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Handlebar width question

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Handlebar width question

Old 01-31-24, 10:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Trakhak
As I said, that statement in bold is treated as axiomatic around here. Where's the proof? Given that the motion of our arms is isolated from our (effectively inflexible) skeletons by flexible connective tissue, what evidence is there that narrower bars increase pressure on ribs and lungs?

There might be some minimal effect of the connective tissue interacting with the muscles of the back, I guess. But I've spent many years riding handlebars from 38 to 42 mm in width (and maybe wider; I usually just used whatever bars came on a given bike without measuring them), plus various aero bar configurations, and I've never been able to detect any restriction of breathing.

(With one exception: low aero bars that put me in a nearly flat-backed position shove my guts up against my diaphragm, restricting breathing from below. But that has nothing to do with handlebar width.)

Again, counter-evidence: professional riders, who ride with maximum efficiency or risk losing their jobs, clearly are willing to ride with narrower bars, rack up the kilometers on interminable brutal climbs with their fists next to their stems, etc., etc. Why would they do that if it put them at a disadvantage?
Quick question - do you bend at the waist or roll your pelvis forward? I'm pretty inflexible (not just 'cause I'm old, I've always been) so I do the latter. When I get low I don't get my guts pushing on my diaphragm. I get my thighs bouncing off my bottom ribs.
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Old 01-31-24, 11:59 AM
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Originally Posted by genejockey
Quick question - do you bend at the waist or roll your pelvis forward? I'm pretty inflexible (not just 'cause I'm old, I've always been) so I do the latter. When I get low I don't get my guts pushing on my diaphragm. I get my thighs bouncing off my bottom ribs.
I always bend at the waist on the bike. (Not a good thing for indoor rowing, though, to put it mildly.) The guts-into-diaphragm effect on my breathing was always pretty mild - it's just the only example of breathing restriction I've ever noticed. Thighs against rib cage happens when I'm on my bike with my lowest TT position, but again, only minimally. At 5'8" and 120 lbs, there's not much meat or fat to get in the way.
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Old 01-31-24, 12:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Trakhak
As I said, that statement in bold is treated as axiomatic around here. Where's the proof? Given that the motion of our arms is isolated from our (effectively inflexible) skeletons by flexible connective tissue, what evidence is there that narrower bars increase pressure on ribs and lungs?

There might be some minimal effect of the connective tissue interacting with the muscles of the back, I guess. But I've spent many years riding handlebars from 38 to 42 mm in width (and maybe wider; I usually just used whatever bars came on a given bike without measuring them), plus various aero bar configurations, and I've never been able to detect any restriction of breathing.

(With one exception: low aero bars that put me in a nearly flat-backed position shove my guts up against my diaphragm, restricting breathing from below. But that has nothing to do with handlebar width.)

Again, counter-evidence: professional riders, who ride with maximum efficiency or risk losing their jobs, clearly are willing to ride with narrower bars, rack up the kilometers on interminable brutal climbs with their fists next to their stems, etc., etc. Why would they do that if it put them at a disadvantage?
A narrow - than your shoulders - handlebar will narrow your shoulders and trunk flexion. It's a physical thing; I don't believe it needs proof as the concept is pretty simple to understand. Now, does it really make a difference? That I don't know. If you get narrower bars and shorten reach or lean more forward, you may able to counteract this by flexing your elbows more. I am not fully sure. TBH, I don't really care; I ride whatever I feel comfortable. I'm not an aero wheenie.

Will look for studies and get back to you if I find anything relevant.
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Old 01-31-24, 01:38 PM
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I've never understood this "wide bars make breathing easier" thing. Are people's arms getting in the way of their bellies?

I can put my hands at any position along my bars, right up to the "puppy paws" either side of the stem, and at no position are my arms even close to touching my belly or chest.

And the "it decreases pressure on the lungs" argument. Seriously?
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Old 01-31-24, 04:13 PM
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Here some photos of my chest/shoulder with a 42mm handlebar, probably even with the rule the 40mm should be more ideal. Can anyone confirm?
https://i.ibb.co/1qW688Z/Whats-App-I...t-23-08-30.jpg
https://i.ibb.co/RDfyGC7/Whats-App-I...t-23-10-26.jpg
https://i.ibb.co/rF1qcX0/Whats-App-I...t-23-10-42.jpg
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Old 02-01-24, 07:33 AM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse
I've never understood this "wide bars make breathing easier" thing. Are people's arms getting in the way of their bellies?

I can put my hands at any position along my bars, right up to the "puppy paws" either side of the stem, and at no position are my arms even close to touching my belly or chest.

And the "it decreases pressure on the lungs" argument. Seriously?
Some cyclists are really fat! That may explain why/how.

As I explained above, most people will bend their elbows to compensate for closer hands/arms. If you don't bend them, then yes it will put pressure on your torso. Now, does that really affect your breathing? I'd like to see the studies on that.
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Old 02-01-24, 08:14 AM
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Originally Posted by CrowSeph
Im ordering a new handlebars, i have some doubts Wich width to choose since now seems everyone Is prefering a smaller one.
Actually I have one that measure 42cm, I don't have any problem but sometimes I feel very insecure when I'm closed in the middle of a group during races.
- A smaller handlebar would have a negative impact for the respiration? (More closed arms=more difficult for chest to expand).
- 2cm less would help in those compact group?
Regarding the aero gains I think is not even worth talk
I would not think that 1cm each side will make any difference at all.

Buy what's comfortable.
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Old 02-01-24, 09:39 AM
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Pic's don't tell you anything. Riding with them will. I'm of the opinion you might like 38 cm bars. Not sure you'll notice that much difference between 42 and 40cm.

But you might. Since you have them, try them and you'll know. If you are sweating the re-wrapping of the bars, then after a few times you'll be a pro at it. Park Tools has a good video on it...

https://www.parktool.com/en-us/blog/...tion-drop-bars
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Old 02-01-24, 03:49 PM
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ordered a 40cm. let's see the differences
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Old 02-01-24, 05:29 PM
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Originally Posted by eduskator
A narrow - than your shoulders - handlebar will narrow your shoulders and trunk flexion. It's a physical thing; I don't believe it needs proof as the concept is pretty simple to understand. Now, does it really make a difference? That I don't know. If you get narrower bars and shorten reach or lean more forward, you may able to counteract this by flexing your elbows more. I am not fully sure. TBH, I don't really care; I ride whatever I feel comfortable. I'm not an aero wheenie.

Will look for studies and get back to you if I find anything relevant.
Thanks. You undoubtedly know more about this than I do (if only because the alternative is likely impossible). My only evidence is that narrower bars have never seemed to restrict my breathing in any way that I can detect.

Still, plenty of smart people say narrow bars restrict breathing. So I'm keeping an open mind. But the "narrow bars obviously restrict breathing" thing reminds me of a similarly unquestioned belief: that adding one pound of wheel weight is equivalent to adding two pounds (or more) of frame weight.

Unquestioned forever, until proven incorrect, that is. Not that the test data have convinced the true believers.

Even if studies do demonstrate that bars that are narrower (by 2 to 4 cm or so) restrict breathing more than wider bars, my experience of spending decades riding road bikes with bar widths ranging from 38 to 42 cm, without ever noticing the slightest effect of the differing widths on my breathing, indicates that the effect might be real - but trivially so.
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Old 02-02-24, 04:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Eric F
I have fairly wide shoulders, and have always preferred 44cm bars, but this is probably because that's what I'm used to. My most recent road bike purchase came with 42cm bars, and it didn't feel "right" to me. A swap to 44s came quickly. Bar width is like any of the other contact points - personal preference. As a sprinter, I preferred the leverage of a wide handlebar.

As for riding fast in tight packs, there would be times I would flare my elbows out just a bit in that situation. I know getting wider sounds counter-intuitive, but the rider next to me would pump against my elbow before my handlebar. As long as you stay relaxed enough to be able to absorb the bump without upsetting your handling, it works pretty well in a lot of situations. If you're tense and rigid, probably not so much. It's something that took a bit of practice.
I ride 44s like you and more narrow bars feel wrong. On my gravel bike, I have 46 and they flare out at the drops to more than 48 and they feel great. I believe that Stu Bowers wrote about this in Cyclist magazine a few years ago, suggesting that road bike riders should consider riding gravel bars (not those with the crazy flare but moderate) on their road bike as the added width gives you the feeling of greater stability and control. That is my experience. I am not riding in a tight pro pack with the added width would be an issue and the claims of aero benefits from narrow bars for 99.5 of those riding is moot, I think....
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Old 02-02-24, 05:09 AM
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Just occurred to me - maybe narrow handlebars do restrict breathing (to some minimally perceptible/measurable degree) for riders with a higher BMI than I have. Back in my racing days, which ended over many years ago, my BMI was never above 20, and at age 72, it's under 19. So if the claimed effect happens only with heavier riders, that would explain why I've never experienced it.

Still not convinced (try applying horizontal pressure to your ribs with your palms to see how much force is needed to compress them), but maybe it does happen, however minimally, with bulkier riders.

That said, no one in this thread has reported any findings from studies on the topic.
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Old 02-02-24, 06:25 AM
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Originally Posted by CrowSeph
Im ordering a new handlebars, i have some doubts Wich width to choose since now seems everyone Is prefering a smaller one.
Actually I have one that measure 42cm, I don't have any problem but sometimes I feel very insecure when I'm closed in the middle of a group during races.
- A smaller handlebar would have a negative impact for the respiration? (More closed arms=more difficult for chest to expand).
- 2cm less would help in those compact group?
Regarding the aero gains I think is not even worth talk
technically yes is could make breathing slightly harder but no more than being in an aero position. So on a five mile route width narrow handlebars it will be 4 seconds faster than wider ones, however tilting the shifters inwards in the now illegal position also produces the same exact effect with changing your bars
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Old 02-02-24, 07:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Jrasero
technically yes is could make breathing slightly harder but no more than being in an aero position. So on a five mile route width narrow handlebars it will be 4 seconds faster than wider ones, however tilting the shifters inwards in the now illegal position also produces the same exact effect with changing your bars
What illegal position? #ScrewYouUCI

Two new ultra-narrow flared road bars hit the market in wake of UCI lever rule | Cyclingnews
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Old 02-02-24, 11:56 AM
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Originally Posted by eduskator
I don't know what's crazier the new UCI rule or that those 40cm Cross Wing bars have a 33cm hood to hood measurement, Jesus... lol
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Old 02-02-24, 12:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Jrasero
I don't know what's crazier the new UCI rule or that those 40cm Cross Wing bars have a 33cm hood to hood measurement, Jesus... lol
Wow. Apparently narrow bars really are advantageous.
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Old 02-02-24, 01:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Jrasero
I don't know what's crazier the new UCI rule or that those 40cm Cross Wing bars have a 33cm hood to hood measurement, Jesus... lol
UCI is always in the wrong... No matter what they think or say

For what it's worth, I find that rule to be stupid (just like the 6.8kg weight limit) for the majority of the racers. Ergonomically speaking, it makes sense to turn them inward a little to accommodate how your hand rests on the bars. Of course, I understand that it is a safety concern for those who turns them inward to a point where they physically can't press on their brake levers anymore. There's a limit and common sense must be applied.

My 42cm bars have a 32.5cm hood to hood measurement (measured the interior to the interior). It does not look odd and it is not a safety hazard. Centre of the hood to centre of the hood is more like 33.5-34cm.

Last edited by eduskator; 02-02-24 at 01:46 PM.
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Old 02-02-24, 01:44 PM
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Originally Posted by eduskator
i bet that will be banned in 2025.
Also i don't understand why ppl keep rushing to find hard solution to a problem that exist partially.... seems that the goal is to piss uciin any possible ways LOL
ps. i can't belive i had some issue deciding to go 2cm smaller, and there are ppl using that handlebar
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Old 02-02-24, 03:07 PM
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Originally Posted by eduskator
For what it's worth, I find that [brake lever angle] rule to be stupid (just like the 6.8kg weight limit) for the majority of the racers. Ergonomically speaking, it makes sense to turn them inward a little to accommodate how your hand rests on the bars. Of course, I understand that it is a safety concern for those who turns them inward to a point where they physically can't press on their brake levers anymore. There's a limit and common sense must be applied.
The UCI rule allows the levers to be angled in as much as 10 degrees. Seems pretty "common sense" to me.
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Old 02-02-24, 03:33 PM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse
The UCI rule allows the levers to be angled in as much as 10 degrees. Seems pretty "common sense" to me.
i have tried lots of different agles and the 10% looks like the sweet point for me. Gaining slightly relaxed wrist but whitout compromising the ergonomics of the drops. Having a highter angle means the lever will go more outwards in the drop section and is pretty awful to use specially on discend...
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Old 02-05-24, 05:59 AM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse
The UCI rule allows the levers to be angled in as much as 10 degrees. Seems pretty "common sense" to me.
What happens if you need more than that, ergonomically speaking?

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Old 02-05-24, 12:33 PM
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Originally Posted by eduskator
What happens if you need more than that [10 degrees lever rotation], ergonomically speaking?
The industry chatter is that the handlebars were not designed to survive the stresses of a lever rotated beyond 10 degrees.

But I doubt anyone has done the stress analysis to back up that claim.

More practically, a severely rotated lever could make it hard to brake from the drops. If it's a Shimano lever, it might also be prone to accidental shifting while braking.
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Old 02-05-24, 01:49 PM
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Originally Posted by CrowSeph
ordered a 40cm. let's see the differences
Back in the 70s I used to hang out at the local Liotto bike shop in Vicenza. They had a Class 3 team and were getting bikes ready for a Bolzano De Grappa bike race. They were changing out each bikes bars for a wider set. I noticed the difference in width was about 3cm. Not really much but according to Giovanni a big difference in a climb. He said most of the stages at Bolzano were very steep needing a slow balanced climb. The team had just returned from a Milano-Torino run and each bike had narrower bars from that race. I asked him why the change of bars was needed and with a laugh he answered, "perché sono deboli e premadonne..." (because they are weak premadonnas)

And so I learned of the constant action of mechanical corollaries and adaptations needed between bicycle racers and bicycle builders...
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Old 02-07-24, 10:03 PM
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Just guessing, but I think MicroNew/MicroShift brifters were designed to be mounted about ten degrees inward, to avoid the lever hitting the bar while still allowing a very short reach. Mine are on conventional tubular aluminum bars, for which the supposition-based new rule is preposterous.

As for width, I must have been used to riding on 40cm bars in the 70's, because I remember the 38cm Campion del Mundo bars that I used on Fredo originally because I already had them (I was on a tight budget) feeling narrower than I was used to. Now the bars that work best are 42cm Giro d' Italia bars, wider with 2 cm less drop. They just feel right, so I put another pair on Blue Bella, and may retrofit Bella too.

It's funny how fads are followed now, and absolutes regarding fit are pre-supposed. If you can believe the UCI training manual Cycling, older coaches were aware of different riders having different riding styles, so fit was not as dogmatic as it seems to have become now.
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Old 02-08-24, 05:58 AM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse
The industry chatter is that the handlebars were not designed to survive the stresses of a lever rotated beyond 10 degrees.

But I doubt anyone has done the stress analysis to back up that claim.

More practically, a severely rotated lever could make it hard to brake from the drops. If it's a Shimano lever, it might also be prone to accidental shifting while braking.
That one I will give you!

I would like to see stress test on both setups (straight VS inward levers). It's a good thing ''the industry'' already found a way to circumvent this. I bet you 100$ that they didn't reinforce anything; they simply bent the horns so they would be angled and respect that 10% crap.

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