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Old 12-21-17, 11:47 AM   #1
cormacf
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Handlebar width and material question

I bought my frame (a Lynskey Sportive Disc) for my 2018 series, and I have just about all of the parts picked out for the build, with the exception of the handlebars.

Currently, I'm riding some 42cm AL Soma Highway 1s. They seem fine on centuries. I was wondering if I might benefit from carbon on long rides, though. I'm less worried about weight and more concerned about vibrations over a 600k. Is it a noticeable difference? I went with hydros in part to save my hands, so if carbon also helps in that regard, I'm in. Ny only concern is durability if I crash. I'd rather not snap a bar half-way through (although I acknowledge that if I crash, the brake line is probably going to be my biggest problem).

Also, re. width, as I said, the 42s seem fine, but I've heard a lot of "wider is better for distance" talk. I've ridden a 44 cm bar for 10 or 15 miles and couldn't tell the difference. Any thoughts would be welcome.

Thanks!
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Old 12-21-17, 01:23 PM   #2
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Wider is not better. If the bars are wider than you shoulders, you are putting strain on the shoulder joint.


No one seems to have any data suggesting carbon bars flex or damp more than aluminum. If you want a bar that absorbs shock better, get an aluminum one with a 26.0 clamp section.
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Old 12-21-17, 01:48 PM   #3
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I prefer handlebars with longer ramps and classic bent for comfort on long distance bikes. Unfortunately not that many companies still make long reach handlebars. Compass, VeloOrange and Nito make very long reach handlebars. I use Zipp 88SL with relatively long reach(88mm) on my long distance bike in aluminum. Most compact bars now have the reach only around 70mm.
I have both aluminum and carbon bars on my bikes and I could not tell the difference in flex. Slightly lower tire pressure will make more of a difference than material of the handlebars. Longer ramps and shape of the bar is more important for comfort than the material (IMHO).
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Old 12-21-17, 02:06 PM   #4
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I started out road biking with 42cm bars and am much happier on narrower bars, 38-40cm.

There is a theory (I think I read it on Jan Heine's blog) that the ideal handlebar width depends on the amount of trail. Higher-trail bikes benefit from wider bars to give more leverage, hence the wide flat bars used on MTBs.
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Old 12-21-17, 02:35 PM   #5
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I started out road biking with 42cm bars and am much happier on narrower bars, 38-40cm.

There is a theory (I think I read it on Jan Heine's blog) that the ideal handlebar width depends on the amount of trail. Higher-trail bikes benefit from wider bars to give more leverage, hence the wide flat bars used on MTBs.
Yeah, Jan has a lot of theories. If you want more leverage for the trail, you could also go with a smaller TT frame and a longer stem.

I think you would need some wacky trail to want to use something other than the most ergonomic bar width.
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Old 12-21-17, 04:32 PM   #6
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I think you would need some wacky trail to want to use something other than the most ergonomic bar width.
Not really, and I don't buy that there is only one correct bar width per person either.
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Old 12-21-17, 04:38 PM   #7
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Not really, and I don't buy that there is only one correct bar width per person either.
I don't either. But I also don't think you should select bars that are a poor width for your body to satisfy a handling theory.
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Old 12-21-17, 04:42 PM   #8
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I don't either. But I also don't think you should select bars that are a poor width for your body to satisfy a handling theory.
So you wouldn't use handlebars of different widths on a road bike, 3-speed, and mountain bike?
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Old 12-21-17, 04:56 PM   #9
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But as a personal example of the theory, I do keep 42cm bars on my dropbar conversion of an 80s mountain bike, and their extra width does help with the extra trail/flop of that bike, without necessarily going outside of a comfortable range.
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Old 12-21-17, 04:59 PM   #10
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I would skip the carbon bars. They make them very heavy because of the clamping forces, so there is almost no advantage to them. My main criteria for materials is that it has to withstand handling damage. Carbon falls down on that front.

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Yeah, Jan has a lot of theories. If you want more leverage for the trail, you could also go with a smaller TT frame and a longer stem.

I think you would need some wacky trail to want to use something other than the most ergonomic bar width.
mountain bikers really are in love with wide bars. And bar width is a problem on singletrack around here, you have to dodge a lot of trees. Wide handlebars means smacking your handlebars or hand on a tree.

Interestingly enough, I was designing a steering modification for a 'bent, and so I calculated the leverage for long vs. short stems. Because intuition says a longer stem gives you more leverage, and that was important in the 'bent application. However, at small angles, (which are typical) a long stem does absolutely nothing to the available leverage (moment). Find an engineer to draw a free body diagram.
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Old 12-21-17, 05:43 PM   #11
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So you wouldn't use handlebars of different widths on a road bike, 3-speed, and mountain bike?
That doesn't make any sense, and has nothing to do with what you quoted.


Road, MTB and 3 speed have different shaped bars for a reason. "Straight" MTB bars are the most ergonomic way to access that sort of width while being easy on the shoulder joint. I wouldn't ride a drop bar that places my elbows down at 70cm, but I do ride a flat bar that points the elbows out at those widths.

Raise your arms and hold them out wide with palms in and palms down and you will immediately see that the shoulder is very limited by the angle of the elbows and hands.

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Old 12-21-17, 05:51 PM   #12
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I would skip the carbon bars. They make them very heavy because of the clamping forces, so there is almost no advantage to them. My main criteria for materials is that it has to withstand handling damage. Carbon falls down on that front.



mountain bikers really are in love with wide bars. And bar width is a problem on singletrack around here, you have to dodge a lot of trees. Wide handlebars means smacking your handlebars or hand on a tree.

Interestingly enough, I was designing a steering modification for a 'bent, and so I calculated the leverage for long vs. short stems. Because intuition says a longer stem gives you more leverage, and that was important in the 'bent application. However, at small angles, (which are typical) a long stem does absolutely nothing to the available leverage (moment). Find an engineer to draw a free body diagram.
Leverage gets you thinking about force, but I really don't think force is the issue. It is primarily a question of the distance moved to effect a certain number of degrees of steering change. Making the lever longer via stem, bar width or hand position allows finer control of steering inputs because have to actually move your hands more.


I think some of the stability issues involving trail and high speeds also come back to this, but extending the lever forward (vs wider) via a longer stem produces a caster like damping of movement because of the way your body weight is applied symmetrically forward. Leaning on forward handlebars makes it harder for road forces to jar the wheel and makes movements more deliberate.
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Old 12-21-17, 07:12 PM   #13
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I feel like you just called Jan Heine "wacky", but you are going to go with your unconfirmed gut feelings over an easily reproduced engineering analysis. Okay.

Your thesis is easily confirmed or disproved with a free body diagram.
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Old 12-21-17, 07:22 PM   #14
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I feel like you just called Jan Heine "wacky", but you are going to go with your unconfirmed gut feelings over an easily reproduced engineering analysis. Okay.

Your thesis is easily confirmed or disproved with a free body diagram.
Jan Heine was a little wacky, not in his actual analysis, but the way he presented it. I don't know how many times I've had people tell me that wheels stand on the bottom spokes because they misunderstood the provocative double negative Jan used to described spoke tension.

But all I called "wacky" was how far out of normal trail would have to be to need correction via a longer stem.

If you would like to construct said free body diagram to prove or disprove whatever, that would be interesting. It just isn't going to suddenly change the fact that plenty of bikes are going to handle just fine despite not being in alignment with Jan's premise. Unless you're saying that my "longer tiller = more control" thing is highly debatable?

As far as "easily reproduced engineering analysis", you realize that it was only recently that anyone came up with a model that actually explains bike steering, right? It apparently isn't so simple - especially considering the nature of the control system.
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Old 12-21-17, 10:50 PM   #15
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Raise your arms and hold them out wide with palms in and palms down and you will immediately see that the shoulder is very limited by the angle of the elbows and hands.
Maybe you have bum shoulders, because I tried it just now and I can get my hands into all kinds of conceivable positions -- narrow and wide positions with palms in, narrow and wide with hands at a 45° angle (North Roads), narrow and wide in that "porteur bar"/hands in the drops position, etc. Barring inflexibility issues, I would expect bar choice and width to come down largely to personal preference.
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Old 12-21-17, 11:04 PM   #16
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Barring inflexibility issues, I would expect bar choice and width to come down largely to personal preference.
+1

This year on rides 8 hours or more I rode 4 different handlebars from 38cm-50cm wide with reach from 70mm-100mm and drop from 120mm-135mm. Shoulders were fine and merely by bending my elbows I was able to ride effectively with each different type of handlebar.

I do agree with you/Jan Heine wrt width and trail. I have a bike with 75mm trail - going from 46cm to 38cm was a real eye opener. Went back after one ride.
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Old 12-21-17, 11:11 PM   #17
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Maybe you have bum shoulders, because I tried it just now and I can get my hands into all kinds of conceivable positions -- narrow and wide positions with palms in, narrow and wide with hands at a 45° angle (North Roads), narrow and wide in that "porteur bar"/hands in the drops position, etc. Barring inflexibility issues, I would expect bar choice and width to come down largely to personal preference.
I don't have bum shoulders. You and I and everyone else have an incomplete ball joint on the end of an L shaped humerus and a rigid hinge joint at the elbow. We can't rotate our forearms out away from the body with the elbows in toward the waist, then raise your arms over your head. When you try to do so you run into one of the shoulder limits, and the only way to keep raising your arms is to rotate the forearms to put them inline with that motion.

Your shoulder joint can do lots of things, but it has real problems when you push the range of motion too far because, unlike the hip, it is not a real socket joint. So while you certainly can use a 60cm drop bar, it is likely to cause tendinitis, capsule damage or impingement as you absorb shock while riding. Rotate the elbows out like on a flared WTB MTB drop bar or a flat bar, and now you're well back into the shoulder's operating range, instead of the edge of it. You also have very little shoulder strength at the edge of your mobility range, making it more fatiguing to ride a bar that is wide in the wrong way.
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Old 12-21-17, 11:52 PM   #18
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I would skip the carbon bars. They make them very heavy because of the clamping forces, so there is almost no advantage to them.
Is 206 grams considered to be very heavy for a handlebar? Is 220?
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Old 12-22-17, 12:21 AM   #19
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Is 206 grams considered to be very heavy for a handlebar? Is 220?
Considering that an alloy bar from 20 years ago weighs 230 grams, yes it is heavy for the price.
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Old 12-22-17, 12:26 AM   #20
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I rode for years on 42cm bars. When I built my Long Haul Trucker I put 44cm on. I wish I had put on 46. I love wider bars. And it’s not because I’m some giant. Im 5’10, 165.
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Old 12-22-17, 01:26 AM   #21
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We're talking about width, but that's not really an issue for me because I have rather wide shoulders and so go for the widest bars on offer.

However, I've learned to love oversized bars (along the top). I've very big paws and for traditional diameter bars, I need to double wrap them. Indeed, the bars that came with the Malvern Star felt like noodles in my hands and I couldn't wait to get rid of them. The big, fat bars only need a single layer of tape and they are as comfortable as the double wrapped bars (so it's not a cushioning thing), simply because I've got something to hang on to.

I've also used bars with a flat top and they were horrible.

I also like drops with a constant curve but one that slowly opens, the curved answer to those horrid (in my hands) ergo bars. The constant curve such as the Nitto Noodle cramp my hands but the bars that open out give me a much more comfortable grip while allowing you to put your hands anywhere along the drops.

Sooooooo, the bars I have on the Hillbrick and consequently chose to put on the Malvern Star, are the Pro Vibe S7.
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Old 12-22-17, 01:37 AM   #22
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Considering that an alloy bar from 20 years ago weighs 230 grams, yes it is heavy for the price.
Price was not mentioned, only that carbon bars had to be made “very heavy” due to clamping forces.

It appears that claim is simply not true.
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Old 12-22-17, 03:43 AM   #23
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Price was not mentioned, only that carbon bars had to be made “very heavy” due to clamping forces.

It appears that claim is simply not true.
It is neither true nor false. It is an opinion, and a reasonable one considering that the point of using expensive and fragile carbon fiber is lower weight compared to aluminum.


Why would you select an expensive carbon bar if there are no benefits?
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Old 12-22-17, 05:27 AM   #24
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Control Tech does a ti-carbon bar.

Unrelated, but I changed out the spindles on my pedals from steel to ti.
They now feel a bit softer when riding the trails.
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Old 12-22-17, 05:44 AM   #25
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I haven't seen anything mentioned about the bar shape which is the main reason I'd go with carbon over aluminum. I have a no-brand clone of a 3T Aeronova on my road bike which is extremely comfortable. Although it's supposed to be aero, I like them because the tops are flat. On my gravel bike, I went with an aluminum version of the Deda Superzero which is also relatively flat. Both are super comfortable and I can ride all day with no numbing.

Scott
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