Join Date: Jul 2005
Bikes: Kona Unit, Orbea Volata
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That's a very good question, I don't think that there's a rule written on stone about this.
I've heard the width of your shoulders + 1" for XC racing. I tried that and found it short so I go by feel rather than what most people do. The shorter the bar the quicker the steering so be careful.
I run my bars 26" long and have suffered the occational bar/tree tangle resulting in an OTB fall on tight singletrack but for the majority of the trails I ride on is a nice confy width.