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  1. #1
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    Handlebar Sizing..........

    I am in the market for some new handlebars and just realized that I'm unsure about
    sizing. I was in a lbs and one of the wrenches said they should be shoulder width
    wide. I will be checking Sheldon Brown to see if they have any sage advice but wanted
    to see if anyone here has any pointers.

    Always,
    LastPlace

  2. #2
    Year-round cyclist
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    That's about the advice I received. One shop took the handlebars and tried to fit them on my shoulders as if it were a coat. If the drops fit snugly around your shoulders (i.e. slightly wider), that should be it.

    Meanwhile, if you are replacing bars, I'd suggest the following guidelines:
    - if you like them very much, get the same width;
    - if you feel your arms are spread too far apart and that your wrists tend to be inside the bars, get them 2-4 cm narrower; reverse is true also;
    - if you feel your bike is twitchy, hard to control in the wind, etc., get them a bit wider; it helps. Ditto if you tow a trailercycle or ride a tandem.

    In other words, you are the best judge. FYI, I should use 42 cm centre-centre, but I much prefer 44 to 46 cm (c-c) handlebars. And to make things a little more complex, some manufacturers measure centre to centre while others measure outside to outside. A 44-cm centre-centre equals a 46-cm outside-outside.
    Michel Gagnon
    Montréal (Québec, Canada)

  3. #3
    Berry Pie..the Holy Grail GrannyGear's Avatar
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    My personal experience: I'm a very "medium" sized guy. Started out years ago when narrow bars were considered "aero". Then went to 42cm. which had become standard racing size. 44 cm grew in popularity so I went to them and felt very comfortable. Lately, the guys at Rivendell have been raving about 46 cm so I tried the Nitto Noodle bars (flat ramps, trad. bend) in 46 and love riding them. 42cm's seem narrow and squinchy to me today.

    You can draw the obvious moral that while there are certain rules in cycle sizing and fit...there are occasions where we violate them only to find something better. Such are the glorious idiosyncracies of the bicycle world! The real moral: respect expert advice but also experiment for yourself.

  4. #4
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LastPlace
    I am in the market for some new handlebars and just realized that I'm unsure about
    sizing. I was in a lbs and one of the wrenches said they should be shoulder width
    wide. I will be checking Sheldon Brown to see if they have any sage advice but wanted
    to see if anyone here has any pointers.

    Always,
    LastPlace
    You didn't say whether road or MTB, but I'll throw my experiences at you. I ride a mountain bike and the norm for flat bars is to have shoulder width which for me is 24". About 3 years ago I bought the new riser bars, and these were 27" wide. Decided to use them as they were as a mate of mine said he had a tool that would cut them cleaner than I could with a Hacksaw. What a ride, steering was so responsive it was dangerous. Finished the ride and realised that I did not have aching shoulders. 3 weeks later my mate turned up with the tool to cut them, but in the few rides I had done with them at 27", I no longer wanted them smaller. They offered so much control and the body was not so tired.

  5. #5
    Humvee of bikes =Worksman Nightshade's Avatar
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    Bar width is all about leverage. So the narrower the bar the faster
    the steering input. The wider the bar the slower ,but finer controlled,
    the input will be.

    Think of a circle......
    The bigger the circle the less effort to make the adjustment at the output.
    Much finer adjustments can be made as the circle to output ratios change.

    Likewise the smaller the circle the less input ,but more effort, it takes to
    get the same output but at a much faster speed of adjustment.

    Car steeing wheels used to be quite large due to this fact with driver effort
    quite high to make tight slow turns. Then "power" steering came along to
    mechaniclly drop the effort so smaller steering wheels could be used.

    That said, You may have to guess at width at first to get both steering input
    & output speed to match the steering effort level you find comfortable to
    match the fineness of control you like.

  6. #6
    TREK 2300 owner rickkko's Avatar
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    Good thread!

    My TREK 2300, 54cm, came with 40cm c-to-c Bontrager RaceLite handlebars.

    I went in for a pro fitting and was told to get 44cm c-to-c to better match my shoulder width.

    I did. What a HUGE difference in comfort! (Now I have a RACELITE 40cm 4sale cheap. 242gr).

    I pleasure-ride a '77 Panasonic Touring Deluxe on the weekends. I bought it new. It still looks like it just came out of the box (BTW, I bought it in the mfg's shipping box. I had to assemble it myself). I measured its Nitto Champion Universida aluminum handlebars. They are 35.5 cm c-to-c. (Talk about touchy steering!) That's 9cm narrower than what's on my TREK today!

    Sure is interesting to see how handlebar-width-philosophy has changed since the old days. Hmmmmm, maybe my shoulders have widen a little as well...

    I'd put the 40cm RaceLite on it if I could but the stem won't accomodate a 31.8mm diameter handlebar.

    ..rickko..

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    Thanks for all the input. I will probably be buying 44cm IRD bars sometime this
    week. The biggest problem is that each 'test' could cost me several dollars
    but it's only money.

    stapfam.....Sorry. I should have said road bike....Trek 1200.

    Always,
    LastPlace

  8. #8
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    I've heard the same advice, but when I tried some 48cm bars, I liked them so much I bought 50s. I've talked a couple of friends into going wider than the formula suggests, and they've both been happy.
    On second thought, that's not WAY wide for me--I'm 6'4", average build, and my span from shoulder joint to joint (quick yardstick self-measurement, not to be taken too seriously) is about 46cm. Still, I really like the extra width, and anything smaller feels cramped to me now.

  9. #9
    Senior Curmudgeon
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    I wear a 46 tall size suit coat, and I've been delighted with my 48cm wide Nitto "Noodles" from Rivendell. I've used narrower bars, but they feel cramped.

  10. #10
    Humvee of bikes =Worksman Nightshade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LastPlace
    Thanks for all the input. I will probably be buying 44cm IRD bars sometime this
    week. The biggest problem is that each 'test' could cost me several dollars
    but it's only money.

    stapfam.....Sorry. I should have said road bike....Trek 1200.

    Always,
    LastPlace
    It is safer to go with the next size wider than you might think due the "slowness" of the wider
    bar. This will give you an opportunity to place your hands at various pre-measured positions to
    find the one that give you that balance of speed of input with control of steering. You can't do
    that with a narrow bar. so instead of 4 or5 bars you only have to buy 1 or 2 bars to get it
    right.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Wildwood's Avatar
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    I've expressed this opinion before so I'll do it again. There are times when wide handlebars have a decided advantage, primarily for sprinters or on tandems, cyclocross, trail riding and mtb. For typical roadies who stay on pavement, the issue comes down to comfort - my '84 Centurion (59cm frame) came with 38cm (c-c) bars and I rode it for 15 years. I got used to narrow bars and today I still want narrow bars on my road bikes, not for aero positioning but for comfort and feel. Shoulder width or wider is not mandatory.

  12. #12
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    This is a great thread for a new rider. One additonal question on the subject of handlebars: I'm new at road riding and was wondering if the handlebars come in various diameter as well. My bars feel like they are a little narrow and maybe a wider grip is possible.

  13. #13
    TREK 2300 owner rickkko's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vhb4302
    ...handlebars come in various diameter as well. ...
    Don't take my word for it but I don't think so. Some are fatter where they go through the stem but the gripping surface I believe is pretty much the same dia.

    What you can do is beef up the dia. by using another layer of handlebar tape or, if you are looking for cushy comfort, find some foam tubing (for hotwater pipes) if its not too thick and wrap it on the flat-top surface. Years ago they had foam tubing expressly made for the flattops of handlebars (I have it on my old bike). Don't know if its still available today.

    I dunno. Just some ideas.

    ..rickko..

  14. #14
    Berry Pie..the Holy Grail GrannyGear's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vhb4302
    My bars feel like they are a little narrow and maybe a wider grip is possible.
    You might give it a little time for your hands to adjust. With a pair of, say, gel gloves and some gel or not gel cork wrap, you might find that more than enough "cush". I think overly "fat" bars may remove you a bit too much from "road feel" and a sense of control.......kind of like a squishy saddle only seems better in thinking but not in practice. If your hands are feeling too much pressure you might check out how far your body is extended or your saddle/bar height relationship. Too low bars will pull your weight down on your hands and off your butt. Good luck. Getting that initial set-up for comfort and efficiency on the bike is an exercise in patience and experiment-- but your bike fitting your body's needs is most important.

  15. #15
    Humvee of bikes =Worksman Nightshade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vhb4302
    This is a great thread for a new rider. One additonal question on the subject of handlebars: I'm new at road riding and was wondering if the handlebars come in various diameter as well. My bars feel like they are a little narrow and maybe a wider grip is possible.
    Up to a certain point "fat" bars are OK but past that point they are plain damn dangerous.

    A really "fat" bar will lessen your grip unless you have a huge handspan by forcing you to hold the
    bars with your hand just past the best positons to grip,i.e. partially open. If you want to "thicken"
    up the bar a bit buy some gel bar wrap that will dampen the vibes, thicken the grip just a bit, while
    not over doing it. Nashbar carries this type of tape as do others.

  16. #16
    Senior Curmudgeon
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wildwood
    ...I got used to narrow bars and today I still want narrow bars on my road bikes...
    Hi Wildwood!

    I agree that the "wider bars for wider shoulders" advice isn't "mandatory." Having said that, I think your view is summed up in the sentence I quoted.

    I have both narrow and wide bars and have tried them both. I find the wider bars more comfortable despite the fact that I'm a road rider & don't need the leverage. Is this because I have wide shoulders? I don't know. I do know what feels more comfortable to me.

    Since used bars are inexpensive, it seems that one should try a variety. This is especially true if getting a new bike or if one's existing bars aren't comfortable.

    Thanks for the post!

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