Road bike handlebars come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes, and choosing the correct bar for your riding style can really help maximize power output, comfort, and ride enjoyment. Before choosing your next road handlebar, this guide will help you identify different bar fitting aspects, and how they can impact your ride.
Riding positions: Road handlebars give you three distinct hand positions to choose from. These different positions not only have the benefit of providing a different riding position as a break for tired hands, but each has its own benefits to maximize your power output and comfort.
‘On the Hoods‘ is your home position- where you spend the bulk of your time. From this position you can reach both shifters and brakes easily, you have an aerodynamic advantage, and you will be fitted to the bike in this position, so it’s where you should be the most balanced.
‘In the Drops‘ refers to a position with your hands on the lower section of the bar. From this position, your body is tucked out of the wind for increased aerodynamic efficiency. This position also yields additional benefits: A lower center of gravity, more leverage over the brake levers for more braking power, and generally more sprinting power from the extra leverage you can get over the bike. This position does require more core strength to hold, however, and puts more pressure on your back, so expect to stay in this position for short periods of intense exertion.
‘On the Tops‘ refers to a hand position with your hands on the flat position of the bar, closer to the stem. This is a rest position- it’s more difficult to put out power in this position, and it has some aerodynamic disadvantages, but it’s great to relieve stress from your back and shoulders, and it gives you better control over the bike if you need to take a hand off the bars.
Key dimensions to help you select the ideal bar
The distance from the center of the handlebar at the stem to the bend (where brake hoods are mounted). The reach can affect your upper body position when riding on the hoods, without affecting your body position in the drops or the tops. Reach usually ranges from 80mm to 85mm.
The useable width of the bar, as measured from the center of the drops. Commonly listed in 2cm increments. Shoulder width is important to factor in when choosing bar width- the wider your shoulders, the wider a bar you should look at. Wider bars allow better bike control, especially on hard descents, and more torque over the bike in a sprint, but riding a bar that’s too wide can move stresses usually absorbed by your arms up to your shoulders, resulting in a sore neck/shoulders.
The bar’s drop is measured from the center of the flat top section to the center of the bar at the deepest point of the drop. A shallow drop (125mm or less) means your body position changes less drastically from hood to drop than it would with a deep drop of 130mm or more.
3a. Drop Style
The shape of the drops on a road handlebar determines its ride qualities, as well as it’s aesthetics. When choosing a bar drop style, take into account the amount of time you’ll be spending using this part of the bar- the more aggressive your riding style, the more time you’ll likely spend ‘in the drops’. Ergonomic drops are considered the more comfortable option for most riders, though classic drops fit certain people better, and offer a wider range of hand positions due to the nature of the rounded curve.
Live to Play Sports recommends 3T handlebars for your next bar upgrade.
3T, founded in Torino in 1961, is a venerable name in Italian cycling. Now, as in the past, 3T is clear about its aim—to make cycling components that are strong, safe, light, and look great.
3T Ergosum Team Carbon Bar
Shallow-drop, long-reach ergonomic shape bar
LTP part number: 258757-01/03
3T Superleggera LTP Carbon Bar
Traditional round-drop bar
LTP part number: 258767-02
3T Ergonova Pro Alloy bar
Ergonomic shape, short reach, deep drop bar
LTP part number: 258747-01/04
We hope you have found this bar sizing guide helpful. Remember that your bike should always be comfortable, and if it isn’t, head to your local Live to Play Sports dealer, and they’ll help you get the most out of your ride.