Mountain biking has exploded in popularity in recent years, with more riders than ever hitting the trails. As the sport has grown, so too has the desire among riders to customize and modify their mountain bikes to best suit their riding style and preferences. One common question that comes up is whether you can install BMX handlebars on a mountain bike.
The short answer is yes, you can put BMX handlebars on a mountain bike with some key considerations. While it may seem simple to swap handlebars, there are some important factors regarding fit, safety, and performance to take into account.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about installing BMX handlebars on a mountain bike, including:
- The benefits and drawbacks of using BMX handlebars
- Determining compatibility and correct sizing
- Steps for removing and installing new handlebars
- Adjusting brake levers and shifters
- Tips for dialing in fit and comfort
- How to ensure proper safety
The Benefits and Drawbacks of BMX Handlebars on a Mountain Bike
BMX handlebars can offer some potential advantages for mountain biking, but also have some downsides to consider:
- Wider stance for increased leverage and control
- Variety of rise and sweep options to customize fit
- Strong and durable construction for aggressive riding
- More hand positions for comfort on long rides
- Not designed for technical/downhill mountain biking
- Limited grip positions compared to flat MTB bars
- Excessive width can make navigating trails difficult
- Swept back angle not ideal for steep climbs
So while BMX bars offer some intriguing benefits, they aren’t ideal for all mountain bike riding. Riders looking to do more cross country or technical downhill riding would likely prefer traditional mountain bike handlebars.
Determining Compatibility and Correct Sizing
Before swapping in new handlebars, you need to make sure they are compatible with your mountain bike’s stem clamp diameter and that the width is appropriate.
Stem Clamp Diameter
Most quality BMX and MTB handlebars will come in 25.4mm or 31.8mm clamp sizes. Measure your stem clamp to ensure the new bars match and will fit properly.
BMX bars can range from 28″ to 32″ in width, which is substantially wider than typical mountain bike bars. Measure from end to end on your current bars to determine proper width. Too wide can make handling sluggish, while too narrow can feel cramped.
Also factor in your shoulder width and riding style – wider bars may suit more aggressive riding on open trails vs. narrower for technical singletrack.
Steps for Removing and Installing New Handlebars
Once you’ve selected compatible BMX handlebars, follow these steps to safely remove the old bars and install the new ones:
Remove Existing Components
- Remove grips from the ends of the handlebars. A little rubbing alcohol can help slide them off.
- Use a 5mm hex wrench to loosen and remove any brake levers and shifters from the old bars. Set aside carefully.
- Loosen the faceplate bolts on the stem front plate with a 4mm or 5mm hex wrench.
- If an Ahead stem, loosen the steerer clamp bolt(s) on the stem underside.
- Slide off the old handlebars. You may need to spread the stem clamp to wiggle them out.
Install New BMX Handlebars
- Lightly grease the new handlebar clamping area where it will insert into the stem.
- Insert new bars into stem, aligning with front wheel. Ensure bars are fully seated to proper insertion lines.
- Tighten stem faceplate bolts to 6-9 Nm torque for alloy or 3-5 Nm for carbon fiber bars. Do not overtighten.
- On Ahead stems, tighten steerer clamp bolts to 5-8 Nm torque.
- Reinstall brake levers and shifters onto new bars using manufacturers torque specs. May require readjusting reach.
- Install new grips onto bar ends.
Adjusting Brake Levers and Shifters
With new handlebars, brake levers and shifters will likely need some adjustment to their positioning and cable tension.
- Brake levers should align with your fingers in a natural hands on grip position. Adjust reach as needed.
- Shift levers should fall right under your thumb knuckles for quick access.
- Use barrel adjusters to fine tune brake cable tension until levers are firm with minimal slack.
- Use shifter barrel adjusters to adjust derailleur cable tension until shifting is smooth and precise.
Take time to test adjustments with a test ride. Re-adjust as needed to dial in an optimal fit. Mark adjustment spots so you can return if anything slips.
Tips for Dialing in Fit and Comfort
Wider BMX bars will position your hands, arms, and shoulders in a different and likely wider stance. Here are some tips for adjusting your mountain bike setup and riding position to optimize comfort:
- Rotate bars upward/downward to raise/lower hand position
- Consider a shorter stem length to compensate for added width
- Adjust saddle fore/aft position relative to new hand position
- Swap stem risers to tweak bar height
- Ensure adequate standover room with new bar placement
- Play with brake/shifter angles and positioning
Take time to ride and make incremental adjustments until your new bar, stem, and cockpit position feel natural. Don’t be afraid to experiment a bit – minor tweaks can make a big difference.
Ensuring Proper Safety
Any handlebar swap requires taking steps to ensure proper safety:
- Inspect bars for any defects/damage before installing
- Use a torque wrench for all stem and component bolts
- Check handlebar insertion minimum safety lines
- Test brake operation thoroughly before riding
- Start with slower, open areas to test new setup
- Check bolts and adjustments periodically for first few rides
- Always wear a helmet when riding
Using quality, compatible components and taking the time to dial in fit will allow you to enjoy the benefits of BMX bars on your mountain bike safely.
Frequently Asked Questions
What size BMX bars should I get for my mountain bike?
Choose BMX handlebars that match your mountain bike stem clamp diameter (usually 25.4mm or 31.8mm). For width, measure your current MTB bar end to end and get BMX bars in a similar width range to start. You can potentially go up to 2″ wider if desired.
Do I need new brake cables when installing BMX bars?
Not necessarily. As long as the new BMX bars have brake lever mounting positions in a similar spot to your old MTB bars, you can usually reuse the existing brake cables with some minor adjustment at the lever.
Will my shifters be compatible with BMX handlebars?
Most MTB shifters can be mounted on BMX bars as they have cylindrical clamp regions. You may need to readjust the shifter positioning and derailleur cable tension. Ensure the bar diameter matches any integrated shifter clamps.
Can I install larger 29″ BMX bars on my 27.5″ or 26” mountain bike?
Yes, you can, as long as the clamp area diameter matches your stem. The wheels size does not affect compatibility. Just be aware that excessively wide 29” BMX bars may feel too wide on a smaller wheel bike.
Do I need special tools to install BMX bars on my mountain bike?
No specialty tools required. You’ll need standard hex wrenches from 4mm to 5mm plus a torque wrench to properly install and secure new handlebars. A stem bar spreader can also help during installation.
Installing BMX handlebars on your mountain bike can allow you to customize the cockpit and dial in the fit, feel, and handling you prefer. Wider BMX bars offer enhanced leverage and alternative hand positions for aggressive trail and downhill riding.
However, BMX bars do have some limitations depending on your mountain biking discipline. Carefully consider if the wider, swept back BMX bar design fits your riding needs compared to traditional mountain bike handlebars before deciding to swap them out.
If opting for BMX bars, take steps to ensure proper sizing, fit, safety checks, and adjustments. Precision installation and fine tuning of your brake levers, shifters, and overall cockpit position is key to enjoying the benefits of these unique handlebars on your mountain bike.
Mahin Abrar is a passionate writer and outdoor enthusiast. As a regular contributor to Bikepics.net, Mahin shares his knowledge and experiences in the fields of biking, cycling, hiking, and camping. With a deep understanding of these activities and a keen eye for detail, he offers valuable insights and practical advice to help readers get the most out of their adventures. Whether you're a seasoned pro or just starting out, Mahin's writing is sure to inspire you and guide you on your journey.