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    The most important info about the road bike handlebar

    Sophia Willmes
    Sophia Willmes
    Mar 4, 2024 9 min
    The most important info about the road bike handlebar

    An underestimated component

    For optimum performance on the road bike, you should put all your energy into the drive. In order to be able to ride pain-free, the seating position and the contact surfaces on the racing bike are essential. Cyclists are in contact with the bicycle via the saddle, pedals, and handlebars. They influence efficiency and freedom from pain. A comfortable grip position and support of the arms enable great riding pleasure and success. So the overall ergonomics of the rider also depends on the handlebars. Anyone who studies road bike handlebars quickly realizes the depth of the subject. There are different types and shapes for different applications. In the following, you will learn everything you need to know about road bike handlebars.

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    1. What is the benefit of a road bike handlebar?

    Basically, the road bike handlebars with its characteristic swing after one advantage - aerodynamics. When driving relaxed, you can touch the handlebar "normally" on the upper bar. If you want to be faster and especially more efficient on the road, you lean on the curved ends of the handlebars. This way you sit "more bent" on the bike and offer less attack surface to the wind. This results in a more efficient ride, especially at high speeds.

    Often, you only deal with the road bike handlebars when you are passionate and sit a lot on the bike . Those who have optimized their wheels and hubs will sooner or later come across an underestimated component: the handlebars. The handlebars influence the seating position and can therefore promote poor posture. We all differ in our physique. It is logical that standard mounted parts are not suitable for every buyer. You quickly notice this on the saddle. The seat humps hurt particularly quickly with the wrong saddle width. But also the handlebars can be individually adapted to the driver. Many complaints while riding are caused by an incorrect seating position, but there is no such thing as the right one. The length of the inner leg can be used to determine the seat height determined. Whether the seating position should be sportily bent and thus aerodynamic, or rather straight and comfortable as on a mountain bike, is a matter of taste on long tours. It also depends on the distance to be covered or the situation. Competitions are contested with a rather sporty forward lean. Long distances, on the other hand, require greater comfort, i.e. a more upright seat. Hands and wrists, as well as the neck and shoulders, are more often free of complaints with an optimally adjusted road handlebar. It may also be that the handlebars do not sit well in the hand. The position of the brake shift grips plays a role here. Anyone who rides a road bike wants to perform. To enable the best possible driving experience, details such as the handlebar dimensions, shape, or even the handlebar tape are important. For racing, lightweight handlebars made of carbon. When it comes to long distances or aerodynamics, comfort becomes more important.

    2. What are the differences in road bike handlebars?

    For a long time there was a uniform shape of handlebars in road cycling. In the meantime, we distinguish between different types of road bikes, which bring with them special characteristics. Gravel bikes can also perform on gravel roads, aero bikes or time trial bikes get everything out of a triathlon and tour racing bikes offer an optimal riding experience even over long distances. The appropriate handlebars were designed to meet the new requirements. So there are dedicated gravel handlebars, triathlon handlebars or even road handlebars. One thing road handlebars have in common: aero-optimized shapes. In addition, the thickest part of the handlebar is usually where the clamping point is located. This is where the handlebar is connected to the stem. Handlebars with thick, raised place in the middle are also called drop bar.

    Handlebar dimensions

    Handlebars today have different dimensions. A distinction is made between width, drop and reach. Width stands for the width of the handlebar. It is measured at the pre-bend from tube center to tube center. The narrower the handlebar, the better the aerodynamics. The wider, the more control you have when steering off the road. Drop refers to the handlebar height and is the perpendicular measurement from upper to lower link, measured from tube center to tube center. The greater the drop, the deeper the rider leans into the lower link position. Reach means handlebar depth. You measure from the center of the upper link to the foremost point of the handlebar bend. The greater the reach, the more the rider must stretch to grip the brake-shift levers. All measurements are given in millimeters. Rise means that the handlebars have a small offset upward at the stem. Flare is when the lower handlebar is flared wider than the upper handlebar. This gives more control when steering. The seating position is thus more upright.

    Close up shot of a bike stem
    Photo by Jordan Brierley / Unsplash

    Basic shapes

    There are three basic shapes of road handlebars: classic, anatomical or ergo. The difference between the forms is the downward curved part.

    • The classic road handlebar is installed in older generations with steel frames. It is round and has a long reach and deep drop. Many professionals still swear by the classic shape. You sit sporty.
    • A variation of the classic handlebar is the compact handlebar. Shorter reach and lower drop makes driving more comfortable.
    • The majority of road bikes today have an Ergo handlebar. Shorter reach and flatter drop defuse the low seating position.

    The basic shapes serve as a template for modifying new needs. Thus, there are modified forms such as the aerodynamic handlebar, backsweep handlebar or offset handlebar. The aero handlebar has a flattened top tube. The backsweep handlebar has a bend towards the rider. Some riders find it comfortable for their wrists. Track handlebars are another special feature. A narrow top handlebar was designed especially for track cyclists. There are also new "more unusual" handlebar shapes like the Canyon Grail CF.

    As with most components, the material determines the price of the handlebar. Models made of aluminum are inexpensive on the market. Carbon lets the price skyrocket. Even if a stem is already mounted on the handlebars, this can push the price up.

    3. To which area of application fits which handlebar?

    The creation of new areas of use always brings novelties of handlebars. The aero road bike often comes with aerodynamically flattened top handlebar. In most cases, the handlebars are narrower. In principle, all three basic shapes are suitable, but the anatomical shape is usually chosen. The aero racing bike is less about light weight and more about aerodynamics. Weight should not necessarily be saved on the handlebars. For time trial bikes there is a handlebar attachment. The so-called Time Trial attachment, TT attachment for short, provides storage areas for the rider's forearms. The aerodynamics gained in addition is suitable for competitions such as the triathlon. For time trial bikes there are also pure TT handlebars. The race racing bike can be ridden with all basic forms of racing handlebars. Mostly carbon handlebars and a thin handlebar tape are used here. Thus weight can be saved. Comfort plays a greater role in tour and endurance racing bikes. Mostly Ergo handlebars or anatomical handlebars are installed. A thick handlebar tape and gel pads should provide the necessary comfort during long distances. Gravel or cyclocross bikes rely on wide handlebars. This provides space for the legs or panniers. In the terrain, a larger lever is also useful when steering. A road handlebar can also be mounted on a fixie. On E-bikes, racing bike handlebars sometimes lead to the loss of warranty - there should be consultation with the dealers or manufacturers.

    4. How wide should a road bike handlebar be?

    The width of the rider's shoulders is decisive for the handlebar width. The measurement is taken between the two shoulder joints, with the arms hanging loosely down. The value determined gives the appropriate handlebar width in centimeters. If the handlebars are too wide, the aerodynamics will be compromised. If the handlebars are too narrow, the steering becomes more unsteady. Only professionals should use handlebars that are too narrow. The handlebar width is adjusted to the frame size on bicycles. Most common are handlebars between 400mm and 440mm wide. In addition to the width, you should think about the area of use before a new purchase. This influences the choice of material as well as the necessary shape.

    Photo by Tom Austin / Unsplash

    5. How do I adjust the handlebar correctly?

    When mounting the handlebars, there are some points that need to be considered. Only in this way can you prevent an incorrect sitting position and grip discomfort. At MTB or trekking bike, the flat handlebar offers only one grip option. Road bike handlebars offer several options to hold it. As a result, the seating position varies greatly. Three assembly errors occur most frequently.

    1. If the handlebars are mounted too far up or down, an uncomfortable posture is inevitable.
    2. The brake-shift levers must not be mounted too far up or down for the same reason.
    3. Also problematic is when the brake-shift levers are not adjusted equally on both sides. This provokes an oblique posture of the body. To avoid this problem, most handlebars have a printed scale on the front handlebar bend. This makes it easier to position the brake-shift levers the same way. Wrists should not be bent in or out while riding.

    A test drive is essential after assembly. You should tighten the bolts as often as necessary until you get an optimum driving feel. Then all screws can be retightened with the appropriate torque. A handlebar tape can also be wound in the end. At handlebar tape is to pay attention to material and thickness. It should be breathable, dry quickly and be easy to clean. The design should also suit the rider. What is comfortable for one, does not feel good for the next. Under the handlebar tape gel pads can be glued to the handlebar. This also increases comfort. Handlebar tapes are not only comfortable, but also vibration dampening. On uneven ground, this is to the benefit of the driver. In addition to the right handlebars, the stem is also crucial. Its length can vary and thus influence the seating position. Here, too, standards suitable for the masses are installed in complete bikes, which are not ideal for everyone. In addition to the seating position, the stem also determines the steering behavior. A short stem makes the road bike maneuverable, a long stem makes it smoother. The inclination of the stem can also vary greatly and also influences the seating position. If you want to sit sportily on the road bike, a longer stem with a downward tilt is recommended. For a comfortable seat, choose a shorter stem with an upward tilt. Here, too, it is important to try out what feels good.

    6. How to wrap the handlebar tape?

    The handlebar tape, by the way, you can easily and without much accessories wrap and renew yourself. How, you can see in THIS blog article or in Nic's YouTube video:

    7. What are proven handlebar brands?

    Various manufacturers have made a name for themselves with their handlebars. These include, among others, 3T, Deda Elementi, FSA, Ritchey, Syntace, XLC, Easton, Bontrager, Profile Design, or Zipp. FSA offers, among other things, the Vero Compact Road handlebar on the market. For little money you get an aluminum handlebar in compact form, which can be purchased in different widths. It is suitable for longer distances. The Ritchey WCS is represented with different materials and shapes in the medium and high price segment for handlebars. The Easton EA70 AX handlebar is optimized for cyclocross and is in the medium price range. It is made of aluminum and can also be purchased extra wide. The Ritchey Comp handlebar series contains affordable and rock solid models. The Zipp Service Course series is in the mid-price range and is trumped by the Zipp SL attachments. Both series offer models with light weight, different sizes and shapes and high-quality design. Sprung from the Shimano group, the brand "Pro" brings the Vibe Evo handlebar on the market. The carbon handlebar is very expensive, makes for visually much and is at the latest stage of development. Which handlebar ultimately ends up in the shopping cart is, in addition to the price question, of course a matter of taste.

    For more questions about road bike handlebars or the topic of bicycles in general, you're best to browse through the blog, but the buycycle-team will also be happy to help. And a look at buycycle.com is always worthwhile, after all, nowhere else is it so easy, fast and safe to sell your old bike or find the new old bike of your dreams. Until then, we wish you, as always: Happy browsing, happy cycling!