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Thread: Handlebar Width

  1. #1
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    Arrow Handlebar Width

    I am not sure how technical some of you are, but how many of you know your handlebar width?


    Those who do know their road bike handlebar width, what differences did you feel when you switched to a wider or narrower handlebar width?


    Personally, I started off using 42cm center-to-center handlebar width (measured at handlebar bottom drops palm rest area) 11 years ago. Back then, that was what the bike came width. Eventually, three years later, my second road bike also came with 42cm center-to-center handlebar width. Three years ago, I made the switch to 44cm center-to-center handlebar width when setting up my current road bike.


    Now, I have a choice to switch back to 42cm center-to-center handlebar width and I am not sure whether to stick to 44cm center-to-center handlebar width or opt for 42cm center-to-center handlebar width. I train on 42cm center-to-center handlebar width but my race bike is 44cm center-to-center handlebar width and I have not had any issues with the difference in widths.


    The opinions of larger riders like myself would be of more significance to me, but I am more interested in knowing if handlebar width would affect stability and how much breathing advantage / disadvantage would a 2cm have on sprinting, aerodynamics and control of the bike?


    All suggestions are much-appreciated.

  2. #2
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    All my bars are 44's

    Different stem lengths on the bikes because of different top tube lengths.

    My race bike's bars have 5mm more "reach" than the others, because of the need to get lower.
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  3. #3
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    I always had 42 up until a few years ago when I put a 44 on my LHT. Now I want to get a 46. I like wider bars.
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  4. #4
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    Some riders have real preferences, while most of us may not even notice the difference between widths. I think the more important aspect of bar choice is the overall shape: reach, drop, comfort, etc.

    I prefer 44s (it's just what "feels" right), but have ridden plenty of 42s as well. I have noticed no differences in my ability to breathe better with one or the other.
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  5. #5
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    Generally the advice is to use bars that are the same width as your shoulders, so your arms run straight to them. You just pick up the bars and touch them to your shoulders to determine size.

    Some people like wider bars than that, but they might be putting an additional strain on their shoulders - the shoulder joint really isn't built for those sort of angles. It's like walking with your feet wide apart, except the should joints aren't a real ball joint like the hip joints are.
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  6. #6
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    Shouldn't the handle bar width be proportionate to the riders shoulders width? Seems like it would be more comfortable to have your shoulders aligned. As long as it doesn't affect the bikes handling.

    Edit ^^^^ that guy beat me to it

  7. #7
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    I use 46cm bars unless there aren't any available in the model I want to try. Then I use 44cm bars.

    Some 46s seem too wide, though (Race Face).

    42 is pretty much unusable for me.
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  8. #8
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    Started on 44s. Been on 42s for 2 years. Will be trying 40s next.

  9. #9
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    I have 44 on my racing bike, 46 on my cx bike. It's largely personal preference / comfort, I think.

    For racing, I see some folks using narrower bars for aero reasons.
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  10. #10
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    I was sized to 44 c-c on my first bike. Kept that until last year where I bought a 3T Ergonova which is flaring from 42 at the hoods to 44 at the drop ends.
    Took me a while to be comfortable climbing on the hoods standing up, but it's ok now.
    There is a little aero benefit in narrower bars. I've read that David Millar is using 40 cm for that reason.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by ishmaelmuscat View Post
    I am not sure how technical some of you are, but how many of you know your handlebar width?


    Those who do know their road bike handlebar width, what differences did you feel when you switched to a wider or narrower handlebar width?


    Personally, I started off using 42cm center-to-center handlebar width (measured at handlebar bottom drops palm rest area) 11 years ago. Back then, that was what the bike came width. Eventually, three years later, my second road bike also came with 42cm center-to-center handlebar width. Three years ago, I made the switch to 44cm center-to-center handlebar width when setting up my current road bike.


    Now, I have a choice to switch back to 42cm center-to-center handlebar width and I am not sure whether to stick to 44cm center-to-center handlebar width or opt for 42cm center-to-center handlebar width. I train on 42cm center-to-center handlebar width but my race bike is 44cm center-to-center handlebar width and I have not had any issues with the difference in widths.


    The opinions of larger riders like myself would be of more significance to me, but I am more interested in knowing if handlebar width would affect stability and how much breathing advantage / disadvantage would a 2cm have on sprinting, aerodynamics and control of the bike?


    All suggestions are much-appreciated.

    I use all of 66cm (26" Outside to outside) on my MTB.

    When I build my road bike I'm going to use JK Wide Handlebars in 48cm (Center to center). Why? Same reason is as for MTB: Stability and Proper breathing. And it just so happens that my shoulder measures approximately 48cm center of humorous to center of humorous.
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  12. #12
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    I'm a big guy...cost size 48, but I run 44cm bars. The Easton EC70 is the best bar I've ever had...but I haven't tried the EA90. I'm sure it's sweet. I've tried a whole host of other bars but the Easton the perfect diameter, the flat area is awesome, drop is good, I just gel really well with that bar.

    Not too expensive either...I think it was about $220?

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclin Dan View Post
    Not too expensive either...I think it was about $220?
    $220 for a h a n d l e b a r ? Must be a generation gap thing: here I've been riding around on $30 handlebars thinking I probably could have gotten them even cheaper...

  14. #14
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    No hearsay or guessing, facts about shoulder widths in males.

    5% is people on the small side
    50% is general Population
    95% is people on the large side
    Chart is for males in the US from 1999

    As you can see from the charts most men should be on 42cm maybe 44cm bars based on shoulder width. Or you can just goes with what feels best to you and be ok with that.




  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by wim View Post
    $220 for a h a n d l e b a r ? Must be a generation gap thing: here I've been riding around on $30 handlebars thinking I probably could have gotten them even cheaper...
    Nope, I'm in my twenties and thought the same thing.

  16. #16
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    Well 1st off, you have to remain aware as to how your handlebars are measured... plenty of manufacturers still use 'outside-to-outside', like Deda, for example. Translating that into center-to-center means subtracting around 2.5cm, obviously.

    For myself, I got a very harsh lesson in how much hbar width really matters... I did the Davis Double Century back in the late '80s with 38cm bars. They were on my first serious/good roadbike, which I bought used right before the event, and re: the width, I just didn't know any better at the time.

    The bars became pure torture in short order on that ride. Words cannot express how bad it was. Never. again.

    I have something like 41-42cm shoulders, and actually much prefer the next size up from shoulder width, aka 44cm c-to-c (or 46cm outside-to-outside).

    I even once tried some 46cm bars, c-to-c, upon the (in retrospect, somewhat dumb) advice of a salesguy over at Rivendell Bike Works (their actual storefront in Walnut Creek), and found these to be TOO wide, for sure.

    In short... yeah, hbar width really really matters. It's not just the breathing, shoulder/arm comfort, and even the handling, it's all of the above. I know ppl who buy a size up or down from their ideal just 'cuz something's 'on sale'... not smart, unless your perfect size is between sizes and can go either way.

    It's appropriate that you're being somewhat picky about this. You couldn't pay me to ride the wrong size anymore.
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  17. #17
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    I am very different from the norm. I prefer to size down 2 or 4 cm from what I should be. But I spent a long time riding bars that were way too narrow.

    Ride what's comfortable.
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  18. #18
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    Back in the day, everyone rode 40's or even 38's........and liked it.
    If your opinion differs from mine, ..........Too bad.
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  19. #19
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    Mine are all 46. I'm a big guy & they're more comfy for me than narrower bars.
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  20. #20
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    I'm riding a 42cm Zipp SL bar that is actually a 40cm CC. I used to ride 44cm CC and found them to wide, however it took me a couple of years to work that out! Ride what feels the most comfortable.

  21. #21
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    42's. Feels good—shirt size is typically a 39-40 so right on the mark for me.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by wim View Post
    $220 for a h a n d l e b a r ? Must be a generation gap thing: here I've been riding around on $30 handlebars thinking I probably could have gotten them even cheaper...
    My comparison was to the $525 S-Works Barmac that I snapped during a sprint. Compared to that, these seemed like a bargain. Especially considering I like them better.

  23. #23
    wim
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclin Dan View Post
    My comparison was to the $525 S-Works Barmac that I snapped during a sprint. Compared to that, these seemed like a bargain.
    Well, thanks for the clarification. I didn't even know there were $500 handlebars and can't imagine anyone actually buying one. Then again, I've got relatives who couldn't imagine anyone spending more than $89.95 for a pedal bike.

  24. #24
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    Your body will likely easily adapt to whatever bar size you choose in the standard range (if your brain doesn't get in the way). Narrower bars are better for racing, but not for aero or low position, but rather so you can pass other riders in the peloton more easily.

    Recreationally, use whatever feels best. Narrower will not prohibit breathing as your arms are so far up. Also, you will place your hands in different places to compensate for the incorrect size, so pay attention to your glove wear/callouses. However, there are far more important things to get right when fitting your bike.

  25. #25
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    I ride 44's. They're very comfortable but do feel wide.

    My other bike has 40's - it's from BITD when that was what you did. After some distance on it, it starts to feel a little tight - but it was never meant as a distance bike.

    That probably means I should try 42's. Meh. Maybe if I find a deal on some that have some compelling magic feature.
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