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So here's the scoop, at the recent swap meet here in town I was scroungin' up a "build kit" for my new race bike for 2004. At one of the booths, they were selling brand new Kore Elite bars and stems for $10. So, I picked out my stem, then went to the handlebar box for the bars. I wanted 42cm, but unfortunately, ended up with 44s. I'm not shedding any tears as they were only $10, but how much of a difference is there in 42cm vs. 44cm? I've never ridden 44cm bars before.

Would I notice much difference? What is the handling difference? Should I eat my $10 (until they make it to ebay) and get a pair of 42cm bars? I'm a pretty small guy, but not particularly narrow-shouldered for my size.

How does one measure shoulder-width for determining ideal bar size?

TIA
 

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I think ideal bar size is more of a personal preference. I recently went from a 42 to a 44 and like the change from a comfort standpoint. The handling did not seem to change much if any. My suggestion would be to try it and then decide. A way to pick bar size is to hold out your arms parallel to each other and measure center to center of you fists. But I would just use this as a suggested staring point and go with what works for you.
 

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try the 44

For $10, I would try the 44 bars. I switched many years ago from 42 to 44 and haven't looked back. I really like them for climbing as I feel I breath better with a more open stance. I haven't raced crits in many years, where I think the wider bar may, and I stress may, be a disadvantage when threading through a pack. 2cm more is 2cm more.

Handling? I don't think the change would be great, and if you noticed any handling difference I think you would adjust to it quickly.

When I was fitted to my present bike the kit recommended 42 for me. I ignored it.
 

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One way to measure the "ideal" size is to measure the distance between the bony protrusions of your shoulders in the front. That is only a guide as your comfort the real measure. I measure 42cm but prefer a 40cm (c-c) bar.
 

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A few months ago I switched from 44 to 40 (got a deal on the 40 cm. bars). two centimeters on each side were a huge difference. it felt different in all positions but the only one that was hard to get used to was riding out of the saddle. the bike felt less stable when riding out of the drops - particularly when climbing standing - until i got used to it. about a month ago I did a 45 minute test ride on a bike with 42 bars and they felt jusssst right. not too wide like the 44s and not at all unstable like the 40s.

You can reverse my experiences to get one possible outcome. My guess is it will feel different but not terribly so. Going too big is, I would guess, not as noticably bad as going too small. I'd give it a try.

I searched for the "proper" method of measuring one's shoulder width for bicycle handlebars and found a faily consistent recommendation. Feel the bony portion of your shoulder blade on your back. Follow the bone up and out to the bony protrusion. For me it doesn't protrude that much but it's the widest point of this bony area and if i go much further up i can feel the muscles/tendons of my shoulder joint. There's a medical term for this point but I can't find it now. This measurement is one way to choose a bar size. This actually ended up being about right for me but everyone is different.
 

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lately i've been feeling like i can't get the bars narrow enough. I'm pretty narrow-shouldered, but i always thought i liked a wider bar than my body dictated. I've ridden 44cm c-t-c icon bars, an itm millenium 44cm o-t-o, and most recently a 42 cm c-t-c ritchey wcs.

The itm bar was actually the narrowest, and i find myself missing it now that i'm on the ritchey. I felt like a sail this year in most flat crits. Since the bar was the only thing that changed in my set-up, i think that extra width of the ritchey bar had something to do with it. I think i'll go back to either a 43 or 44 o-t-o bar or a 40 cm c-t-c for this season. My reasoning for the wider bar was that it was better to climb on, but i think the narrower bars even were better for that.

bar choice has quite a few variables.
1) the bar measurement: center to center or outside to outside. typically the conversion is that a center to center bar + 2 cm = an equally wide outside to outside, however the euro manufacturers seem to be narrower all around than americans. hence, my itm 44 outside is slightly narrower than the 42 cm ritchey.

2) bar shape: some bars offer more "effective" room, especially on the tops, based on the curve of the bar from the top to the drop. for example, the ritchey offers a nearly square (90degree bend) from the top to the beginning of the drop when viewed from above. others offer a more rounded transistion. this matters because it will affect how wide the bar is when your hands are on the hoods.

3) over all body position. i've found that if you run your cockpit fairly long, you can get away with a narrower bar than if you have a more upright position. same goes for the "deepness" of the drops (deeper drops have the same effect as running a longer stem, all other things equal).

hope that helps a little...personally, i'd say it's one of those things you just have to figure out with trial and error. Since i like to replace my bar/stem every year for peace of mind, if i make a mistake with sizing, it doesn't last too long.
 
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