The choice of road bars available today is huge. So how do you get the bars that fit you the best? Follow our guide to help get the bars best to suit you.
Handlebars can enhance your comfort on a bike and can offer increased control to your riding. Handlebars are one of your three contact points with the bike and so should be considered as important as the saddle or pedal cleats if you are trying to improve comfort.
Historically, as an approximate rule of thumb, your shoulder width always dictated the width of bars required. However, in modern bike riding, riders use narrower bars for improved aerodynamics and wider bars on gravel bikes which can improve comfort and control. Most bike manufacturers build small size bikes with narrower bars and larger bikes with wider bars. This assumes that all riders have shoulders directly correlating to their size, which of course they don’t. If your bike has the standard bars still fitted, there is a good chance that looking at alternative shapes sizes could provide a more comfortable ride.
Bars range from 36 – 46 cm usually in 2 cm increments. Check whether your perspective bar manufacturer measures at the outside or centre of the bars, on the hoods or on the flat of the drops – some bars flare out and can be a fair bit wider on the drops than at the hoods. If you are buying online research is key and remember the old joiners adage, measure twice, cut (Click Buy) once.
The amount the bars drop from the tops to the bottom is a crucial measurement. Deep drop bars can get the rider lower, shallow drop bars lift the rider higher and tend to offer more comfort. Deep drop bars are a good way to get lower on a bike with a longer head-tube. Shallow drop bars allow less flexible riders to utilise the drops position more rather than always riding on the tops or hoods. Shallow drop bars often have around 125mm drop, deep drop bars are up to around 140mm of drop.
The distance between the flat ‘tops’ and the furthest part away of the bend, is the reach. Riders with a long upper body and arms often choose a bar with more reach. Longer bar reach is a great way to get a more aggressive position on the hoods / drops while still retaining a comfy ‘tops’ position on the bars. Over-all total reach is governed by saddle rail fore and aft position, top tube length, stem length and finally bar reach.
There is no right and wrong answer when it comes to bar shape – Its down to personal preference and riding style. Before making the change, test out a different bar on a friends bike to get the feel before committing to a swap. If your bike rides tend to be more leisurely and you rarely (if ever) use the drops, make sure that your ‘tops’ riding position is comfy. Likewise, if you ride on the drops for a fair proportion of your time, a comfy drops position on the ‘hooks’ should be your priority.
Bar shape alternatives go from;
Full Drop & Long Reach eg 3T Aerotundo below
Shallow Drop & Short Reach eg 3T Ergosum Pro Below
The shape of the tops of the bars is also important and is largely down to personal preference. Flatter aero section tops can provide more comfortable grip for some riders. Likewise others prefer a round traditional profile for the tops.
Flat Top bars
The choice of handlebar materials is between carbon and aluminium. Of all the choices available in handlebars, whether they are made of aluminium or carbon makes comparatively little difference, compared to the shape and dimensions of the bars.
Carbon Bars tend to be lighter and can reduce road buzz vibrations, however they ideally need to be checked after any knocks or falls. Recommended torque settings need to be adhered to when fitting. Over tightening (Stem and Levers) can cause potentially dangerous structural damage to the bars.
Aluminium bars are more robust and can cope with more knocks and impacts but are slightly heavier, there is also a wider choice of styles and shapes of aluminium bars.
For the all important ‘pro look’ make sure you use the same manufacturer model bar and stem. If not at the very least, stick to bars and stem of the same colour.
Budget Aluminium – FSA Vero Compact £22.50
Race Aluminium – 3T Ergo Sum Pro £42.50
Aero Aluminium – Deda SuperZero Aero £53.99
Race Carbon – 3T Ergonova Team Stealth £125.00
Aero Carbon – Enve SES Aero Road £390.00