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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am new to road biking and I find my handlebars too narrow. I have an extra small frame due to my short legs and the bike came with a 38cm handlebar. My shoulders roughly measure roughly 42cm. My shoulders, elbows ache after just 1 1/2 hr ride. I am used to riding much longer with my MT bike without aches. Should I buy bigger? How big?
 

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Shoulder width

MTBC2008 said:
I am new to road biking and I find my handlebars too narrow. I have an extra small frame due to my short legs and the bike came with a 38cm handlebar. My shoulders roughly measure roughly 42cm. My shoulders, elbows ache after just 1 1/2 hr ride. I am used to riding much longer with my MT bike without aches. Should I buy bigger? How big?
The nominal guideline is that the bars should be the same width as the bony protrusions at the tips of your shoulders. There's personal preference variability, but that's a good starting point.
 

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MTBC2008 said:
Thanks!!! I will order one tonight!
You MAY need a 42cm bar, but those one-size-fits-all decrees should be regarded with suspicion. By most standards, I should ride a 46, but I ordered a 50cm tandem stoker bar for my singlespeed, and I liked it so much I ordered another one for my Atlantis. Anything smaller than that feels cramped to me now. This may be one of those times when it's best to buy from a bike shop, where you at least can hold the thing in your hands before you buy. Once you install it and put the levers etc. on it, few online retailers will take it back.
 

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Several things:

One...make sure you check on how the manufacturer measures their bars. Some measure outside to outside, some measure center to center. So one manufacturer's 42 may be a 44 for another. In your case the 42 you are looking at, may in fact fit more like a 40...so check before purchasing.

You really want to look at the center to center measurement when trying to fit your shoulder width.

Two....shoulder width is just a guideline and you may like your bars narrower or wider. I have a 46cm CTC and a 44 CTC...for racing I much prefer the 44, for centuries and laid back rides I prefer the 46.

Three...Take into account the reach and drop of a bar because it will make a different in the fit on your bike. The longer the reach the farther your shifters will be away from you, which may mean you will need a shorter stem to compensate for the longer reach of the bar. Also a bar with a lot of drop may make it uncomfortable to use the drops and you would need to raise your stem or go with a new one with more rise or less drop.

Also you need to decide whether you want an anatomical bar or a classic (i.e. round) bar...or one of the shallow reach bars that are kind of in-between.

Anyway....just a few things to think about when bar shopping.
 

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What he said...

...meaning Wookiebiker. Bars, width being one item, are a very idiosyncratic choice. I am relatively short and square, so I've evolved to a 44 cm. bar. I also like (some but not all) ergo bars...other people hate 'em, and will only go with round bars. For my road bikes, I have two Titus Oseos. They are not crit bikes, but they're not plush bikes, either. Plush bikes are a category that varies all over the map, where a Specialized Roubaix might be a good example...zertz dampeners in the frame, taller head tube, tube shapes and dimensions that are more comfort rather than performance oriented...and so forth. Plush is an emerging and changing category, where another example might be the Cervelo RS, which is a lot like the race oriented R3 except that the RS has a taller head tube.

Where I was going with all that is your bar choice (among other things) can really be a differentiator concerning whether the frame you have falls on the plush or performance end of the scale. Per what I said above, my Titus Oseos don't really fall into the plush category...but they have lots of vertical compliance due to the tube shapes, thickness, dimensions and so forth, yet the bike is plenty stiff enough for me (climbing, accelerating) because of the massive bottom bracket and down tube, among other things. I wanted the thing to have a pretty relaxed cockpit, however, because, at age 60, I don't race any more, I just do mileage for fun and fitness, with 3 to 6 sponsored rides a summer thrown in. So when it came to the front end, I went with 40 cm. of spacer stacking, which put the bars something like 5 to 10 cm. below the top of the seat (I didn't measure...I just had the shop guys line me up for what looked and felt right...may change this some day) and I also went for 44 cm. FSA K Force Compact carbon bars. I am a big believer in carbon bars, because I think they help absorb road shock (I know...that's a debate that can go on forever, but carbon bars work for me) and what I really like at the Compacts is that they have an ergo shape that works for me plus they have a shorter reach and shallower drop (125/78) than most other bars...easier to get to the brifters, easier on an aging, less flexible body when I am in the drops...

So, the moral is, any component can help the overall feel of a bike, but IMHO, your choice of bars can really help fine tune the feel of your bike to your riding preferences...
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Wookiebiker...You make great points. I have an entry level Giant OCR. I do not plan on racing or anyhthing close to that. I mainly ride the road when I can not hit the trails to keep buliding stregth and stamina. So I think I am looking for comfort over aerodynamics or for racing in general. I reseaerched and educated myself on more bars but I have not yet decided....I am hoping the local bike shop has some choices for me to look at this weekend.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks to everyone! I ordered a 42mm todya against the advive of a sales person. But, after sitting on bikes rigged w/42's I know that is what I want. I will let everytone know how it goes on it's test ride later this week.
 

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lawrence said:
I don't think the width of the handlebars is going to cause the pain in the shoulders and elbows. There's a better chance it comes from either a poor riding position or from an ill fit somewhere else on the bike.
It sure did for me. Granted, I have a bum shoulder with rotor cuff issues. My bike came with a 40cm c-c bar and my bad shoulder would ache terribly on longer rides. I switched to a 42cm c-c bar and the problem is much reduced.
 

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I'd been riding 44cm (O-O) Deda Piega bars which are equivalent to 42 cm CC. It seems a lot of bikes come in 42 stock - maybe it's a medium size? I tried to measure my shoulders, using the specified landmark (bony protuberance at outside of shoulder - humeral head?). For one thing, it's not that easy to measure. Across the back is not a straight line. Even with someone measuring, I think there's room for inaccuracy. Anyway, best measurement I could come up with was 41cm. I bought a set of 42 Deda 215 Shallow which are measured O-O, and are roughly equal to a 40 CC bar.

My shoulder and neck pain have pretty much vanished this year. I attribute this to a more relaxed shoulder position: less hunching and better able to round and relax my shoulders with the narrower bars. I'm very happy and encourage people to try slightly narrower bars. Buy some cheap ones to try.

I think the shallower drops and slightly shorter reach have helped too - especially the cramping I used get in the neck - no more.
 
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