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How to Choose Perfect Bike Handlebars for Your Loving Cycle

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No matter the type of bike you ride – be it a mountain bike, road bike, or single-speed fixed-gear bike – one component remains essential: the handlebar.  

With numerous types available, each possessing its own advantages and disadvantages, choosing the right handlebar can significantly impact your biking experience. 

From influencing overall handling and stability to ensuring reliability, handlebars play a crucial role in your bike’s performance.

To assist you in selecting the ideal handlebar for your biking style, I have crafted an easily comprehensible guide. By reading this straightforward resource, you’ll gain a deep understanding of the distinctive differences between each handlebar type. 

Armed with this knowledge, you might even consider yourself a “handlebar guru”. So without further ado, let’s dive into the ultimate guide to bicycle handlebars.

What are Bike Handlebars 

Bike handlebars refer to the component of a bicycle that riders use to steer and control the direction of the bike. 

Handlebars are typically positioned at the front of the bicycle and provide a place for the rider to grip and exert control over the bike’s movements.

What are the Main Uses of Bike Handlebars

Bike handlebars serve multiple important functions when it comes to riding a bicycle. 

One of the primary purposes of bike handlebars is steering and control. By gripping the handlebars, riders can turn the front wheel, determining the bike’s direction. Whether it’s navigating tight corners, avoiding obstacles, or making smooth turns.

Another essential aspect is the riding position. Different handlebar styles offer various riding positions, allowing riders to find the most comfortable and efficient posture for their needs. 

For instance, flat handlebars provide an upright riding position, which is well-suited for leisurely rides or commuting, as it offers good visibility and a relaxed posture. 

Conversely, drop handlebars enable a more aerodynamic position, where riders lean forward and tuck their bodies to reduce wind resistance. This position is commonly preferred by road cyclists and racers aiming for higher speeds.

Furthermore, bike handlebars offer different hand positions, contributing to rider comfort and reducing fatigue. Handlebars with multiple grip options, such as drop handlebars or bullhorn handlebars, enable riders to shift their hands and posture during longer rides. 

By doing so, they can alleviate pressure on specific muscles and joints, distribute weight more evenly, and reduce the risk of discomfort or numbness.

A Brief History of Bike Handlebars

The origin of bike handlebars can be traced back to Karl von Drais, who invented them in 1818 for his creation known as the dandy horse. This innovative vehicle served as inspiration for the modern safety bicycle. Initially, bike handlebars were solid bars made of wood or steel.

In the 1920s, Percy Stenton made a significant contribution by inventing drop handlebars, which have since become the preferred type for road bikes.

Since then, a multitude of bike handlebars have been developed to cater to various cycling disciplines and accommodate the riding styles of different cyclists. This continuous evolution has resulted in a diverse range of handlebar options available today.

Conquer the Open Road with Confidence: Our Top 3 Picks for Bike Handlebars

The cycling world boasts an overwhelming variety of bike handlebars, making the perfect choice a daunting task. But fear not intrepid rider! This carefully curated list unveils the top 3 bike handlebars, simplifying your navigation through the complexities of the market. Through meticulous evaluation, we’ve handpicked three exceptional options catering to diverse needs and preferences. Whether you’re a tech-savvy speedster, a leisurely cruiser, or a trail-blazing explorer, we’ve got you covered. Our top 3 picks embody innovation, quality, and unparalleled comfort, guaranteeing the perfect match for your cycling adventures. So, embrace the open road with confidence and embark on unforgettable journeys with the ideal handlebar by your side

Last update on 2024-02-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

How to Raise Bike Handlebars

Raising the handlebars on a bike can be done to achieve a more upright riding position, which can increase comfort, especially for individuals who prefer a more relaxed posture or have back or neck issues. Here are the general steps to raise bike handlebars:

Determine the Maximum Height: Before making any adjustments, check if there is enough steerer tube length available above the headset. The steerer tube is part of the fork that extends above the headset and into the bike stem

Ensure that there is sufficient extra length to raise the bike handlebars to the desired height without exceeding the maximum limit marked on the steerer tube.

Loosen the Stem Bolts: Locate the bolts on the stem that secure it to the steerer tube. Depending on the type of stem, there may be one or two bolts on the side or on the top. Use an appropriate wrench or Allen key to loosen these bolts. 

You don’t need to remove them entirely; just loosen them enough to allow adjustment.

Adjust the Stem Height: Once the stem bolts are loosened, you can make adjustments to raise the handlebars. Hold onto the front wheel between your knees to keep the handlebars and fork steady. 

Then, gently pull upward on the handlebars while applying downward pressure on the saddle to lift the stem. Raise it to the desired height, making sure it aligns with your preferred riding position.

Align the Handlebars: As you raise the stem, ensure that the handlebars remain straight and properly aligned with the front wheel. Take a moment to check that they are not twisted or tilted to one side. Make any necessary adjustments to achieve a balanced and even alignment.

Secure the Stem: Once the handlebars are at the desired height and properly aligned, tighten the stem bolts gradually and evenly. Start with the lower bolt, if there are two, and alternate tightening each bolt a little at a time until they are securely fastened. 

Be careful not to overtighten, as it can damage the components or create unnecessary stress on the steerer tube.

Test and Adjust: After securing the stem, give the bike handlebars a firm shake to ensure they are stable and properly tightened. Take a short test ride to evaluate the new handlebar height and make any further adjustments if needed. 

Pay attention to your comfort and handling during the ride.

Note: It’s worth mentioning that some bikes may have limitations on how much the handlebars can be raised due to the length of the steerer tube or the design of the bike’s frame. 

If you encounter any difficulty or have concerns, it’s advisable to consult a professional bike mechanic for assistance.

Most Common Bike Handlebar Types

There are several common types of bike handlebars that cater to different riding styles and preferences. Here are the most widely used types:

1. Flat Bars

Flat bicycle handlebars are available in various sizes, ranging from 800mm for downhill and mountain bikes to mini 440mm bars for urban and fixed-gear bikes.

It has become popular among fixed gear and urban cyclists to trim their bike handlebars to narrower widths. While narrower flat bars make steering less precise and more effortful, they reduce weight and make filtering through traffic easier by minimizing the risk of clipping car wing mirrors.

Pros

  • Ample space for attaching accessories.
  • Narrower sizes facilitate maneuvering through traffic.
  • Even weight distribution enhances lower spine comfort.
  • Well-suited for hill climbs, providing an effective riding position.
  • Easy accessibility to brakes due to reduced number of hand positions.

Cons

  • A limited number of hand positions can lead to discomfort.
  • Upright cycling position hampers aerodynamics and top speeds.
  • Wider flat bars used in mountain biking can snag in narrow sections.
  • Flat handlebars are the most common type, recognized by their shallow, horizontal profile. They are commonly found on mountain bikes, hybrid bikes, and increasingly on fixed gear and urban bicycles.

While flat handlebars offer a smaller range of hand positions, they come with several benefits:

  • Beginner-friendly and easy to learn with.
  • Responsive steering is facilitated by the increased width.
  • Sufficient space for mounting bike lights and accessories.
  • Compatible with handlebar extensions/bar ends for easy customization.
  • Many flat handlebars incorporate a slight back sweep (a 2-10 degree bend towards the rider), providing added comfort for wrists and hands while cycling.

2. Drop Bars

Drop bars have long dominated the road bike handlebar market and are widely used in racing and adventure bikes due to their numerous advantages.

These bike handlebars are easily recognizable by their distinctive hooked shape. They extend horizontally from the stem before angling toward the front of the bike and curving downward towards the rider.

Drop handlebars offer more hand positions than most other handlebar types, making them the preferred choice for road bikes as the dropped section encourages an aerodynamic tuck position.

The tuck position is ideal for downhill rides and reducing wind resistance. Traditionally, drop bars are narrow, ranging from 360mm to 520mm. The narrower width encourages elbows to tuck in, further reducing aerodynamic drag.

Due to their slim profile, traditional drop bars may not provide optimal handling for technical routes or sharp turns.

However, there are various variations of drop bars available, including flared drop handlebars. These are commonly used in gravel and adventure bikes. The flared bar ends offer improved handling and leverage when cycling off-road.

Although less common, some cyclists invert drop handlebars, causing them to curl upwards from the stem. This configuration provides an upright riding posture with multiple grip options.

Pros

  • Provide good leverage for pedaling and hill climbs.
  • Multiple hand positions for tackling ascents and descents.
  • Improved aerodynamics compared to most other handlebar types.
  • Flared drop handlebars are well-suited for gravel and adventure bikes.

Cons

  • Requires adjustment to a new type of brakes.
  • Lower riding position hampers visibility of surroundings.
  • Longer reach increases pressure on the hands and spine.

3. Bullhorn Bars

Bullhorn bars are a type of bicycle handlebar that extends horizontally from the stem before curving away from the rider and upwards at both ends, resembling bull horns. The forward section of bullhorn handlebars offers an aggressive cycling position that cyclists can utilize to enhance speed and minimize drag.

Originally used by time trial and track cyclists due to their advantageous aero tuck position and improved pedaling leverage, bullhorn handlebars are now commonly found on track bikes and fixed gear/single-speed bikes.

With their narrow profile, bullhorn bars provide less leverage compared to most handlebars, making them less suitable for mountain biking, which requires greater leverage for technical trails. 

However, it is possible to modify mountain bike handlebars by adding bar extensions to emulate bullhorns, providing assistance during hill climbs.

Most bullhorn handlebars have a width ranging from 360mm to 480mm, significantly narrower than flat bars. Many cyclists customize drop-style handlebars using the “chop and flop” method to create their own customized bullhorn-style bike handlebars.

Pros

  • Increased aerodynamics in the tuck position.
  • The narrow profile enables easy filtering through city traffic.
  • Appreciated by cyclists for their aggressive appearance.
  • Compatible with both time trial and conventional brake types.
  • Multiple hand positions for different terrains and cycling styles.

Cons

  • Hand placement may not always be near the brake levers.
  • A narrow profile reduces leverage and can result in jolty steering.
  • Aero tuck position limits the visibility of oncoming traffic and increases strain on the spine.

4. Riser Bars

Riser handlebars have a similar profile to flat handlebars but with a slight upward angle on both ends, providing a raised hand position while cycling. This elevated position allows cyclists to maintain a comfortable, upright seated posture and reduces pressure on the hands and wrists.

Riser handlebars are commonly used on mountain bikes, hybrid bikes, and urban road bikes, similar to flat bars. These handlebars are wide, offering an upright position that provides a clear view of the road or trails ahead, which is why they are popular among road and urban cyclists.

Riser handlebars come in various widths, ranging from as narrow as 480mm to around 850mm. You can also choose different heights, with the average height falling between 20-50mm.

Many super-wide riser handlebars are designed to be trimmed down to the desired size. Riders often prefer a width slightly wider than their shoulders to open the chest and prevent hunching over.

Both riser and flat handlebars are favored by cyclists for their unrestricted storage space, allowing for the attachment of oversized bike bags for bike packing purposes.

Pros

  • Ample space for mounting accessories.
  • Reduces pressure on hands and wrists.
  • Wider handlebars offer increased leverage and control.
  • Compatible with bar ends for improved hill climb efficiency.
  • The upright riding position provides clear visibility of traffic and obstacles.

Cons

  • Slightly heavier and more expensive than flat bars.
  • Poor aerodynamics due to the upright cycling position.
  • Upright position can increase saddle pressure on the crotch.
  • Wider risers may not be suitable for narrow gaps in traffic or on trails.

5. Aero Bars (Triathlon Bars or Time Trial Bars)

Aero bars are a type of bicycle handlebar that attaches to the middle of your handlebars, either through a detachable clamp or an integrated design. Aero bars position you in a hunched-over posture, significantly reducing wind resistance and enabling you to achieve 1-2mph higher speeds with the same effort.

These bike handlebars excel in aerodynamics and are commonly constructed from carbon fiber, with lower-end options utilizing hydroformed aluminum.

Outside of competitive disciplines like Time Trials, Triathlon, and track racing, aero bars are not commonly found on bikes. The tight tuck position they offer is uncomfortable and provides no benefits for casual cycling aside from the visual resemblance to a fighter jet.

Due to the forward-leaning position associated with aero bars, cyclists often use padded cups to support their arms and maintain the optimal aerodynamic tuck position. Many aero bars feature integrated gear shifters, allowing cyclists to control their gears while maintaining the tuck position.

While aero bars offer impressive advantages, they often come with a higher cost due to the extensive engineering required to enhance performance with each new model. 

Some cyclists perceive aero bars as risky since they significantly reduce steering ability, increasing the chance of accidents when encountering unexpected turns or obstacles.

Pros

  • Lightweight construction.
  • Best handlebar type for aerodynamics.
  • Internal cable routing for a clean appearance.
  • Clip-on aero bars can be easily removed when not in use.

Cons

  • Not suitable for hill climbs.
  • Typically the most expensive road handlebar types.
  • Central grip reduces steering capabilities, potentially risky on unfamiliar roads.

6. Cruiser Bars

Cruiser handlebars have a history dating back to the 1890s and are commonly found on bikes designed for comfort, including comfort bikes, city bikes, and cruiser bikes. These bike handlebars are specifically designed for leisurely cruising, providing riders with an upright and comfortable riding position.

There is a wide variety of cruiser handlebar shapes and sizes available, ranging from higher bars resembling ape hangers to flat-profile bars that extend further back toward the rider.

Since traditional cruisers typically use coaster brakes and internally geared hubs, their handlebars often have a clean and uncluttered appearance without cable routing.

Many cyclists take advantage of this available space by attaching baskets or crates, which can be convenient for running errands while enjoying a leisurely cruise.

Pros

  • Ample space for mounting accessories.
  • Offer a comfortable, upright cycling position.
  • Wide cruiser bars provide smooth and precise steering.

Cons

  • Limited pedaling leverage for hill climbs.
  • The upright cycling position increases pressure on the crotch area.
  • New users may require some time to adapt to cruiser bars initially.
  • Poor aerodynamics and heavier compared to average bicycle handlebars.

7. Trekking Bars (Butterfly Bars or Touring Bars)

Butterfly handlebars, also known as trekking bars or touring bars, are commonly found on trekking and touring bicycles. They derive their name from their distinctive figure-of-eight shape.

The unique shape of butterfly handlebars makes them an excellent choice for long-distance bike rides, as they offer multiple hand positions, helping to prevent numbness and wrist discomfort.

To enhance comfort, butterfly handlebars are often covered in thick foam padding, allowing cyclists to use any hand position they prefer for extended periods.

Given their width, butterfly handlebars can sometimes come into contact with the bike frame during tight corners. Some cyclists address this issue by fitting a longer stem to prevent such interference.

Pros

  • Ideal for bike packing and bike touring.
  • Suitable for a wide range of cycling positions.
  • Provide ample space for mounting accessories.
  • Offer a greater number of hand positions compared to other handlebar types.

Cons

  • Hands may not always be positioned near the brakes.
  • Heavier than most handlebar types due to increased length.
  • Upright riding position increases drag and requires more energy.

8. BMX Handlebars

BMX handlebars are specifically designed for performing stunts and tricks, setting them apart from other handlebar types commonly used on different bike styles. To enhance leverage on the front wheel and facilitate trick execution, BMX handlebars typically have a rise measurement ranging from 7-11 inches.

In addition, to rise, two other important measurements to consider for BMX handlebars are their width, which usually spans from 27-32 inches (end to end), and their up and back sweep, with an average of 2 degrees up and 12 degrees back.

Due to the significant rise, BMX handlebars often feature a crossbar that extends between the two handlebar ends, providing added durability during high-impact tricks and falls.

When discussing BMX handlebars, the term “rise” refers to the distance from the center of the bar, where the stem attaches, to the inner hoods at the top of the bars. Most BMX handlebars are constructed from either aluminum or Chromoly. Aluminum is lighter, but Chromoly offers a better strength-to-weight ratio.

Pros

  • Incredibly rigid and resistant to flexing under pressure.
  • Excellent leverage on the front wheel for performing tricks.
  • Strong design capable of withstanding heavy impacts and falls.

Cons

  • Not applicable if you don’t ride BMX.
  • Generally cheaper compared to most other types of bike handlebars.

Less Common Types of Handlebars on Bikes 

The following bike handlebar types are less common and may not be readily available in most cycling stores.

If any of these handlebar types pique your interest or if you’d like to learn more about a specific type, you can find helpful videos on YouTube, and it’s likely that you’ll need to purchase them online.

1. Ape Hangers

Ape hanger handlebars offer an exceptionally high rise, with the handles typically positioned around shoulder height. This places riders in an upright position, with their arms stretched forward and parallel to the ground.

While ape hangers are commonly seen on motorcycles, particularly on Harley Davidson bikes, there are also versions available for bicycles. The bicycle ape hangers were first introduced in the 1960s on the classic Schwinn Stingray chopper bicycles.

After passing through the stem, ape hanger bars rise steeply in either a V or U shape. In some cases, the handles of ape hanger handlebars may even sit above the rider’s head, which explains the name!

Most modern ape hanger handlebars provide a rise of 8 to 16 inches. Taller versions used to be available, but for safety reasons, several laws now restrict the sale of handlebars with more than 16 inches of rise.

Due to the extreme upright riding position they offer, if you choose ape hangers, it may be advisable to consider a more comfortable bike saddle. Additionally, many users find that ape hangers place pressure on the crotch and can strain the back and shoulders.

Overall, ape hangers are not highly practical handlebars. They offer less leverage compared to most handlebar types and can be uncomfortable for longer rides. 

2. H Bars

H bar handlebars, invented by Jeff Jones, come in various models that are variations of the same handlebar type. H bars offer an upright riding position with back sweep similar to certain cruiser handlebar types.

Some H bar models feature a front loop, referred to as a “loop bar” by Jeff. This extension protrudes in front of the rider, enabling a more aerodynamic tucked cycling position.

It’s important to note that earlier models of H bars may not be compatible with bar-end shifters, so it’s advisable to check compatibility before making a purchase.

3. Porteur Handlebars

Porteur handlebars are commonly found on vintage road bikes. These bike handlebars bear a resemblance to cruiser handlebar types and are often used in conjunction with a front basket or crate for cargo transport.

Porteur handlebars form a curved W shape, providing riders with multiple hand positions and a comfortable upright cycling posture.

Classic French porteur handlebars feature brakes mounted on the bar ends, with the levers facing toward the front of the bike along the underside of the handlebars. Nowadays, porteur handlebars are less commonly available and can be found primarily in specialist online stores. 

4. Condorino Handlebars

Condorino handlebars were introduced in the late 1940s or early 1950s and originated in Italy. The term “Condorino” translates to “little condor” in English, referring to the well-known bird of prey.

The design of these bike handlebars is distinct and becomes apparent upon seeing them. The curved handles and sharp-angled hoods mimic the wings of a small condor.

Condorino handlebars are specifically designed for town bicycles and leisure road bikes. Their narrower width compared to most other handlebar types makes them suitable for maneuvering through narrow streets.

However, due to their narrowness, condorino handlebars may not provide the same level of stability and control as wider options.

5. Whatton Handlebars

Whatton handlebars are unconventional bicycle handlebars used on recumbent bikes with under-the-seat steering and on penny-farthing bikes, where they loop behind the rider’s legs during riding.

As one can imagine, these bike handlebars require some adaptation compared to traditional handlebars, but they are only necessary when riding a recumbent or penny-farthing.

The underleg design of Whatton handlebars was initially developed to allow riders to quickly dismount their penny-farthings in anticipation of crashes or other dangerous situations.

However, these handlebars are rarely used nowadays since the invention of the safety bicycle, which became the norm, and penny-farthings have become much less common.

6. Mustache Handlebars

The name “mustache handlebars” is quite self-explanatory. These handlebars were first introduced in the early 1990s and resemble a pair of drop handlebars that have been flattened.

Mustache handlebars are a type of road bike handlebar that offer multiple hand positions for riders. Typically, the brakes are positioned at the front of each peak of their M shape or where the hooks of drop handlebars would have been.

Due to this brake placement, the rider’s hands are positioned in front of the stem, which can be a stretch for some, particularly if the bike has a longer stem installed.

7. Bullmoose Handlebars

Bullmoose handlebars share similarities in appearance and functionality with flat and riser handlebar types, but they have distinct features. These bike handlebars come in various variations, but most notably, they eliminate the need for a separate stem by directly attaching to the fork steerer tube.

The bars are connected to the fork steerer tube using a stem clamp at the back of the handlebars, which forms a small V-shaped triangle with two small bars. Bullmoose handlebars were originally used on early mountain bikes but have gradually lost popularity over the years due to their increased weight and higher cost.

8. Recumbent Bicycle Handlebars

Recumbent handlebars are specifically designed for use with recumbent bicycles, so they may not be familiar to many cyclists. Certain types of recumbent handlebars resemble ape hangers, extending towards the rider, enabling them to maintain control while remaining comfortably reclined.

While most recumbent handlebars are positioned in front of the rider, there are various types available. Some are located on each side of the rider, while others are positioned underneath the bike seat, similar to Whatton handlebars, allowing riders to dismount the bike quickly.

Since recumbent bikes prioritize comfort and spinal support, their handlebars are designed accordingly. However, they tend to be more expensive than conventional handlebar types, as they are often tailored to specific models or brands of recumbent bicycles.

Determine the Ideal Width for Your Bike Handlebars

The width of your bike handlebars is an important factor to consider when selecting the right ones. Here, I will provide guidance on determining the appropriate handlebar width for both road bikes and mountain bikes.

Optimal Width for Road Bike Handlebars

The ideal width for road bike handlebars depends on your specific cycling preferences. If you engage in competitive racing and high-speed pursuits, narrower handlebars are recommended.

Narrow handlebars contribute to reduced aerodynamic drag and facilitate a more streamlined riding position, allowing you to achieve a tighter tuck.

Conversely, if you primarily use your road bike for commuting or leisurely rides, wider handlebars will provide enhanced comfort and smoother steering, improving your maneuverability around corners.

While there isn’t a definitive width that suits every rider, many cyclists find that drop bars matching their shoulder width or the width of their acromioclavicular (AC) joints are a good starting point.

If you’re uncertain about the optimal width for your road bike handlebars, I suggest visiting your local bike shop and test-riding various bikes with different handlebar widths to determine your preference.

Optimal Width for Mountain Bike Handlebars

Similar to road bike handlebars, the appropriate width for mountain bike handlebars depends on the specific discipline of mountain biking you primarily engage in.

For riders focused on aerial maneuvers and manualing, narrower mountain bike handlebars are recommended. These narrower bars allow for greater control and maneuverability in the air.

On the other hand, riders tackling technical downhill courses and challenging mountain bike trails often prefer wider handlebars. The added width provides increased stability and precise steering, enhancing their overall riding experience.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a definitive formula for determining the perfect bike handle width. Suggestions range from using your press-up hand width to shoulder width. However, ultimately, it’s best to rely on what feels comfortable and works well with the geometry of your specific bicycle.

What to Consider When Buying Bicycle Handlebars

Before buying new bike handlebars, there are several important factors to consider to ensure you choose the best option for your bike. Follow the steps below for a successful handlebar selection process:

1. Handlebar Height/Rise

Take note of the handlebar height or rise as it directly affects your riding comfort. Handlebars with a minimal rise that requires a forward-leaning position can increase pressure on your hands and wrists, potentially leading to numbness and tingling during longer rides. 

Conversely, bike handlebar types that provide an upright riding position offer more comfort for extended distances. 

However, it’s important to note that an upright position sacrifices aerodynamics and may increase pressure on the crotch area. If you opt for upright handlebars, consider using a saddle with additional padding for added comfort.

2. Handlebar Width

Most bike handlebars are available in various widths to accommodate riders of different sizes. For example, drop bars typically range from 34 to 50 cm. It’s common for riders to choose handlebars with grips positioned approximately shoulder-width apart, allowing the arms to rest parallel to each other. 

However, with other handlebar types, such as flat bars, riders may prefer a wider grip position, often measuring around 58 to 60 cm on average.

It’s worth noting that handlebar width measurement can vary among manufacturers. Some measure from edge to edge, while others measure between grip positions. To ensure a proper fit, it’s recommended to try different bike handlebars before making a purchase, ensuring they are the correct width for your body.

3. Handlebar Shape

The shape of your handlebars plays a crucial role in both the performance and comfort of your bicycle. It’s important to carefully examine the hand positions offered by each handlebar type.

Handlebars that provide multiple hand positions are generally more comfortable during long rides. This is why butterfly handlebars are often preferred on touring bikes. 

On the other hand, if you prioritize reducing weight, you may choose to customize a pair of flat handlebars by cutting them down, thereby minimizing the weight of your bicycle.

4. Stem, Lever, and Grip Clamp Diameter

Prior to purchasing new handlebars for your bicycle, it is important to take into account the diameter of the bar you are considering. 

If you are replacing your current bike handlebars, it is advisable to measure the size of the stem clamp to ensure you know what size to seek when selecting your new bars. I have compiled a useful chart detailing the standard sizes for these measurements to assist you.

Stem Clamp SizeGrip & Lever Clamp SizeType of Handlebars for Bicycles
22.2mm (7/8″)22.2mm (7/8″)Handlebars of this size are commonly made from steel and are typically found on older mountain bikes or BMX bicycles.
23.8mm (15/16″)22.2mm (7/8″)This is another outdated handlebar size that was previously used for British road bikes and three-speed bicycles. 
Although these handlebars were made of steel, this particular size is no longer in use.
25mm (61/62″)23.5mm (13/14″)Old French Handlebar Size.
25.4mm (1″)22.2mm (7/8″)This handlebar size adheres to the Standard ISO measurement and is commonly found on most new bicycles equipped with flat or riser handlebars. 
It is especially prevalent among modern mountain bikes and hybrid bikes.
25.4mm (1″)23.8mm (15/16″)This size confirms to the ISO standard and is the most common measurement for drop handlebars.
25.8mm (1″)23.8mm (15/16″)This Italian size falls between two ISO standard sizes and is intended for use with either of them.
It is a less common size primarily found in higher-end road bike handlebars.
26mm (1″)23.8mm (15/16″)This is the standard size for drop bars and various other handlebar types that are compatible with Italian stems.
However, it is misleading and incorrect to refer to this size as the “road bike handlebar size,” as it is not exclusive to road bikes.
26.4mm (1″)23.8mm (15/16″)Since 1998, Cinelli and some other older Italian handlebars have transitioned to a size of 26mm.
27mm (1″)23.8mm (15/16″)Discontinued.
31.8mm (1 1/4″)23.8mm (15/16″)Oversized road bike handlebars.

5. Bicycle Handlebar Materials

In today’s market, bike handlebars are offered in a diverse range of materials, each possessing distinct characteristics and catering to various riding styles. The prevalent handlebar materials available today include aluminum alloy, carbon, titanium, and steel.

Determining the optimal handlebar material primarily hinges on factors such as:

  • The type of bike you ride
  • Your riding style and preferred cycling disciplines
  • Your budget
  • Your priorities and specific requirements for new handlebars

Refer to the table below for guidance on selecting the appropriate material for your bike handlebars.

Handlebar MaterialProperties
Aluminium AlloyAluminum handlebars are widely preferred by cyclists due to their popularity. They offer a combination of lightweight construction, versatility across various handlebar designs, and affordability.
While aluminum bars are typically 20-40% heavier than carbon bars on average, they possess greater durability and are less susceptible to irreparable damage.
Carbon FibreCarbon fiber is the top preference for those seeking to minimize the weight of their bike. As mentioned earlier, carbon handlebars can weigh up to 40% less than equivalent aluminum bars.
However, it’s important to note that carbon bars can be quite rigid, which may lead to discomfort during extended rides. Additionally, carbon handlebars are more susceptible to damage and require careful handling.
Even a minor accident or impact may not visibly affect carbon bars, but they could sustain significant internal damage, posing a safety risk if ridden with unnoticed damage.
TitaniumTitanium handlebars are not as widely seen as carbon or aluminum bars.
Certain riders appreciate titanium bars for their slightly less rigid nature compared to most carbon bars while still being lighter and stronger than aluminum bars.
However, titanium handlebars are often the most costly option, as the production process is more intricate and time-consuming.
SteelSteel handlebars have taken a backseat in recent times. During the 1960s when Schwinn Stingrays and chopper bikes were popular, steel handlebars were much more prevalent.
Steel handlebars are stronger than aluminum and carbon bars, but they come with a significant weight penalty and are more expensive than aluminum bars, which is why they are less commonly found in the market today.

A Bit About Bike Handlebar Grips, Tape, and Plugs

Bike handlebar coverings provide cyclists with enhanced safety and comfort during their rides. Without any form of covering, bike handlebars can become slippery, leading to potential accidents. Here are some commonly used coverings:

1. Bike Handlebar Grips

Grip coverings are effective in increasing a rider’s comfort and maintaining control of the handlebar while cycling. Grips are particularly suitable for mountain bikes and BMX bikes. However, it’s worth noting that some track bikes also utilize rubber grips on the end of their drop bars.

2. Bar Tape

Handlebar tape is another option for improving grip and hand comfort while cycling. It is primarily used on drop bars but can also be found on other types of bike handlebars, such as aero bars and bullhorns. 

Tape is commonly used in road bikes, while grips are more prevalent in mountain bikes and off-road bikes.

Bar tape allows for bike customization, as it is available in various colors and prints. Different types of tape offer different features, such as absorbency to maintain grip even when hands are sweaty or a glossy finish with increased cushioning.

3. Handlebar End Plugs

These small plugs are inserted into the end of your bike handlebars, also known as bar ends (not to be confused with handlebar extensions). 

Almost every cyclist uses handlebar plugs for two reasons: they seal the handlebars to prevent dirt from filling them, and riding without them can lead to severe injuries.

In the unfortunate event of a crash, unplugged bars can easily puncture your skin, resulting in traumatic injuries. Many cyclists have lost their lives or suffered horrific injuries due to missing bar plugs.

Role of Bike Handlebar Extensions 

Bike handlebar extensions are a valuable addition to enhance the cycling experience in various ways. These extensions are short bars that protrude outward like horns and are typically found on the flat or riser bar of mountain or hybrid bikes.

By incorporating handlebar extensions, cyclists can adopt a more aggressive riding position, which offers advantages such as increased pedaling leverage, which is particularly useful when tackling uphill climbs. 

This is why bar extensions are commonly seen on flat and riser handlebars, as these handlebar types would otherwise be less efficient on hilly terrain. 

Furthermore, handlebar extensions allow riders to vary their hand positions, preventing numbness or discomfort that can arise during longer rides.

Closing Thoughts — Bike Handlebars

Bike handlebars encompass more than just a lengthy metal component responsible for steering the front wheel.

So, regardless of the handlebar type you opt for, it is crucial to ensure it aligns with the specific riding style you intend to pursue. Rest, I wish you a happy cycling journey.

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Bike Handlebars — Frequently Asked Question

Can bike handlebars be easily replaced with different ones?

Bike handlebars are indeed interchangeable, allowing you to use a variety of handlebars on your bike. However, it is important to ensure that the stem clamp size of the new handlebars is compatible with your bike’s stem.

Are wider handlebars considered to be better?

While the preference for handlebar width varies among riders, wider handlebars are often favored by many, especially those who ride mountain bikes. Wider bars offer improved handling on technical trails and provide increased leverage for navigating tight corners.

Some cyclists also appreciate wider bike handlebars as they help alleviate chest pressure, allowing for easier breathing. However, narrow handlebars also have their advantages. They enable higher speeds and smoother maneuvering through traffic.

When selecting the most suitable handlebars for yourself, it’s essential to consider your specific cycling goals and riding style.

Can straight handlebars be installed on a road bike?

Absolutely! If you find that the drop bars typically found on road bikes don’t provide the comfort or stability you desire, it is entirely possible to replace them with straight, flat handlebars.

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Jacob

I am a passionate, adventurous cyclist and my biking philosophy is to have fun, I felt the need to share my knowledge and learn more about bikes. I always ensure I adhere to all road rules. I hope that you will give biking a try. It’s a great way to get fit and have fun.

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