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Old 12-01-11, 12:38 PM   #1
robbied196
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Back to Basics! Any Good Tips For Getting Your Handlebars Straight?

I've stripped, rebuilt and restored my fair share of bicycles but the one thing I never seem to get right first time is having the handlebars straight! I maybe a bit of a perfectionist, but there's nothing worse than riding out on a bike who's handlebars are a fraction off center.

Any good tips on getting it right first time?
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Old 12-01-11, 12:43 PM   #2
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I align the front edge of the handlebars to the front edge of the fork ends.
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Old 12-01-11, 04:11 PM   #3
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First, you have to stradle the bike while adjusting the bars as alignment can't be done from the side. I take a long straight edge and place it so it bisects both the stem or headset adjusting bolt and the stem's handlebar clamp and sticks out over the front wheel. If the bars are exactly 90° to the wheel, the straight edge will run right down the center of the front tire.
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Old 12-01-11, 06:15 PM   #4
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Do you worry about whether the handlebar is smack clamped in the middle too? Not just azimuthal angle center, but that the stem clamps the handlebars smack in the middle too? I mess around with that too and hate when someone has a bike that has a bazillion gizmos all clamped, taped, zip-tied to the handlebars so I can't see the tiny ridges on the middle bulge. Then it's hard to get the centering -really- precise! LOL! :-)
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Old 12-01-11, 08:07 PM   #5
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Do you worry about whether the handlebar is smack clamped in the middle too? Not just azimuthal angle center, but that the stem clamps the handlebars smack in the middle too? I mess around with that too and hate when someone has a bike that has a bazillion gizmos all clamped, taped, zip-tied to the handlebars so I can't see the tiny ridges on the middle bulge. Then it's hard to get the centering -really- precise! LOL! :-)
I agonize over that too and are the brifters or brake levers EXACTLY the same height on the bars.
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Old 12-01-11, 08:24 PM   #6
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I stand in front of the bike with the wheel between my knees and sight down the stem to the tire. Move the stem until it aligns with the tire and lock it down.

For installing brake levers, again stand in front of the bike and lay a dowel across the levers. Adjust the lever position until the dowel is parallel with the top of the handlebar.
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Old 12-01-11, 08:25 PM   #7
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I agonize over that too and are the brifters or brake levers EXACTLY the same height on the bars.
OMG! Brifters at the same level? I've sat on my saddle and closed one eye then the other to determine gap of the brake lever bar from the curvature on the drops and had to make minute adjustments to make them even, only to find both are either too high up on the drops or too low and I need to reposition them. And you can't really tell how the brifters feel riding the hoods until you wrap the handlebar tape on and sit down and grasp the hoods for a bit. How many years now since I've had brifters? Hmmm. And I just tweeked the left side and moved it up a little to match the right side! LOL! :-)
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Old 12-01-11, 09:42 PM   #8
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I would rather ride my bike!
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Old 12-01-11, 10:27 PM   #9
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If you can't feel that the bars aren't straight when riding, then they're straight enough. Simple eyeball alignment while straddling the front wheel has always been good enough for me. Since I keep my road bike's bars "crash tight" - meaning loose enough to move in a crash - I have to correct the alignment every once in a while, and it never takes more than a few seconds.
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Old 12-01-11, 10:39 PM   #10
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Oh boy, you guys would probably hate me. I can be a hack about this stuff. Took me a while to notice this one, maybe someday I'll fix it:

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Old 12-02-11, 07:44 AM   #11
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EAS (eyeball alignment system) is the best and easiest method. After all you probably notice misalignment with your eyeball. I do it from the saddle. Loosen stem- hold front wheel (hold against solid object, or get buddy to hold wheel) and twist until satisfied. Tighten stem and quit thinking- go ridin'! I bet you obsess about saddle alignment too?
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Old 12-02-11, 07:51 AM   #12
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Take your time. bk
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Old 12-02-11, 08:45 AM   #13
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Someone here said it first, but turn the bars 30' degrees or so in either direction. Just looking down at the tire, hub makes alignment a bit easier. Works for drop or flat bars. For drop bar brake levers everyone says to put a straightedge along the bottom of the drops. The tip of the levers should just touch the straightedge. Chris
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Old 12-02-11, 08:54 AM   #14
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For drop bar brake levers everyone says to put a straightedge along the bottom of the drops. The tip of the levers should just touch the straightedge. Chris
That used to be the case but a lot of newer bars are shaped so the brifters or brake levers are positioned significantly above the straight line from the drops. I do what JohnDThompson recommended. I lay a straight edge along the tops of the hoods and set the brifters so the straightedge is parallel with the bar tops.
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Old 12-02-11, 09:10 AM   #15
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Oh boy, you guys would probably hate me. I can be a hack about this stuff. Took me a while to notice this one, maybe someday I'll fix it:

looks fine to me.
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Old 12-02-11, 09:39 AM   #16
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You're not riding it that way, are you?

While I too am fussy about getting the handlebar centered in the clamp and parallel to the wheel axis, I have changed my mind on having grips and levers exactly mirror images of each other. I noticed several months ago that my perfectly aligned Ergon GR2 and GC2 grips (one set on MTB, one on hybrid), shifters and levers looked nice but didn't function as well as I would like. My left hand position felt great on both the flat and bar end positions but my right felt like it was slightly low, even though the measurements were spot on. I also noticed that I had a harder time shifting my left trigger shifter than the right. I made adjustments based on the feel and operation and I'm much happier even though the measurements are slightly different from the right to left sides.

Human beings are rarely perfectly symetrical (the vast majority of us have a dominant side, along with other factors that affect growth and function) so a perfectly symetrical machine will fit the majority of us imperfectly. Everyone likes a bike that is impressive to look at, but I'm still an advocate of function over form.
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Old 12-02-11, 09:40 AM   #17
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EAS (eyeball alignment system) is the best and easiest method. After all you probably notice misalignment with your eyeball.
EYEBALL alignment system. Not EYEBALLS alignment system.
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