I'm thinking of changing my handle bars to a compact size with shallow drops. I'm not really sure the size of my bars at the moment and tried to measure it and found that it is approx 46cm across to the outer sides. Can anyone tell me how handle bar width is measured? I ride a 56cm and I've been told that a 42cm handle bar is pretty standard on a 56. Also, does anyone know the impact of moving to a narrower bar? Will it affect the handling? I know that going for a compact bar will move my hoods closer, which is actually what I want as I feel a little stretched out right now. Another thing is I'm thinking of changing the stem from 100mm to 90mm and changing the angle from 6 degrees to 10 degrees which will mean lowering it slightly. I know shortening the stem and moving the brake hoods closer may mean twitchier handling but does moving the angle to 10 degrees help to compensate this? Thanks everyone!
Catching his breath alongside a road near Seattle, WA USA
1999 K2 OzM, 2001 Aegis Aro Svelte
Note that riding with narrower bars will not allow you to open up as much for breathing as before. As far as handling goes, you'll likely find that it will be twitchier and at first you might be prone to overcorrection. One of the position on the bike that matters is your reach. This is typically measured from the tip of the saddle to the centerline of the bars at the stem. Typically to keep yourself from changing position too radically, you would make sure you retain that reach. The other important measurement is your drop. Obviously trigonometry tells us that hypotenuse and angle will determine reach and drop so you have two variables to play with to determine the other two.
However, it sounds like you're trying to reduce the reach as well as reducing your drop. You may want to consult the the stem sizing chart from Habanero Cycles to determine an appropriate length and angle for your stem.
I generally go by the slightly corrected "shoulder width" method of sizing handlebar width. Many will tell you to size your bars such that the center-to-center (at the hoods) is equal to your shoulder width. I like mine a bit wider as it opens up my chest for better breathing so I drop a pair of bars across my shoulders to test fit which gives me an inside-to-inside fit and thus makes a center-to-center slightly wider (by the diameter of the bar) than my shoulder measurement. Obviously this is not really exact but it seems to work well for me. What you can do if you want a narrower width is to perform the same fit test and then drop down a few sizes.
My suggestion however would be to change one thing at a time. You may want to first change your stem before your handlebars as that's often cheaper. Then if you still feel too stretched out, try going to a narrower bar. BTW, have you had a proper bike fitting? You might want to give that a go first before you start tweaking. Constantly replacing components or randomly changing adjustments can get frustrating unless you have a good baseline from which to work with.
Thanks for that - I've found that my current handle bars are 44cm, ctc. My handlebar size is fine at the moment. When I refer to compact size, I mean having a bar where the hoods are placed closer to the rider so that you're not too stretched out. I know my frame is slightly too big for me. I am 5' 8.5" (174cm ) and my effective toptube is 56.2cm. I've tried shortening the stem, but found that this took a lot of control away. I think if I can pull my hoods about 2cm closer to me, my comfort level will improve tremendously. And I am also finding that my palms jut too far forward in the drops, hence the inclination to shallow drops. I'm thinking of a compact style winged handlebar with shallow drops size 44cm which I am hoping will be able to move the hoods a little closer to me .