Why and How to Install Bar Ends On A Mountain Bike

Approx Reading Time: 18 minutes

If you would wish to give your mountain bike a facelift, and hit the trail like a pro, bar ends make for a perfect bargain. We will explain why in this blog. But first, you want to ask, why do you need them? Well, since the early 1990s, bike customization has always epitomized the love of mountain biking. 

Cyclists all over the world are always hooked to new and trendy bike accessories, and it is not about to end. Not in the foreseeable future! Sometimes you have to appreciate manufacturers for creating something simple, yet immensely useful like MTB bar end. 

Now, before we dig deeper into this subject, it is noteworthy that some cyclists are reading about bar ends for the first time, or probably they have heard about in the streets. In this post, we will explain how to install bar ends and why you need them. So, here is our kick-starter question…

Bicyclist Maneuvering Down Path

What are the bars ends?

Bikers know almost every bike accessory by name, and from our blog, your knowledge on mountain biking will improve, immensely. From handlebars, saddles, chain sprockets, drive train, tires, rims, speedometer to braking levers and pads, mountain bikes are not always simple. It may depend on the manufacturer though, that a bike looks like pieces of metal frames welded together. 

Definitively, bar ends are like antlers jutting upwards from a bike’s handlebars. Some call them horn-like handlebar extensions. They can be bolt-on or permanently fixed extensions curving inwards, outwards, frontwards or any other direction preferable to a cyclist. You should also note that depending on a manufacturer, bar ends can be predominantly aluminium, carbon steel or titanium. For those who love customized bikes, having these add-ons crusted with any metal of your choice is always great customization.

Bar ends are a bit foreign to mountain bike manufacturers. It is because they often come as separate entities. Most of the time, bikers buy these accessories separately then fix them onto the handlebars. We will explore this in great detail in a short while. We say foreign because while bikes have been here for decades, bar ends only became popular add-ons in the early 1990s. They are the type of accessories that are both trendy and unnecessary at the same time. It depends on a biker’s perception of bar ends and needs. 

A good online search for bar end images will pull up impressive results, some of which will direct you to the best bike accessories stores. But that aside, among other questions we will help you answer in this blog are:

  • How to install bar ends
  • Why install bar ends on your mountain bikes-what are their functions and do you need them?
  • Tips on choosing the best bar ends.
  • How popular are the bar ends?
  • Are there safety considerations about the bar ends?

Installing bar ends-A detailed guide for mountain bikers

Now that you know something about bar ends, especially how they look like, let’s move on to the next question. Do you know how to install them on a mountain bike? The truth is that having a bar end mounted on your MTB is not always easy. You should make sure they fit tightly. Our experience with mountain bikes means you will never go wrong with these accessories after reading this post. 

For someone who has just acquired a new pair of bar ends, the following installation guide should help you get started:

  • Start by positioning your bike in such a way that it will make the installation process easy. You may want to hang it upside down.
  • Step two involves exposing a portion of handlebars. To do so, slide the grip, brake lever, and shift level inwards-in that order. You should measure the width of the bar end, especially on the clamping point. If it is 0.75 inches, it is imperative that you slide shift the above components by about 0.8 inches for the best fit.  
  • Now, remove the grip, in which case, the end plug comes out first. Push a screwdriver push under the grip to make the task easy. With it inside, slowly twist the grip until it comes off. 
  • Next, using a wrench, move the shift lever inwards. Do not tighten it once it is half an inch from the brake lever. It is because you will need to adjust it later.
  • Now, loosen your brake levers and move them over the 0.5 inches between it and the shift lever. Also, do not tighten it. 
  • At this stage, you should put back the handle grip by, first of all, cleaning the bar with a spray, ensuring to wipe it dry using a rag. Slide it until it comes into contact with the brake lever. This should leave enough space for the bar end, the same as the 0.75 measurements you had measured or slightly more.
  • Get the bar end and slip in through, then using a screw wrench, tighten it. 
  • It is now time to adjust everything; so that once you get onto your bike and start riding, your hands assume a natural position. You don’t want to end up with very high bar ends. To do this, put your MTB on the ground then sit on it if that will make your work easier. 
  • Most cyclists like it when the bar ends are a bit inclined frontwards because it makes the grip easier and natural. Thus, you should loosen and slide it to the preferred position and angle. Tighten the bar ends.
  • Now adjust the brake lever and the shift lever while sitting on the bike. Most importantly, make sure to position both in a comfortable position. It is because you don’t want to find it difficult reaching for the shift lever and brake lever when cycling.
  • For bikers who have twist grip shifters instead of rapid-fire shifters, there is a slight difference in making the above adjustments. It is, therefore, imperative that you study your bike and know how to go about the process of installing bar ends. It also helps you choose the best tools for the task.

Why install bar ends on your mountain bikes-what are their functions and do you need them?

Mountain bike bar ends are generally accepted accessories all over the world. Now that you know how to install them pretty quick, more questions come to mind. If you are a bike addict, for example-often visiting and reading comments on bike forums-you have probably come across these questions:

  • Why should I install the bar ends on my mountain bike? 
  • What value do they add?
  • Are they necessary, after all?

Well, to answer these questions, let’s use some facts to jog your memory a little bit. It is noteworthy that every component of a bicycle has some history attached to it. In a nutshell, the modern bike is a product of several modifications over time. You may want to attribute everything to technology and that’s okay. Talk about wheels, steering/seating, axle, brakes, spokes, cog set, dynamo, fork, handlebar, helmet or wheels, there is a story behind their invention and consequent development into indispensable bike accessories. 

Bar ends, often fixed on straight handlebars are typical extensions that have gained traction over the years. Some bikers call them climbing horns. In our installation guide above, we emphasized bar ends that you can clump onto your bike. However, some as permanent fixes on the handlebars. 

In the early 1990s, bar ends were very popular until riser bars once again resumed their place, driving the existence of the latter to near-oblivion. You should also note that despite their significance in cycling, the use of bar ends is restricted in some countries by regulatory authorities due to safety concerns. We will explore safety concerns regarding their use later on in this post.

Now, on installing bar ends, which should explain their functions and necessity, we compiled the following after extensive research:

Bike customization

For some bikers, fitting bar ends onto the handlebars is all about customization. While they may have become less popular, you should note that trends do change. At some point, riser bars lost their popularity, only regain it later. It is also true for bar ends. They make mountain bikes look unique, trendy or stylish, which could inform your reasons for having them on your ride.

Bar ends increase leverage 

Cycling uphill is always going to be a difficult challenge, and without something to leverage the pull-up, it feels like the uphill task it is. That’s where the bar ends come into play. They make it easy to ride bikes uphill by increasing leverage. With your hands clutching the bar ends, slightly pulling your weight up and increasing pressure in the pedals, the mechanical advantage becomes great.

The catch here is that when cycling uphill, speed drops and heart rate increases. It means without handlebars to leverage pedaling, cyclists find it difficult to maintain a steady speed uphill.  

Bar ends and hand position

While it could have been obvious from the start that bar ends are primarily for positioning your hands in whichever way you please, there is more to it. After long cycling sessions, especially during competitions, cyclists do report soreness or numbness in their hands. You could say it is because of pressure from handlebars. You should note that bar grips only minimize the pressure, but not entirely, hence the need for bar ends.

Now, when you have bar ends installed on your mountain bike, there is little pressure on your hands. They enable you to vary hand positioning. Whether you would want to turn your hands by 90 degrees, push your torso frontwards, stretch your spine or move your hands diagonally, they give you all the freedom to do so.

Boosts bodyweight for uphill cycling

Riding a bike uphill is not an easy task, even if it is something you do routinely. Increasing heart rate and reduced speed will make you want to give up and walk the way up. However, with bar ends, things get easier. When you hold onto the bar ends, you can easily lurch your torso forward, thereby adding more weight on the front wheel. 

Thus, the center of gravity becomes low and shifts forward, making it less strenuous riding uphill. Without shifting body weight to the front, wheels will have a weak grip on the ground. You can imagine how difficult it would be cycling uphill on a light bicycle, only having handlebars to steer your way through to the top.

High speed on level grounds

Another noteworthy reason for installing bar ends is because they improve a mountain biker’s aerodynamics. You could call it a faster getaway, which is more pronounced on flat trails. It happens when you pull your weight up by holding the bar ends, a bit off the saddle and pedaling fast. The resulting sprint is not any close to being a lead actor in fast and furious but good enough to propel you over long distances. When you assume a relaxed cycling posture, it begins to feel like cruising on a high-speed roadster.

A lift for the bike during maintenance and repair

Who would have guessed that sometimes you will hang your mountain bike using bar ends? Well, if you are thinking about using them as hooks when repairing your bike, go for durable ones. But that is not the only role they will play. While at it, bar ends will keep delicate components of your bike off the ground or from getting scratched on surfaces. It is, especially practical in bikes with carbon handles. 

Tips on choosing the best bar ends

Thus far, you may want to go straight away into buying the best bar ends. But before doing so, it is important to ask this question: How do I choose the best ones for the money? We did some homework for you on this too and came up with the following handy tips:

Presumably, you have set your eyes on a bar end before. But you got a little apprehensive when it came to putting money on it. It could because you wanted to learn more about these handy mountain bike accessories or you were not sure whether you need one in the first place. Now that you know why mountain bikers like to install bar ends on their bikes, forget about the rumor mills. For example, you may have heard bar ends are no longer useful, which is a big fat lie. 

Bar ends, we would say are a great investment, especially for bikers looking for extra comfort on the trail. But when it comes to choosing the best one, the following tips should help you make the right decision:

Brand

The best brand will always carry the day, and so when you go out shopping, bear it in mind. Now, on finding a befitting bar end brand for your bike, there are plenty in the market both for the experienced biker and a novice. After doing a comparison, titec micros, profile design boxer, XLC, RavX Lite, and Pyramid Carbon Fiber emerged as some of the best brands the market had to offer. You can also check out more brands in leading bike stores.

Design

Design, whether appealing or not plays significance when choosing an ideal bar end. We have seen and even tested several of these. The most important feature we always look out for in a design is the curving. Are you in need of a slightly curved bar end, a straight one or a one with an extreme curving? Remember that regardless of the curving, you can always twist to face any direction. 

Cost of a bar end

You should expect that bar ends do not have the same price tags. From different manufacturers, brands, low-end, mid-range to high-end crafts, there is something for everyone. On our part, we always advise mountain bikers to go for the best, usually high-end even if it costs a little more. Mountain biking is a strenuous cycling experience, and you will not want to install a bar end that breaks shortly after installation. That is not our wish for MTB lovers.

Material

Another factor that plays significance when buying a bar end is the material. Are you looking for carbon fiber, titanium, stainless steel, aluminum or brass alloy? This is a question every mountain biker should ask before checking available options. It is because depending on the craft material, bars end would last longer or break after a few weeks of use. Remember that material has a direct impact on pricing. Weak materials are cheap and don’t last long.

Width

We also want to mention that the width of a bar end is another feature that determines a biker’s preference. Some are narrow/thin while others are wide/thick. Choosing either depends on whether you will have a good-strong grip or not.

How popular are the bar ends?

For every mountain bike accessory, there are always issues of standardization, legality, and popularity. The history of the bar end is long and winding. Some say they came about because of riser handlebars. Others think different types of handlebars inspired varying designs. Take, for example, drop handlebars and drop-in variants. 

However, that’s only a grain of the truth. Most, if not all bar ends sit on straight handlebars. The fact that you can change their position anyhow you deem suitable makes them bar ends popular. Curved crafts give riders more versatility because they can vary the positioning of hands. 

In the early 1990s, as we already indicated, the popularity of bar ends grew by leaps and bounds. By the late 1990s, it seemed not many bikers fancied them as much as most did at first. It coincided with a time in history when rise bars were becoming popular once again after being relegated to near forgetfulness. It is most notable that there is rarely a bike that features the two accessories combined unless you love some sort of weirdo. 

For some, the popularity of bar ends has declined over the years despite their handiness. In any case, would say, these accessories are still useful even today. Whether you would want to open your chest when riding uphill for a more relaxed pedaling, they are the go-to components for a biker looking for extra fun. Moreover, we don’t always want to limit your choice to what people say. 

There is also a case of modern mountain bikes being more user-friendly. We have since gone past an era where getting off saddles for more rigorous pedaling was the norm during competitions. Today, bikes that have full fork suspension are handier than old versions. All you need to do is sit and cycle uphill with little effort. 

The popularity of bar ends-then and now-is also because of their non-cycling roles. Take, for example, a situation where you want to take off bike tires. You notice that after flipping your bicycle, these accessories help protect other components like speedometer from being knocked off. 

Safety Concerns regarding the use of bar ends

In one of our previous posts, we looked at the dangers of mountain biking. We further explored how to stay safe. However, you would recall bar ends did not feature in that blog because our main focus was the MTB. Well, you should note that like vaulting over handlebars after hitting an obstacle or accidentally ramming your legs on the chain box, every part of a mountain bike poses a degree of risk to a cyclist. Thus, we ask the question, how risky are the bar ends? 

The truth is that since their advent, there have been lots of discussions on safety. A case in point is falling over your bike and getting caught by the hook of a bar end. That would be disastrous, even by the thought of it. In reality, bar ends pose even bigger risks to a rider. Forget about their handiness, and the high possibility of them coming back to market given recent modifications on a modern bike. 

Getting hooked to a competitor’s bar ends

A ban on the bar ends, especially in cycling competitions also speaks volumes about an issue that many have brushed aside. The likelihood that another rider with whom you are competing will get hooked onto the bar ends fuels such discussions. Generally, mountain bikes have flat handlebars, minimizing the risk of getting hooked but such a possibility becomes potent when you add bar ends or drop bars.  

From our end of the bargain, we say getting hooked to bar ends is only a cause for alarm when riding close to competitors in a tight race. However, it should not be the case when biking alongside a few cyclists, say two or three unless the trail is very narrow.  

The risk of hooking to a tree is real

The technical aspects of the bar end, especially positioning, also make them prone to being hooked to a tree. Think about a situation where you are cycling along a narrow trail surrounded by trees and thick bushes. You realize there is also a real chance of getting hooked to a tree. The worst thing about it is that such is a sudden occurrence that would be catastrophic when cycling at high speed.  

Thus, bikers should think about the usefulness of these accessories. Ask this question: Do I need to install bar ends on my bike, and why? What are the pros and cons? 

They risk hand movement

Some cyclists, especially mountain bikers like to move their hands anyhow on the handlebars. It makes them feel more agile and in control. However, that freedom comes to an end the moment you install the bar ends. A restriction in hand movements equals potential risks such as losing control on the trail. With your hands, more on the bar ends than the handlebars, reach for brake levers get delayed, especially in emergencies. The rest would be a story for another day. 

Final Words 

Cycling mishaps do happen. From sliding across the road because of old tires in the rain, ramming into a tree when taking sharp bends to poor control, accident situations are endless. However, there are lots of lessons that mountain bikers should learn. For someone who has experience with bar ends, having a mixed reaction towards them is normal. They are good, and then they are bad. 

Thus far, we hope you have picked a lesson on two. Installing bar ends should, therefore, be the least of your worries henceforth. Moreover, having learned their usefulness on mountain bikes, it goes that bar ends are here to stay. In the foreseeable future, their demand is likely to rise, especially on the premise of realizing more comfort. 

It is not easy winning a discussion that often shifts to reasons why bar ends are necessary. Indeed, they are if you read between the lines!