The Bicycle Handlebar

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Drop handlebars (of the “ergo” or “anatomic” variety)
Porteur type bicycle handlebar, from an Italian Bianchi bicycle, circa 1940

Bicycle handlebars are the steering controls of a bicycle.. It is equivalent to a tiller for vehicles and ships as it is most often mechanically linked directly to a rotating front wheel via a rod that attaches it to the fork..

In addition to steering, handlebars often support part of the rider’s weight, depending on their sitting position, while also providing a convenient mounting location for brake levers, gear levers, bicycle computers, bells, etc.. etc..


Handlebar on an 1818 draisienne by Niépce

The dandy horse, or draisienne, invented by Karl Drais and the first vehicle with two wheels arranged in tandem, was controlled by a bar connected to the front steering mechanism and held by the riders’ two hands.. The first handlebars were solid bars of steel or wood, depending on the manufacturer.. Curved, moustache-shaped, drop handlebars became popular in the 1920s..

Whatton bars were developed in attempt to improve the safety of penny-farthings.. Handlebars made of wood, instead of steel, were used on safety bicycles to reduce weight in the 1890s.. Although aluminum was used to make bicycles as early as 1935, it was considered unsafe for handlebars until Cinelli produced them in 1963..

Types of handlebar

Handlebars come in a variety of types designed for particular types of riding.


Conventional drop handlebars with harlequin cloth tape wrapping

A typical drop handlebar has a straight center section attached to the body of the vehicle, with each end bending forward and down, then toward the rider in a lower position.. These are very popular types of handlebars, and their exact shape and purpose causes them to be classified as follows..

These are classic racing handlebars, used on road or track bikes.. The bars are designed with three basic parameters; reach, drop and width.. They can be classified into three types: regular
s, which typically have a long reach and a deep drop, compact, with a shorter reach and shallow drop, and ergo or anatomical, described below.. The drop bar may have one or two vertical indentations so that the brake and shift cables protrude less when wrapped under the handlebar tape.. They can also have a flat top..

Race Style Bars

Large Radius Curve “Track” Style Bars
Race drop bars are a variation of bars designed for the typical riding positions of race cyclists.. Slides are characterized by large, fast ramps that effectively eliminate top hand and brake hood positions, but favor the rider’s use of the limbs or “hook”.. The tie bar was designed to be used without a brake lever, but has recently seen a resurgence in popularity of fixed gear bicycles and has therefore been adapted to accommodate levers and hand position.. Ergo or anatomy

The shape of the drop may be a simple, traditional curve, or it may have a flat point (straight segment) which some riders find more comfortable in their hands.. These bars can be described as utilitarian or anatomical..

Some manufacturers have adapted the anatomical term for this curved form, and also applied the term ergo to describe the cross-sections of the non-cylindrical tube in the upper flat portion of the bar, for the purpose of providing Feeling more comfortable when walking in a vertical position.. Hiker
The drop bar rises slightly from the center in a shallow U shape, and the drop of the bar is wider than the top curve.. Designed to be a little more comfortable than the straight bike drop bars used to ride the Audax..

At one time, manufacturers and riders were experimenting with drop bars that had an extra extension to the head tube in the rear.. drop.. This was intended to offer an even more aerodynamic position, due to low and narrow placement of the hands, than just the drops, while still remaining legal for mass-start races.. Their popularity has since waned.

Dirt drop
Primarily for riding off-road or on dirt, these handlebars are flared out at the ends of the handlebar.. This style was used in the 1980s during the early period of mountain biking.. Initially the flared portion in these handlebars was bent by hand, but now are available from manufacturers such as Salsa Cycles and SOMA Fabrications..


Cut down drop bars repurposed as bullhorn handlebars

Bullhorn (or pursuit) front sight, curved up and forward.. They are often combined with specialized clip-on triathlon bars for road use (see above) and are also common on track, single-speed and fixed-gear bikes..

This style of handlebars is named after the racing discipline in which it was originally used and is commonly nicknamed “bullhorns” due to their appearance, especially given the rider’s body position.. fully extended to lean forward and maintain bike control..

Improved bullhorn bars can be made simply by cutting the drop bars and then mounting them upside down so that the remaining drop start point creates a slightly upward hook for hand rest, although this doesn’t offer as much forward extension (reach) or lowering (if desired, usually for time-tested use) as purpose-built loudspeakers.. They are sometimes called “flip and cut” or “flip and cut” bars, and if this is done, care must be taken to carefully remove the sharp edges of the cut, and to glue and plug the ends of the bar properly for more security.. purpose..


The bullmoose style was popular on early mountain bikes.. The stem and handlebars form a single block and where the upper part of the stem is, there are instead 2 bars that connect to the fork at the rear and connect to the regular handlebar section at the front, in two offset positions.. heart.. form a triangle.. This type of handlebars is usually very large, helping you breathe easily when stressed.. However, heavier than modern flat or raised bars and less customizable in height and distance from the rider’s body, they gradually disappeared..


Flat handlebars are the standard handlebars found on mountain bikes, hybrids, and more recently on fixed-gear and flat-handlebar road bikes.. The flat bar is an almost straight tube, in most cases slightly curved towards the rider.. Many early penny and safety bicycles had flat handlebars.. The angle between the two slightly swept ends of the handlebar and the axis of the muffler clamp is called the sweeping angle..


Riser handlebars on a mountain bike

A riser bar is a variation of the flat bar in which the outer portions of the bar rise approximately 15 to 50 mm above the central clamping area.. Flat and raised bars can be supplemented with bar ends, providing more hand positions..

Triathlon or aero bars

Triathlon bars or aerobars include different styles of aerodynamic handlebars for racing bicycles and especially time trial bicycles.. Includes narrow, bolt-on extensions that pull the body forward into a collapsed position, track bars that extend the rider’s arms but lower the body to a slightly lower position, and integrated combines elements of the two designs..

Using an aero bar can allow a rider to shave 90 seconds off a 40km time trial..
Triathlon bars are commonly used in triathlons and time trials on the road and track.. However, they are illegal in most mass-start road races or any other event where long stretches are allowed because, although aerodynamically beneficial, they tend to move the hands out off the brakes, making the driver somewhat unstable on the vehicle and can be dangerous.. in case of an accident.. Additionally, they are not useful in sprints or shorter climbs where power is more important than aerodynamics..

There are specialized shifters (called bar end shifters) that can be installed on some triathlon bars so that they can be accessed without moving the hands from the aero position.. The additional brake levers in this handlebar configuration are located at the end of the included chase bars..

The Aero
bars are a recent addition to on-track time trials, Greg LeMond first used them at the 1989 Tour de France.. During the controversial time trial on the final day Finally, LeMond used them to beat yellow jersey runner Laurent Fignon in 58 seconds , turning a 50-second deficit into an eight-second lead.. Fignon unsuccessfully protested the use of these bars..


BMX-style bars with cross brace

BMX Style handlebars, as used on BMX bicycles, are taller than straight bars and often have crossbars for stiffness and strength..

Upright or North Road

North Road handlebars

One of the oldest and perhaps most popular types of handlebars for city bikes, this type of handlebar was named after the North Road Cycling Club in London and was later used on Raleighs ,

Schwinns as well as other three-speed and single-speed bicycles.. bicycles until the 1980s, as well as various European off-road and utility bicycles.. They are also known as “townie” or “tourist” bars.. The North Road’s barriers are brought more or less towards the driver; in severe cases, each handle has an end almost parallel to the other handle and to the bike frame.. Recently, they have seen a resurgence in popularity of certain hybrid bikes, city bikes, and comfort models.. The North Road’s handlebars can be easily reversed to provide ≈4 inches of travel when a more aggressive riding position or sporty look is desired..


Carrier bars are designed to accommodate front-mounted racks or baskets for carrying cargo and are commonly found on specialized carrier bikes.. Curves are usually almost flat in the center, then gradually recede towards the cyclist in a variety of shapes and with a slight slope in some cases..


Cruiser handlebars, as used on Cruiser bicycles, tend to be long and tilted toward the rear of the bike so the rider can sit upright..


Condorino type handlebar by Legnano, Italy, circa 1960

The condorino bar is bent almost 90° forward, then 90° outward at an acute angle.. It has no height and is much narrower than regular city bike bars.. It has been distributed mainly in Italy since the 1950s and was marketed to customers who wanted a bike with a sporty look that could still be used for general purposes (commuting, etc..) years when most dedicated racing bikes were not affordable.. everybody.. It gradually lost popularity as road racing bicycles became popular and by the early 1980s it was no longer produced..

Whatton bars wrapped behind the legs of penny riders so they could keep their feet on the pedals at all times and could also hop off the machine foot first.. They are also used on recumbent bicycles for riding under the seat..

Touring or Trekking

Trekking or “Butterfly” handlebars with foam rubber coverings

Sometimes called “butterfly” bars, they are commonly found in mainland Europe.. They typically consist of a broken figure-eight arrangement mounted horizontally on the stem..

This style of bar allows the rider to maintain a relatively upright position while providing a variety of hand positions for comfort on long rides..

A variation of the Butterfly bar is fitted to Brompton’s ‘P’ type folding bicycle.. It differs from other Butterfly bars in that it is installed vertically rather than horizontally..


A moustache handlebar as seen from the top of the bike

The Mustache handlebar curves forward from the body, then back toward the driver.. This style was designed by Grant Petersen in the early 90s for the Bridgestone XO-1, based on sliders used by students in Japan..

Ape Hangers

Ape hangers

The handlebars rise in a sloping U shape from the base, so the rider’s hands rest above waist level.. This style of bicycle handlebars became very popular in the 1960s following the introduction of rolling bicycles such as the Schwinn Sting-Ray, Raleigh Chopper, and other highly stylized youth bicycles that caught on.. imitates the shape of a motorbike.. Drag racing or chopper motorbikes of the day ..

Regulations passed in 1978[11] under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act limited the maximum height of manufacturer-installed handlebars to 16 inches (40..64 cm) above lowest setting of the chair;

European Union safety regulations use a similar limit of 40 cm.. [citation needed] Many US states have regulations that vary from 15 to 30 inches above seat height, or shoulder or eye height; some have no restrictions..

Ostensibly, these regulations are intended to ensure safety, although some commentators believe that these laws are intended to give police a pretext to arrest motorcyclists suspected of being members of an illegal gang.. legal..
The Ape Hanger style remained popular in the United States until the mid-1980s and is still commonly seen on lowrider bicycles..

Under seat steering handlebars on a recumbent

Because there are many types of recumbent bicycles, they are often equipped with handlebars that cannot be found anywhere else.. These include extra-long-reach handlebars, similar to monkey bars (see above) but mounted less vertically, and handlebars designed for riding under the seat, called Whatton bars..


Handlebar design is a trade-off between several desirable qualities:

Design goals

The design goals of handlebars varies depending on the intended use of the bicycle. Common to all bicycles:

  • Providing the necessary leverage to steer the bicycle.
  • Proper positioning of the rider’s hands according to the purpose and style of the bicycle.
  • Providing a mounting platform for brake and gear levers as well as various accessories.

Racing/touring and triathlon bars have additional goals:

  • Enabling the rider to assume an aerodynamic position.
  • Enabling the rider to change hand and body positions during long rides, preventing fatigue.
  • Enabling aerodynamic routing of brake/gear cables.

Mountain bike handlebar design goals have less focus on aerodynamics, more on negotiating terrain:

  • Providing enough control to maneuver the front of the bicycle over obstacles.
  • Being strong enough to withstand the extra forces generated in some activities/crashes.
  • Optionally: not significantly increasing vehicle weight.

BMX and dirt-jump bike bars have similar needs to mountain bikes, with the added incentive of allowing even finer control, such as specific handling during the time the bike is airborne or during certain maneuvers.


Handlebars are usually made of aluminum alloy, but are also commonly made of steel, carbon fiber or titanium…


There are a few dimensions to consider when choosing handlebars:


Drop bars are available in a variety of widths, from 34 to 50 cm (13 to 20 in) [citation needed].. Typically, cyclists choose bars that are approximately shoulder width so their arms can be nearly parallel.. Width is measured at the end of the drop, but the exact method varies by manufacturer.. Some measure from outer edge to outer edge (e.g.., Deda, ITM, TTT, Pinarello Most), while others measure from center to center (e.g.., Cinelli, Profile Design, Ritchey, Salsa).. The number returned when measured from outside to outside tends to be 2 cm (3⁄4 in) larger than the center-to-center measurement of the same handlebar..

Stem clamp diameter

Care is needed when choosing a handlebar to match a stem, or vice versa, as there are several standards.. The ISO standard for the stem clamping area of a handlebar is 25..4 mm (1 in), which is used on mountain bikes and many Japanese-made road handlebars.. However, the Italian unofficial standard is 26..0 mm (1+1⁄32 in).. There are also intermediate sizes such as 25..8 mm (1+1⁄64 in) that try to achieve compatibility with either an ISO or Italian stem, and the old Cinelli-specific size of 26..4 mm (1+3⁄64 in).. In practice, many modern stems with removable faceplates are quite accommodating of slight differences in handlebar clamp size, but the older type of stem with a single pinch bolt must be accurately matched.. In the days of quill stems, a road stem was clearly identifiable from its “7” shape, but nowadays it can be hard to tell the difference between a “road” (26..0 mm [1+1⁄32 in]) and “MTB” (25..4 mm [1 in]) stem.. Manufacturers frequently omit the clamp size from advertising or packaging..

A new standard is an “oversize” 31..8 mm (1..252 in) or 31..7 mm (1..248 in) clamp for both MTB and road bars.. This is popular on mountain bikes, especially those with a focus on “all mountain” and “downhill” activities, as the stem and handlebars can be both stiffer and lighter.. This clamp diameter is taking over from the previous mix of sizes on road bicycles with drop-bars.. On these bodies, the standard brake lever can only be used because only the center part is oversized, although other accessories mounted close to the body must also be oversized to fit (some racks are adjustable support).. Shims are available to fit a 25..4 mm (1 in) or 26 mm (1 ⁄ in) bar to a 31..8 mm (1..252 in) stem, so many newer stem designs are only oversized..

In 2012, bar manufacturer Easton also launched a 35 mm (1 ⁄ in) size for bars and stems.. This was developed specifically for high load applications such as downhill.. Easton claims to add strength and stiffness while reducing weight..
BMX style handlebars require a clamp diameter of 22..2 mm (7⁄8 in) and are therefore incompatible with any non-BMX specific stem..

Lever clamp and grip diameter

In addition to the clamping area of ​​the muffler, the gear lever and/or brake lever and the clamping area of ​​the handlebar can have many different diameters.. For traditional road and mountain handlebars, these diameters are standard and so there has historically been little confusion except when combining road and mountain components.. However, in recent years there have been horizontal bars that do not belong to one type or another, but can optionally use the gear lever, brake lever or grip type (e.g.. vertical style bars).. For this reason, some handlebars are available in different sizes related to the clamping diameter of the shift or brake lever..

Standard road handlebars (including racing, mountain bike and touring handlebars) use 23..8 mm (15⁄16 in) diameter grips/lever, suitable only for gear lever or brake lever of a road bicycle.. This diameter is usually not important for handles because these bars are usually wrapped in tape.. One exception is the one-piece rail grip, which is sized to fit a 23..8 mm (15⁄16 in) bar diameter (and thus, will not fit mountain bike handlebars).. Cyclocross brake levers are sized to fit drop-style bars and will also not fit mountain bike handlebars..

Other common bar/handle sizes used for mountain and city handlebars, including flat bars, risers, some heavy-duty bars, etc.. On these handlebars, the lever and handle area is 22..2 mm (7⁄8 in) in diameter.. Therefore, thumb shifters, grip shifters, MTB brake shifters and Rapidfire type shifters are only suitable for this smaller diameter – none are suitable for road or mountain bike bars ..

Handlebar Coverings

Handlebars often have tape or grips to provide grip and comfort.. Usually, handlebars have a riding position with handles and handlebars have multi-purpose tape..


There are many types of handlebar tape:

  • Polyurethane tape, introduced in the last few years, provides cushioning.
  • Composite rubber tape
  • Cork tape, padded tape, provides cushioning but less durable.
  • Bike ribbon, plastic padded tape with smooth waterproof surface.
  • Benotto “Cello-Tape”, made from plastic, popular in the 1970s and 1980s. Compared with other types of handlebar tape it is relatively thin and is unpadded; it does not provide any cushioning from road vibrations. However it is long lasting, does not absorb water, was available in a vast range of colors and stays clean. Similar types of “shiny tape” exist.
  • Cotton tape, unpadded woven cotton tape with adhesive backing, similar to twill tape.
  • Leather wrap, for example by Brooks England
  • An inner tube can be cut and wrapped as well
  • A foam rubber tube has been used on inexpensive bikes.

You can apply the tape in several ways, either wrapping from the tip towards the trunk or starting near the trunk and wrapping towards the tip.. The tape is usually held in place at both ends by a plug at the top of the handlebar.. The other end of the tape can be held in place with tape, usually electrical tape, or, if starting near the bar, by first wrapping it a few times toward the bar before reversing the direction to anchor.. A figure eight can be made around the brake lever clamp to completely cover the bar, or a separate small piece of tape can be placed on the back to cover the small V-shaped portion that could otherwise be left bare.. Optionally, bar gel strips can be applied to the handlebars before taping to reduce vibration transfer and increase comfort..


Combined ergonomic grip and bar end

The handle is usually made of hard or soft plastic, foam, gel or sometimes leather, depending on the intended use or desired price point.. They can be simply smooth and round or molded to better fit the shape of the human hand.. Foam grips can be used by immersing them under water and then pumping air up to 200 kPa (2 bar; 30 psi) while massaging them onto the handlebars.. A quick way to install foam clips is to spray the ends of the bar with hairspray, then slide the clips in and adjust their rotation quickly; By leaving them alone, the hairspray will soon fix them in place.. The plastic grips can be heated in water and punched into the handlebars.. Finally, a small amount of isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) can be applied to the surface of the bar when removing or installing grips to provide a lubricant that, when dry, will leave no residue..


Handlebars with open ends must be fitted with a plug at the open end for safety reasons.. They can be made of metal, usually steel, or plastic.. Without them, the end of the bar can cause serious injury in case of strong impacts to soft tissue.. Competitive cycling’s governing body also requires caps..

Bar ends

Single (left) bar end
Pair of bar ends

Cycling, bar ends are extensions typically fitted to the ends of straight handlebars.. They extend away from the handlebars and allow the rider to vary the type of grip and posture that they use during a ride..

They are especially effective when climbing out of the saddle, because they increase leverage.. Bar ends can also improve comfort for the rider due to the neutral position of the hands (palms inward) which places marginally less stress upon the musculature, and by providing more than one place to rest hands on a long journey..

Some handlebars have bar ends welded onto them but most are clamped to the end of the bar.. They come in many shapes and sizes, such as truncated models around 100 mm long or curved models to provide more hand positions.. Ergonomic handles can also be purchased combined with integrated handlebar tips..
Bar ends were popular on mountain bikes from the early 1990s until the late 1990s, when “riser bars” regained popularity; It is rare to see a combination of rising bar and top of the bar..

Pair of fully curved handlebar tips
Handlebar tips can be annoying when navigating winding roads between trees as they can catch on tree branches and cause an accident.. They also provide some protection for the rider’s hands in the event of a fall or accident.. However, by moving your hands away from the brake lever, they can increase stopping time..

The use of bar ends is prohibited by the racing authority.. Accidents can easily occur from someone else pulling the handlebars when riding in a tight spot, and the handlebar tip can cause serious injuries in crashes that occur quite frequently in this discipline..

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


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