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Importance of handlebar width

Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Importance of handlebar width

Old 07-20-06, 10:23 AM
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paul1149
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Importance of handlebar width

Hi. I privately bought a barely-used Trek 5200 last year and am very happy with it. The bike, which was owned by a woman, is set up with an adjustable stem holding 1" diameter handlebars that are 16.5" wide.

My shoulders are 19.5" wide. I've read that the bars should be the same width as the shoulder span (I think for breathing purposes). How important would the extra 3" be?

Currently I'm getting quite a bit of hand pain when holding onto, as I normally do, the shifters. Does the 1" thickness of the existing bars affect this much? They're well-wrapped. My hand size is average for a man. I'm considering adding more padding under the wrapping.

Thanks for any insight.
paul
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Old 07-20-06, 10:49 AM
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Depends a lot on your riding style, but I would get wider handlebars. Narrower handlebars are more aero, but they don't support your shoulders well and can be uncomfortable if you're not hammering all the time.
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Old 07-20-06, 10:58 AM
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Handlebar widths are measured in cm with 42 being std med size. Sometimes that diameter is centre-c, other times edge-e
Stems use mm to measure the diameter of the bar clamp and inches for the stem clamp.
Dont try to fight it, resistance is futile.

The "correct" fit of bars should be to the ball sockets of your shoulder joints
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Old 07-20-06, 11:36 AM
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I think I need to get into a bike shop and have myself and the bike evaluated. There are probably a few parameters that need adjustment, and I'd also like to have interrupters installed, as I used to like holding onto the top of the bar on my old bike as a rule.

p.
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Old 07-20-06, 11:40 AM
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I'll just say this: on my fixed gear bike, I tried to run narrower bars (42s instead of 44s like on my multiple geared bike) and it was problematic. It didn't feel as sturdy for me, especially when I was out of the saddle on hills or sprints. When I upped them to 44s, the squirreliness of the bike went away.

I'd go for some bigger bars. The size you gave -- 16.5" -- works out mathematically to 41.91; close enough to 42 to be considered 42. That might be too small for you.
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Old 07-20-06, 12:11 PM
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interesting. i too get "squirreliness" when riding out of the saddle, but most of it i'd attributed to my balance problems. BTW, the measurements i gave we outside to outside.

There is very little room up on top, where I like to hold on when I feel I won't need the brakes, with these bars. Especially if I add interrupters, I've been thinking about larger bars. I think i need a pro's opinion.

thanks,
p.

ps - am i alone in always experiencing very a slow server here? Seems to be delay in loading google-analytics.com, which I suppose is the ads.
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Old 07-20-06, 12:36 PM
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Originally Posted by iamtim
I'll just say this: on my fixed gear bike, I tried to run narrower bars (42s instead of 44s like on my multiple geared bike) and it was problematic. It didn't feel as sturdy for me, especially when I was out of the saddle on hills or sprints. When I upped them to 44s, the squirreliness of the bike went away.

I'd go for some bigger bars. The size you gave -- 16.5" -- works out mathematically to 41.91; close enough to 42 to be considered 42. That might be too small for you.
That's interesting. I get the squirreliness too and figured it was just me. I have broad shoulders and I'm thinking wider bars would be good for me too.
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Old 07-20-06, 12:50 PM
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Another factor to reinforce your decision to professionally fitted is your lung capacity. If your hands are closer to the center and would eventually intersect (if you continuedthe lines formed from your shoulders to your arms past your hands) you are more than likely, constricting your ability to use your full lung capacity. You are better able to utilize more of your lung capacity (increased aerobic ability) when your lungs can fully expand, thus the need for handlebars that are the right width.

Handlebars are no different than a steering wheel on a vehicle. You wouldn't put a car steering wheel on a big rig, it would be too sensitive or eratic.

Good Luck
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Old 07-20-06, 01:06 PM
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Originally Posted by paul1149
BTW, the measurements i gave we outside to outside.
Oh, wow. I was talking C-C which is how all my bars are measured. So, crap, yer probably talking 40s then. Unless you're my 15-year-old son, that's way narrow.

Go down to your LBS and ask to sit on a bike with wider bars... I'm 6'2"-ish and I run 44s. See if they'll let you test ride it, and you'll see the difference. Then you can find a set in a size you like, and pick them up while you're at the LBS. It would suck to test ride their bikes and have them help you only to buy them online. :-)
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Old 07-20-06, 01:10 PM
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I just had my wife measure my shoulders and they came out between 19 and 19.5 inches depending on where she measured from. Mathematically, that comes out to like... 48 and 49mm bars, but those would be hella wide. Try some 44s, that's what I run (both via drop on my roadie and bullhorns via my fixie) and I love 'em.
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Old 07-20-06, 02:08 PM
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Originally Posted by iamtim
Mathematically, that comes out to like... 48 and 49mm bars, but those would be hella wide.
Actually, 49mm would be hella narrow. 49cm would be wide believe you're supposed to measure your shoulder from bone to bone and get that size in a handlebar (center to center) but as are most measurements for bikes, that's just a starting point. it does sound like you've got narrow bars, though. Go to a bike shop, ask for their help, which does NOT mean going to the shelf and seeing what size they have in stock (some of them try that crap), and hold the bar in all 3 positions before you buy it. Most shops will offer a variety ranging from the top dollar carbon bars to "take-off" bars from new bikes that they will sell cheap to get rid of them.
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Old 07-20-06, 02:29 PM
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Ok, just back from my bike shop. these ppl are a treasure. i have 40cm bars. tried some 44's and they seemed too wide. but he gave me tips on how to adjust things much better than i had them (angle of the bars, height adjustment of the stem, forward projection of the saddle). i'm to do that and then decide if i want, probably, 42's, which in aluminum would run some $40. not sure the extra inch is worth it; guess i'll see this weekend. IAC i'll have them install interrupters next week.

BTW he did mention the wider bars are better for riding standing up.

p.
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Old 07-20-06, 07:05 PM
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Originally Posted by urbanknight
Actually, 49mm would be hella narrow. 49cm would be wide
D'oh.

I meant CM, not MM.

*shaking head*

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Old 07-20-06, 09:41 PM
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Originally Posted by paul1149
Ok, just back from my bike shop. these ppl are a treasure. i have 40cm bars. tried some 44's and they seemed too wide. but he gave me tips on how to adjust things much better than i had them (angle of the bars, height adjustment of the stem, forward projection of the saddle). i'm to do that and then decide if i want, probably, 42's, which in aluminum would run some $40. not sure the extra inch is worth it; guess i'll see this weekend. IAC i'll have them install interrupters next week.

BTW he did mention the wider bars are better for riding standing up.

p.
Sounds like a good plan. I ride 40 but my shoulders aren't that broad either. I used to like 42 (even 44 at one time) because it helps you breathe better, but I noticed my overall comfort was better with a longer stem and narrower bar, and I measure for a 39-40 bar anyway.

Originally Posted by iamtim
D'oh.
I meant CM, not MM.
*shaking head*
You know I only tease others to uplift myself for my multitude of similar mistakes.
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