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How to Fix Loose Handlebars on a Bike? – Surefire Ways!

Written by Gary Johnson / Fact checked by Henry Speciale

how to fix loose handlebars on a bike

A successful cycling trip heavily depends on the performance of your bicycle. Before engaging in long hours of biking outdoors, ensure that every bicycle component is perfectly in shape and running well.

Loose bike handlebars is a common bike error that you should always check or inspect. Rotating or moving handlebars are dangerous because it prevents you from steering properly while on the road.

Thus, here is a quick guide about how to fix loose handlebars on a bike. It has detailed step-by-step instructions to help you repair handlebars without going to a professional mechanic. It includes tightening both the loose stems and headset properly.

For more details, continue reading this tutorial to guide you throughout the process.

Things You Need for This Tutorial


Handlebars are one of the most important components of a bicycle responsible for navigating the road in the right direction. This part of the bicycle serves two critical purposes – steering and support. You can turn the handlebars from left to right depending on the direction you want to take.

It makes navigating the road easier and more in control. Handlebars play a crucial role in every biking activity because of the comfort, aerodynamics, and control it offers. It also helps with the distribution of weight while cycling.

The weight of your upper body can lean on the handlebar, while the lower body can be supported by the seat post and bike saddle. In this way, you are more balanced and comfortable when biking. So, bike handlebars must be rigid and stable.

Fixing or adjusting loose handlebars is simple if you have the right knowledge about your bike. It is vital to locate the loose part properly, so you can better adjust the problem. Most of the time, the stem and headset are the root causes of a loose handlebar.

You need an Allen key, spacers, and the steps below to address a loose handlebar and tighten handlebars on the bike properly:

  • Fixing loose stems both threaded and threadless
  • Fixing loose headset
  • Loosen the bolts attached to the stem
  • Install the top cap
  • Put the bolts back on

Fixing Loose Handlebars


Loose stems

Handlebar stems have two types – threadless stems and threaded stems. The stem is a component of your handlebar responsible for connecting the steerer tube to the handlebars. A loose stem can prevent you from controlling the handlebar. For this tutorial, we will both fix loose bike handlebars with threadless stems and threaded stems as follow:

  • Threadless Stems

If you notice that your handlebar has threadless stems, it is important to loosen the stem’s pinch bolts first. Normally, threadless stems are securely attached to the steerer tube with the aid of pinch bolts. It is important to loosen these bolts initially.

Then, there is another bolt located inside the stem itself. Once you already find this bolt, it is also crucial to loosen it. After you loosen the bolts, you can now remove the stem from the steerer tube.

This time we recommend greasing the stem using a thin layer of bike grease before placing it back to the steerer tube. Replace the bolt inside the stem, and tighten it. Ensure that the bolt located inside the tube is firmly fastened before placing it back.

After placing, re-tighten the pinch bolts and inspect whether the handlebars are moving freely.

  • Threaded Stems

For threaded stems, you should unscrew the top cap from the handlebar stem. The cap can be found at the top of the stem, right above the steerer tube. Next, you must loosen the clamp bolts by pulling the stem up and away from the steerer tube.

After separating the two, you should apply a thin layer of lubricant or bicycle grease, then place it back in the steerer tube. Ensure that you straighten handlebars on a bike. Align the stem with the wheel by holding the bike wheel in between your feet.

Once you make sure that the stem is properly aligned with your bike wheels, you can now tighten the clamp bolts while attaching the stem and steerer tube together. Ensure that the attachment is not too loose or too tight as it heavily impacts how you move the handlebar.

Then, you can now screw the top back again, and test your handlebar to see whether it can be moved freely and smoothly.

Loose Headset

You can easily diagnose a loose headset if you hear or experience a knock, rattle or clunk coming at the front side of your bicycle. If there is a persistent disturbing sound on your handlebar, you might be having a loose headset.

To address the issue, here are the steps you need to follow to tighten bicycle handlebars with loose headset:

  • Step 1: Loosen the bolts attached to the stem

The first step you need to take is to loosen all the bolts attached to the stem. Then, remove the top-cap bolt located at the top of the steerer tube or fork. It would help if you waited until the top cap came off.

Ensure that you have enough spacers attached above the steerer tube to get the right fitting you want. You need to observe that you also use enough spacers so that the top cap cannot touch the steerer tube.

If the cap still touches the steerer tube or fork, add spacers as needed. Do it one spacer at a time.

  • Step 2: Install the top cap

Once you are satisfied that you put enough gap between the cap and the steerer tube with the spacer, you can now put the top cap back on. Make sure that you have tightened it down without being too tight or too loose.

If you put the cap too tightly, you will not be able to turn the handlebars smoothly because the bearings tend to be too compressed. Also, the handlebar should be in line with the front bike wheel to prevent redoing the whole process due to improper alignment.

  • Step 3: Put the bolts back on

For the final step, you need to put the bolts you removed from the first step. Usually, there are two bolts attached to the side of the step, you need to put the stem and the steerer tube using these bolts.

Tighten them down one by one. Ensure that you evenly tighten them without making them too snug. If you tighten it too much, it tends to damage the bolt or even crush the steerer tube.


Loose handlebars can potentially cause accidents if they remain unfixed. You cannot control your wheels or the direction you are taking without stable and firm handlebars. Good thing, this article has provided you with an easy-to-follow and understandable step-by-step guide on how to fix loose handlebars on a bike. It both provided ways to fix a loose handlebar stem, as well as the headset.

May you find this tutorial helpful without having to consult a repair mechanic.

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