I get asked a lot how wide or narrow should the mountain bikes handlebars should be? and usually, that’s followed by very little information about what type of riding style you like or you had like to do, what your height and what the problem running the same width you are now, and last but not the least how long have you ridden on that bike.
Fortunately, there are a lot of types of handlebars out there and usually, the problem gets solved by getting a longer set of handlebars and then slowly trimming them away to find your sweet spot.
If you had like a simple one-line short answer for your query then there isn’t one you see it depends on some conditions.
- what type of trail do you ride on
- what are you looking for, better control or better maneuverability?
- did you spend enough time on the trail with the wider/shorter handlebar or its been a day or 2?
and so on and so forth so before you know the answers to those questions I would suggest not to make any changes and do a little bit of research before you make a wrong mistake and end up losing more than gaining.
So let’s get started on the first issue.
What do you want from your bike better control or better maneuverability?
The fact that you are reading this means that either you are new to mountain biking or you have started changing your riding style and you are facing problems adapting to it.
Either way, the handlebars width if it’s wider gives you more control on the tracks at the cost of lower mobility since your arms are wider now it restricts your arms movement to some extent but on the other hand, now you are firm on the handlebars and you can move with much more confidence but you get slower on the corners.
And if you lessen the length then you can move around quickly leap forward on the top tube and shift your weight around the bike since that handle keeps getting lesser in your way and you can cut sharp corners at a great speed and move around much more quickly but it all comes down on the cost better control.
So what’s the ideal number then? is there a magic number that can fix all of it? give you more mobility and at the same time be more stable there is one but first, let’s see the other things it depends on so you can have a better understanding of what’s what and make better decisions based on those factors.
what type of trail are you planning on riding :
the type of trail you are trying to ride may be the reason you are feeling uncomfortable with the present length of your handlebars, If you are riding a mild trail with rocks and roots then wider handlebars may be more comfortable than the narrower ones.
And if you are riding on a sharp trail with lots of twists and sharp cuts then narrower bars will be best they will offer more mobility so they can be your best choice.
Notice that I didn’t mention the word perfect because it depends on certain things as well but we are nearing our conclusion as well, which is what’s the best length for you.
The next on our checklist is
physic of a person :
physic plays an important role here too since all of us have different heights or shoulder lengths so for some of us shorter may mean too shot for them and longer may mean too short for them as well and vice versa.
This is where it gets more confusing for some people for good reasons, you see on the internet or outside people say a given number is best for them and they end up following them instead of looking at their own physic, if you are a tall person you ought to have broader shoulders but some times not and if you are a shorter person you ought to have narrower shoulders but some times numbers are different so there is not a fixed number.
Average handlebars lengths :
On average people usually go from a certain length of the handlebar to a lower or adjustable number.
If a person is of a height of from 5ft-6f the average width of the handlebar for that person would be 760mm and lower or higher depending on their shoulders width.
And for people over 6-6.7 usually, the length of handlebars is 860mm going down from that.
How to find your sweet spot on the handlebars :
At this point, I think now you understand better why I said earlier it’s not easy to find a straight number right away. All of those things I mentioned above come into the calculation when you are finding what will work best for you and it will help you make a better choice in the future as well.
Now that you understand why and how everything plays its role you can match your numbers and find the number which is only perfect for you.
Now what you need is a longer handlebar at least long as I mentioned above for 5-6 feet tall 760mm wide handlebar and for people taller than 6-6.7 feet tall and 860mm wide handlebar ultimately you need to trim it but first, it’s important to find your sweer spot.
Once you have those bars get a pair of moveable grips but not the ones that slip a lot it will get a lot tougher than you after that it’s trial and error.
You should try riding with the moveable grips for at least 3 days straight and keep checking where you feel your best and write it down once you have enough data you can trim the handlebars and off you go.
take as much time as you can before making a decision once you cut the bars there’s no way to reattach them you will need to buy new handlebars so be careful and make your decision after being completely sure.
Also do not use professional mountain bikers bar length as a scale for yourself do not use even a friend’s bar length to measure your own, remember it’s different for each person and if you copy others it may do more damage than any good.
Now that you have your length there are 2 more important things to remember when purchasing a new handlebar if you are starting new and you had like to try your handlebars first then at least keep the information on these little things will save you a lot of money and trouble.
Back sweep :
To understand back sweep a visual representation would be better than telling you in words.
As you can see the handle is not straight but bent in the middle the degree by which the handle is bent is called back sweep, this is bent in the handle is not a design fluke but it’s to help you, how?
When you stretch out your muscles straight forward there is a point where they feel most relaxed and in any other position if you keep your hands stretched you will feel the pain in your wrists or shoulders.
How and why to calculate back sweep :
To clarify something first Back sweep has nothing to do with the trails you are riding if you have heard a myth that this back sweep helps you do this and that back sweep will help you do that it’s wrong.
The back sweep is the angle of your hand placement where you feel the most at ease and if you are feeling pain in the wrist or the shoulder it’s very likely your back sweep isn’t correct you need to change it.
How to calculate back sweep unique to you: there are many ways to calculate back sweep the one that I consider the most efficient and most reliable is a DIY. and here’s how it works.
Take 2 pencils and attach a rope/string with them stretch your arms and close your eyes and stretch your arms ask another person to mark the position of both ends of the pencil and on both ends as well and measure the angle with an angle ruler.
Now this will give you a very little angle of either 5,7,9,12 or 16 degrees so when you buy a handlebar from any merchant you know exactly what you are looking for.
The other thing that you might hear with the back sweep is upsweep.
upsweep depends on your arm’s length, it’s basically how much you had like your handle to be bent inwards meaning inwards to your body, or how much it needs to be outward meaning away from your body. it is easily adjustable and not as complicated as a back sweep.
You need some kind of mythical calculator to calculate up sweep for you just do trial and error until you find your sweet spot.
Are carbon bars worth your money :
Carbon and aluminum bars are almost the same so if you had like to switch to take off a few grams it’s okay, but if you are expecting better results with carbon handlebars there is not much difference.
It’s not just from my personal experience but I tried asking many people and the results were the same some people do say they got some great results but most of the time thy turned out not to be so much different.
Best mountain bike handlebars :
there are a lot of goods brands out there that focus on good quality mountain bike handlebars some mentions are.
- trek remedy
- Renthal fat bars
- race face.
- SQ lab
- Deity Blacklabel