How To Choose Your Bicycle Handlebars

Along with the saddle and pedals, the bicycle handlebars are one of your three points of support on the bicycle. It is also the one that has the most influence on comfort and handling. Good news: there are a large number of types of bicycle handlebars, suitable for all uses and all body types. Which bicycle handlebars to choose according to your practice? 

Here are some tips to help you navigate the many models of handlebars available.

How to find the right model of bicycle handlebars?

A bicycle handlebar is made up of two elements: the handlebars and the stem. The handlebar is the part of the handlebars on which the hands rest. The stem is used to connect the handlebars to the steerer tube. These two elements are almost always distinct, allowing you to play separately on different settings.

To choose the right bicycle handlebar for your practice, you have to determine your ideal riding position. This can be higher or lower, more or less elongated, and your arms more or less apart.

Handlebars and stem: the two elements of a bicycle handlebar

The choice of the stem allows you to vary two parameters:

  • – The length of the stem has an influence on the lengthening of your posture.
  • – The inclination of the stem has an influence on the height of the handlebars.

Sometimes you just need to change the stem to find the right position, without having to change the handlebars. A shorter or more raised stem will thus increase comfort. There are tilt adjustable stems , which are quite common on city bikes.

The choice of hanger allows for a wide variety of positions depending on the model. There are 4 main types of bicycle hangers:

  • – The straight hanger , which almost always has a slight curvature backwards. It equips mountain bikes or hybrid bikes.
  • – The curved hanger , which allows a higher position and less lying. It is mainly used on city bikes.
  • – The “butterfly” type multi-position handlebar , which allows you to vary the positions on long journeys. It mainly equips touring or trekking bikes.
  • – The road handlebar , recognizable by its arched shape. It equips road or gravel bikes, but is also very versatile.

Which handlebars for a road bike?

For a road bike, three parameters are taken into account when choosing a handlebar: width, height and depth.

The classic road handlebar is rounded in shape, high enough and deep enough, suitable for sports use. This is a racing bicycle handlebar that allows a very elongated and aerodynamic position when the hands are at the bottom of the handlebars.

There are also compact road bars , which have less height difference between the upper part and the lower part, and are also shallower. They are often more versatile and better suited to long distances. If you lack the back flexibility to stay in the low position on a classic road handlebar, this is also the right choice. A compact hanger will indeed allow you to better vary the positions and thus gain in comfort.

How to choose the width of a road bike handlebar  ? Your arms should be parallel when you have your hands resting on the casseroles. A slightly wider handlebars will allow better handling, for example on a gravel bike.

Which MTB handlebar to choose?

A mountain bike handlebar is equipped with a straight handlebar wide enough to ensure precise and efficient steering. The width varies from 70 to 80 cm . Wider handlebars are more stable and safer in high speed turns, but they still make the steering less responsive.

Although we speak of a straight or flatbar, MTB handlebars are not completely straight. They have a slight curvature that allows you to adapt your position. This has an influence on the height and the setback of the handlebars in relation to the stem .

To improve your position on an MTB, you can for example choose a rather raised MTB handlebar. This is a preferable solution to a stack of spacers under the stem. There are also various accessories for flat handlebars, including handlebar horns , which improve comfort.

Which bicycle handlebars for the city?

Unlike road and mountain biking, there is no specific city bike handlebar. The curved hanger is undoubtedly the most common solution. Choosing a city bike handlebar however offers a very wide range of possibilities depending on your practice.

The curved handlebars allow for a fairly straight position on the bike, which is generally sought after by most riders.

The MTB or VTC type straight handlebars will be better suited to those who prefer a slightly reclined position, which is often more comfortable than a too upright position. Depending on the geometry of your bike, the choice of the stem (length, inclination) is often enough to find the right position on a straight handlebar. This also has the advantage of being able to be cut to the right width. In town, a narrower arch makes it easier to slip through traffic!

The butterfly handlebars are also a good choice on a city bike. The butterfly handlebars allow you to vary the positions on the handlebars if you have long journeys. It also turns your city bike into a touring bike for weekends and vacations.

Finally, the road bike handlebars are perfectly suited to the city. It allows precise steering to squeeze between cars. For more comfort, an upward sloping stem combined with a compact handlebar often offers more comfort than a straight handlebar. Unlike the three previous types of handlebars, the road handlebar however requires specific brake and gear levers . 

Except in the case of an old bicycle with gear levers on the frame: the choice of a vintage bicycle handlebar can then be done more easily between road handlebars and straight or curved handlebars.

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