Bicycle Handlebars & Accessories
Bicycle Handlebars – Not Only for Straring!
Many people think that bicycle handlebars are merely the means of steering a bike, and do not give any more thought to the matter. The truth of the matter is that the handlebars are very important in determining your position on the bike.
Road bike handlebars allow the rider to assume an aerodynamic position, while the varying widths of mountain bike handlebars can modulate the amount of technical control the rider has while maneuvering the bike along trails.
Together with the bike stem, bicycle handlebars also determine how much of your weight is positioned over the rear of the bike or over the front. Clearly, bicycle handlebars are more important than one would think. Let’s take a closer look at different styles of handlebars, how they are used, and the benefits they offer.
Materials used for Bicycle Handlebars
Did you know...?
Did you know that you can apply special tape to your bicycle handlebars for added comfort?
Popular types of handlebar tape include durable leather tape, highly cushioned polyurethane tape and gentle cotton tape. If you find your handlebar grips uncomfortable but can't afford to buy new grips just yet, handlebar tape will work well as a temporary stopgap measure.
Most handlebars, regardless of style, are constructed of steel or aluminum alloys. These handlebars offer the most rigidity for the cost. For the casual cyclist, aluminum alloy bicycle handlebars are more than adequate.
Carbon bars, although expensive, are lighter than regular bicycle handlebars. More importantly, carbon tends to absorb road vibrations - making for a more comfortable ride.
Road Bike Handlebars - Drop Handlebars
These Bicycle handlebars are named after the dropped, aerodynamic position rider can assume. However, these bars also offer a number of other hand positions. This variation reduces wrist fatigue on longer rides.
This style of bar is not meant to offer precise turning, as this is not needed as much as in mountain bike riding. But for many reasons, sudden or sharp turns of the front wheel are not recommended on road bikes anyway!
Although drops are used on both race bikes and road bikes, the shape varies slightly between the two bars. Track bars have a larger radius of curve, and are not fitted with brakes. This style of bar is now popular on fixed gear bicycles.
There is more variation in road bike handlebars. The curve of these bars can be smooth, or have flat parts - described as ergo or anatomic. Additionally, the curve can be deep or shallow - the latter found in so-called "compact" bars. So which style of bar is perfect for you? There is no perfect answer for this question! The best thing to do is try out several different styles. Remember, the more comfortable you are on your bike, the more you will want to ride it! Drop bars are wrapped with cloth or tape for added comfort and grip. I would also recommend the gel inserts one can place under the tape - these are very cozy!
Mountain Bike Handlebars - Flat or Riser Bars
These handlebars are always found on mountain bikes, but because of their versatility, are also found on many commuter and hybrid bicycles. Rubber grips of varying shapes and textures can be fitted on to these bars, depending on the rider's preference.
Mountain bike handlebars are usually purchased in one general length, and then cut at the bike shop to fit a specific rider. Wider bars will facilitate smoother steering, while narrower bars will benefit the technical rider.
So what is the difference between flat and rider bars? Aside from a certain aesthetic sought by some riders, riser bars place the rider in more upright position. However, bar ends can be placed on these either bar to offer more variation in grip and control. Take a look at these selected mountain bike handlebars found on eBay:
Triathlon Aero Bars
Protruding further forward from the stem, these bars are used by cyclists to assume an aerodynamic position over a long distance. This position is achieved as the bars draw the body into a tucked position, while the rider can rest his or her elbows on pads.
These bar additions are useful over long distances where aero position is desired. They are almost always used in triathlons, and are frequently used in road race time trials. They are not useful over short distances, or for sprinting or climbing. While these bars are frequently found without brakes are shifters mounted on them, other versions of this bar can be found with these additions mounted.
Touring or Trekking Bars
These bicycle handlebars are shaped like a broken figure 8 configuration mounted horizontally. Why this position? It allows the rider to remain relatively upright while providing the widest range of positions.
Take a look at these selected touring and trekking bars found on eBay:
Pursuit or Bullhorn Handlebars
Pursuit handlebars are named after a discipline of track racing. They are sometimes called bullhorns, after their shape. The bar is basically straight, and curves up and forward on the ends.
Like other track bars, they are frequently taped for grip and comfort. Besides being found on pursuit bicycles, one can sometimes see these in the street mounted on fixies. Take a look at these selected pursuit or bullhorn handlebars found on eBay:
Cruiser/Beach Bicycle Handlebars
There might have been a time where one would only see one particular kind of handlebar on one style of bike. However, more now than ever, there seems to be no rules!
Cruisers bicycles and beach bikes perhaps offer the greatest variation in bar styles. While many bikes exhibit function over fashion, cruiser and beach bikes showcase the rider's own creative aesthetic. In general, bicycle handlebars found on these bikes tend to be longer, sloping towards the rider so that he/she may sit more upright. They may be shorter, as in the case of moustache bars, or they may be quite exaggerated, as in the case of ape hangers. Take a look at these selected cruiser bicycles handlebars found on eBay:
Many of the other handlebars I have talked about, due to the blurring of functional boundaries, can often be found on different styles of bikes. Unlike these other styles of bars, BMX bars are usually only found on BMX bikes.
BMX handlebars are smaller in order to fit the general size of single BMX bicycles. They are narrow, and have a steep rise. A crossbar is added to provide rigidity and strength. Take a look at these selected BMX bikes handlebars found on eBay:
Bicycle Handlebars Accessories
The stem is that part of the bike that connects the handlebars to the steering tube. Like handlebars, they are usually made of aluminum alloys. Higher end stems can also be made of carbon or magnesium. While the stem assists the cyclist on steering the bike, variations of stem design can also assist the rider achieve perfect riding position.
A stem will affect your riding position in two ways: it will affect how upright you are able to sit in the saddle, as well as the length to which you are able to stretch your arms. Your comfort level in the saddle will determine, to a great extent, the proper size of the stem you have on your bicycle. However, being properly fitted on a bike is more than just initial impressions. In order to achieve maximum happiness riding your bike, I would highly recommend having it properly fitted by a trained salesman at the bike store. Take a look at these mountain & road bike handlebars stems found on eBay:
Mountain biking tends to demand a more intense grip on the handlebars then other styles of riding. Consequently, if you are not wearing gloves, your hands will be quite sore afterwards!
If you would ask me what my #1 recommendation for bicycle accessories are, I would definitely say: anatomically shaped grips!.
While road and track bike bars are normally wrapped with specialized cloth or cork tape, most other bicycle handlebars are fitted with rubber grips of varying textures and styles. Most of the bikes that are fitted with grips have grips which are cylindrical in shape. Anatomically shaped are also becoming popular. These grips are flared on the ends and allow the meaty parts of the palms a place to rest during longer rides. One comment for mountain bikers: the texture of the grips doesn't really matter at all because you should always be wearing bicycling gloves when you mountain bike anyway!
Take a look at these mountain & grips found on eBay:
Where to Buy Bicycle Handlebars?
If you are interested in buying bicycle handlebars, stems, tapes and grips, you can buy them in one of these trusted online stores: