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  1. #1
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    Reputation: Reynolds531's Avatar
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    Back to narrow handlebars--comfortable again

    4 years ago I sold my nice old road bike (all Suntour Superbe) and bought a new one. During the test ride the first thing I notices was the handlebar width--the were 45 cm instead of my old 40 cm bars. The Sales Babe gave me a pitch about how the wider handlebars would open up my chest and make breathing easier. She told me what big broad shoulders I have. Brain instantly stopped working so I fell for it. Couldn't wear bike shorts for a week.

    I had some shoulder and neck discomfort on longer rides. I thought I had gotten out of condition. I raised the handlebars to level with the seat and felt pretty good.

    A few weeks ago I bought an Early 80's Shogun 600 to scavenge the retro Shimano 600 Arabesqe parts. I took it for a ride and it felt like a comfortable old shoe, even though the bars were 6 cm below the seat. I love the narrow retro bars.

    2 pieces of advice. 1. Avoid sexually attractive people when you buy anything. 2. Try some good old 39 cm wide handlebars
    Lugged Steel Treks

  2. #2
    BrooklynVelo
    Reputation: daneil's Avatar
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    Going through kind of the same thought process here myself. New bike, wider bars 42 vs 38. After a few months I developed a nagging shoulder pain in my right shoulder. Nothing else has changed except for the bars. I'm now looking for a new set of my old Profile Hammer Short and Shallow HB in 38.
    Damn the Man, Save the Empire
    Brooklyn Velo Force

  3. #3
    Spicy Dumpling
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    Yep, I fell for the intial feel of wider bars. I've had between the shoulder blade pain for a year or two. Had a fitting done and the fitter suggested narrower bars. Gave it a try and I don't have any of the pain any more....YMMV
    If I were to beat you senseless with a tire iron, what color would you bleed?..The Missus

  4. #4
    Carrera Love
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    Same here

    Got a new bike a few months back and the guy said that I should be running 44cm bars. Now I have this horrible pain just below my shoulder blade after a little while on the bike. I have already ordered my narrower (or meor narrow not sure) bars
    46&2 just ahead of me

  5. #5
    Weed
    Reputation: zyzbot's Avatar
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    Just goes to show that everyone's fit is different. My situation was just the opposite from yours. Originally had handlebars that were too narrow. Now I'm running 46cm on both my road bikes and I'm much more comfortable.

  6. #6
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    48cm on one bike, 50 on the other; I'll never go back.

    Everybody's different... I bought a pair of cheap 50cm bars for my singlespeed, and I liked them so much I put them on the Atlantis and tried to order another set for the SS. Nashbar was out of 50s but shipped 48s, and eventually I put those on my Rambouillet and swapped the Rambo's mustache bars onto the singlespeed. They've been like that for more than a year, and anything narrower feels cramped to me now.
    FWIW, I'm 6'4" with pretty long arms (37 or 38 sleeve), so Your Experience May Differ.

  7. #7
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    My issue is I feel my handle bars are too narrow... But I can't find any way of trying a wider bar without buying one. If I buy another bar I would like it to be more comfortable over all. Does everyone just have a boat load of handlebars hanging around or do they actually have shops which have handlebars in stock to look at?

  8. #8
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    I have oldschool 38cm Nitto bars on my 99 Raleigh, loved them since I first rode it. They are probably 2cm too small, but I like the handling and the way they ride. You can really tell how small they are in a group of riders, all the newer bikes have really wide bars.

    The 44cm's on my Allez feel massive...to the point of being ridiculous.

  9. #9
    Not a climber
    Reputation: dcorn's Avatar
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    Second time I rode my new bike, I thought the bars felt a little wider. 40 vs 42. Not sure yet, but pretty sure I'm going back to the 42. I've heard the thing about opening up your chest to help with breathing, but I don't think I've ever had a problem that.

  10. #10
    I'm interesting.
    Reputation: superjesus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by iheartbenben View Post
    I have oldschool 38cm Nitto bars on my 99 Raleigh, loved them since I first rode it. They are probably 2cm too small, but I like the handling and the way they ride. You can really tell how small they are in a group of riders, all the newer bikes have really wide bars.

    The 44cm's on my Allez feel massive...to the point of being ridiculous.
    Your experiences mirror my own. Despite being sized for a 42, I am much more comfortable on 40s and 38s because I started out on narrow, classic drops. You would probably be surprised with the amount of attitude and grief I've taken from various shops over my bar preference.
    "This thread gives me hope that the human race will render itself extinct in my lifetime...." PlatyPius
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Reynolds531 View Post
    4 years ago I sold my nice old road bike (all Suntour Superbe) and bought a new one. During the test ride the first thing I notices was the handlebar width--the were 45 cm instead of my old 40 cm bars. The Sales Babe gave me a pitch about how the wider handlebars would open up my chest and make breathing easier. She told me what big broad shoulders I have. Brain instantly stopped working so I fell for it. Couldn't wear bike shorts for a week.

    I had some shoulder and neck discomfort on longer rides. I thought I had gotten out of condition. I raised the handlebars to level with the seat and felt pretty good.

    A few weeks ago I bought an Early 80's Shogun 600 to scavenge the retro Shimano 600 Arabesqe parts. I took it for a ride and it felt like a comfortable old shoe, even though the bars were 6 cm below the seat. I love the narrow retro bars.

    2 pieces of advice. 1. Avoid sexually attractive people when you buy anything. 2. Try some good old 39 cm wide handlebars
    I guess you would feel terrible riding my 76cm wide DH handlebars.

    For the record, on my roadie I have swapped three times the last eight months between 42cm and 44cm bars. I'm still unsure what size feels better. Thats centre to centre sizing.

  12. #12
    Pitts Pilot
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    It can also depend on the type of riding. When I was riding loads of flats, 40 worked well for me. Now, all I do is climb and I've become happier with a 42. I'm 5'8" and small/medium build. I think the "open up the chest" thing is more important when climbing, and you don't pay the same aerodynamic penalty that you will on the flats. Wider bars are also nice on hairy descents.

  13. #13
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    The real question is: how do you find out what is most comfortable?

    I am heading out to the store today and will probably pick up a wider bar. I just hate buying something I am not sure I need...

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by superjesus View Post
    Your experiences mirror my own. Despite being sized for a 42, I am much more comfortable on 40s and 38s because I started out on narrow, classic drops. You would probably be surprised with the amount of attitude and grief I've taken from various shops over my bar preference.
    They look at me weird for riding 38cm while I'm looking at them weird for riding 50cm bars. Life.

  15. #15
    waterproof*
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    Look, as long as your hands are on the tops, width doesn't matter.

    It does matter on the drops and brifters though. Width affects handling "feel" in turns, but mainly it affects "leverage feel" when climbing out of the saddle, or sprinting. Going up a steep wall, to me, feels better with wider bars.

    The down side is aerodynamics. Wider bars = more drag.
    * posted by Creakybot 2013 all rights reserved.
    * not actually waterproof.

  16. #16
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    My bike came with 44cm and was they were my first experience with drop-bars. I never felt good ridding them and tried all different adjustments to make them work. I thought I just wasn't used to drop-bars. Like the OP, I found an old bike and tried it with the narrow bars. It just felt right and I wasn't hurting or getting cramped up. Switched to a narrower bar with flared drops (Cowbells) and instantly felt a lot better.
    Might not be the most popular option, but you gotta use what works.

  17. #17
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    Running 44cm bars on my carbon training rig and I won't even think about starting up the new season without a new set of 39s. They simply feel horrible; like I'm in spin class constantly, rather than piloting a precise linear machine. For me, the wider bars encourage more exertion at my shoulder joints and forearms whereas narrow bars prompt me to "steer" from my core.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by pdenman33 View Post
    For me, the wider bars encourage more exertion at my shoulder joints and forearms whereas narrow bars prompt me to "steer" from my core.
    Well, while a romantic way of putting it...*core* steering in cycling is as useful as *waist* steering in skiing.

    Much of what I'm reading is also attributed to weak upper body musculature and or imbalance. Otherwise, properly sized bar width follows your size proportionally and being too small or too wide carries biomechanical tradoffs or masks other physical deficiencies.

    Back to the OP...yes I've heard that "wider helps your breathing". But next time tell sexy that you're a belly breather and then wait for her response...

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by DonDenver View Post
    Well, while a romantic way of putting it...*core* steering in cycling is as useful as *waist* steering in skiing.
    say more?

  20. #20
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    You had me at Sales Babe talking about opening up your chest.

  21. #21
    downhill quickly
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    Quote Originally Posted by pdenman33 View Post
    say more?
    ...lol...no...sometimes it's best here to leave as is. cheers

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