We spend a considerable amount of time looking for the best saddle or pedal for our bikes, but we hardly give the bike handlebars types any thought. Do you want to know more about the importance of choosing the right handlebar style and what are the different types available? If the answer is yes, then you have come to the right place. In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about a bicycle handlebar.
What is a Bicycle Handlebar?
A handlebar is one of the essential components that connect you with your bike. Without the handlebar, you will not be able to maneuver your bike or control the speed and direction. Apart from steering your bike, a handlebar also supports a portion of your weight based on your riding position. In other words, the stability and reliability of your bike will significantly depend on your handlebar.
Nevertheless, picking bicycle handlebar types that are compatible with your riding style is not an easy task, given that there are bike handlebar types available in the market. Moreover, each of them comes with its unique advantages and disadvantages. As such, it is crucial to figure out the different types of handlebars, which will help you to pick the right handlebar style.
Bicycle Handlebars Types
Bicycle Handlebars come in various types designed for specific kinds of riding. As such, some are more suitable for use on mountain bikes, while others are more apt for road bikes. We’ve listed the main types of handlebars below:
Flat Handlebars – Best Style for Mountain and Hybrid Bikes
A flat bicycle handlebar style is the most popular and bicycle handlebar types found many bikes. This type of handlebar features a perfectly flat central section that slightly bends towards the rider. One of the advantages of flat handlebars is that it provides a stable holding position when riding on rough and uneven terrains. It also allows you to lean forward, thereby improving the leverage during a climbing ride. As such, this type of bike handlebar is significantly famous for cross country riders.
The only downside is that flat bars do not provide multiple ways to hold them. Nevertheless, you can still use different kinds of bar-ends to diversify how you hold the handlebars positions. Besides, with the flat bar, you can easily attach various biking equipment such as phone holders or lights on a bike with flat handlebars.
Drop Bars – Best Road Bike Handlebar Type
Drop handlebars are another popular bike handlebars types. This type is mostly found on road bikes. The design of the drop handlebars looks quite similar to a ram horn. One of the pros of drop handlebar is that it offers you a good number of hand positions. As such, if you want to ride for longer distances, then this handlebar is the right pick. You can also position your body easily while riding on a bike with a drop handlebar. Besides, there are various road bike handlebars types. You can distinguish them by their width, drop length, and reach.
Riser handlebars – Mostly Seen on BMX Bikes
This type of handlebars is quite similar to flat bars. Nevertheless, a riser handlebar is usually more extended than a flat handlebar. The central section of riser handlebars also rises to about 10 to 45 millimeters. Moreover, bikes with a riser bar allow you to sit in a more upright position. As such, a riser bar is a perfect choice for trail biking.
The weight distribution towards the front will be less as you will be sitting upright when riding on a bike with a riser handlebar. However, this bicycle handlebar type is quite expensive and bulky.
Butterfly Bars – Best Handlebar Type for Touring Bikes
Butterfly bars are the perfect option for trekking or touring bikes. At a glance at this handlebar, you will notice that both sides of the stem feature a C-shaped curve. The design of butterfly handlebar style allows for five different hand positions, making it suitable for riding longer distances. An essential advantage of butterfly handlebars is that it will enable versatile riding positions. For instance, it will allow you to ride either in an upright or bend posture. These bicycle handlebar types provides sufficient shelf space for storing essential things such as maps, phones, and small bags.
Nevertheless, bikes with butterfly handlebars are usually weighty as they have irregular curves. Extra weight may not be the main concern for many riders, but it can be a problem for riders who tour with their bikes using a mounted bike rack.
Another type of bike handlebar that looks similar to the road bike handlebar is the Aero bars. Many riders use this type for time-trial biking in which the riders race alone against the clock. Unlike other handlebars, this type of handlebars features both armrests and handgrips. This handlebar’s design allows you to lower the upper body and brings the arms aligned with the torso. As such, it lets you ride in a more aerodynamic position. Besides, some riders use this handlebar to rest their wrists and arms and not for an aerodynamic ride.
Nevertheless, a bike with an aero handlebar places you in a dangerous position as your hands will be away from the brakes. As such, you might find it to make sudden turns or avoid road obstacles.
As the name suggests, these bicycle handlebar types look like the horns of a bull. This type of bike handlebars has an entirely flat central section with its ends curved forward and up. It is most common for a single-speed bike. The bullhorn handlebar offers an aerodynamic riding position at a fast speed. A bullhorn handlebar usually features three different hand positions. But, if you want to increase the hand position for extra comfort, then you can attach bar-ends.
Besides, it provides substantial control when pedaling uphill as you can quickly move your body back and forth. However, bullhorn handlebars are not the best choice for frequent tight turns. If you’re interested in the top rated options check out our article on the best bullhorn handlebars.
Another type is the cruiser handlebar, also called upright or North Road handlebars. A cruiser handlebar allows you to control your bike while sitting completely upright. Besides, several different handlebars are available for cruiser bikes, including curved and flat bars.
One of the cons of a cruiser handlebar is that it requires more seat padding. Riding in an upright position will transfer more weight to your bike seat. As such, biking for longer distances will not be helpful for your butt.
Other Types of Bike Handlebars Worth Mentioning
Ape Hanger Handlebars: Ape Hanger Handlebars provide an excessive amount of rise, with their handles usually sitting around shoulder height. This places riders in an upright position with arms stretched forwards parallel to the ground. They are typically found on motorcycles and are commonly seen on chopper style bicycles or Harley Davidson motorbikes.
Porteur Handlebars: Porteur handlebars are typically found on vintage road bikes and are used for transporting cargo. They form a curved W shape, which provides multiple hand positions for riders and a comfortable upright cycling position.
Condorino Handlebars: Condorino handlebars are unique to Italy, and have a curved handle and sharp-angled hoods that imitate the wings of a small condor. They are great for navigating narrow streets because they aren’t as wide as most bike handlebar types.
Whatton Handlebars: Whatton handlebars are a non-traditional bicycle handlebar found on recumbent bikes with under-the-seat steering and on penny-farthings. They are not commonly used and take some getting used to.
Moustache Handlebars: Moustache handlebars are a type of drop handlebar that seem like they were squashed flat. They provide multiple hand positions for riders and typically have brakes fitted at the front of either peak of their M shape.
How to choose a bike handlebar?
As mentioned, bike handlebars are an essential component of your bike. It will significantly determine your comfort, performance, riding position, and weight distribution. As such, it is vital to choose a bike handlebar that is suitable for you. The following points are some essential things that you should consider when buying a bike handlebar.
Choose the right handlebar width
One of the essential things to consider when picking a bike handlebar is the width. Choosing a handlebar that is too wide can place stress on your arms and neck. On the other hand, a narrow handlebar will make you feel cramped. As such, you should choose a bike handlebar that fits you properly. It will ensure comfort and enhance your performance when biking.
The best way to choose the right handlebar width is by measuring your shoulder width. This measurement will provide you a baseline. For instance, if your shoulder distance is 34 cm, then you should look for a handlebar with the same range, and so on. However, you should note that many manufactures design handlebars based on the average shoulder width. But many bike riders do not have an average shoulder width. In such cases, you can either choose a size up or down based on your preference.
Choosing a suitable handlebar shape is highly subjective as the riding style differs from one person to another. As such, we cannot decide which handlebar shape will be better for you. Nevertheless, if you are looking for a hassle-free ride, then you can opt for compact handlebars. The lower section of the drop is higher up in a compact handlebar. But, you can go for ergonomic handlebars if you tend to grip the handlebar right at the center point and want a reasonable drop.
Frequently Asked Questions:
The following are some frequently asked questions:
How high should handlebars be on a bike?
Answering this question will depend on your riding style. Increasing the height of your handlebar will let you ride in an upright position. On the other hand, lowering the handlebar height will make your ride in a bend position. Nevertheless, if you want to reduce stress on your arms, wrists, back, and neck, your handlebar should be higher than your seat.
Which material is better for handlebars?
A bike handlebar can be either aluminum or carbon-fiber. Aluminum handlebars are heavier and cheaper, while carbon-fiber handlebars are lighter and more expensive. Moreover, it is easier to spot any damages on an aluminum handlebar. If you are biking on rough terrain, then the aluminum handlebar will be better. Nevertheless, if you are conscious about your bike weight, then the carbon-fiber handlebar will be the perfect option.
Which handlebar width should you choose?
Choosing a suitable handlebar width for your bike is a matter of personal preference. However, a wider handlebar is ideal if you are riding for longer distances. It will allow you to exert more leverage. But, choosing a wide handlebar can make them feel more stretched when riding, especially for beginners. Besides, they will find it difficult to avoid obstacles.
When it comes to trail riding, a handlebar that has a width of 740 millimeters is popular. On the other hand, many cross-country riders prefer slightly narrow handlebars ranging from 680 to 700 millimeters.
How does the handlebar height affect handling?
The handling will significantly improve when you have a lower stack height on your bike. The reason is that it will transfer sufficient weight on the handlebar, thereby bringing an equal weight distribution throughout your bike. But, you should note that too much pressure on your hands can result in complications when riding for a more extended period.
Should you get drop handlebars?
Drop bars are most suitable for new riders and non-cyclists. This type of handlebar needs tape that you should replace occasionally. However, some riders find flat bars to be more accessible as it provides excellent visibility and easy control.
Why do my wrist bones hurt when biking?
According to experts, this type of pain occurs when your bike saddle is significantly narrow for your sit bones. The reason is that your body’s weight will put pressure on your sit bones, thereby causing difficulties while biking.
How can you choose the best mountain bike handlebars?
When it comes to choosing the best mountain bike handlebars, you should first consider your riding style. For instance, low weight is essential when it comes to a cross-country handlebar. On the other hand, a bike handlebar needs to be significantly strong for a downhill ride. The next step is to decide the material for your handlebar. Carbon-fiber handlebars are lighter, although more expensive. But, if you are looking for a cost-effective and heavy handlebar, then you should opt for aluminum handlebars.
Can aero bars be used on mountain bikes?
Aero bars, which are typically found on time trial and triathlon bikes, are designed to improve aerodynamics and are not typically used on mountain bikes. Mountain bikes generally require a more upright riding position and greater control, which is not provided by aero bars.
How do bullhorn bars compare to traditional drop bars on track bicycle racers?
Bullhorn bars, which feature a straight section that extends outwards from the center of the bar and then curves upwards at the ends, provide multiple hand positions and improved aerodynamics compared to traditional drop bars. They are becoming more popular among track bicycle racers for these reasons.
How do wider handlebars on a cruiser bar compare to a standard drop bar on a fixie bike?
Wider handlebars on a cruiser bar provide a more comfortable, upright riding position and smooth and accurate steering, while a standard drop bar on a fixie bike provides multiple hand positions and improved aerodynamics.
What are the pros and cons of using carbon handlebars over steel handlebars?
Carbon handlebars are generally lighter and more durable than steel handlebars, but they can also be more expensive. Carbon handlebars also provide improved vibration damping and can be more aerodynamic. However, steel handlebars are often more durable and can be more affordable.
What are the benefits of clip-on aero bars for triathlon?
Clip-on aero bars provide a significant aerodynamic advantage for triathletes, as they allow the rider to adopt a more aerodynamic position while still being able to access the brake levers. They also can be removed when not in use.
How do gravel bike handlebars compare to trekking bars?
Gravel bike handlebars are typically wider and provide a more stable and comfortable ride on rough terrain. They also offer more hand positions than trekking bars, which are more commonly found on touring bikes and provide a more upright riding position.
How do BMX handlebars compare to mountain bike handlebars?
BMX handlebars, which are typically made of steel and feature a crossbar pad for added safety, are designed for stunts and tricks. They are typically wider and higher than mountain bike handlebars, which are designed for off-road terrain and provide more control and stability.
How do bar ends affect the performance and comfort of bike handlebars?
Bar ends, which are extensions that can be added to the ends of handlebars, can affect the performance and comfort of bike handlebars. They can provide additional hand positions and leverage, making it easier to climb hills and providing more comfort on longer rides.
What are some factors to consider when choosing comfortable bike handlebars?
When choosing comfortable bike handlebars, factors to consider include hand positions, width, and material. Handlebars that provide multiple hand positions, wider handlebars, and padded materials can provide more comfort for long rides.
How does bar tape affect the performance and comfort of bike handlebars?
Bar tape, which is a covering applied to the surface of handlebars, can affect the performance and comfort of bike handlebars. Bar tape can provide additional grip, dampen vibrations and can also change the look of the bike.
To sum up, your bike handlebars types play a crucial role on your bicycle. It is an essential component of the bicycle, and you wouldn’t be able to control your bike without them. The overall performance of your biking will significantly depend on the bike handlebar you choose. As such, choosing the right bike handlebar becomes vital.
Nowadays, bike handlebars also come in different styles and shapes, each with a specific purpose and function. Therefore, looking for the best bike handlebar can sometimes be overwhelming. Nevertheless, it would help if you use this comprehensive guide as a baseline.
When choosing the best handlebar for your bike, you should consider factors such as the width, shape, and riding style you will be doing.
Last Updated on October 14, 2023 by Daniel White