The return of Chicago bars

Although I’m unsure of how the term “chicago bars” originated, I am sure that BMXers the world over have come across the term at some point in their riding careers.

(The moniker refers to the way-past-the-headangle forward positioning of a bike’s handlebars.)

Taller riders in the 80s tended to opt for a mild chicago handlebar position to accomodate the shorter frame top tubes of the era. 90s-era vert riders picked up the mantle in the decade that followed for better handling on the bigger ramps of the day.

In the years that followed, with the rise of dirt, street…and the benefit of longer frames…the chicago bar position seemed to fall out favor.

But is it on its way back?

If a recent Ride magazine interview with Charlie Crumlish is any barometer, signs point to “yes”.

In the interview, reader Daniel Miramontes asks:

Why do you ride your bars forward, and not aligned to your forks?

Charlie responded:

As bars get taller, they are brought closer to your body because of the angle of the headtube. It’s not 90 degrees straight up–it’s 75-ish degrees and pointed towards you. Say you have two bikes, both of them in line with the forks, one has 8.5″ rise bars and the other has 10″. The 10s will sit a lot closer to the rider’s legs and feel weird. So as I went taller, they kept moving forward and it feels great. Having too short of a front end feels like I don’t get any pop when I pull up. I’m also 6’4″ so it helps make my bike a little longer.

Granted, Charlie is known as much for riding a different looking bike as he is for his signature riding style.

charlie crumlish

That being said, you can’t argue with his explanation regarding how taller bars…and a taller riders height…point to the need to go at least a little chicago when you go to set up your bike.


If you want to get a little “Chicago” yourself, why not run a pair of the S&M FUBARS Charlie designed.