What is the Best Way to Choose Bike Handlebars?

What is the Best Way to Choose Bike Handlebars?

Handlebar Theory

Comfort

As you bend over your handlebar, you put more weight and pressure on your hands. This pressure is fairly constant on road bikes because you're bent over the bar almost constantly. Despite this, road bikes have a dropped handlebar that allows your hands to rest in a variety of positions, which reduces pressure.

You can only put your hands in one position on mountain bikes with a flat or riser bar. Nevertheless, because you're seated in a more upright position and not putting as much pressure on your hands, this one position is generally not a problem. You can add bar ends to give your hands more variety.

You should check your position on your mountain bike if you feel your wrists or hands going numb during a long mountain bike ride.

  • You don't want to be too spread out in the cockpit. Your arms should be shoulder width apart.
  • Don't lean too far over the handlebars. If so, you may have to get a shorter stem, move your saddle forward, purchase a riser bar, or do a combination of the three.

Leverage

With a large enough lever, Archimedes once said you could move the world. When steering, your handlebars are your lever. The wider the handlebars, the more leverage you have. Pulling or pushing a lever is only possible if the puller or pusher has a stable base from which to work. As your handlebars become wider, you spread your arms out and in doing so, lose leverage.

As you lean over your handlebars, your hands should be at shoulder width. You can go slightly narrower or slightly wider, but no more than two or three inches either way.

Lift

On a road bike, you don't have much need for lift-the ability to lift your front wheel over obstacles. One of the cornerstones of excellent handling on a mountain bike is lift.

Road Bike—Your center on a road bike is low and somewhat forward. Because of this, you don't have much leverage when pulling back on the handlebars, which is crucial when climbing hills. The pros usually keep their hands on the top of the handlebars.


Mountain Bike—Your center on a mountain bike is placed further back. It allows you to lift the front of your bike over obstacles. Increasingly, riders are using riser bars on cross-country bikes as well as downhill bikes. As a result, the rider is able to get back out over their rear tires, which is important on steep descents.

Handlebar Mechanics

The majority of road bikes have drop bars, while most mountain bikes have flat bars. In between, there are wide variations. For example, commuters tend to prefer riser bars. Cyclocrossers prefer drop bars. The aerobar is an odd-looking, but very effective piece of equipment used by triathletes. Choosing a bike depends on the type and how you ride it.

Once you've decided what type of bar you want, consider the following three factors.

Width

Pick a handlebar that closely matches the width of your shoulders. With drop and carbon fiber flat bars, you're stuck with the width you choose. For a narrower grip, you can cut the ends of aluminum or chromoly flat bars.

Strength

Today, most bars are made of aluminum or carbon fiber. Flares, tapers, and butting increase strength and reduce weight. Refer to "Other Considerations" below.

Weight

Aluminum is lighter and less expensive than carbon fiber. Both materials are suitable for handlebars. The question is: Is the weight savings worth the cost?

Other Considerations

Flared

The bar has a larger diameter in the middle of the bar than at its ends. Flared bars do not change the width of the handlebar wall. This is basically a way of adding strength by adding material-a larger tube has more strength. It also adds a little weight.

Tapered

Manufacturers will make the handlebar wall thinner as the bar moves from the stem area to the grips to save weight. This increases strength where it is most needed.

Butted

When it comes to riser bars, which are used primarily on downhill bikes, the bars are butted to increase strength while reducing weight. Butting typically occurs in the middle of the bar, where the stem holds it, and at the bend in the second riser.

Bar Ends

Riders add bar ends to flat or riser bars to create more hand positions. On climbs with poor traction, these devices can also provide additional leverage. As with drops in a drop bar, they allow you to get your weight back and your center of gravity lower.


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