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Is It Really True Your Bars Should Be As Wide As Your Shoulders?

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Is It Really True Your Bars Should Be As Wide As Your Shoulders?

Old 03-23-16, 09:03 PM
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bigdo13
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Is It Really True Your Bars Should Be As Wide As Your Shoulders?

What are the opinions on this particular piece of long-held dogma? Anyone run significantly narrower bars? If so, what's been your experience? Do you even pay attention to bar width or do you focus more on the drop? Opinions please....

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Old 03-23-16, 09:12 PM
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First some can get the wrong intention of just the shoulder width term. It's supposed to be that soft indent on the inside of your arm socket as the measurement point and not the outside of your shoulder.

However many people use as narrow bars as they can that still allows unrestricted breathing. The closer your hands are together (smaller bars), the more aero you are.
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Old 03-23-16, 10:01 PM
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I've encountered some people who use strangely narrow bars due to how they roll their shoulders, effectively changing their width. It matters but it's not a rule that it must be, if something else is more comfortable then use that.
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Old 03-23-16, 10:35 PM
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I use a wide, flared bar similar to a dirt drop. It's not much wider at the front of the drops than a regular drop bar but it's 58cm wide at the ends of the drops.

No, I don't think it's true, that the bars should be as wide as the shoulders.
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Old 03-23-16, 10:43 PM
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I like 42 cm and that's based on my shoulders. I got a new gravel bike that has 46 cm bars because it's supposed to be more stable off road. It feels like I'm driving an SUV when my hands are on the hoods. I am swapping the bars soon for some 42cm
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Old 03-23-16, 10:51 PM
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Interesting thread! I always thought the C&V narrower bars reflected an era of youth/teen cyclists as the primary users of road bikes. I have occasionally replaced the narrow bars on my vintage steel with wider bars for additional comfort. I've found I prefer 42cm [wide] bars. Smaller (narrower) bars feel like they cram my arms together. And... 44cm bars seem to stretch me out in a way that I can't adjust away by other means.
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Old 03-23-16, 10:51 PM
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Not a big deal. Your hands and elbows ideally should be less wide than your hips if aero is important.
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Old 03-24-16, 02:29 AM
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As far as ergonomics are concerned, your bars should be whatever you're comfy with, which frequently happens to be roughly shoulder width. Too narrow can require you to tighten up your chest and cause neck stress. Too wide can sometimes be comfortable, but also feel like you're riding a non-aero truck.

If you can go narrower without causing significant discomfort or seeming to compromise control, in theory that'll make you a bit more aero.
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Old 03-24-16, 04:40 AM
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Based on a pro fit last year we dropped mine down to 38's from 44. No issues at all.
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Old 03-24-16, 04:55 AM
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I have 42cm bars but i will buy 38cm bars as soon as possible because i have 38cm shoulder witdh. There is no point going wider than your shoulder width, but i would like some drop outward bend for descending.
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Old 03-24-16, 05:19 AM
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It like KOPS; you have to start somewhere. Then you adjust for comfort and performance/efficiency. It makes sense to start at shoulder width. When you are finally done adjusting the width, you won't need to pay any attention to that "rule" at all.
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Old 03-24-16, 10:42 AM
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i have pretty wide shoulders (46cm) and a long torso, but i use 44cm road bars on my current road bike and they feel fine. for me, 46cm bars are just not necessary, especially considering the negative aspects that they have over 44cm bars. they usually have a 20mm or so longer reach than 44mm bars, so you'll either feel a bit stretched out or have to run a slightly shorter stem. also, trying to find a 46cm bar with a nice pair of drops is near impossible, especially if you're looking for a compact drop. i know some fitters will recommend going with bars that are one size up as far as width goes, but me personally i like going one size narrower cause for me that feels perfectly fine and i usually have a better selection of bar styles and types of drops...
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Old 03-24-16, 10:58 AM
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I am guessing that most people just go with what is on their bike when they purchased it. Unless you build out your own, you probably pay little attention to it. For me, it is more about comfort. There is no steadfast rule. It is almost like a seat, I have yet to have one that bothers me. I have built out my bike and I have bought bikes and never paid much attention to the width of the bars. I ride 42cms but it truth that is only because it is what I have always ridden and they seem fine.
I did get a new mtb last year. It is a 29er and I am going to cut off some of the bars as they are far too wide for me. I thought it would be something that just takes getting used to since I switched from my 26er to the 29er but I just hate how wide they are. It is downright uncomfortable for me and I notice it all the time while riding. It is weird because I like a larger road bike but a smaller mtb. Go figure. In the end, it is all about preference.
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Old 03-24-16, 12:10 PM
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To add, if you decide to buy new bars of different width, pay attention to reach and drop as that also has affect on comfort and performance. Those parameters may vary from bar to bar of the same width.
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Old 03-24-16, 12:26 PM
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For me, Switching from 39 to 42 made a bigger difference than the small centimeter change would indicate. Night and day really. So much more comfortable and confident. The narrower bars made my bike feel too small for me.
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Old 03-24-16, 03:36 PM
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Originally Posted by CafeVelo View Post
...if something else is more comfortable then use that.
The shoulders rule is just a starting point...
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Old 03-24-16, 03:49 PM
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My bike came with 44cm bars (don't know why.) I switched them out for 40s and the handlebars feel MUCH better. The shape is identical, they're just thinner. 40 cm is much closer to my shoulder width.

One of my main complaints about that bike was that the handlebars were too wide. Not anymore.
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Old 03-24-16, 05:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Doge View Post
To add, if you decide to buy new bars of different width, pay attention to reach and drop as that also has affect on comfort and performance. Those parameters may vary from bar to bar of the same width.
Note also that bars are sized two ways, outside edge to outside edge and center to center. The difference is about 2 cm. Pay attention to which sizing system applies.
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Old 03-24-16, 07:13 PM
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I went wider bars on my two road bikes.But I'm not the norm,

I'm tall,over 200 lbs and have big shoulders and use to ride a lot of fast descents in the Sierra mountains.
My new 2015 Scott Solace 58cm came with 42 cm wide bars and they feel to small for me and I do not feel comfortable going down steep hills.

So I'm changing to 45cm(should be 44cm) bars this weekend.
3T ErgoSum Pro Alloy Road Handlebar Black , 44cm, 31.8mm -

Specialized has stock wider bars(44cm) on A few models I looked at on their 58cm and 60cm model bikes.I'm sure other
bicycle's companies do the same with smaller and larger frames.

Last edited by Joeyseven; 03-24-16 at 08:57 PM.
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Old 03-25-16, 06:37 AM
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Yikes....some of these responses....

Bars too narrow restrict your breathing. Bars too wide impact handling. Simply out.

You know those two bony protrusions on the back of your shoulders? Someone can measure the distance between them and that's what you need.

It's not the outside of your shoulders. Why? Because your arms do not extend from the outside of your shoulders.
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Old 03-25-16, 08:29 AM
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Originally Posted by roadwarrior View Post
You know those two bony protrusions on the back of your shoulders? Someone can measure the distance between them and that's what you need.
I don't know if this is true. If it were then my handlebars would be all of 30 cm.
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Old 03-25-16, 10:20 AM
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Originally Posted by corrado33 View Post
I don't know if this is true. If it were then my handlebars would be all of 30 cm.


Hope this helps. BTW, you need someone to do this for you. Personally, we find it more accurate to do the measurement from the back. And stand up straight.



One more point...like bike frames not all bars are measured the same. Be aware that some are measured to the outside of the bar, others from the center of the bar (the part the goes into the drops).
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Old 03-25-16, 11:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Dave Cutter View Post
Interesting thread! I always thought the C&V narrower bars reflected an era of youth/teen cyclists as the primary users of road bikes.
"What the racers use" has been the primary driver of road bicycle design for more than a hundred years now. Vintage bikes with narrow bars come from an era when narrow bars were popular among the racers, nothing more to it. I don't think that teens ever were the target demographic for road bikes - at the times when bikes are seen as little more than toys, road bikes don't sell all that well.
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Old 03-25-16, 11:35 AM
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No, it's not true. It's a good starting point, though.

Bike fit is almost completely subjective. Do what works for you.
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Old 03-25-16, 12:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Agent Cooper View Post
No, it's not true. It's a good starting point, though.

Bike fit is almost completely subjective. Do what works for you.


The best part about subjective is when you don't know what you are doing. Sort of like wanting to run a marathon and going to Dick's to buy your running shoes.
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