB-specific bars with a higher rise.(There are MTB bars with 2 inches or higher rise.)

If that’s not enough, you can also switch to a stem with a greater rise too. 

Those two tweaks will give you plenty of elevation without impacting the geometry of the bike greatly.

Risers Are Strong Enough

There is no denying that BMX bars are the strongest out there. They are made of super tough steel and can face a ton of impact. (But they also weigh a lot as you can see in the tables above).

The question is – do you really need the extra strength? 

IMO, most people don’t. And a good set of MTB bars a.k.a. risers will be plenty strong for 99% of the population. And if you want extra strength, you can just get ultra-thick downhill bars. They will be heavier than the standard MTB version, but insaley strong and still lighter than BMX models.

And there you have it, friends.

My take on the BMX bars craziness. 

I like the look but not enough to kill the geometry of my bikes. 

Until next time, 

– Rookie.







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