How To: Picking the right size road bike handlebars

Selecting correctly has huge impact on comfort on the bike

How To Parts Tech
Selecting the correct handlebar can make a huge difference in the comfort and quality of your ride every time you get on your bike. Photo courtesy of Art's Cyclery

Selecting the correct handlebar can make a huge difference in the comfort and quality of your ride every time you get on your bike (click to enlarge). Photo courtesy of Art’s Cyclery

Editors Note: This article is courtesy of the team at Art’s Cyclery. The original post can be found here.

How do choose the right road handlebar? And what determines where you put the levers on the bar? These are important questions to ask, as selecting the correct handlebar can make a huge difference in the comfort and quality of your ride every time you get on your bike.

There are a ton of different options to choose from when it comes to road bike handlebars. You’ll have to choose between carbon or aluminum, internal or external cable routing, bar width, and the shape of the drop. In the end, though, a lot of it will come down to what feels best to each individual, and what fits in your budget.

The goal is to ensure that you are reaching straight out to the hoods and not having to cant your wrists.

The goal is to ensure that you are reaching straight out to the hoods and not having to cant your wrists (click to enlarge).

Let’s start by determining the width of the handlebar you should be looking at. The most traditional and easiest way to determine the correct width is to hold the bar up to your shoulders with the ends touching the body. The ends of the bar should reach to the outside of the shoulder, but not be so wide that the ends go past the shoulder.

You can also use a measuring tape to measure across from the boney protrusions on each clavicle (the conoid tubercle) and add 2cm. This will ensure that you are reaching straight out to the hoods and not having to cant your wrist to the inside or outside in order to reach them.

The ends of the bar should reach to the outside of the shoulder, but not be so wide that the ends go past the shoulder.

The ends of the bar should reach to the outside of the shoulder, but not be so wide that the ends go past the shoulder (click to enlarge).

Handlebars come in size increments of 2cm, so if you measure to an odd number we recommend choosing the size 1cm up from the measurement you got. The most common sizes range from 40-44cm, again in increments of 2cm. There are narrower and wider handlebars but they are harder to find.

It should also be noted that some bars flare out in the drops and are a little wider at that point than they are where the levers would be mounted. If this is the case you’ll want to match your shoulder width with the measurement of the width at the hoods and not in the drop.

Continue to page 2 to learn about the importance of reach and drop »
About the author: Arts Cyclery

This article was originally published on the Art's Cyclery Blog. Art's Cyclery is dedicated to offering free expert advice, how-to videos, and in-depth product reviews on ArtsCyclery.com to help riders make an educated decision when selecting cycling gear.


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  • c says:

    FYI – image for reach is not quite accurate. Reach is from the center of the bar forward to the center of the bend (not out to the side), and might be better illustrated in the same photo used to show drop.

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