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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Still wrestling w/a decision on upgrading bars. Without an unlimited checkbook to buy lots of different ones to road test I'm still perplexed by the different threads here. I know it's a personal decision about comfort and performance, but is there a concensus, or at least a majority point of view on the relative importance of material (eg. do carbon bars absorb shock better), shape (eg. do wing/flattop bars make a significant difference in comfort) or accountraments (eg do tape, pads, gloves make a big difference)?

What's your point of view on what makes for comfort with a handlebar, and what's been your experience with different bars?
 

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What's helped me the most with handlebar comfort is: 1) going to a wider bar, 2) getting a bar with less drop (Ritchie), 3) Cinelli gel bar tape, 4) using a stem that raises my bar high enough.

I used to have a lot of problems with hand numbness from riding. No problems since I made the changes above, with #4 being most important.
 

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tarwheel2 said:
What's helped me the most with handlebar comfort is: 1) going to a wider bar, 2) getting a bar with less drop (Ritchie), 3) Cinelli gel bar tape, 4) using a stem that raises my bar high enough.

I used to have a lot of problems with hand numbness from riding. No problems since I made the changes above, with #4 being most important.
Good answers there. In my personal experience and estimation:

1)Carbon is a nice bling and might be good for weight, but doesn't in itself add much to the ride. A good tape will do far more than carbon will, much like properly inflated tires make more difference to ride than frame material.
2) If you spend much time on the tops, 'wing' bars make a bunch of difference. If you don't, wing bars will convince you to spend more time there. Big difference in comfort to a round bar. And don't let fashion overrule function - tape the tops of the wing bars. (OK, some have finger grooves that make them work better without, but for most short-taping is a showoff trick.
3)Not to start gruppo wars, but for my hands, the latest iteration of the Shimano hoods are a vast improvement over the older, and over the Campy hoods as well. Since I tend to spend the most time on the hoods, it makes sense to look at that contact point as well.
 

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good advice above but to go further do you currently have any complaints. I'm sure you do but what are they. The perfect bar could be out there but it helps to know what you have now and what you want to do. Your LBS should easily be able to measure your shoulder width to get the correct bar width. Are your hands small. If they are double taping or gel pads may be a bad idea. Same with gloves. If you wear gloves do you wear gel gloves or race gloves. Each type will make the handlebar fit differently.Ultimately the best thing you might do on a budget is see what can be done to improve what you have now. No sense spending money you not need to spend.
 

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Another factor to consider, albeit nominal in most instances, is the reach. I think you would have more options in finding a bar with the ideal reach, drop and width by going with a round bar vs a wing design. That being said, I recently purchased the FSA K-Wing. I haven't had a chance to install it so I'm not in a position to offer any opinions yet.

The biggest change I made in terms of a bar has been to a wider width--from 40cm to 42cm. It was amazing how much those 2cm made in terms of comfort.
 

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Broomwagon said:
The biggest change I made in terms of a bar has been to a wider width--from 40cm to 42cm. It was amazing how much those 2cm made in terms of comfort.
+1 on that, but going in the other direction. I've always ridden 44cm bars. My new bike came stock with 46cm and the difference is quite noticable when I'm riding on the hoods or just behind, which are the two positions I use most. I decided to ride the 46s for a while, see if I would adapt, but it's been 3+ months and they still feel too wide, so I think I'm going to have to change them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Good stuff; appreciate the responses. Some more info:
  • big issue is tingling/numbness in hands, comes on 15-20 min into a ride
  • currently riding Bontrager Selects, 46 cm c-c. Prev rode 44 cm c-c and I like the wider bars
  • reach/drop seem pretty good (95/145 per Bontrager site)
  • using stock Bontrager tape, old Nike gloves w/minimal padding
  • not much drop saddle to bars
  • using 105 STIs, soon changing to Centaur (105s too mushy and am challenged to shift w/out braking action)
    mostly ride on top/hoods vs in drops
 

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A tip for bars

I recently began using old used cork tape or foam cork tape as a base layer and then a second finish layer over top. I like the thicker feel to the bar, and it is not spongy. For some strange reason 2 of my bikes now have plastic vinyl tape, sort of like it too though i have not had to ride in the wet with it yet.
 

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teleguy57 said:
Good stuff; appreciate the responses. Some more info:
  • big issue is tingling/numbness in hands, comes on 15-20 min into a ride
  • using stock Bontrager tape, old Nike gloves w/minimal padding
  • not much drop saddle to bars
    mostly ride on top/hoods vs in drops
Get new gloves. And maybe some gel cork bar tape.
Make sure the gloves aren't too tight and have padding where you hold the bars/hoods.
Move your hands to different positions frequently.
 

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I have a question about this: I notice that I can get a lot more work out of my arms when I am sprinting if I am in the drops as opposed to on the hoods. Is this a problem with the bar geometry or is it common to everyone?

Dancer
 

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Good points here...........

Bar comfort varies from one rider to the next, but I'll tell you what works good for me. You need a bar thats the same width as your shoulders, measured from joint to joint. With your shoulders and back flat against a wall, chest pushed out, have someone measure the centerline of one shoulder joint, or socket, to the other. Your bars need to be this width, or as close as possible. This is considered optimum for unrestricted breathing.

As far as padding goes, it's hard to beat cork and a good pair of gloves. If you're new to road riding you may need a good pair of gel gloves to alleviate some of the tingling/numbness issues you encounter. In time, that will most likely disappear after your hands (and body) get use to road riding with drop bars. I use a good, black cork tape (natural, non synthetic) as a base layer, then double wrapped with 'Fizik' microtex tape for uber-comfort. The 'Fizik' stuff is relatively thin and looks kinda like leather with the perforated holes. It is also quite strong, and feels good even when wet. Of course, this double wrapping of tape may be too big for your hands, but it's great for me and I wear a size 'large' glove.

~ something to think about. :)
 

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Two big factors in the comfort of any bar is where in the curve of the drops you clamp the hoods and how the bars are clamped in the stem. Rotating the bars too far down and riding in the hoods will be awkward and too high and braking from the drops is a stretch. Same consideration as positioning the hoods.

That said I have had Salsa Bell laps on may last three bikes. 44cm. Shallow drops slightly flared at the bottom. The anatomic bend fits my hands very well, and sprinting in the drops is very comfortable. I don't see me riding a different bar on the road anytime soon.
 

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something i noticed about classic bend...

I know classic bend bars are going the way of...um....something that isn't used as much anymore...the locomotive! thereyago. BUT, they're hella euro savage. I like them more b/c they give you more places to put your hands, instead of 'defined' areas for the drops, hoods, etc. I went from a normal anatomic bar to these, and noticed i needed a shorter stem b/c of the longer reach, especially in the drops.

I have the Fizik tape on them which looks awesome, but is on the thin side. sometimes, especially on long and/or bumpy rides I wish I had a litter more, but w/e. Next time I'll get the gel as well.

As others have saide, carbon doesn't make a difference except maybe weight, but its negligible. I personally like the look of sand blasted aluminum better, especially for stems.
 

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teleguy57 said:
Good stuff; appreciate the responses. Some more info:
  • big issue is tingling/numbness in hands, comes on 15-20 min into a ride
  • currently riding Bontrager Selects, 46 cm c-c. Prev rode 44 cm c-c and I like the wider bars
  • reach/drop seem pretty good (95/145 per Bontrager site)
  • using stock Bontrager tape, old Nike gloves w/minimal padding
  • not much drop saddle to bars
  • using 105 STIs, soon changing to Centaur (105s too mushy and am challenged to shift w/out braking action)
    mostly ride on top/hoods vs in drops
If your hands are numb or tingling a change in handlebars really won't help. basically your putting too much weight into the hands while riding. your hands really shouldn't be supporting you they should just be there to steer and lightly help you balance over the bike. You could buy new gloves or wrap but that may just help to lengthen the time before you go numb again. Best thing to do is go back to LBS and let them know the situation with your hands so they can adjust your fit to accomodate you.
 

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I'd second this response; I'd been adjusting saddle height and set back for the last couple of years trying to get more comfortable without much success; now that I've been moving back toward saddle to pedal spindle at 108 to 110 percent of inseam and about 1 cm behind KOPS, less hand pain and almost no shoulder pain; more of my weight is on the saddle and over the pedals. Padding the bars under the tape and padded gloves hardly helped.
 

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Dancer said:
I have a question about this: I notice that I can get a lot more work out of my arms when I am sprinting if I am in the drops as opposed to on the hoods. Is this a problem with the bar geometry or is it common to everyone?

Dancer
The way it should be. The drops bring your arms closer to your body which puts them in a more powerful position. Like rowing a barbell the arms go below the shoulders not out in front.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Thanks folks. I think my position is pretty close already; riding a 59cm LeMond carbon/steel spine with a 72.5 SA, so I'm reasonably far back, and leg extension feels pretty good -- smack in the middle of the Competitive Cyclist Eddy recommendation @ 78.5 cm. Not too much drop to the bars, so I think my weight distribution is OK.

Riding tonight I could definitely feel road buzz, and the roads weren't really all that rough. Did check my gloves and the padding is almost non-existant from wear, so probably time for new gloves.

I'm not adverse to putting some $$ into a good set of bars, even carbon wings; I just don't want to have to go through several sets before landing on something that works....
 

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If you think the tingling/numbness is from road buzz, then Cinelli gel tape might help. It provides a very noticeable extra amount of padding, which I supplement (like LG) by taping a layer of regular cork tape lengthwise along the top of bars where my hands rest the most.

Not to beat a dead horse about bar height, but that could be the problem even if your weight distribution is good. I suffered from hand numbness for years and didn't solve the problem until I raised my bars. After seeing a chiropractor about another issue (post crash pains), I realized why my hands were so numb. My neck has very poor flexibility and just doesn't bend in a normal curve like it should. As a result, the nerves that go to my hands are stressed when I try to bend my neck a lot -- such as riding with low handlebars. The x-rays that the chiropractor showed me were pretty convincing -- my neck bones are almost in a straight one, while most people's are curved.

I have a friend who has cycled for years and developed the same problem. Could be an age issue, as he just turned 50 and I'm 52. He tried all sorts of things, but raising his handlebar height is was solved the numbness.

If you don't have neck issues, you could help the hand numbness by working on your core muscle strength with situps, weight machines and other ways to exercise your abs and back muscles. With stronger core muscles, your better able to keep too much weight from shifting to your hands and arms.

Finally, the tilt of your saddle can make a big difference. Some riders have the nose of their saddles tilted down, which is all wrong because it shifts weight toward your hands. Your saddle should be level or with the nose tilted slightly up. That shifts weight toward your rear and can make a huge difference in hand comfort.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Hmmm. Turned 52 last month -- I've blamed lots of stuff on that, might as well add this to the list:D

When I go lower the issue is more hips/low back than shoulders/hands, so that's what's keeping me relatively upright. Bars aren't quite level w/seat, but not more than 1-2 cm drop....

So let's say position is good enough to be a minor contributor to the problem, if at all. I'll look at new gloves, and more bar padding. Some posters have recommended flat-top bars; is that the next thing to think about?
 

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teleguy57 said:
Hmmm. Turned 52 last month -- I've blamed lots of stuff on that, might as well add this to the list:D

When I go lower the issue is more hips/low back than shoulders/hands, so that's what's keeping me relatively upright. Bars aren't quite level w/seat, but not more than 1-2 cm drop....

So let's say position is good enough to be a minor contributor to the problem, if at all. I'll look at new gloves, and more bar padding. Some posters have recommended flat-top bars; is that the next thing to think about?
Well if your determined to spend money then flat top bars will surely feel more comfortable but they will not stop numb tingling hands. If you ride with weight bearing down on your hands you'll still have the issue. Just because you have slight drop to your bars this does not mean that your not putting too much weight on your hands. Any weight will compress the palm into the bar and this is where the numb feeling is felt. Just like someone whom puts too much weight into their peritineum experiences numbness in the boys down below. Simply put if your fit onto your bike properly taking into account flexibility, pelvic tilt, past injuries,and fitness levels you should not need gloves or even bar tape to help with bothersome issues such as the ones you are complaining about.
 
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