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Things to Consider When Buying a Bike Handlebar

Can you imagine a bicycle without its handlebars? What about one with a steering wheel or even a joystick? We certainly can’t. For us, the bars, in all their shapes, sizes, materials and colours, are an integral part of the bicycle cockpit. Some types of handlebars make you cycle faster, whilst others make it a more comfortable affair. Read on to find out all you need to know about handlebars for road, mountain, trekking and city bikes. Read more

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Handlebars: What Do They Do?

This part of a bicycle, which used to be a mere bar of steel, uses leverage to steer the bicycle, together with the stem and the fork on the front wheel and is attached centrally to the stem. Nowadays, there are also handlebars available as part of an integrated bar/stem unit.  
Nothing much has changed over the past 100 years when it comes to the concept and function of bicycle handlebars. As a basic principle, handlebars can either be curved or flat. The most common type of curved handlebars is that used on road bikes, whilst flat handlebars are used on mountain bikes, as well as trekking and city bikes and most e-bikes. You probably couldn’t get two more opposite sets of handlebars than the dropped handlebars used on streamlined road bikes and the especially wide, flat bars used on MTBs.  
And that would be that, if it weren’t for the fact that there are crucial differences when it comes to material, clamp diameter, cable routing and integrated features, not to mention the huge selection of shapes and colours available. 

When You Should Change Your Handlebars

There are many reasons for changing the handlebars on your bicycle!  
In the simplest case, you’d notice that your posture isn’t right on your first few outings with your bike, despite having received extensive advice and even going out on a test ride. The consequence: pain from having your weight in the wrong place, such as from incorrectly bent wrists. This isn’t a case of if you want to be good you have to suffer, rather: if you want to have fun, you should opt for the right handlebars and make sure your bicycle cockpit is optimally tailored to your requirements. And this doesn’t just involve your handlebars, but also your saddle, seat post and stem. You should also be aware that your weight will be distributed differently depending on the sitting position usual for the type of bike you’re riding: 

Point of contact  Road bike/XC MTB Mountain/trekking/touring bike City Bikes 
Weight on handlebars  20%  20%  5% 
Weight on saddle  10%  30%  70% 
Weight on pedals  70%  50%  25% 


f we’re looking to put the amount of weight on our handlebars indicated in the table, then we also have to create the right angle between the upper arm and torso. This angle should be above 90° when riding a road bike or XC MTB. Your muscles in your arms, shoulders and back have to put more effort into maintaining your posture. 

You may also want to make some changes if you buy a bike secondhand. It may be the case that, whilst the geometry of the handlebars is fine, the rest of the features don’t meet your needs. The handlebars may be too heavy, having the wrong colour for your look, are too narrow for the riding style you want to do, have too few options for attaching accessories or simply have the wrong geometry. 

It’s unfortunate, but a common reason for changing your handlebars is that you’ve had an accident or fall. Carbon handlebars, but also cracked or dented handlebars made from metal, should be changed after an accident, as well as any other damaged parts crucial to transferring energy. You may be thinking, what if my bicycle has “just” fallen over?  
In this case, you have to ask yourself: what did it fall onto, or where did it fall over? How fast was the fall, or how much force was exerted? Just like after an accident, a visual inspection will give you some initial pointers whether there is more serious damage – a torch can come in handy here. If you have carbon handlebars, a mere scratch could lead to uncontrollable microcracks forming deep inside the material, causing delamination with life-threatening consequences. If a scratch turns out to be a crack or hole, it is strongly advised to change your handlebars. If you don’t find anything obvious from taking a look at the bike, your next step should then be to perform a standing stress test. If your handlebars seem to flex more or make occasional noises when you pull on or turn them or put your weight on them, be careful. If in doubt, you can always ask the staff at a specialist workshop for advice. 
If your handlebars are made from aluminium, steel or even titanium, visible dents and deformations are clear factors which indicate that a change is needed. Surface scratches are rarely as worrying as they are with carbon. Cracks, on the other hand, are usually clear to see and are quick to act like predetermined breaking points. 

Speaking of breakages, it’s not without reason that pro-tour cyclists change their road bikes after several thousand kilometres of competitive cycling and over 2000 watts of peak output. Following huge static loads, as well as changes in load, metal components, including bicycle handlebars, may become deformed and suffer fatigue failures. Different metals have different levels of resistance to cracks. This means that, depending on how brittle a material is, it will either first give a little and become deformed before breaking when put under more strain, or it will break straight away. 

Different Types of Bike Handlebars and the Variants You Need to Know About

It turns out you need some new handlebars for your bike. But your old handlebars don’t necessarily have to go straight in the bin. You could use them as clothes hooks or a bicycle rack.  

If you browse online for bicycle handlebars, you’ll find a multitude of different styles. We’d like to give you some more information on the most common types of handlebars there are out there to help you keep on top of things. 

  • Road bike handlebars
    This kind of handlebars curves downwards to create a drop 
    They enable the rider to get in an aerodynamic position and have more control 
    Variants: road bike handlebars – track bike handlebars – all-road/gravel bike handlebars
  • Mountain bike handlebars
    A flat bar with one or more bends, but only one level at the ends for gripping 
    From 600 to 800 mm wide and more for optimal energy transfer and control 
    Variants: flat bars – riser bars
  • City/trekking bike handlebars
    Bar with one or more bends, with one level at the ends for gripping 
    Butterfly bars are special and feature several bends with a C shape at the ends 
    From 550 to 700 mm wide
    Variants: flat bars, curved bars with backsweep, butterfly bars, trekking handlebars 
  • Triathlon/time trial handlebars
    Composite type of handlebars made up of the basic bar and attachments – extensions and arm rests mean that riders can get in a special aero/triathlon position 
  • BMX/dirt handlebars
    A special kind of riser bar for better energy transfer and even more stability

Just like with bikes themselves, there are countless models and variations when it comes to handlebars that can sometimes be hard to classify. The special integrated bar/stem unit is a particularly popular choice among cyclists in the premium road cycling and cross-country mountain biking segments. You can find out why in the section: What Are the Advantages of an Integrated Bar/Stem Unit? 

Design and Basic Sizes for Bicycle Handlebars

So, you need to change your handlebars and, based on the overview of different types of handlebars, have identified the right type for you. You may be looking for handlebars for your all-road or gravel bike, or perhaps you’re after a riser bar. But online, these kinds of handlebars are available in countless widths, diameters and designs. To help you choose the right model, read on to find out all you need to know about the similarities and differences in geometry for dropped and MTB handlebars

All handlebars for bicycles are attached to a stem, apart from integrated bar-stem units, so you’ll need to choose some with an external diameter that fits into the internal diameter of the stem clamp. 

Handlebars on the latest road bikes and trail MTBs usually have an oversized clamp diameter of 31.8 mm. This enables component manufacturers to achieve a manageable ratio between weight and rigidity. Naturally, there are also special types, such as super stable downhill handlebars with a clamp diameter of 35 mm. Super-solid handlebars are now also used on the latest hardcore MTBs and eMTBs for aggressive enduro and freeride. They provide the stability and rigidity required for the high leverage exerted. 31.7 mm is rare for MTBs and road bikes. Handlebars with this diameter are almost exclusively produced in Italy and can fit into stems designed for 31.8 mm bars without a problem. If you own a classic bike, that is to say one with a quill stem, it may be the case that you need handlebars with a 25.4 or 26.0 mm diameter. Older mountain bikes with threaded forks often have flat or riser bars with a 25.4 mm clamp diameter, whilst handlebars on many vintage road bikes have a clamp diameter measuring 26.0 mm. Thinner bars often look better on steel road bikes and mountain bikes. You can measure the diameter yourself with a vernier caliper, but the diameter, width and backsweep are often printed on the handlebars where the clamp is attached. 

Whilst the clamp position on the handlebars has one diameter, the grip sections have another. This is often standardised on modern bicycle handlebars, measuring 22.2 mm on flat bars and 23.8 mm on road bike bars. 

Your MTB handlebars may have a backsweep of 9°. This angle describes how much the handlebars bend backwards horizontally towards the clamping surface. The bars may then bend in other different directions in addition to this. Standard MTB handlebars have a backsweep of 6-9°, whilst handlebars for trekking, city or even urban e-bikes often have a backsweep of 17° and over. When combined with an upsweep (vertical bend), the rider can sit in a comfortable, upright position. What are known as ergo handlebars are becoming increasingly popular on tour MTBs, with an angle of 12° providing more backsweep. 

As already mentioned when talking about backsweep, most MTBs and some road bikes also have handlebars with an upsweep. This describes the angle at which the handlebars bend vertically after the clamp. If the handlebars turn downwards from the imaginary line drawn from the clamping surface, this is known as downsweep. 
If handlebars with upsweep were to keep going at the same angle, they would continue steeply upwards and straight into the air. For this reason, they feature another change in angle to provide a good gripping surface. The height difference between the gripping and clamping surfaces is known as the rise and this is a particular feature on MTB riser bars, as well as on dropped bars for improved control off-road, e.g. for gravel riding. MTB riser bars mean that the rider can sit in a more upright position with more of their weight to the rear, enabling better riding on quick trails and on jumps and drops in downhill. 
There are fundamental differences between the handlebars used on mountain and road bikes, which we will now go into by exploring their specific geometry. 

The Specific Geometry for Road Bike Handlebars

Let’s begin with one of the most important selection criteria: handlebar width.  
The width for drop bars on road bikes is typically measured at the lowest point of the drops, where the brake levers are mounted. Manufacturers measure the distance in centimetres or millimetres either from the centre of each drop, or from the outside of each drop. Furthermore, the measurements printed on drop handlebars will indicate the width between the grip sections of the tops. On gravel bikes, for example, the width at the drop ends may be larger, so riders can be more in control of their bike, and this is achieved with flared drops. 

What’s the Benefit of Tops and Drops?  
Besides providing additional gripping options, the drop part of bicycle handlebars means that the rider can be more in control when braking and allows for an efficient transfer of energy during sprints as well as optimal aerodynamics.   The drop is the distance your hands have to travel between the top part of the bar to the lowest part, in other words, the height difference between the tops and the drops. There are different recommended drop sizes depending on your body measurements and how you intend to use your road, cyclo-cross or gravel bike. 
Well-trained competitive riders and cyclists with full mobility can confidently use handlebars with a drop measuring over 130 mm. In combination with a large saddle-bar drop (difference from the saddle to top handlebars), riders can achieve a particularly aerodynamic position when riding in the drops. Riders use handlebars with a drop measuring less than 130 mm if their back is a little less flexible and if it doesn’t come down to every last milliwatt.  
These handlebars are ideal for cyclists who want to achieve moderate average times covering longer distances or spending full days being active on their road bike. It’s also common nowadays for cyclo-cross and gravel riders to use handlebars with a drop smaller than 130 mm too, and some gravel bikes have drops which are only around 100 mm. This has the advantage that riders can quickly and safely gain as much control as possible when riding in the drops, even when going off-road. 

There is another important factor that decides whether cyclists can ride comfortably in any position in the drops: the reach. This describes the horizontal distance to the handlebars and is decisive for a rider’s grip on the shift/brake levers. Bikes for road or track races are more likely to have a reach over 80 mm, whilst touring, cyclo-cross and gravel bikes with drop bars, for example, often have a reach under 80 mm. 

Drop and reach alone, however, are not enough to properly assess the full gripping options and potential of drop handlebars. If your handlebars are defect and you’re looking to replace them with a similar model, you should also note the exact shape of the drop. There are three basic kinds when it comes to road bars: 


Anatomic Ergo

Drop shape 

  • Immediate drop from the tops
  • Drop is almost hemispherical
  • Little change in radius over the entire drop
  • Straight handlebar ends

Drop shape 

  • Gentle drop until the shifting/brake lever position
  • Then sharp drop
  • Levels out at the end of the curve 
  • Then another bend to introduce the handlebars end
  • Several changes in radius 

Drop shape 

  • Gentle drop until the shifting/brake lever position
  • Then sharp drop 
    which then continues to create an even curve
  • Drop changes in radius but does not have different levels 

Grip options 

  • Tops, shifting/brake levers, drop ends (sprint position) 

Grip options 

  • Tops, shifting/brake levers, in the drop at the point with the largest reach, drop level, drop ends (sprint position) 

Grip options 

  • Tops, shifting/brake levers, in the drop at the point with the largest reach, several positions within the drop including the drop ends (sprint position) 


In order to achieve optimal aerodynamics, drop bars should be as narrow as possible, with a drop that’s as low as possible.  
Many athletes and hobby cyclists were of this opinion 10 and more years ago, but thanks to inspiration from the worlds of bikepacking, cyclo-cross and gravel, some comfort has managed to find its way into the sport with flared, downsized drops. Flared drops extend out from the tops at an angle larger than 90 degrees. Even just a small flare can make a huge difference in terms of comfort when riding in the drops. It’s easier for riders’ arms to move past the tops and it also means they’re not as fully extended. Gravel and all-road handlebars can even be flared by 30° or more.  
This kind of handlebars brings the best aspects of road and MTB bars together: an aerodynamic position for longer straight stretches paired with excellent leverage and braking control on gravel trails. Flared models are easy to find on the BIKE24 online store by using a filter in the drop bars category. Most handlebar models with flared drops also feature a drop outward bend. In conjunction with the flare, this outward bend at the end of the drops makes for an even more comfortable grip angle. Handlebars with these additional features can be recognised by the varying widths at the tops, drops and bar ends.  

800 Mm-Wide MTB Riser Bars – What Does It Means?

In contrast to road bars, the width of mountain bike bars is always measured from end to end and is almost certainly indicated in millimetres. The wider the bars, the greater the control and leverage achieved when mountain biking. 800 mm-wide MTB riser bars are generally seen as being rather wide and are mainly used in categories from enduro to downhill. But the question remains: what is an MTB riser bar? 
The rise describes the difference in height between the gripping and clamping surfaces. If mountain bike bars have no rise, that is to say 0 mm, they’re known as flat bars,  
and if they have a rise of, say, 20 mm, they’re known as riser bars. There are also some handlebars with a negative rise. These are the preference in cross-country, and sometimes in downhill, together with a stem at a downward angle. A positive rise allows for a more upright, and therefore more comfortable, position. The rider has more of their weight to the rear and there is therefore less pressure on the front wheel. Flat bars, or ones with a negative rise, however, mean the rider’s position is more level and also more aerodynamic. The rider has more of their weight to the front, with more pressure on the front wheel.  
800 mm-wide MTB riser bars mean the rider has a lot of control whilst also sitting comfortably

How Wide Should Your New Handlebars Be?

To answer this question, we need to differentiate between drop and flat bars.  

The rule of thumb for drop bars is: handlebar width = shoulder joint width +/- 2 cm. This should give you a rough value to be used as a point of reference for choosing the right width. A cyclist of average height may well also feel comfortable riding a road bike with 46 cm-wide handlebars and feel that they can breathe a little more freely than when riding a shoulder-width model. Most of the drop bars at BIKE24 are available in increments of 2 cm, from 38 to 46 cm wide. For female cyclists who are particularly slender, many drop bars are also available in a width of 36 cm upon request. cyclo-cross and gravel bikers tend to prefer somewhat wider handlebars. Handlebars with flared drops and an outward bend, which have an increased width between the bar ends, make for greater leverage and thus more control.  

The width of mountain, trekking and city bike handlebars depends on the rider, the bike and how it’s going to be used. Wider handlebars can improve stability, cornering and control.  

Nevertheless, it should be noted that leverage significantly depends on the head angle, stem length, handlebar width and, of course, the rider. Leverage should enable you to balance your bike and turn it with sufficient speed. If riding a downhill bike with a 50 mm stem and slack head angle of below 65 degrees, it can make sense to use 800 mm-wide handlebars. If, however, you are riding a trekking bike with a 100 mm stem and 70-degree head angle, you’ll be able to generate enough leverage with 600 mm-wide handlebars.  
Needless to say, the force exerted also depends on who is riding the bike. If a small man or woman is riding with 800 mm-wide handlebars, they’d have to raise their elbows or put full pressure on their arms simply to get their back straight and ride in the default position. This means that as soon as they go into an active position, ready to ride, they’d practically be doing a press-up and there would be too much pressure on their shoulders. Control and handling will almost certainly deteriorate. In this case, handlebar width should be reduced and you should also check your handlebar shape, as well as the stem length and angle. If, however, someone over 185 cm in height is riding a bike with 800 mm-wide handlebars, they’ll be relaxed and stable and capable of generating enough tension and power at the shoulder girdle where required. Generally speaking, the width of your handlebars should enable you to ride in a comfortable default position. In an optimal default position, your arms will be slightly bent, with your elbows facing downwards and upper arms rotated slightly outwards. This position will enable you to quickly change into an active position when required, e.g. at the start of a trail or when emergency braking in traffic. 

Another factor that comes into play when choosing the width of your handlebars is aerodynamics. A particularly wide grip in combination with an upright sitting position can result in an unpleasant increase in wind resistance. You’ll also be less able to pass through tight spaces, such as between two trees or two stopped cars in traffic to make your way towards the lights. Wide handlebars can also be a problem for storing your bike at home or in your basement.  

If you ride a mountain bike, you have a choice between handlebars that are 600 to 800 mm wide. Trekking bikes can either have flat bars like MTBs or handlebars with a huge backwards curve, but only at widths from 600-660 mm. Special city bike handlebars are often available at widths of around 600 mm too, as well as with an even bigger backsweep. This shape means that there is very little strain put on your arms and hands. 
One major advantage of flat bars is that they can be shortened as required, where permitted by the manufacturer. 

Whether it’s a matter of MTB or drop bars, it often comes down to just trying them out. As it’s simply not feasible to buy an entire array of bicycle handlebars to do so, many bike retailers give you the option of having an individual bike fitting, as the BIKE24 shops do.

The Different Handlebar Materials

Solid aluminium, chic steel, super lightweight carbon or rare titanium? We’re here to help you choose the right material so you can concentrate on winning the race.  

You can filter by material at the BIKE24 online shop for both MTB and road handlebars. The ideal road bars should be lightweight, robust and rigid for sprinting, whilst MTB handlebars should be stable, hard-wearing yet still light. 
When it comes to handlebars, people often talk about rigidity, which isn’t to be confused with stability. Rigid handlebars have little flexibility so that the energy generated by the rider can be optimally transferred where it’s needed. Stable handlebars, on the other hand, can be highly resistant to breakages, but still have flexible ends, so they don’t break despite how much they bend. All materials have their place when it comes to bicycle handlebars, but there are also pros and cons in terms of weight, look, design, stability, rigidity and durability. Read on to find out more. 

Aluminium – An All-Purpose Handlebar Material

Aluminium is the most common type of material used for handlebars. It has a relatively low weight whilst also being particularly good at taking the stress and strain put on handlebars when cycling. In terms of making the material into actual handlebars, it is comparatively easy to shape, forge and finish. The simple manufacturing process also has a positive impact on the price. But how does this material perform? An aluminium alloy is always produced when making the base material. Many manufacturers print the type, such as 6061-T6 or 7050, directly onto the handlebars. 6000-series aluminium alloys include those made from raw aluminium, magnesium and silicon and 7000-series alloys are those made from raw aluminium and zinc. In rare cases, alloys in the 2000 series are used, which denotes those made from aluminium and copper. Additions such as T6 indicate whether the alloy has been heat-treated to strengthen it.  

In addition to the material composition, how the tube is butted also plays a key role in what properties the final material has. The basic tubes can be heated as required and then reshaped using a special extrusion press, so the tube walls are thicker at points subjected to greater strain when viewed as a longitudinal section. These points include the clamping surface and when the bars first start to curve. The thickness of the tube at the bar ends can be reduced even further with more complex butting. Subsequently, any excess material on the width is simply cut off. This material optimisation process also takes place for steel and titanium handlebars. After the tube has been curved to the geometry desired, most aluminium bars have to be left to cool so that they can then be anodised, for example. Anodising involves converting the surface of the aluminium into a uniform protective oxide finish with high resistance to corrosion. In addition to protection, anodising also makes it possible to achieve an amazing and consistent colour effect.  

6000-series aluminium is usually used for cheaper bicycle handlebars and components. Thanks to the properties of the alloy, the material offers some advantages in terms of durability, the first one being that 6000-series aluminium initially starts to slowly deform following too many changes in load before it breaks. Furthermore, it is easier to anodise and so the handlebars as a whole are cheaper to produce. Generally speaking, however, a 6000-series aluminium alloy is less strong and less stable than 7000- or 2000-series alloys. To compensate for this, handlebars made from this kind of alloy have to have thicker walls, which in turn adds weight. With regard to the rigidity that can be achieved, it is in no way inferior to the other alloys with a corresponding tube cross-section. When it comes to weight, 6000-series aluminium handlebars are towards the lower end of mid-range or in the mid-range itself compared to all the materials used. The differences here depend on wall thickness optimisation. Modern road bars from 6000-series aluminium and with a width of 44 cm come in at approximately 300 g.  
MTB riser bars from the same material with a width of around 760 mm and a diameter of 31.8 mm easily come in at over 340 g. 
Handlebars from 2014, 7050 or 7075 aluminium weigh less and are stronger, or that is to say, more stable. By way of comparison, MTB handlebars made from 7075 aluminium which are equally wide and just as thick at the clamping surface can weigh 300 g or less.  

Lightweight road bars made from 7000-series aluminium can even weigh under 260 g. Bicycle handlebars made from high-quality aluminium alloys may be more expensive, but they still have a very good price-to-performance ratio. This is due to the greater effort involved in butting and shaping them, as well as generating the anodised finish.

Carbon Handlebars – It Couldn’t Get Any Lighter

Bicycle handlebars made from carbon took professional cycling by storm in the mid ‘90s. Nowadays, they’re also the first choice for active hobby cyclists who want the highest level of stability at a particularly low weight. But what exactly is carbon? The material known as CFRP is a composite made from a plastic matrix embedded with carbon fibres, commonly known as carbon-fibre-reinforced polymer. 
The carbon fibres added are super lightweight and guarantee tensile strength, meaning that plastic can also be used to make bicycles. And the benefits don’t stop there: whilst metals withstand the strain put on them equally well in all directions, carbon is best at withstanding strain in the direction of the fibres. This means that the fibres or layers (known as carbon pre-pregs) in carbon handlebars can be oriented specifically to match the direction of the strain being exerted. Following extensive calculations, simulations and tests on an array of prototypes in the testing laboratory, areas put under strain can be reinforced, whilst materials can be spared at other locations. This results in parts that are particularly lightweight and so stable that it is even possible to make handlebars for downhill bikes out of carbon without a worry.  

In comparison to their aluminium counterparts, lightweight carbon road bars with a width of 44 cm only weigh around 180 g, and are still fully able to withstand the stress and strain put on them. 760 mm-wide MTB enduro handlebars made from carbon weigh 190 g on average. Impressive figures, which, needless to say, come at a price. But for this top price, on many handlebars made from carbon, you’ll be able to feel every single fibre and, in doing so, connect with your bike when cycling. This feeling is generated through the structure which can be seen on the top layer of the material. The bunches made up of 3000 filaments in 3K carbon are woven together to give your new handlebars and your entire bike a unique carbon look. In addition to 3K carbon, handlebars are also available with 12K and UD finishes.  

UD stands for unidirectional, meaning that all fibres run in a single direction. They lie parallel to each other in the plastic matrix and are not woven, which creates more of a stealth appearance and cool, understated look. The handlebars available on the BIKE24 online store only feature UD fibres on the surface and the carbon structure underneath is made up of woven layers to counteract any sudden material failures. Finally, parts are usually coated with a layer of clear varnish or simply polished raw. Some carbon handlebars with a lacquered finish can still be found among the large selection of those available, but the trend when it comes to carbon parts is definitely to show off what you’ve got. Handlebars, stems and other cockpit components with coloured fibres, such as red and blue, on the top layer of the material are also rare finds on the market, but make for real eyecatchers.  

You may be thinking that these components are lightweight, sensitive and all about bling, but we can put your mind at ease. Renowned manufacturers currently produce their carbon handlebars in line with the highest quality standards at all stages of production and they’re made to withstand the stress and strain expected from cycling, including the pressure put on them from all different directions due to being clamped at the stem. We would advise that you follow the steps defined by the manufacturer when mounting your handlebars and use the indicated torque for the clamp screws. If you don’t have a torque wrench or any carbon assembly paste, you can find what you need at BIKE24. 

Steel Handlebars – Rock Solid and Pleasing to the Eye

As was the case with the first bicycle frames, steel was the material of choice for the first handlebars too. Steel is still used to make bicycle handlebars today thanks to its high levels of tensile strength and the array of options it has in terms of further processing.  
The steel handlebars available can be split into two kinds: cheap and particularly heavy models made from thick Hi-Ten steel tubes and handlebars made from high-quality, butted chromoly steel tubes, which are also available at BIKE24. In terms of bicycles, high-quality steels include hardened and tempered metal alloys. In addition to iron, they consist of carbon and other metal elements, such as chromium, molybdenum and nickel. The higher the proportion, the more the handlebars’ tensile strength and resistance to corrosion increases. High-alloy steels make for handlebars with a more aesthetically pleasing tube cross-section in relation to aluminium, and at a reasonable weight. 

To compare, 760 mm-wide chromoly riser bars easily weigh 400 g. Furthermore, steel components can be welded for increased stability, which makes them particularly good for disciplines such as BMX. New steel road bars and other kinds of curved handlebars come in handy as replacements for rusty steel handlebars on old road bikes, randonneuring bikes, tour bikes and other classics. Here we’ve hit on the second drawback of steel in addition to its weight: the fact that it is susceptible to corrosion. Steel handlebars which are not made from high-alloy steel have to be lacquered or chrome-plated in order to prevent them from rusting. 

Titanium Handlebars – Exotic Premium Bars with an Impressive Performance

Steel alloys have their advantages in terms of how strong and tough they are, as well as their visual appearance. Their main disadvantages, however, are their comparatively high weight and vulnerability to corrosion.  
The more expensive material titanium gets rid of these problems and combines the weight advantages of a lightweight material with the highest levels of stability, resulting in a particularly excellent strength-weight ratio. At the same time, its composition means that the material practically knows no bounds in terms of its resistance to corrosion, making it extremely durable. Titanium also has a certain degree of elasticity, which creates a real agile, lively sensation when cycling. This makes it a suitable material for bicycle handlebars. But what exactly is titanium? The raw materials in this alloy are the rare, and therefore expensive, raw titanium, aluminium and vanadium. Further processing is time-consuming and costly.  
The handlebars produced in this material are impressive pieces of art, with chic silver-grey raw surfaces which are usually polished, matt or with a mixed finish. This is possible as the surface of titanium alloys features a protective oxide coating. In terms of weight, titanium handlebars can be compared to lightweight aluminium bars. Titanium riser bars with a 31.8 mm clamp diameter and 780 mm width weigh around 320 grams. 

What Are the Advantages of Bar/Stem Units?

No doubt you’ve seen competitions when road or XC bikes whizz past, with every component seamlessly connecting to the other and where every detail is aligned. This purest form of understatement is mainly achieved through perfect integration.  
The handlebar, stem and fork set-up has been a rather critical issue in terms of aerodynamics and combining the handlebars and stem into a single unit has enabled significant improvements to be made. But it didn’t happen all at once: aluminium and carbon road bars with external or internal cable routing were a precursor to the integrated unit and are still widely used. With the introduction of these kinds of handlebars as well as the optimised brakes/gear shifters, the gear cables, which were commonly known as “washing lines”, could now be routed tightly along the handlebars. However, the newly tidied cockpit created with these handlebars ended when it came to the clamping surface and turbulence continued to be an unpleasant side effect.  
Another step towards a clean set-up was made with the introduction of disc brakes on road bikes and component manufacturers quickly decided to integrate the routing for the brake cables into the fork and frame. But this was by no means the end when it comes to integration in the cockpit. Integrated handlebar/stem units made from carbon and with internal cable routing are the latest innovation in handlebars. These kinds of handlebars, first used on road bikes and later also introduced for MTBs, are superior to conventional handlebars in many ways. 

  1. Particularly good rigidity to weight ratio
  2. Cables are mostly routed completely internally
  3. Cables are protected
  4. Better aerodynamics
  5. A unique look for your custom-made set-up 

The Right Stem and Useful Accessories

The stem, headset and handlebars, as well as the seat post, are all important when it comes to posture, as well as look. Above all, the stem and handlebars have to be compatible with each other at the point where they intersect, the clamping surface. There are numerous stem models for MTBs with 31.8 or 35 mm clamps. You should also concern yourself with getting the clam width right. With handlebars that are particularly wide, such as those for enduro, downhill or freeride, a high level of stability can only be guaranteed if the stem provides sufficient support. Certain combinations of materials are recommended based on look and material properties*:  

  • Aluminium handlebars and stem
  • Steel handlebars and stem
  • Aluminium stem and carbon handlebars
  • Carbon handlebars and stem
  • Titanium handlebars and stem
  • Titanium handlebars and aluminium stem

*For all combinations, we expressly advise you to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations, with particular regard to the torques indicated. 

Getting the right combination of colours and the same surface finish also plays a key role in creating your dream custom set-up. The large selection of handlebars and other cockpit components available in aluminium includes lacquered and anodised parts. The surface of aluminium can have a sandblasted, matt or shiny polished finish. If you’re using coloured components made by different manufacturers or from different series, make sure that the shades are consistent before mounting them. 
💡Naturally, the best case scenario would be for the headset, spacers and seat clamp to blend harmoniously with the bike’s overall look. 
Seeing as the fascination with steel and titanium is mainly to do with their pristine, colourless finish, most handlebars and the stems and posts to go with them are matt or have a shiny polished finish. With titanium, there’s also the option of creating a unique look with a sand-blasted finish. Steel handlebars which are not made from stainless steel are chrome-plated to protect them. The final look for bicycle handlebars made from stainless steel and titanium is achieved without any additional protective layer.  
If you’re looking to combine carbon components in your cockpit, you should pay attention to the structure of the material’s finish, such as 3K, 6K, 12K or UD, and whether the parts have been coated in a clear varnish or not. 

For this reason, many manufacturers offer entire lines of components with a uniform appearance. 

In addition to the handlebars themselves, the length and angle of the stem can also have a positive impact on your posture. You can find more on the topic by reading: “How to set up your new handlebars”. 

Handlebars Touch Points – Grips & Tape

Despite having innovative material properties, an appealing design and chic look, even modern bicycle handlebars still need handlebar grips or tape at the contact points. Grips are almost always used on flat bars, whilst tape is mainly wound around road bars and other kinds of curved bars. There are several reasons why the bars are covered in this way:  

  • Heat insulation, especially in winter
  • Increased grip, to avoid slipping off in the wet for example
  • Cushioning, for more absorption of impacts and vibrations
  • Another option for customising the look

The grips used on flat bars are often made of rubber (synthetic), silicon and sometimes of cork or leather. Combinations can also be used in order to make the most out of the different materials’ beneficial properties. End plugs are normally attached to the end of the bars. Simpler models stay on the handlebars through static friction. When it comes to high-quality models, if the actual grip material sits on a firmly clamped sleeve or base, these are known as lock-on grips. The grips can be clamped on at one or both ends, or internally. Lock-on grips are particularly secure, with a lack of movement around the bar. Handlebars should also fit comfortably in your hand, but not everyone’s hands are the same size. As such, grip manufacturers try to increase the contact surface and support provided with various diameters and shapes adapted to grip size. This also prevents your hands becoming fatigued or your weight being in the wrong place. What’s more, there are also grips with additional support for the balls of your hands, integrated MTB bar ends, or both. Support for the balls of your hands prevents your wrists from kinking and, as such, should prevent any discomfort or circulatory problems during cycling. MTB bar ends provide tour riders with the option of having another grip position on MTB or trekking bars. When sprinting or hill riding, bar ends also make it possible for the rider to actively pull on the handlebars and put more pressure on the pedals in doing so. 

When you buy a new road or gravel bike, it’ll come with handlebars wrapped in tape, which makes it possible to consistently cover handlebars across all the grip positions. Traditional bar tape is made of cotton, cork or leather, whilst more modern variants are made of EVA foam. Some manufacturers even stock tape in different thicknesses for improved vibration absorption as well as to cater for riders’ different grip sizes. End plugs are also used on road bar ends. 

If you’re not a fan of plastic ends or if you’ve lost one on more than one occasion, why not take a look at the chic screw-on end plugs available? These higher-quality end caps firmly attach to your handlebars thanks to their expander design and also set themselves apart in chic aluminium or steel. There is also a large selection of nifty solutions available when it comes to end plugs, such as an end plug with mini built-in tool. 

How to Set up Your New Bike Handlebars

Your handlebar set-up/position plays a key role for ensuring that you have the best posture when riding your bike. The basic set-up for your handlebars depends on the type of bike you ride and what you plan to do on it. 

You’ll notice if your posture isn’t right if you feel some unpleasant tension and pain in your neck, shoulders, back and wrists. In theory, you have the right posture if your spine follows its natural S shape when you’re on the saddle. Your handlebars and saddle should be set up so that your pelvis is tilted slightly forwards and you have a slight hollow back. The muscles in your lower back and abdomen work best in this position. Your arms should be slightly bent, with your elbows facing downwards. Before you change anything, we recommend measuring and taking note of your current set-up so you can change it back at any time. Once you’ve made a note of everything, you can then start to refine your set-up for an improved posture.  

First things first, you should check the height of your handlebars. Stand your bike up and measure from the floor to the tops on your road bike, or if measuring an MTB, from the floor to the bar ends. The resulting value must be considered in relation to the height of your saddle when thinking about your posture. This relationship is known as saddle-bar drop, as most road bikes have higher saddles. You can adjust the height of your handlebars mainly with the spacers, stem and bar rise. In addition to the height of your handlebars, the distance between the saddle and handlebars, or brakes, as well as the angle of the bars, are also important for achieving the right posture. You can make adjustments here in terms of stem length, backsweep and handlebar alignment. When it comes to backsweep, the following normally applies: the more the backsweep, the less your upper body has to lean forwards. Your handlebars should be angled in your stem so that your arms are slightly bent when in your usual sitting position. 
💡 Aid lines are usually printed on modern handlebars to help you with the set-up. 

The following types of bikes have the following basic set-ups. 

Setting Up MTB Handlebars for Trail/Tour

The saddle and handlebars are often balanced on modern trail bikes to ensure an even distribution of weight for both up and downhill. This means that riders’ upper bodies are comfortably angled at around 55-60° when in a normal riding position and then when going downhill, riders can simply shift their weight to the rear. If your bike has a telescopic seat post, you have a little more room for manoeuvre when changing the height of your handlebars, as well as improved handling both up and downhill. Comfort-oriented riser bars with a 9-16° backsweep are often used. 

Setting up MTB Handlebars for Cross Country (XC)

The position riders take on real cross-country MTBs comes closest to that of performance-oriented road and cyclo-cross cyclists. That is to say, these bikes, having been optimised for off-road races, also have a saddle-bar drop, only it is a little more moderate, at a maximum of around 5 cm. Riders’ upper bodies should also tilt forwards at an angle of around 40°, which creates a rather sporty position. This set-up comes down to the ever-changing profile of the routes they ride. Steep descents put huge pressure on the front wheel, whereas on flatter sections, every watt counts, as does keeping wind resistance to a minimum. Dropper posts are being used increasingly often to allow for an adjustable saddle-bar drop. This makes for smooth riding on downhill sections that are becoming more and more challenging. In addition to the height of the handlebars, the bar shape can also help riders give their maximum performance. Most racers use flat bars with a slight backwards sweep (9° or less). 

MTB Handlebars for Downhill/Park Riding – The Right Set-Up

If you love pushing the limits on super steep terrain, we recommend using another handlebar set-up to that used for trail riding, as well as a special downhill bike.  
As riders are almost always in the attack position when in the park or doing downhill, the saddle stays low. They only sit down on rare occasions, such as for transfers. As such, the front is higher, making it easier to shift your centre of gravity to the rear and lowering the risk of going over your handlebars.  
If, however, you often head to the park on an older XC or trail bike, you may want to consider using wide downhill handlebars, a slightly higher stack of spacers and a short stem with a positive angle. 
Needless to say, the cockpit on bikes specifically for downhill has the optimal set-up for what riders need when shredding hard downhill trails. Forks with a lot of suspension are higher, which in turn means that the handlebars on these bikes are also higher. A short stem in combination with particularly wide downhill handlebars enables quick and effective steering. A feature of downhill riser bars that’s especially striking is the rise, which is often between 25 and 35 mm. At an average of 8°, the backsweep used is rather modest. 

Setting up Handlebars on Your Road/Cyclo-Cross Bike

The saddle-bar drop is a particularly important feature on typical road or cyclo-cross bikes, especially if you’re not one to shy away from competition. In other words, this is the difference in height between the saddle and handlebars.  
And what purpose does this serve? The body should be flat when cycling on the tops, tilting forwards to create a downward angle which is sometimes below 20° when riding in the drops, reducing wind resistance and increasing speed. Saddle-bar drops of between 8-10 cm are no rarity among professionals in order to achieve the optimum aerodynamics. If you also want to ride your road bike on more relaxed scenic tours as well as in challenging training sessions and competitions, and even take part in cyclo-cross competitions too, you may opt for a more moderate drop of between 4 and 6 cm to give you more comfort and control. You can change the position of the handlebars by creating a negative angle with your stem and using few to no spacers at all. In addition to how far your body tilts forwards, a larger drop also creates a larger angle between your upper body and arms, increasing it to 80-90°.  
This posture results in your centre of gravity being shifted in front of the pedals, enabling an optimal transfer of energy. In order to maintain this posture over longer periods, your body, with particular regard to your back and abdominal muscles, has to get used to the high workload. True drop bars do not have any rise and, on rare occasions, have some backsweep of 2 to 3°. 

Handlebars on Touring/Gravel/All-Road Bikes – The Riding Position

More comfortable, but still speedy: that’s how it goes when it comes to drop bars for touring and commuting as well as on gravel and all-road bikes. These kinds of bikes either have a small saddle-bar drop (2-3 cm), or the saddle and handlebars are at an equal height. This means that your upper body is less tilted forwards, making it more comfortable to ride for longer periods. This position is normally created with several spacers and a short stem mounted at a positive angle. If you’re in good shape and do a lot of road cycling on your touring bike, or if it’s a rare occasion when you use your all-road bike to ride on gravel tracks, you may want to think about a larger saddle-bar drop and a more elongated posture. If, however, you’re a beginner and you’ll be using a bike with drop bars to commute through city traffic, or if you want to ride your gravel bike down some steep terrain, you should have little to no saddle-bar drop and a more compact posture. To provide more comfort when touring or to increase control off-road, drop bars with a rise (10-15 mm) and backsweep (approx. 4.5-6°) are gaining in popularity. 

The Right Set-Up for Your Trekking Bike Handlebars

Trekking bikes combine comfort with touring performance. With handlebars being raised by 5-10 cm, the rider’s upper body tilts at an angle between 60 and 80°, with an angle of around 70 to 80° being created between their upper body and upper arms. Setting your cockpit up like this usually involves some spacers and a stem at 17° and more. The spectrum is rather large when it comes to handlebar shapes: narrow flat bars with a slight backwards sweep enable sportier riding and off-road adventures, whilst ergo handlebars feature multiple curves towards the rider, for relaxation and freedom on two wheels. 

Setting Up City Bike Handlebars

The saddle on a city bike bears the majority of the rider’s weight, as mentioned in the section “When you should change your handlebars”. For this reason, the stem, spacers and handlebars should be optimised to the rider sitting in an upright position. This means that the bars should be mounted a good 10 centimetres higher than the saddle. In combination with the large backsweep, this configuration means that city bikes foster a very upright posture. Riders’ upper bodies should theoretically be at an angle between 90 and 80° and the angle created between their arms and upper bodies should be 60° and less. A big rise, and a big backsweep to boot: a city bike is immediately recognisable from its large backsweep (25° and more) and in most cases also from its large rise – it’s no rarity for handlebars to have a rise of more than 30 mm. 

General Recommendations for Handlebar Set-Ups

If you want to put more weight on the front wheel, that is to say, your handlebars, you can reduce their height by using fewer spacers as preferred. Provided that you have the right stem to do so, you can also mount it at a 90° angle to achieve this. Want to reduce strain on your wrists, shoulders and neck? Then you can raise your handlebars – if you have enough steerer tube remaining – by using spacers or a stem with a sharper angle. If stability is less of an issue on your bike, then you could also consider a stem with an adjustable angle. If you have an older bicycle with a quill stem, then it’s even easier. In this case, all you need to do is undo the clamp screws (facing downwards towards the fork) in order to adjust the height – but remember to watch out for the minimum insertion depth for the handlebars when doing so. 

In addition to the height of the handlebars and their distance to the saddle, the seating area and the geometry of the frame both have a big impact on your posture and how efficiently you can perform. For an optimal bike fit, you should always take all system components into consideration.