There are a myriad of handlebar options for bicycles. It could cause some parts guys to throw up their hands in despair. For most cyclists, comfort is the key to choosing the right bar.
Handlebars come in different widths. The width of your shoulders and hips are starting points for selecting width. Then it’s a matter of personal preference and riding style. A narrower bar creates a more aerodynamic profile. A wider bar has more leverage that is useful in mountain biking, tandems, touring and cargo bikes. In general, a wider bar will be more comfortable. Be careful when comparing road bar widths between brands. Some measure the outside width and some measure center to center.
Road bars come in a number of shapes. Some have a flat top, sometimes called wing bar. This gives more surface area for your palm - increasing comfort. “Ergonomic” bars have a flat spot or slight bulge in the curved drop area. This can provide more comfort in this area, but it can reduce the number of comfortable areas. The depth of the drop section can vary; a deeper drop is more aerodynamic - a shallow drop is usually more comfortable. A tighter curve where the bar goes forward creates more room on the top. The amount that the bar goes forward is called the reach and in my experience is the least important factor, but I am tall. Any small people want to change my mind?
Mountain or Hybrid Bars
Mountain, or hybrid handlebars generally provide one position for your hands so I recommend the bolt-on “bar end” for another option for your hands. Mountain bars can be flat or have a rise varying from barely perceptible to five inches. Most flat bars have about a three degree sweep back and are available with a sweep as much as twenty five degrees. Generally, more sweep is more comfortable and less is better for control in rough terrain.
For most riders, comfort is key – and wider bars are better. If you’re racing or riding the wild back country, you’ll sacrifice some comfort for control and aerodynamics, but the speed and agility you’ll gain will make up for the loss of comfort. If you’re not sure which bar is right for you, stop by and ask. We’ll help you choose the perfect bar for your bike.