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I'm sorry if this is common knowledge to you guys, but I'm new to this forum and just getting back into road cycling after a couple of years of only MTB. Since I built my last road bike the new "oversized" format of stems and bars have came out, and now I'm building up another bike and am trying to decide which route to take. What are the pros and cons of both systems? One thing I've noticed so far is that the 31.8 bars are more expensive and harder to come by it seems. Is that just because they are new, or are they not being embraced by the industry and destined to die off? Am I to assume that the 31.8 bar/stem combo is going to be stiffer/more sound due to larger clamp diameter than the 26.0 clamp? Thanks a lot for the help! :)
 

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I use 31.7 bars....

My main ride came equipped with Deda Magic 31.7 bars, they were included in the component package. They say that the oversized bars increase stiffness, but I don't know if that holds water. Some say it is marketing hype.

Cons-If you need to swap out a stem, you are short on choices and what you are stuck with is expensive. I found the main disadvantage was mounting a computer to my bars, I had to go to a stem mounted computer mount. A lot of manufacturers now have a computer mount that will adapt to a 31.7 bar (like Cat Eye). Finally, after a year and a half, my "new" bike, now has a bar mounted computer.

Pros- I do find the 31.7 bars to be stiff, but I would have to compare it to something else on the same bike to make a determination.

You might take a look at a Deda 215 bar (actually it's more expensive, looking at my bike catalog-$69.99 compared to $59.99 for the Deda Magic). Lots of other choices, depends on the bar bend, The Ritchey Pro runs $54.99. The 215 and Ritchey are not oversized..

I use Deda Magic 31.7 bars and a Deda Newton stem, I like that combo. Ask your LBS if you can swap out stems if you want to go to a different size. I stuck with what I had, but now I think I want to go to a longer stem....

I guess it comes down to $$$$$$$$ You want something that is reasonably light and strong....bar shape is a biggy...
 

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If you notice, the "oversize bars and stems are always heavier than the standard size. One other thing, The Postal team still uses the standard size. If it doesn't bother them, I don't think that the average USCF race needs them. (There are probably 100 people in the world that "need" them)
Think of them as the same as carbon rear triangles. Good for bike company profits. If you can get a whole lot of people to replace a part before it's worn out, Wow. Think of it. $$$$$$$$$
 

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Oversize bars

I have two bikes with oversize stems/bars and two without. I doubt there's any structural need for oversize, but aesthetically, I like the look of oversize, paricularly on an aluminum or carbon frame that has wider or unconventionally shaped down and top tubes. After riding my bike with oversize, going back to my steel frame with "regular" size bars feels wierd-the bars look thin. As someone else mentioned, the inability to mount most computers to the bars is a pain.
I'm not sure "Grumpy" is entirely correct as to the agenda of the bike industry to make extra profit. That doesn't quite make sense to me. It seems to me that as the bike industry continues to push the weight envelope with sub 200 gram bars and different materials (carbon), they need to make the center of the bar bigger. You might say they are looking to keep the money they've made rather than lose it in litigation.
 

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On the flip side...

I have oversized bars and stem on a steel bike and it took a little getting used to, looking down at a stem that was thicker than my bike's tubing.

When the time comes I might think about going with a Deda 215 bar/Newton 26.0 stem.

Whats more important is the shape of the bars when you are in the drops and your reach..

It could also be your fork/headset/stem/handlebar combination that paints the big picture...
 

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Think about where the flex takes place

If you look at the stem/bar system, there is a lot of force twisting the stem, and then distributed along the length of the bar. If the stem were very stiff, then a larger diameter bar would reduce system flex, but the rest of the bar (the large majority of its length) would still flex. Making the center of the bar large diameter for 20 cm is a pretty small part of the equation. This doesn't mean it won't become the standard, just that it's going to be only a slight increase in stiffness, all else equal.
 
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