Have someone measure your shoulder width. From where the bone starts to where the bone ends... muscle doesn't count. Usually you want the hbars to be your shoulder-width or one size (2cm) more.
I have 42cm shoulders, for example, and I ride 44cm bars. The confusing/annoying part is that not all hbar makers measure their bars the same way... some measure their handlebar width from center-to-center, others from outside-to-outside. My hbars are 44cm center-to-center, but are 46cm outside-to-outside, for example.
I tried to match up with the center-to-center dimension, more or less, ended up going one size/2 cm bigger than that, and it's been perfect for me.
Hbar width definitely makes a big diff... I once did a century with 38cm bars, way back before I knew better (they came with a used bike I bought), and it was pure torment. Never again.
If you end up having a hard time deciding between two widths (say 42 and 44), usually it ends up that the wider bar is the way to go. G'luck.
I'd also add the semi-obvious caveat that bar shape plays a big role in how much you're going to like your bars... some ppl absolutely luv anatomic bars, some ppl hate 'em (I'm one), some ppl must have shallow drop or deep drop, and bars do significantly differ in their shape in the part right above the brake hoods... some drop steeply from the tops down to the brake hoods, others (like the Nitto Noodle bar) are flatter there, some ppl dig that, while others don't care.
As always, each person must consider their own needs and personal preferences.
The width is supposed to roughly be the same as the shoulder joint width, but it's hard to measure with much accuracy. Unless you have no previous experience, measure what you're using now, but keep in mind that some brands measure c-c and others measure o-o, so a 40mm c-c is about the same as a 42cm o-o. Some brands will also be 1-2cm narrower at the brake hoods than at the ends.
Ride at midday, ride and put your shoulders flat on the bars, and looking at your shadow, if your bars are bigger than your shoulders you need smaller bars, and vice versa, if the bars are much smaller than your shoulders, you need bigger ones.
FWIW I ride 42 cm bars, but I have narrow shoulders and a small frame.
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