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Handlebars. All bikes whether mountain bikes, road bikes or singlespeed fixed-gear bikes use a trusty handlebar. There are so many types out there. Each has its own unique advantages and disadvantages that can make or break your biking experience. Handlebars greatly influence the overall handling, stability and reliability of your bike, so picking the right type for your biking style is essential.
I have created an easy understandable handlebar guide to show you the essential differences between each kind of handlebar. After reading this no-nonsense guide, you can probably cite "handlebar guru" in your resume. I even took a considerable amount of time animating that gif above so that this guide really feels like the best most complete guide out there. So let's get straight to it. I bring you the ultimate guide to bicycle handlebars.
Flat handlebars are the standard type of bars for most bikes. They are characterized with being completely flat although in most cases, there is a very slight bend towards the rider. They are very popular among cross-country riders due to their versatility. You can essentially "put a lot of stuff on them" since it's just a straight bar. This simplicity also makes steering predictable and precise.
Better for climbing - Another reason flat bars are popular among cross-country riders is it makes leaning forward easier. Moving your body towards the bike bar during a climb improves leverage and shifting your weight to the front improves the tire grip on the road.
Not optimal for risky courses - Flat bars are not well suited for performing tricks and "free riding" on a bike. Riding over tough terrain and jumping over obstacles require a more upright position to give the rider more leverage for pulling the front tire.
Riser bars are essentially flat bars that rise from the center clamp area. Risers are also typically wider than flat bars. These types of handlebars are commonly used in trail biking since it allows the rider to be more upright. Clint Gibbs made an informative youtube video on the advantage of a riser bars over flat bars for trail biking.
More control - A wider handlebar gives you more leverage. This make turning easier and require less energy. If you go through long winding roads with lots of debris, it's a good idea to use wide riser bars.
Better for wrists - In addition to the back sweep that gives a more comfortable grip, riser bars allow the rider to sit farther back allowing less weight to be distributed to the front. For people who have wrist problems, this will help relieve stress.
Wider handlebars - Despite giving you more control, wide handlebars make it more likely to snag tree trunks, twigs and other annoying things. This also makes bikes with riser handlebars harder to store since it will be harder to fit through doors and corridors.
Bullhorn handlebars are bike bars that curve up and forward. A pursuit handlebar is a slight variation to your typical bullhorn bar. A typical bullhorn simply curves forward and up. A pursuit bullhorn bar curves forward, drops down slightly and then curves back up again.
Great aerodynamics - Bullhorns are essentially flat bars that allow you to get lower when facing headwind or going at fast speeds. This makes it better than flat bars and risers for speed oriented biking such as track racing.
Best bars for climbing - Flat bars gives your body room to move forward and up when climbing hills. Bullhorn bars not only give you room, but the horns allow you to move even further up and forward when climbing giving the rider the best possible leverage when pedaling uphill.
Pursuit bars are better for speed - Pursuit bullhorns have a drop in them allowing the rider to go into an even deeper tuck than you could with a typical bullhorn which makes it better for speed and leverage.
Not suitable for frequent tight turns - Despite the fact that bullhorns are functionally flat bars with horns, they are typically shorter than flat bars due to the spacing needed for the forward curve.This gives you less leverage when turning the handlebars. The extra front clearance also increases your chances of snagging something when going through tight paths.
Drop bars are very popular among bike enthusiast due to it's balance of great looks and versatility. Typical drops bars have a straight middle section similar to a flat bar with each end curving downwards and towards the rider.
There are several types of drop bars defined by their reach (how far forward it curves), drop (how low the bars go) and width (how wide the bar is). Classics have a long reach and a deep drop. Compacts have a short reach and shallow drop. Ergo or Anatomic drop bars are designed to feel more comfortable for the hand by varying the shape of the drop.
Track drop bars have large radius curves that encourage the use of the "hooks" which is the preferred position of track bicycle racers. Randonneur bars have a shallow rise from the middle and the drops flare out. These are better for longer rides than other types of drop bars. Drop-in bars are essentially drop bars that curve back in to the head tube at the bottom of the drop.
Great aerodynamics - Drop bars allow the rider to tuck similar to bullhorns. If you are planning on doing a lot of track racing, investing in a good pair of drop bars is worth the time and effort.
Highly versatile - A lot of riders add a brake hood to their drop bars which functions as an added bullhorn bar for some extra hand positions. A lot of people find brake hoods more comfortable for the hand than the flat bar because it keeps your hand at a neutral position. The addition of hoods also allow drops to functions as "miniature" bullhorns which makes them better for climbs.
Good for bike enthusiasts - Flat bars are good for the typical biker who likes to just cruise and not much else. For a bike enthusiast who does general biking in the city on flat roads but occasionally wants to venture into some track type of biking, drop bars very much fit the bill.
Not good for frequent tight turns - Similar to bullhorn bars, drop bars are not best suited for frequent tight turns. The hand positioning on the drops means your hand will hit debris before the handlebar.
May not be good for trail biking - Although a good amount of trail bikers use drop bars, caution should be taken if you plan on using it for riding rough terrain since the position puts a lot of stress to the wrist. Riding drops on trails may exacerbate wrist problems such as ulnar never pains and carpel tunnel pain.
Aero bars or triathlon bars are primarily used for time-trial cycling where the rider competes alone against the clock. Using two extended bars close together to grab unto with armrest pads to wrest the forearms, these bars put the rider into a narrow forward tuck position to further decrease air drag.
Clip-on Aero bars - You don't have to ride exclusively with aero bars, aero kits can easily be added unto drop bars and bullhorns if you want the option to assume a very narrow tuck position. In fact this is the common way aero bars are incorporated into biking.
Can be dangerous - Aero bars put the rider at a disadvantageous position to react to unexpected turns and road obstacles. Despite being aerodynamically better, they draw the hands away from the brakes. Due to this, it is illegal in most group racing events.
These are the types of bars you want to use while riding to the candy shop. They are also known as North Road or Upright handlebars. Due to its extreme sweep, these types of bars allow the rider to control the bike while sitting completely upright.
Need more seat padding - Since the handlebars encourage a more upright position, that also means more weight will be transferred to the bike seat. Using narrow bike seats with little padding would not be kind to your butt while using cruiser bars.
Also known as touring or trekking bars, These bars are designed for a wide variety of hand positions for long rides. It also provides a lot of shelf space for things you may need during long rides like mirrors, phones, maps and even bags. Here is an interesting article on "The Art of Bicycle Touring" by Neil Gunton that cites a lot of creative uses and modifications for butterfly bars.
Better for shifters - If you use shifters, many riders declare butterfly bars as better version of flat bars because you can position the shifters right in front of your hands as illustrated here by an elated blogger.
Heavier - Since these bars have irregular curves and are generally used for utility, they are often heavier than most handlebars. The huge amount of extra weight may not be a big deal to most, but, as previously stated in this article, those who travel with their bikes using mounted bike racks, an extra few pounds count.
The above are currently the most commonly used types of handlebars. If this was a typical handlebar guide we would stop right there, but since this titled "the ultimate guide" we will keep going to include all the other types of handlebars. 041b061a72