The main function of a handlebar is to provide support to the rider and to enable the rider to maneuver the bike. Handlebar design, dimensions, and geometry play a huge part not only in determining how your bike handles but also in how well it fits you. Designers make the most out of mordern technology and material technology to shed weight while maintaining strength and boosting comfort.
Handlebars also serve the additional functionality of supporting your cyclocomputers, brake-calipers, lights, etc.
There are several types of handlebars available. Some of the main types are drop bars, flat bars, bull horns, and pista bars. Each bar serves a particular purpose and it is essential to figure out the type of handlebar which suits you best.
The correct handlebar will put yourself in a position where your upper body is supported well without putting undue stress on your shoulders, wrists and neck.
The classic road “drop handlebars” offer road riders a variety of different hand and riding positions – on the top of the bars, for in-the-saddle climbing, on the hoods for relaxed riding or accelerating, or on the drops for sustained high-speed effort in a lower, more aerodynamic position.
Drop bars are characterised by a perfectly flat central section, whose ends are curved. The curvature is such that, it goes outward first and then curves inward, dropping below the handlebar and hence the name “drop bars”. They are commonly found on road and single speed/ fixed gear bikes.
Drop bars provide a good number of support positions. If you want to reduce the drag at high speeds, you can hold onto the drops, which help you to get into an aerodynamic position. While cruising at a normal pace, the hands can be rested on top of the drops. While climbing, the flat portion of the handlebar can be used.
Hence, as observed, this type of handlebar provides good supporting positions and is pretty comfortable.
Watch the video above for some considerations to make before choosing the right handlebar.
Types of Drop bars
STANDARD BARS : These are the most commonly used type of drop bars, which you can see on most of the road bikes.These bars serve the three basic purposes as stated above. They are specified in terms of their reach, depth and width.
TRACK BARS : As the name suggests, Track bars are mainly used on Track bikes. These bars are characterised by a smaller radius of curvature, than your standard road bike drop bars. They are designed for track cyclists, looking for aggressive dynamics. These bars are generally designed for use without brake levers.
ERGO BARS : The characteristic feature which helps us differentiate ergo bars from other drop bars is that, while other drops have a somewhat perfect curvature, ergo bars feature a small straight section at the centre of the curvature of the drop, which helps the riders to have a comfortable, yet firm grip on the drops.
DROP-IN BARS : Drop-in bars are a modification of the standard drop bars. The drops in drop-in bars are extended laterally inwards, in a direction parallel to the central portion of the bar. When the rider holds onto this extended part of the bar, it helps him/her to get into a lower, tucked kind of position which helps in reducing the drag.
Aero bars are typically used in time-trials. These bars are fixed on the central section of the bike’s handlebars.
Aero bars are used by riders to get into a compact, tucked-in, aerodynamic position. In this position, the drag due to the air resistance is minimum, thereby allowing the rider to utilise his/her energy to the maximum extent.
Some aero-bars also come with risers (which may or may not be adjustable) to suit the rider based on how much they can tuck in to the aero position (which puts a lot of stress on the core of an individual)
Aero bars are quite a specialized bit of kit, you will need to consider whether you want them to be temporary, semi-permanent or permanent fixtures on your bike. In most cases, it’s a question of either adapting a ‘normal’ road bike for triathlons or time-trialing, in which case you will either be looking for a set of clip-on extensions or a base bar/extension combo or upgrading your dedicated TT bike (in which case you are probably looking to move from a base bar/extension combo to an integrated setup).
Bull-horn bars are most commonly used on fixies and single-speed bikes. The conventional bull-horn handlebar consists of a fairly flat central section, with ends which are curved upwards in the forward direction, making an angle of approximately 30 degrees with the horizontal. The appearance of these bars basically gives them the name, as they resemble the horns of a bull.
MOUNTAIN BIKE HANDLEBARS
MTB flat bars have always been the choice of XC racers who appreciate their lighter weight and the compact, stretched racing position they offer in combination with a longer stem.
However flat bars have also found a following amongst the DH riders who appreciate the lower front end and more weight-forward attacking position that they offer.
Flat bars are also commonly found on MTBs, hybrids and certain single speed bikes or fixies. They are characterized by an almost perfectly flat central section, which slightly curves inward towards the rider. Flat bars provide a steady position for the rider to hold on to, while riding over uneven or rough terrain, as a result of which they are seen on MTBs. Although they allow the rider to have a stable position, they don’t provide a lot of different options/positions to grip the bars, which can cause discomfort over long-distance rides.
One good way to tackle this would be to use bar ends. They end up offering an extra grip position and riders can alternate during their rides for added comfort.
MTB riser bars have bars that sweep up at either end and are in popularity among the majority of general trail riders who prefer a more upright riding position for control and comfort.
These are a variation of the flat bars. They differ from flat bars in the respect that the central section depresses to about 10mm to 45mm to form the raised ends. These bars offer a more comfortable position for riders who find it hard to reach out to their flat handlebars on their MTB or Hybrid.
There’s a lot more to handlebar selection than you probably thought. It’s super important to get this dialed in so that you have a safe and comfortable ride every time.
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