Flat vs riser bars

Flat vs riser bars DEFAULT

When it comes to bicycle handlebars, you have two main choices. This list outlines all of the pros and cons of drop bars vs flat bars to help you decide which style to go with for your next bike. I’ll also outline a few other popular handlebar options and accessories. 

I also made this short video to outline the main points.

Pros of Drop Bars

  • More hand positions- Drop bars offer 3 distinct hand positions: on the hoods, on the bars, and in the drops. When going for a long ride or riding day after day while touring, you will want multiple places to grip the bars for comfort and variety. Riding on the hoods and bars give you a very natural hand position.
  • Drops offer an aerodynamic advantage- Aerodynamics play a major role in your speed and energy use while cycling. In fact, according to this article on Aerodynamics from Bicycling.com, air resistance becomes the main force acting against you once you reach 9 mph (around km/h). mph (around 25 km/h) seems to be the sweet spot when aerodynamics really make a difference. The faster you cycle, the more aerodynamics comes into play. Drop bars allow you to crouch down and reduce drag. This position can greatly increase your speed and efficiency. This comes in handy when you’re descending a hill, riding a long flat section, or riding into the wind. For more technical info, check out this guide on aerodynamics and cycling. 
  •  Better for climbing hills- When riding up a steep hill, you want to shift your body weight as far forward as possible. This makes climbing easier. The brake hoods offer a firm place to grip the bike. As an added benefit, while leaning forward you give yourself more leverage for pedaling. This allows you to apply more power to your pedals on every stroke. 
  • Drops can fit through more narrow spots in traffic- Standard drop bars measure around cm in width. Typical flat bars measure cm wide. On average, drop bars are around 20 cm narrower than flat bars. This difference comes in handy if you spend a lot of time weaving through tight traffic while commuting in a busy city. You can fit through gaps that you couldn’t with flat bars. 
  • Drops are more efficient- While riding through a headwind, downhill, or at speed, you have the option to crouch down in the drops to become more aerodynamic. Riding in this position is energy efficient. You aren’t wasting as much energy fighting against wind resistance. While sitting in an upright position, like you are on a flat bar bike, your chest acts like a sail and slows you down.
  • You can cover more ground faster- With drops, you can ride faster while spending the same amount of energy as you would on a  flat bar bike. This is possible due to the aerodynamic advantage that you gain. Over long distances, the energy-savings adds up. For example, maybe you can ride an extra 1 mile per hour on average with drops. Over the course of a one month bicycle tour you may be able to travel miles further than you would with flat bars. This is significant.
  • Drop bars look cool- This is just a personal preference, but I think drop bars have a really classic and iconic look. After all, curves are sexy. 

a top view of drop bars

Cons of Drop Bars

  • Parts are more expensive- Drop bar bike use different shifters and brakes than flat bar bikes. Generally, drop bar brake levers and shifters cost more than flat bar components. In some cases, gear will cost up to three times more. I don’t know why this is. My best guess would be because drop bar bikes tend to be higher-end so companies may charge a premium for components. 
  • The brake levers are not as easily accessible- If you need to stop quickly in an emergency, you may need to move your hands to a different handlebar position in order to use the brakes. For example, if you are riding with your hands on the top of the bars and a car pulls out in front of you, you will need to quickly slide your hands down the bars to grab your brakes. This is an extra motion that would not be necessary with flat bars. Every moment is valuable in an emergency situation. Also, some riders simply find the brake position on drop bars to be uncomfortable. There are solutions to this problem. For example, you can mount brake levers on the flat part of the bars. You can also buy dual brake levers or brake lever extenders.
  • Drop bars don’t offer as much control as flat bars- Because drop bars are so narrow you just can’t get the leverage to quickly or accurately turn them like you can with flat bars. Another problem is that you put more of your weight on your hands when riding drop bars. This makes you less maneuverable. Particularly at slow speeds. Drop bars aren’t great for those who need to make slow and precise turns. 
  • Drop bar components are generally more fragile- Especially if you are using integrated or STI levers. Modern gear is pretty reliable but I have had more problems with drop bar components. 
  • Drop bar parts are slightly harder to come by- If you tour in remote regions outside of the developed world, you will have a harder time finding replacement parts if something breaks. The reason is that most of the components you find at department stores and small bikes shops in the developing world are made for flat bar mountain bikes. Drop bar bikes use mostly road components. These are a bit harder to come by. Examples of some components that will not be compatible are brake levers, some front derailleurs, and shifters. Of course, with globalization these days it is becoming easier and easier to find any parts that you may need. You can usually have parts shipped in if they are not available locally.
  • Changing brake or shifter cables can be more difficult- When you need to replace a cable on a drop bar bike, you may need to remove the bar tape to replace it. When this happens, you will need to apply new tape after replacing the cable. This is a hassle and an additional expense that you wouldn’t have with a flat bar bike. Having said this, usually, you can just slide a new cable through the old housing without removing the bar tape. 
  • There is less capacity to mount items to the handle bars- Many cyclists like to mount a light, GPS, bell, cycling computer, phone, bags, harnesses, and more to their handlebars. There just isn’t space for all of this stuff on narrow drop bars. One solution is to use a handlebar extender to mount additional accessories. For example, this Yizhet Handlebar Extender would work well.
  • Visibility can be poor with drop bars- Drop bars tend to force your body into an aggressive position where you’re leaning on the bars. While this is great for aerodynamics, it isn’t great for visibility because your head is angled down. You can look up but that puts your neck in an unnatural position. The solution is to ride with your hands on the top of the bars. This gives you the most upright possible position. Even then, you’re still leaning further forward than you would be with flat bars. The solution to this is to raise your handlebars up. You can do this with some spacers or a riser stem. This will cost you some aerodynamic advantage though. 
  • Drop bars are not good for off road riding- Because you cannot as quickly or accurately turn narrow drop bars, it is more difficult to avoid a stump or hole in your path when riding off-road. Drop bars with flared drops are available to make them a bit better for off road riding but they will never be as good as flat bars for this purpose.
  • Not ideal for riding in some types of clothing- Drop bars force you to stretch your arms out a bit further than flat bars. Some clothing doesn’t allow for this. Particularly formal clothing. If you have to commute to work in a dress shirt, drop bars might not be the best choice. 
  • You have to tape the bars periodically- This is a maintenance thing that takes a bit of time and money that you don’t have to deal with if using flat bars.

A full suspension mountain bike with flat bars.

Flat Bar Pros

  • Flat bars give you much better control- Because flat bars are wider, they give you better leverage. They also allow you to steer more easily and accurately. This is particularly important while traveling at slow speeds or navigating technical terrain off-road. You can precisely steer your bike where you want to go. 
  • Flat bar components are cheaper- You can run whatever low end mountain bike components are available. These are generally cheaper than road components.
  • Parts availability is great- No matter where you are in the world, you can find parts compatible with flat bars. Every bike shop will carry compatible cables, brake levers, shifters, derailleurs, etc. While these parts may not be of the best quality, they will keep you on the road and save you from the expense of having new parts shipped in from abroad. In some places it is not even possible to have parts shipped in due to customs and importation laws.
  • Changing cables is easy- The cables and cable housings are all exposed. There is no bar tape to deal with. 
  • The brake levers are easily accessible- In case of an emergency, the brake levers are right at your fingertips at all times. No need to move your hands. The brake lever position is also more convenient for stop-and-go city riding where you’ll need to brake often. 
  • There is plenty of space to mount everything you want to your handlebars- On my last tour, I mounted a light, mirror, cycling computer, and handlebar harness. The harness held my tent and a dry bag filled with all of my clothes. There was space to mount a GPS, bell, my phone, etc. This wouldn’t be possible with drop bars. 
  • Flat bars are more comfortable- Flat bars allow you to ride in a more upright position which puts less stress on your back, arms, and neck. They are also more comfortable for the hands to grip. You can fit comfortable ergonomic grips which put your hands in a more natural position than thin drop bars wrapped in bar tape. I like the Ergon GP1 grips.
  • Visibility is better- Because flat bars put you in a more upright riding position, you are looking ahead of you at all times rather than looking at the ground or bending your neck to look ahead. This allows you to keep your eyes on traffic and the road ahead of you at all times, improving safety. 
  • Grips last forever- You very rarely have to replace flat bar grips. Drop bars require tape that needs replacing periodically. For more info, check out my guide to grips and tape and my guide to lock on vs slip on grips.
  • They are better for non-cyclists and new riders- Many people find flat bar bikes easier to ride due to the riding position, easy handlebar control, and excellent visibility. 

a touring bike with flat bars

Flat Bar Cons

  • Flat bars offer only one hand position- This is the biggest drawback to flat bars. If you commute further than10 or so miles or ride long distances or touring, you could experience numbness in your hands or pain in your wrists after keeping your hands in the same position for too long. The best way to solve this issue is to install bar ends. I like these Profile Designs Boxer Bar Ends. They are easy to install and weigh just grams. Pay close attention to your hands. If you feel them going numb, take a break and let them regain sensation. Upon returning home from my last tour, I had some numbness in one of my fingers that lasted for a few days. I have heard of people losing some of the feeling in their fingers for weeks or even permanently after ignoring numbness. Be careful with this.
  • Flat bars are less aerodynamic- Flat bars put you in an upright riding position. In this position, your chest acts like a parachute and creates a lot of drag. This can slow you down significantly when coasting down hills and riding fast. At slow speeds, the resistance isn’t really noticeable. Once you reach mph, the drag slows you down significantly. You can crouch down on flat bars to get a bit more aerodynamic but this position is hard to maintain. 
  • Flat bars require a wider gap to pass through- The widest part of most bikes is the handlebars. The average flat bars measure around mm wider than drop bars. If you are commuting in a city with heavy traffic, you won’t be able to squeeze through as tight of gaps as you can with a bike with drop bars. One solution is to hack off a few centimeters from each end of your bars. This will cost you some control and you will lose real estate for mounting accessories.
  • Flat bars are inefficient- Flat bars put you in a riding position which creates a lot of wind resistance. If you’re traveling at speed or into a headwind, much of your energy is going toward fighting wind resistance rather than pushing you forward. This is inefficient. You can crouch down into an aero position but after a few minutes your arms, neck, and shoulders will tire out and you’ll have to go back to your upright position. 
  • You can’t cover as much ground as quickly- With flat bars, you travel at a slower average speed than you would with drop bars but you spend the same amount of energy. The reason is that you are facing an aerodynamic disadvantage. Over long distances, the inefficiency adds up. For example, maybe you travel, on average, 1 mile per hour slower with flat bars. Over the course of a full day of riding, you might cover miles less than you could with drop bars. 
  • Not as good for climbing hills- You can’t shift your weight as far forward with flat bars. You also can’t quite get the same leverage on the pedals in an upright riding position. This makes climbing long steep hills a bit harder. 
  • Not as cool- This is a personal preference but I don’t think flat bars look as good as drop bars. 

More Cycling Pros and Cons Analyses from Where the Road Forks

a guy riding a drop bar road bike

What Kind of Cyclist Should Choose Drop Bars?

Drop bars are ideal for long-distance on-road riding where you don’t have to turn or brake often. Riders who maintain an average speed of over miles per hour or those who often face headwinds will benefit most from the aerodynamic advantages that drop bars offer. They are also great for those who ride for more than an hour or so at a time and need multiple hand positions. 

One thing to keep in mind is that not all drop bars are the same. Not all drop bar bikes are aggressively designed road bikes. For example, touring bikes and gravel bikes often come with drop bars with relaxed geometries. These designs put you in a more upright position. You have a lot of options to choose from.

Drop bars are defined by three measurements:

  1. Reach- This measures is how far forward the bar curves.
  2. Drop- This measures how far below the top bar the drop is.
  3. Width- This measures the distance between the drops. 

What Kind of Cyclist Should Choose Flat Bars

Flat bars are great for cyclists who want a more upright riding position. This is generally considered to be more comfortable. Flat bars are also ideal for those who ride off-road, through a lot of stop-and-go traffic, or through areas that require frequent tight turns. Flat bars offer great control and are very nimble. 

Just like drop bars, not all flat bars are the same. Some offer a more aggressive geometry which puts you in a forward leaning position. This is the case with flat bar road bikes. Some flat bars, like riser bars, put you in a very upright riding position. 

Other Bicycle Handlebar Options

Drop bars and flat bars are the two most popular handlebar options. In fact, pretty much every bike comes from the shop with one of those two installed. To make your decision even harder, I’ll outline a few other popular handlebar options below. I’ll also outline a few handlebar accessories that can help you overcome some of the drawbacks of drop bars and flat bars.

For even more on handlebars, check out my guide: 17 types of bicycle handlebars.

Clip-on Aero Bars

These attach to either drop bars or flat bars as an accessory. They allow you to lean over your handlebars and tuck into the most aerodynamic position possible. With aero bars, you grip them with your hands out in front of you and rest your elbows on the built-in rests.

The main benefit of aero bars is in aerodynamics. They also allow you to rest your hands and wrists. If you’re traveling straight, you don’t need to grip the bar. Just lean on your elbows. I like these Profile Design Legacy II Aerobars.

Trekking or Butterfly Bars

These unique bars are kind of a variation of flat bars. The biggest benefit of trekking bars is the multitude of hand positions that they offer with their unique figure 8 pattern. They also offer plenty of space to install all of the lights and bags and accessories that you could ever want in your cockpit. They use the same shifters and brakes as flat bars.

The main drawback to trekking bars is that they are heavier than other handlebar types. The reason is that they simply use more material to make. Some riders also complain that they look a bit goofy.

Bullhorn Bars

These are basically drop bars with the drop part cut off before it curves down. Some varieties of bullhorns curve up at the end. They use the same shifters and brake levers as flat bars. Bar-end shifters are also compatible.

The biggest benefit of bullhorn handlebars is aerodynamics. They allow you to tuck down into the wind. They are also great for climbing. You can get excellent leverage by gripping the horns while powering up a steep hill. They really allow you to manhandle the bike. They also simply look cool. 

The drawback is that they aren’t great for frequent or tight turns. These narrow bars don’t give you much leverage to accurately steer with. 

Cruiser Handlebars

A bamboo bike with cruiser handlebars

These are basically flat bars that curve up and back from the stem. Cruiser bars are designed for comfort. They allow you to sit completely upright. All of your weight is on your butt and off of your wrists and hands. If you experience wrist pain or hand numbness, cruiser bars are a good option. These bars use the same shifters and brakes as flat bars. These are popular on beach cruisers like my OP Roller.

The biggest drawback to cruiser bars is that they put you in an inefficient riding position. Your chest is facing straight out like a sail and your arms are spread wide. If your seat isn’t soft enough, your butt may tire out quickly while riding cruiser bars. 

Bar Ends

These attach to your flat handlebars add extra hand positions. Most riders attach them to the ends of the bars angled up and away from the bars but you can get creative with these to suit your preference. For example, you can install them toward the center of the bars to give yourself a more aero position. Angle them straight up to give yourself a cruiser like riding position. Wrap them with bar tape for added comfort. 

I like the Profile Designs Boxer Bar Ends. They are made of durable aluminum and weigh just grams. They measure around 6 inches long so they have plenty of space to grip. 

H Bars

These are kind of a mix between flat and cruiser bars. The H  bar is a popular choice among bicycle tourists and bikepackers. They include an extra bar that can provide both extra hand positions as well as extra space for mounting accessories like GPS, lights, and luggage. You can also use the loop in the bars for storage. These bars use the same shifters and brakes as flat bars.

My Handlebar Choice: Drop Bars Vs Flat Bars

After writing this list, I can conclude that I prefer flat bars. The pros outweigh the cons for me. My choice is partially because I grew up riding flat bars so I’m just not as comfortable on drops. It’s really a personal preference kind of thing.

Another big factor for me is cost. My budget is fairly tight at this tie. The fact that replacement parts are cheaper, easier to come by, and more likely to be compatible with my setup is a nice bonus.

In the past, I have owned 2 drop bar bikes. I had a Fuji Touring bike. Before that, I had a Centurion Ironman Dave Scott from the 80s that I rode to school. Over the years, I have owned many flat bar bikes. I grew up riding mountain bikes and BMX bikes. Currently, I ride a Schwinn High Sierra from the 80s that I converted into a touring bike.

My Schwinn High Sierra Loaded for a Tour

Final Thoughts: Drop Bars Vs Flat Bars

Handlebars play a major role in the comfort and handling of your bike. The choice between flat bars and drop bars comes down to your riding style, where you ride, and personal preference. You have an endless number of handlebar variations to choose from. Hopefully, this guide helps make the choice just a little bit easier.

For more handlebar options, check out my guide:17 Types of Bicycle Handlebars.

Where do you stand on the drop bar vs flat bar debate? Comment below to share your preference and experience!

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A set of the best mountain bike handlebars are a relatively cheap upgrade that will last you for ages. We’ve compiled the best: carbon, alloy, or 35mm.

The form of the best mountain bike handlebars is the riser bar. This is where the ends of the bar rise up higher than the centre section in the stem. The clamping diameter is either mm or 35mm. The importance of finding the best mountain bike handlebars for you and your bike can&#;t be overstated. In combination with your grips, they are the one bit of kit that keeps your bike pointing in the right direction.

Read on to see our shortlists of favourites in each diameter, followed by comprehensive bar buying advice guide at the end. And if you&#;re looking to update your bike&#;s whole front end then you should check out our buyer&#;s guide to the best mountain bike stems.

Best mountain bike handlebars

Best mountain bike handlebars 35mm diameter:

Best mountain bike handlebars mm diameter:

‘View Deal’ links

You will notice that beneath each product summary is a ‘View Deal’ link. If you click on one of these links then mbr may receive a small amount of money from the retailer should you go to purchase the product from them. Don’t worry, this does not affect the amount you pay.

Best 35mm diameter bars:

Nukeproof Horizon v2 carbon

Nukeproof Horizon V2 Carbon Riser

Nukeproof Horizon V2 Carbon Riser

35mm winner!

Price: £ | Weight: g | Width: or mm  | Rise: 12, 25 or 38mm | Dimensions: 9° back, 5° up

Pros: Unique offset sweeps suit modern MTBs, Accurate handling.
Cons: On the stiffer side. Offset sweeps may not suit older bikes.

Nukeproof wanted more backsweep for enhanced comfort, and has done something unique with the handlebar shape to counteract how this places hands closer to the rider and effectively reduces the reach of your frame. The bar is ‘clocked’ slightly forwards so wrists sit at the same angle, but the bar lies further forward than most rivals with the same 9° backsweep.

Offsetting the bar slightly like this gives more options to tune hand and riding position because rolling the bars in the stem makes more difference to grip position. Truth be told, it&#;s not a massive world of difference; you could get on these bars and not notice the unique sweep at all. But it certainly does no harm and will no doubt be felt and appreciated by some riders more than others.

Aside from this unique &#; and successful &#; way of doing the bar sweeps, this second generation Horizon bar has plenty of other things going for it. From a practical and safety point of view, the denser 3K carbon weave placed at the control clamp areas is a good idea. So too is the use of a type of &#;gritty&#; particle paint where the bar gets held by the stem, to prevent any undue bar rotational slip.

In general its ride feel is indistinguishable from far more expensive carbon bars and this, combined with the sensible modern MTB sweep shaping, make the latest Nukeproof Horizon bar a winner.

Read our full test review of Nukeproof Horizon V2 Carbon Riser

E*Thirteen Race Carbon

E*Thirteen Race Carbon

35mm runner-up

Price: £ | Weight: g | Width: mm | Rise: 20, 35mm | Dimensions: 9° back, 5° up

Pros: Lightweight and with a great ride feel without being a wet noodle
Cons: Not extremely bendy if you were after that sort of flex

Ostensibly this is very epitome of a modern mountain bike handlebar: a whack full mm width, 35mm clamp diameter and available in 20 or 35mm rise (we recommend the latter for modern, longer mountain bikes by the way) and it comes in the almost de rigeur 9° x 5° sweep combo.

What sets this bar apart is its on-trail ride feel. It isn&#;t a painful, overly stiff stick of a bar. Don&#;t get us wrong, it isn&#;t as overtly flexy as some deliberately bendy bars (such as made by One Up or Syncros) but it most definitely does do that old carbon cliche of not passing on vibration and chatter into the palms of your hands.

And, er&#; that&#;s that. A great handlebar is a hard thing to bang on about. It just works. Is light. Rides nicely. Doesn&#;t cost a ridiculous amount of money. And has really cool graphics whilst doing so.

Read our full test review of the E*Thirteen Race Carbon

Hope Carbon Handlebars 35mm

Hope Carbon Handlebars 35mm

Hope Carbon Handlebars 35mm

Beautiful and comfortable

Price: £ | Weight: g | Width: mm | Rise: 20mm | Dimensions: 7° back, 5° up

Pros: UK-made with beautiful exposed weave finish and muted ride sensation.
Cons: Lacks back sweep for some. Only one rise option.

Handlebars were one of the first things that Hope got round ot making oonce they&#;d got the tech to make carbon stuff in-house. Their initial handlebar was a mm diameter and we really rated it highly (we still do, it&#;s listed below in the best mm diameter bars shortlist).

This is the newer addition to the Hope handlebar range, an oversize 35mm carbon bar. It bears the same sweep angles as the mm version, and also the single rise option (20mm) but Hope have been generous enough to extend its width to the full mm modern standard

Not only that but hope also state that this 35mm diameter is actually more comfortable than their mm diameter bar. This is the wonder of working with carbon fibre. You can almost do what you want with it. The resulting bulgy, bulbous aesthetic is something of an opinion splitter, mind. So too is the carbon weave finish which does look rather noughties (although personally we secretly kinda like this modern retro vibe).

It&#;s still hand made in Barnoldswick, Lancashire and the result is a stunningly beautiful bar with exposed carbon weave. The ride quality matches the looks, with giving a very precise, direct control, but enough compliance in the material to take the edge off harsh bumps.

Not cheap. But good. And made in the UK, if you like that sort of thing.

Read our full test review of the Hope Carbon Handlebar 35mm

race face atlas handlebar

Race Face Atlas

Race Face Atlas

Full-on classic riser

Price: £ | Weight: g | Width: mm | Rise: 20 or 35mm | Dimensions: 8° back, 5° up

Pros: Super strong with long life expectancy. Wide enough for all tastes.
Cons: Super gloss finish requires careful brake/shifter/dropper clamping. Lacks angle-dangle markings for controls.

Not a fan of carbon? You&#;re not alone. Even taking aside the expense and environmental concerns of carbon (we don&#;t think carbon bars are weaker than alloy bars by the way, so we&#;re not factoring that in as a negative), there is something really great about the feel of an aluminium handlebar.

Race Face use series alloy for this bar and it really is very, very thin walled at certain parts. Alloy bars may not do any magic vibration soaking-up as oft-claimed by carbon bars but they must definitely deal with the spikes and bangs of real world rough stuff a whole lot better.

In the past we&#;ve been big believers in carbon bars that offered a bit more resilience, but these days aluminium can feel just as good and is usually half the price. Obviously, carbon can save weight, but the g weight saving is going to be pretty insignificant on modern trail bike.

Let&#;s talk about bar width. We really like that extra 20mm width, as it offers a bit more leverage when muscling around on techy singletrack. I’m not saying this is an enduro bike specific handlebar but it is a little more versatile than most all-mountain/gravity handlebars.

Niggles? Whilst we appreciate the coarse matt finish of the bar where the stem clamps on to it (to prevent accidental rotational slippage) we do wish Race Face had put some extended graphics or line markings in the middle too. As it is, it can be hard to align the bars just-so.

Read our full test review of Race Face Atlas handlebar

bet mountain bike handlebars

Chromag Fubar OSX 35

Chromag Fubar OSX 35

Less tiring than other oversized bars

Price: £ | Weight: g | Width: mm | Rise: 25mm | Dimensions: 8° back, 5° up

Pros: Lovely calm feeling for a 35mm bar. In-yer-face graphics.
Cons: May feel overly dull for racers. In-yer-face graphics.

They don&#;t much credit (or blame) for it, but Chromag were one of the original proponents of the now ubiquitous 35mm diameter standard. Their bars have come on a long way since and are much more sophisticated. They are no longer purely about strength and the oversized aesthetic.

Chromag actually claim to have their own bespoke way of drawing out alloy into tubing, with the ability to be relatively specific about where the have more/less alloy thickness.

Chromag Fubar OSX is less harsh and more comfortable on longer descents than rival bars, while feeling just as positive in terms of control; a crucial benefit that makes it potentially less tiring than a lot of other oversized, super-strong alloy bars

Some riders will not like the garish graphics &#; or the relatively wide central fat section &#; but if you reckon you can carry off the Chromag look, goferrit.

Read our full test review of the Chromag Fubar OSX 35 handlebars

Best mm diameter bars:

DMR Wingbar Mk4

DMR Wingbar Mk4

mm winner!

Price: £ | Weight: g | Width: , mm | Rise: 20, 35mm | Dimensions: 8° back, 5° up

Pros: Does what it says on the tin, as it were
Cons: Would be even better if it came in a higher rise option for big riders/bikes

DMR have had a handlebar called the Wingbar in the line-up for aeons and while this Mk4 is markedly different from the Mk1 Wingbar, it doesn&#;t appear to be any materially different to the previous Mk3 Wingbar. The gloss black finish and logo appears to be the only thing that&#;s different here. Good. The Mk3 Wingbar was excellent (we actually warded the Mk3 a full 10/10 rating).

From what we can see the only difference is that the Mk4 Wingbar is now available in a mm width as well as the full-on mm width as before. The 8° x 5° sweep combo is neutral and the £55 asking price seems extremely reasonable. The two rise options (20 and 35mm) are par for the course.

It&#;s the on-trail ride experience that makes us give the Wingbar Mk4 the nod over all the other mm diameter bars here. We just think it strikes the best balance of control and comfort.

Read our full test review of the DMR Wingbar Mk4

best mountain bike handlebars

Spank Spike Vibrocore

Spank Spike Vibrocore

mm runner-up

Price: £ | Weight: g | Width: mm | Rise: 15, 30, 50mm | Dimensions: 8° back, 4° up

Pros: Ideal for those looking for flatter grip angle. Unique Vibrocore &#;filling&#; genuinely reduces discomfort.
Cons: Graphics are looking a bit dated. Shallow up sweep can feel odd to some riders.

In terms of stiffness, the Spike is solid and steers precisely, but there’s a distinctly deadened, dull sensation that’s similar, yet somehow different, to the feeling you get from the best-damped carbon bars. High frequency trail chatter was noticeably more muted, leaving our hands fresher and less sore at the bottom of tough descents.

How is this feeling achieved? Essentially by pumping the bar full of foam. No really. The essential idea here is that the foam can dissipate tiny vibration and chatter, leaving the metal handlebar being able to be made really stiff and inflexible. This Vibrocore foam buzz killing technology has since found its way into Spank&#;s other components (principally their wheel rims). The Vibrocore filling only adds around 25g to the weight of these bars bythe way.

Most impressively, Spank don&#;t seem to be overly interested in overcharging for this unique feature and as such we really commend the sub-£80 price tag.

Read our full test review of the Spank Spike Vibrocore Race handlebar

best mountain bike handlebars

Renthal FatBar V2

Renthal FatBar V2

At home on trail or downhill

Price: £ | Weight: g | Width: mm | Rise: 10, 20, 30 or 38mm | Dimensions: 7° back, 5° up

Pros: Modern classic that still cuts it. Loads of rise options.
Cons: Not as wide as more modern offerings.

A modern classic handlebar. There&#;s a reason why so many professional racers run Renthal bars, it&#;s not (just) because they&#;re paid to, it&#;s because they really are supreme in terms of feel and shape.

The blend of stiffness-to-flexness is spot-on for all types of mountain biking. You don&#;t have to be railing World Cup downhills to get the benefits. And the iconic colourway and logos always raise a smile too.

There is nothing that rides like a Renthal bar. Especially if you&#;re into riding extremely fast. They ain&#;t exactly light but they are beautifully made and really hold on to their hard anodised good looks for years.

Despite what you&#;d expect, the beguiling bronze colourway does seem to flatter every bike it gets put with. You&#;d think there would be some frame paintjobs that clash with Renthal bars but we&#;ve yet to see one. Magic.

Read our full test review of the Renthal FatBar handlebar

Hope Carbon Handlebar

Hope Carbon Handlebar 35mm

Hope Carbon Handlebar mm

Looks good and feels great

Price: £ | Weight: g | Width: mm | Rise: 20mm | Dimensions: 7° back, 5° up

Pros: Rides even better than it looks. UK made classy carbon.
Cons: Expensive. One size only.

No, you&#;re not seeing double. We did already list a Hope handlebar above in the shortlist of the best 35mm diameter handlebars. This bar here is the original mm version.

Carbon handlebars in the &#;old&#; mm clamp size appear to be something of a dying breed but this one is a good choice. For the money a carbon bar isn’t the most costs effective way to save weight but it’s a nice addition because it’s something you’re going to be looking at every time you ride. Hope’s Carbon riser does look good and feels great but the high price (and lack of rise options) does count against it.

Read review of Hope Carbon handlebars

How to choose the best mountain bike handlebars:

We&#;ve come a long way from the shoulder-width steerers of the nineties and modern geometry theorists will tell you that wide bars are the way to go.


We think you should be aiming for at least mm. While this may seem extreme, in the majority of cases they will add a level of control and stability that can transform the way your bike rides. Plus, a wider bar doesn’t cost any extra and you can always cut it down.


The shape of a bar is dictated by three key measurements: rise, backsweep and upsweep. Rise is typical measured in millimetres — hence 20 or 30mm rise — and basically indicates the bar’s height. If you&#;re tall and/or you&#;ve not changed your bar rise for several years but have moved on to longer and longer reach bikes, we&#;d strongly recommend going for a higher rise bar than you&#;ve used previously ie. 35mm rise or higher.

best mountain bike handlebars

Clamp diameters come in mm or 35mm

Clamp diameter

The majority of handlebars are mm stem clamp diameter ie. they fit in a mm stem. There are a couple of brands offering 35mm clamp diameter handlebars (Race Face and Easton mainly). You will need to also have/buy a 35mm stem to go with them so don&#;t forget to budget for that too.

best mountain bike handlebars

Material choices

Carbon or aluminium

Aluminium or carbon is the choice. Aluminium is cheaper. Carbon is lighter. Carbon bars can be stiffer &#; some can even be uncomfortably stiff.

Obviously there is a spread of prices and materials here, which means there is something for every pocket. Carbon bars are pricy, but they are superbly made and you&#;re looking at roughly a gram weight saving over the aluminium alternatives

What you&#;re looking for is a perfect balance between stiffness, comfort and resilience. If you can also get a bar that&#;s light and wide enough, then you&#;re probably looking at a winner.

best mountain bike handlebars

The red lines indicate the upsweep (height) of the handlebars and the green lines the backsweep (depth) of them

Sweep angles

Backsweep and upsweep are measured in degrees and they affect the angle of the bit you hold.

Not all manufacturers produce bars in multiple rises, and you need to consider stem angle and bar rise together to achieve your perfect bar height. All of our favourite bars combine upsweep and backsweep, so we’d avoid any that are too flat or angled too far back.

best mountain bike handlebars

Trim to width

Cut marks and reference marks

You should know how to get your controls at the same angle by eye, but to reduce the guesswork several manufacturers print reference marks on the bar.

Cut marks are a handy addition if you want to trim the bar and don’t own a tape measure. They also allow you to ignore the old maxim ‘measure twice, cut once.’

Sours: https://www.mbr.co.uk/buyers_guide/best-mountain-bike-handlebars
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Riser Vs Flat Bars

We&#;ve been asked by some riders with bikes with flat handlebars if they should change to riser bars. The large majority of handlebars on mountain bikes are either &#;riser&#; or &#;flat&#;. On downhill and most longer travel bikes ( mm or more of rear travel) riser bars are prevalent. However, on more racey, cross country style bikes, both riser and flat bars are common.
In this article we&#;ll examine the difference between the two bars and offer some insight into whether you should consider changing from flat bars to riser bars.
For the purpose of the article, we will assume that the bike in any example given has a stem with little or no rise itself and is not overly short or long. More about stems and how they affect the bike/bars later.

What is a &#;flat&#; bar?

A flat mtb handlebar is pretty as the title suggests; a flat handlebar that doesn&#;t bend upward. Flat bars usually have a small amount of back sweep angle. Back sweep is a slight backward bend to provide a more comfortable grip angle for your hands than if it was flat/straight across the full length of the bar.

Advantages of a flat bar

A flat bar keeps your hand position down low and inline with your stem. On a bike built for outright racing, this low position puts you easily into a forward, racey body position for driving down on the pedals. It also provides a better position for standing up and sprinting. This low and forward position also pushes weight onto your hands and into your front wheel for traction.
Note: It should be noted that much of this can be achieved with risers bars by adjusting your riding technique.

Disadvantages of a flat bar

On the right bike, set up correctly for the rider, a flat bar may offer no disadvantage whatsoever. However, for many riders, the more forward position and subsequent weight on the hands and wrists can be a source of numbness or pain on longer rides.
The forward weight also inhibits the rider from pulling the front wheel up, more so than when using a riser bar.

What is a &#;riser&#; bar?

A riser mtb bar is again described in it&#;s title as it rises upward on each side. Riser bars, like flat bars, also include a backward sweep angle of around 7 &#; 9 degrees, but they also have upward bends to place the grip positions higher than the level of where the stem clamps to the bar. Riser bars usually come in rises between 10 &#; 40 mm.

Advantages of a riser bar

By choosing the amount of rise you want in a riser bar, you can tailor several facets of your bike&#;s handling characteristics and comfort. If you loosen the stem clamp and roll the riser bar a little, the combination of rise and back sweep lifts or lowers, and rolls the bar grips forward or back a little. This allows a little adjustment to be made to suit your personal taste or even accommodate an injury or condition you may be riding with.
Probably the main advantage however, comes from lifting your hands to a higher position. This takes some weight off your hands in your relaxed/neutral riding position and, combined with the higher position makes it easier to lift the front wheel to get over obstacles etc. This is an advantage for keeping your weight back and still being to get some lift from the front wheel when you need, especially when the bike is pointing downwards.

Disadvantages of a riser bar

Like any change/comparison in mountain biking, each advantage gained is usually accompanied with a disadvantage as well. Less weight on your hands means less weight over your front wheel, in turn pushing your tyres into the trail less and producing less traction. A more aggressive body position changes are required to regain the front end traction. Also, a lighter front end and higher grip position will also encourage more front wheel lift on steep climbs. Again, a more aggressive body position is required to resolve this.

Consider your stem and bike set up

Remember to always consider your bike setup when changing bars. If you want the most efficient power transfer when seated for fire roads and climbs, then your saddle height should not be comprised. Changing your bars from flat to riser (or vice versa) alters your reach distance a little. Reach is basically how far you have reach forward to hold your bars. Your bar height is also changed unless you compensate with stem adjustments. You may or may not need to raise or lower your stem height to keep within the recommended levels. You may even need to change your stem. As a rule of thumb, we usually recommend having your bar grips around level with your saddle and no more than 30 &#; 50 mm above. Level with your saddle is more racey and higher is more relaxed and downhill orientated.
Stems come in a variety of rises also, and are usually fitted to your fork steerer tube with several spacers. This allows you to further adjust your bar grip height by moving the stem up or down by repositioning the spacers. Switching to a stem with more rise angle and/or length, further enables adjustment to attain or retain the required height. Obviously however, shorter stems can offer much less rise than longer stems.
Stems also come in different lengths, typically from as short as 35 mm through to around mm. The actual length stem on any given bike depends greatly on the geometry of the frame. The changes in geometry for many mountain bikes these days, sees the bikes sold from new with very short stems. By reducing your reach in this way, the front end becomes more responsive to lifting when you need it to and reduces the arc your hands have to turn when steering, thereby speeding the steering action up. A short stem also allows you to get your weight over the front better than a long stem does where needed also. However, when you are wanting to really stretch out and power along those gravel roads, bike paths or even up mild climbs, a longer stem is likely an advantage. A shorter stem may encourage unwanted front wheel lift when you are struggling up a steep climb also, so again, a more aggressive, forward body position is required.
Confused yet? Don&#;t worry, we won&#;t go into stack heights, head angles, chainstay lengths and other factors that influence the stem length decision made by the bike&#;s manufacturer. Suffice it to say, stems are an integral part of the handlebar system, and where possible, can be adjusted to get your handlebar grips where you need.

Hints for making the decision

Let&#;s simplify things down again and look at if you really need to change your flat bars to riser bars at all. After all, if you are on the right size bike that is set up correctly for you, and it is the right type of bike for your riding, then it&#;s likely things are fairly close to where you need them. Unless of course you have a unique physical reason to need a significant change. Either way, getting a professional bike fit is a good place to start. The issue you are having might just be a poor bike setup.
The key here is that your hands, when gripping your bar grips, are in the right position. No point changing bars if that isn&#;t rectified by doing so.

Do you feel as though you have too much weight on your hands? Or feel like you are falling forward even when riding on flat trails?

Assuming your saddle height is correct and the saddle isn&#;t tilted too far forward/down then your stem may simply be set too low on the steerer tube. Trying raising them by shifting the stem above any spacers where possible. If you can&#;t raise the bars any higher with this method, then perhaps a riser bar may be the answer.

No matter what you do, even after coaching lessons, do you struggle to get the front wheel to lighten or lift over obstacles on the trails?

Assuming your technique is ok, you may be finding that because your flat bars are keeping your hand position in line with your stem, the forward body position and subsequent weight on the bars is a bit much for you. Imagine if the bars were down near the wheel. You&#;d probably never get the front wheel off the ground. Imagine if the bars were up level with your chest. You&#;d be popping the front wheel up even when you didn&#;t want to. By changing to a riser bar, and thereby raising your grip position 20 mm or so, you increase the leverage needed to lighten and lift the front wheel.

Are lifting the front wheel, steep descents and drops a large part of what you do on the trails you usually ride or often required in the type of races you do?

The point here is, why make a change to your bike if you hardly ever need it? One reason you may answer &#;yes&#; to that is if it&#;s a safety thing. If you feel you are going to be more comfortable and safe by switching to a riser bar, then perhaps it&#;s a good move even if it&#;s only a smaller percentage of your riding that really requires it.

To summarise, it&#;s imperative that your bike setup is correct before you go making any major changes to your bike. Actual handlebar grip height and reach in relation to the correct saddle height is far more important than whether you have flat or riser bars.
Change your stem and/or fit riser bars to get the correct bar grip position to get the best bike setup, not because someone tells you risers are better than flat bars.

Sours: https://www.momentumisyourfriend.com.au/mtb/riser-vs-flat-bars/

This is why drop bars sometimes suck

I wrote about my rusty (yet characterful) On One Pompino way back in the spring of , an innocent time before we all turned on one another in the wake of press-fit’s surprise bottom bracket referendum win.

I lamented the fact that this lovely old thing wasn’t getting much lovin’ and, somewhat prophetically, mused that its MTB-esque geometry might actually be better suited to flat bars, rather than drops.

For years I was a drop bar die-hard. I had thoroughly internalised the idea that drops had more hand positions and were therefore better for pretty much everything barring (hur hur) actual mountain biking

Matthew Allen / Immediate Media

I had drops on my road bikes, so I had to have drops on my everyday fixie, because I was a drops kinda guy.Until now.

[Pedants’ note: I’m using flat bars as a catch-all here that includes risers. Deal with it.]

Dropping the drops

Matthew Allen / Immediate Media

As of a few weeks ago, my trusty hack has sported mm Deda Mud Border risers, along with a delightfully shiny Tiagra brake lever and some Superstar grips.

mm isn’t wide by modern MTB standards, but it’s huge in the road world, where bars usually max out in the something-cm range.

The change was brought about by a combination of factors, but principally that I realised I don’t actually need to ride everywhere with a flat back, pegged heart rate, and feet clipped it.

I don’t need to be aerodynamic on a bike I ride a mile or so at a time and in any case, I had invariably been riding on the hoods prior to the cockpit swap, so the drops themselves were largely decorative.

Matthew Allen / Immediate Media

I also ride mountain bikes now and I’ve learned to appreciate the amazing control flat bars offer, as well as the ergonomic advantages of one-finger braking.

Don’t get me wrong, drop bars are the best thing for road bikes; they’re perfect for covering big distances at speed on tarmac.

But for a town bike that’s ridden in traffic over short distances and which is fitted with flat pedals, I’m here to tell you that a big old flat bar is better.

Matthew Allen / Immediate Media

The big surprise for me was how much the new bar helped with climbing. Although the hand position places more strain on the wrists (I wouldn’t want to climb an alp this way), the extra width offers so much more leverage that it more than makes up for it for quick blasts up short inclines.I had been intending to drop the gearing slightly as I ride up a steep hill every day, but I no longer feel the need.

Are there downsides? I can’t squeeze through those hypothetical 50cm gaps in traffic, but then I never do that anyway because I’m not a bike messenger in a fixie edit.

I do keep running into the doorframes in my house when I’m carrying the Pompino in and out, but that seems a small price to pay for the all-round practicality and improved comfort.

Singlespeed mountain bikers worked this out years ago of course, but I wasn’t listening. And here we have The Moral of the Story…

In which Matthew is reminded of the importance of keeping an open mind

Matthew Allen / Immediate Media

It’s very easy to become inflexible in your thinking when it comes to something you’re passionate about, like bicycles, for instance.

As a bike reviewer, I have to fight against this constantly.When I feel the urge to dismiss something because it seems silly or outlandish, it’s important that I consider why I’m having an instinctively negative reaction.

Is it because it’s actually a stupid idea? Or does it just not conform to my current world-view?

I thought dropper posts were entirely frivolous when I first heard about them many years ago, now I wouldn’t ride a mountain bike without one.

Russell Eich / Immediate Media

I’m sure many of you scoffed at electronic gears when they appeared on the scene, but they’ve proved themselves to be at least very effective, if not in any way necessary.

What bike things have you changed your mind about?

Sours: https://www.bikeradar.com/features/this-is-why-drop-bars-sometimes-suck/

Riser bars vs flat

You've probably seen most of the different types of handlebars on a bike. However, the two most common types that stand out from the rest of the handlebars are Flat Bar and Drop Bar. In this article, we'll compare the differences of the Flat Bar vs Drop Bar and find out which is better and why.

If you are new with bicycles, choosing between drop bar vs flat bar can be extremely difficult. Having used both types of handlebars, I can personally say I love both styles equally. But they are very different from each other in performance and function, yet they are still absolutely fantastic in their respective fields.

Nevertheless, you'll still need to know how to strike a balance between comfort while commuting to work or elsewhere, speed, agility, and how easy it is to ride.

So let's jump into it:

Flat Bar vs Drop Bar Comparison

It is not hard to spot a flat bar or a drop bar handlebar. So, most persons would be able to differentiate between the two easily. The flat bar has a more basic flat design compared to drop bars. Whereas, the drop bar has a more sophisticated design having three different ways of grabbing them.

What is a Flat Bar?

As the name suggests, Flat Bar is a bike handlebar that has a flat design. A flat-bar does not bend towards any direction; however, it can have a tiny amount of angle for a more comfortable grip for the rider. A bike with a flat bar is excellent for riding in towns and cities. It is also great if you want to ride a short distance for fun. Overall, the flat bar is one of the most comfortable handlebars out there, and you will never go wrong by getting one.

Best Flat Bars We Recommend

What is a Drop Bar?

Drop bar has one of the most sophisticated designs among bike handlebars. This drop down handlebar is more suitable for high speed on roads and tracks. A typical drop handlebar has a flat section in the center. Attached at the edge of each side is a curvy design that bends forward and down first and then back to the rider's position.

Best Drop Bars We Recommend

Now let's look at their features and make a comparison.

The difference in hand position

One of the first things that you will notice between the flat bar and the drop bars bicycle is the difference in hand positions. The drop-bar offers three different hand positions ­- hoods, drops, and tops. Each of these positions is meant for different purposes. On the other hand, the flat bar provides only one position.

Difference in posture

The other thing that you will notice is the difference in posture. The flat bar puts you in a more upright position, which is more comfortable. This position requires less flexibility and is more suitable for carrying a backpack.

On the other hand, drop bars will let you lean forward, which puts you in a more horizontal position. This offers more aerodynamics allowing you to ride the bike at faster speeds. The drop-bar requires more flexibility and is suitable for an experienced rider. The horizontal position also lowers the center of gravity and helps in cornering at fast speed.


It is clear by now that drop bars more suitable for riding at higher speeds compared to straight flat bars. This is because the drop bar allows you to go much lower, and such, it increases the aerodynamics. If you are looking for a bike to ride at high speeds, then the drop bar is the clear winner here.


The drop-bar bike also offers more versatility as it allows you to hold the handlebars with three hand positions. When your arms get tired after riding for a long time, you can change the hand position. This provides the rider with some relief. Whereas, a flat bar offers less versatility as it has only one hand position. The hand position of a flat bar makes it is suitable for short urban rides and mountain biking.


When it comes to maneuverability, the drop bar is excellent for cornering at high speeds. However, at lower speeds, the flat bar is easier to control and maneuver around obstacles. Both the bars are good at their respective area, but the flat bar wins here. You'll typically find it easier to weave through traffic or urban areas with a flat bar bike than you would with a drop-bar bike.

Stability and Balance

The flat bar is much more stable than the drop bar. This is because of the wide handle of the flat bar. It is easier to balance the flat bar on bumpy roads. Because of this reason, you'll always find bikes such as mountain bikes or electric bikes with a flat bar as they require higher stability, balance, and maneuverability.

However, the drop bar does provide great stability when it comes to high speed. When you're descending, the drop bar also provides a more secure grip.

Pros & Cons

Now let's, look at the pros and cons of both the two handlebars.

  • The flat bar provides better control since they are wider. 
  • They are easy to steer and are generally great for off-road riding.
  • The components of a flat bar are cheaper and easily available.
  • Changing the cables of a flat bar is much easier since it has a simple construction.
  • The flat bar provides easy accessibility to brake levers.
  • A flat-bar has more space to mount your stuff, mirror, harness, light, and cycling computer.
  • The upright position also provides better visibility of what's ahead.
  • Flat bars have longer-lasting grips.
  • Flat bars are great for new riders.
  • The flat bars provide the riders with only one hand position.
  • Flat bars do not offer good rider aerodynamics.
  • It is harder to pass through small gaps since flat bars are wider.
  • Flat bars are not very efficient since the upright position creates a lot of drag.
  • Flat bars do not allow you to travel at high speeds.
  • Flat bars provide multiple hand position for comfort and versatility.
  • Drop bars give you more aerodynamics.
  • Drop bars can fit in tight spaces allowing you to squeeze between traffics.
  • It will enable you to ride faster with less energy.
  • Drop bars provide more speed and distance coverage.
  • The parts of a drop bar are more expensive.
  • It is hard to access the brake levers in a drop bar.
  • It takes a lot of effort to control a drop bar.
  • The components of a drop bar are often more fragile than ones found on a flat-bar bike.
  • The parts of drop bars are harder to find.
  • Changing the shift and brake cables of a drop bar is more difficult.
  • A drop bar has less space to mount other accessories on the handle.
  • Drop bars do not provide great visibility.
  • This type of handlebars is not suitable for riding off-road.

What are the main differences between Flat Bar vs Drop Bar?

A drop bar and flat bar has several differences between them. One of the main differences is with the hand position. The drop-bar has three holding positions while the flat bar has only one. The drop-bar also lets you ride the bike at higher speeds since it puts you in a more aerodynamic posture. However, the flat bar provides more comfort and stability. The flat bar is also easier to control.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What type of cyclist should go for drop bars?

A cyclist who prefers going on long-distance rides should go for drop bars. The multiple hand positions offer comfort when cyclists ride for a long duration. They are also good for a cyclist that maintains high average speed.

What type of cyclist should go for flat bars?

Cyclist that prefers a more upright position and comfort should go for flat bars. Flat bars are also perfect for cyclists who like to take their bikes on an off-road adventure.

Which handlebar is more comfortable between a flat bar and drop bar?

The flat bar provides much more comfort than the drop bar since it allows the rider to sit at an upright position. A flat-bar requires less flexibility from the rider and is also suitable for almost all clothing types.

What is the main purpose of a drop bar?

The main purpose of a drop bar is to provide more aerodynamics to increase the speed. When a rider leans forward and goes lower on a drop bar, there is less resistance, and hence it allows the rider to go much faster with less effort.


Both the drop bar and flat bar are an excellent choice if you are looking to get a new bike. However, they serve different purposes. If you want to get a bike for casual riding, then a flat bar would be the best option. It is also great if you are looking to do some off-road riding. Drop bars can be a little intimidating if you are new. So beginners should consider flat bars.

However, if you want to get a bike for high-speed riding and long distances, you should get the drop bar bike. It is specially designed for covering large distances in a short amount of time. Hence, it is up to you now to decide which drop bar you should get. Hopefully, this comparison can help you make that choice.

Sours: https://www.bostonbikes.org/advice/flat-bar-vs-drop-bar-differences-pros-cons/

Is front wheel traction getting you down? Does your neck feel like it’s filled with nails post-ride? If so, it&#;s time to think about your handlebar height. We experiment to find the perfect MTB bar height for you.

Handlebar height is perhaps not the sexiest of topics. Back-in-the-day we all rode on mm flat bars and, even the easiest descents were terrifying. Then came wider riser bars and, like Neanderthal man, we all raised up out of our crouched riding position and discovered that comfort and control were not mutually exclusive. However, year on year, fork travel increased and our bikes grew. Now, the front end of a modern long travel 29er towers higher than ever before. So much so, that bar manufacturer Renthal have just released a new, ‘Flat’, version of their popular FatBar Lite for those looking to go lower at the front. So is lower better again? We hit the trails to find out.

What is Stack and Reach – understanding the terminology

Before we delve into bar height, it&#;s important to understand some terminology, namely Stack and Reach. Stack is the vertical distance measured from the centre of the frames bottom bracket to the centre of the top of the head tube (where the fork steerer enters the frame). Reach is the horizontal distance from the centre of the bottom bracket to the centre of the top of the head tube. Reach has nothing to do with the position of the seat and grips as many people think.

Riser bars vs Spacers

First, it&#;s time to dispel a common misconception. Adding 40 mm of spacers under the bar is NOT the same as adding a 40 mm riser bar. For example, if you change from a flat bar to a 40 mm riser bar (assuming the backsweep and width remain the same) the contact point with your hands moves vertically upwards 40 mm. When you add spacers under the stem, however, you change the position of the stem on the steerer tube which is at an angle. For example, if your bike has a 65 degree head angle, a quick trigonometry equation shows that for every 10 mm of spacers you add, the stem moves mm upwards, but importantly mm rearwards. Adding 40 mm of spacers, in this case, would move the grips mm upwards but also mm backwards in relation to the head tube. Riser bars make no change to the grip position in the horizontal plane in relationship with the head tube, adding or removing spacers changes the bars horizontal position as well as the vertical plane.

Finding the correct MTB bar height for you.

Now we understand the terminology and differences between making adjustments with riser bars and headset spacers. In order to see how the bar height and position influences ride feel we headed to the Innerleithen trails with a brace of FatBar Lite flat and riser bars from Renthal for a day of back to back testing. Throughout a day we hot-swapped between 0, 20 and 40 mm rise, all cut to mm wide. To ensure proper testing, no other changes were made to set up and bar rotation and backsweep within the stem was identical. Test bikes were a RAAW Madonna and a Pole Evolink with a stack and reach of and mm and and mm respectively.

Low MTB bar height &#; Flat Bar

Fitting a flat bar to our test bikes was instantly noticeable to our testers. Your bodyweight is pulled low and to the front, and the connection to the front wheel feels a lot more direct. Steering is very precise at low speeds, and you can feel the traction of the front tire through turns. On flow trails and flatter trails the bike darts through corners with precision and does not understeer.

However, when riding very steep terrain, the low front end pulls your weight far forward in a very aggressive position which requires more strength and energy, we found our arms and hands getting fatigued faster. The high loading on the front wheel also means it feels a little overloaded and is harder to unweight over holes and compressions. We also found it hard to drive with the legs as the low bars moved the weight forward and onto to our arms.

Advantages of a low MTB bar height

  • More weight on the front wheel for precise cornering
  • Easier to feel traction from the front tyre
  • Less understeer in corners

Negatives of a low MTB bar height

  • Overloaded front wheel hangs-up into holes
  • The body is pulled into a physical position on steeper terrain
  • Hard to push with legs as weight is biased towards the front
  • Uncomfortable position if you&#;re not flexible

High MTB bar height &#; Riser Bar

At the other end of the spectrum, when we swapped to a 40 mm riser bar the changes were instantly noticeable. The riding position is more open with the head and chest higher for a more comfortable ride. On steeper trails we found we were more centralised on the bike, with the weight spread more between the legs and arms, feeling less fatigue. The front wheel was well weighted in corners on steep trails, but we found we could still unweight the wheel over obstacles.

However, on flat trails and slow speed corners, we did not feel as connected to the front wheel and we had to actively ride further forward on the bike for maximum control. In flat turns we had to ride more dynamically, pulling our weight over the bars by stretching our legs to weight the front wheel and avoid understeering.

Advantages of a high MTB bar height

  • Improved control down steeper tracks
  • Improved vision down the trail
  • More comfortable position
  • You can lift the wheel when descending

Negatives of a high MTB bar height

  • Rider needs to be more dynamic to keep weight over the front wheel
  • Steering feels less sharp on flatter tracks

The debrief, what is the perfect MTB bar height?

First a disclaimer. Your body position on your bike is heavily influenced by suspension setup, so make sure you have your fork and shock set correctly before optimising bar height. Mountain biking is not the same as road cycling, the position is more dynamic and as such, there is no ‘recommended’ ideal bar height. Bar height, like suspension setup, is highly subjective and depends on your own personal physiology, height, bike choice and the chosen terrain. However, the properties of extreme bar heights of ‘very low’ and ‘very high’ are easily observable and will help you find the optimum bar height for you. Running a low front end gives huge front end grip on flatter trails, but is a physically more demanding position on steeper trails. Running a higher bar gives more control and comfort on steeper terrain and a more relaxed head up position on mellow terrain. However, negatives include loss of traction on steep climbs and less weight over the front wheel on flatter trails. You cannot carry separate bars for climbs and descents, well you could but your riding buddies would soon stop inviting you to rides, so what is the ideal compromise?

Reasons to go lower

If you feel that you are lacking front end grip in the corners, and the front wheel feels light and understeers in flat turns, dropping the bar height a little will provide more grip.

Reasons to go higher

If you find on steep trails that you are suffering a lot from arm fatigue and the front wheel feels heavy and hard to lift over obstacles raising the bar height will provide more control.

There is no magic bullet number, seek and you shall find

In conclusion, while there is no ‘magic bullet’ fix we recommend experimenting with your bar height, the easiest way is by adjusting the headset spacers under and above the stem. Next time you ride your home trails, try going up or down 1 cm (depending on your chosen issues as described above) and see if there is an improvement. For an all-round bike for fun, up and down the trails, we recommend finding a position as high as you can while retaining enough weight on the front wheel in flat corners. After experimentation, once you have found a good height if you want to retain the reach of your bike you can fit the corresponding riser bar to the number of spacers you have added.

Words & Photos: Trev Worsey

Sours: https://enduro-mtb.com/en/the-right-mtb-handlebar-rise/

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