Do a side-by-side comparison of BMX and mountain bike handlebars. You will instantly see the vast size difference between them. BMX handlebars are higher and broader than the other. If you seek to increase your mountain bike’s reach, you may think that installing BMX handlebars on it is a good idea.
You can put BMX handlebars on a mountain bike, but it is not recommended. BMX handlebars significantly change the geometry and handling of a mountain bike. BMX handlebars are heavier, narrow and taller, which negatively affect your riding position, comfort and safety.
But manufacturers did not create BMX mountain bikes to fit the components and geometry of mountain bikes. Considering this fact, can you swap out a mountain bike’s handlebars with BMX?
This article will discuss the following:
- Whether or not you can install BMX handlebars to your MTB
- The pros and cons of replacing your mountain bike handlebars with BMX.
- How to fit BMX handlebars to a mountain bike
Suppose you plan to modify your mountain bike by installing BMX handlebars. In that case, we will discuss the factors you must consider before doing so. This way, you can weigh the pros and cons of your planned bike project.
The handlebars significantly affect how you ride and maneuver your mountain bike. This component affects your:
- riding style
So, considering their benefits and disadvantages before installing BMX handlebars on your mountain bike is crucial.
BMX and mountain bike handlebars are different in more ways than one. However, the book Extreme Biking states that the primary difference is that the latter is flat and straight, while the other is raised.
Despite the difference, you can install BMX handlebars on your mountain bike. However, I will not recommend that you do so. The reason is that replacing your mountain bike handlebars with BMX will only improve its style.
Apart from making your bike look better, this trick does not benefit how your bike works. The downsides can even outweigh this project’s benefits to your bike.
For one, BMX handlebars are a lot heavier than mountain bike handlebars. So, installing them on your MTB will significantly increase the bike’s weight.
According to an independent study by Jeremy Grooves, an increase in a bike’s weight increases drag. Meaning the weight BMX handlebars adds to a mountain bike decreases its speed. The additional weight can make your MTB more challenging to maneuver, especially during ascends.
The added height and weight BMX handlebars will contribute to your mountain bike can make riding uncomfortable. You will also need to change your riding position and familiarize yourself with the new feel of your MTB.
Considering all these factors, I don’t think the aesthetic look of BMX handlebars on a mountain bike is worth all the downsides.
Learn more about Pedals, Handlebars and Brakes
- Handlebars on MTBs are wide, find out why – Why are MTB Handlebars so Wide?
- Should you upgrade your handlebars? Read – Are Handlebars Worth Upgrading?
- Universal pedals? Read all about it here – 9 Universal Pedals for Your MTB
- Learning how to Jump? Learn more with – How to Jump a MTB with Flat Pedals
- Keep your disc brakes clean – How to Clean Mountain Bike Disc Brakes
- Is their a difference? – Mountain Bike V-Brakes vs Disc
Another critical factor to consider when replacing mountain bike handlebars with BMX handlebars is the cable length. A BMX’s stem is larger than that of a mountain bike. For this reason, the cables on your MTB will be too short for BMX handlebars.
For comparison, the Union Cycliste Internationale, the worldwide cycling governing body, states that BMX handlebars can have a maximum rise of 30.5 cm. On the other hand, mountain bike handlebars tend only to have a rise of 4 cm.
So, if you plan on replacing your mountain bike handlebars, you must replace your cable with a longer one. This way, the wire will reach its connection points to your new and more oversized handlebars.
While BMX handlebars are not ideal for mountain bikes, they still offer several benefits.
Apart from an improved appearance, the primary benefit you can get by replacing your MTB handlebar with BMX is extra strength. Manufacturers created BMX handlebars so they could withstand a lot of abuse. For this reason, installing them on a mountain bike will increase its strength and stability.
As mentioned, BMX handlebars can have a maximum rise of 30.5 cm, much higher than MTB handlebars. The elevation that BMX handlebars contribute to the small frame of mountain bikes is ideal for people who seek an aggressive riding position. By changing your riding position to a more aggressive one, you can perform various tricks you do not usually perform using your MTB.
BMX handlebars are not created to fit mountain bikes. If you plan to install these handlebars on your mountain bike, you must expect disadvantages.
A mountain bike allows you to tackle rough and steep trails comfortably. The saddle and handlebar height ratio contributes to this comfortable ride. But once you replace your MTB’s handlebars with BMX, you will lose this proportionate ratio, as the handlebar height change does not reflect on the rest of the bike.
This change in geometry will cause you to pedal your mountain bike with your back positioned vertically rather than at an angle. As a result, your sit bones will suffer from stress.
In addition, a study about bicycle geometry and handling noted that geometry is essential in how a cyclist balances and leans their bike. Therefore, changing your mountain bike’s geometry may make it challenging to balance, especially when taking sharp turns.
Tall BMX handlebars leave your seat position too low. For this reason, the handlebars will be too close to your chest.
The low saddle height causes the handlebars to be too close to your chest. It will also cause your handlebars to hit your chest during jumps and drops. Such can result in a painful injury, especially if your drop is aggressive.
Poor pedaling output
A mountain bike’s standard geometry allows you to pull the handlebars up whenever you need a boost to your pedaling output. But once you install BMX handlebars to your mountain bike, you need to sit far below them, leaving you with no way to pull them up. As a result, your pedaling output and efficiency will decrease.
Increased bike weight
As mentioned, installing BMX handlebars on a mountain bike increases its overall weight.
Mountain bikes are created to be lightweight. The lighter an MTB is, the better it performs in rough terrains and steep trails.
However, increasing the weight of your mountain bike by installing BMX handlebars will negatively impact its performance. The extra weight will even make pedaling your mountain bike hard and uncomfortable.
More Ways to Stay Safe On Your MTB
- Is there an art to falling? I say yes – find out why in – How to Fall Off Your MTB (and not get hurt)
- How many ways can you get hurt riding? Read 10 Most Common Mountain Bike Injuries (plus tips to avoid)
- Is It Safe to Ride Alone? A great article about being prepared.
- My knees hurt for a long time after riding. Find out how why. Is Mountain Biking Hard On Your Knees
How To Safely Install BMX Handlebars To A Mountain Bike
Now that you know the advantages and disadvantages of installing BMX handlebars on MTBs, you can decide whether or not you want it. If you do, below are some tips to minimize the disadvantages:
Get handlebars that fit.
BMX handlebars are created for BMX alone. However, this does not mean you will not find one that will fit your mountain bike. So, when purchasing BMX handlebars, get the one that fits perfectly on your mountain bike stem.
This way, you can ensure that your handlebars firmly mount while functioning correctly.
Choose low BMX handlebars.
BMX handlebars have varying rises. Look for one with a smaller rise so that you will not be too far below the handlebars once you ride your bike. Reducing your handlebars’ height can mitigate the risks they can cause once you use your MTB.
Ask for a professional’s help.
If you are unsure what BMX handlebars size to go for, ask a professional’s help throughout your bike’s modification. A professional mechanic can help you choose your handlebars’ height and rise. They can also install them for you to ensure they fit correctly on your MTB.
MTB Tools I Love and Recommend
I own each of these tools and only recommend things I own and use.
- Bike Hand Bike Repair Stand. Nice mountain bikes don’t have a kick stand so keeping your MTB safe but conveniently stored is essential. I keep my bike on my stand whenever I’m not riding it. This makes it easy to lube the chain, inflate the tires and adjust the derailleur. Highly recommended – Bike Hand Bike Repair Stand (👈 Link to Amazon to see what thousands of others have said)
- A basic MTB toolbox for replacing a chain, adjusting brakes and dialing in the fit. Bike Hand has a 37-piece box that has most of the specialty bike tools to keep your MTB properly maintained. The Bike Hand brand is value packed for the avid rider. Check out the competitive prices with this link to Amazon 👉 Bike Hand 37 pcs Bike Repair Tool Kit
- Get a good air pressure gauge, if you get just a tiny bit serious about MTBing you’re going to start playing with tire pressure. A couple psi can make your tires sticking or not. Get a good gauge, I highly recommend the Topeak Smartgauge D2, it’s accurate, flexible and easy to use. An Amazon best seller, here’s a link 👉 Topeak Smartgauge D2
- Carry a multitool with you on every ride. I’m serious, most of the time you can MacGyver something to get back to the trailhead if you have a multitool. I’ve got the Crank Brothers M19, it’s worn, rubbed and abused – but it still works. Thousands sold on Amazon – check it out with this link 👉 Crank Brothers M19
BMX and MTB handlebars may have the same function but they are two very different bike components. The latter is lightweight and low, while the former is heavy and much larger.
To sum it up, you can put BMX handlebars on your MTB. However, the significant difference between the two may not make this modification comfortable and safe.
- Jeanne Nagle. Extreme Biking. USA: The Rosen Publishing Group, 2015. https://books.google.com.ph/books?id=PophDwAAQBAJ&pg=PA27&dq=bmx+handlebars&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjSmYr667_9AhUF7jgGHStxCFsQ6AF6BAgHEAI#v=onepage&q=bmx%20handlebars&f=false. Accessed March 1, 2023.
- Groves, Jeremy. “Bicycle Weight And Commuting Time: Randomised Trial.” BMJ 341 (2010). https://www.bmj.com/content/341/bmj.c6801. Accessed March 1, 2023.
- Union Cycliste Internationale. UCI Cycling Regulations. https://assets.ctfassets.net/761l7gh5x5an/122Ylx2XJjbqzh6xPCu7sK/8ba306da33067fcbff4c13c92051a77e/2021.12.02_BMX-ENG-left_column.pdf. Accessed March 1, 2023.
- Anderson, Karl. “An Introduction to Bicycle Geometry and Handling.” https://www.physics.utoronto.ca/~jharlow/teaching/everyday06/reading07.pdf. Accessed March 1, 2023.