Bicycle Handlebar Features
Bike Handlebar Design Features You May Want to Look or Pay For?

Clamp Diameter: Typical bike handle bars are either 25.4mm, 26mm or over sized at 31.8mm (although there are a few other oddballs out there). The 25.4 (1" ISO standard) is the old standby. It does not fit into the 26mm stem without special shims, so beware.

The 26mm diameter is an Italian road racing standard. As part distribution becomes more global we see alot more of the 26mm for sale. In the high end bike handle bar market it is becoming the standard, particularly for racing road bikes.

The oversized 31.8mm, is relatively new. It is designed to give the rider a more rigid bar and firmer steerage, particularly for a mountain bike handlebar. The most important issue is to make sure that the bar you buy fits the bike clamp. You can destroy or distort the bar tube or get inadequate clamping pressure and have your bars shift at the most inopportune moment it they are not correctly matched.

On more expensive bars the area where the brakes mount and where the bike clamp grabs, are textured for better clamping power.

Length: can vary anywhere from 37-46" Note that a flat or riser handle bar length can be cut somewhat to customize to your needs, but the drop (or road) handle bar cannot be adjusted, thus you must buy the right length to start off with.

Cable Routing: Some bicycle handle bars have a recessed channel for running brake and shifter cables. Other have choosen to predrill holes in the bar for internal cable routing. Both methods work and provide both a cleaner and more aerodynamic design.

Aero Clip-ons: if you think that you may want to use aero handlebars, make sure that the bar design allows for this.

Weight: This can vary significantly with both design and material used. A dropped handlebar is typically the heaviest and a flat tube the lightest, ranging from as little as 170 grams for a Easton aluminum or carbon fibre handlebar to our childhood steel special at something over 360grams. If you have a heavy bike to start off with, it is a waste of time to spend big money on a super light handle bar.. it will have little impact on the overall rideability of the bike. Pick a bar that is in line with the quality of the original bike frame... unless of course your plan is to upgrade slowly (in which case plan for your perfect frame first).

Composition: The original handlebar was made from rolled steel, but slowing corrosion has always been a challenge. For years the traditional handle bar was chromed but as we have become more aware of the environmental issues involved in using chromium, the industry has been drawn towards newer models fabricated out of aluminum. The wall thickness has had to be increased to offer the same strength, but yet aluminum handle bars still comes in at a lower weight than the traditional steel bar, with nicer looks especially if it has been annodized to create a protective finish. The next generation bars are being fabricated from carbon fiber sometimes reinforced with fiberglass or kevlar. Carbon fiber handlebars do require some care and attention though.

Warranty: Warranty can vary significantly from nothing to a lifetime for a high end Kestral Carbon/Aramid composite handle bar. The warranty should give you some idea on the faith the manufacturer has in its product... just make sure you file the documentation if it has a long term warranty, so you'll be able to find it if necessary.

All bicycle handle bars come with information related to appropriate usage, including their life expenctancy and generally some dicussion on how often you should inspect your bar for defects. Both aluminum and carbon fibre particularly should be inspected after spills for fractures, that can significantly weaken the overall structure. I know only too well.. hit a slick ice spot the other day and in the process of a pull out put a lot of weight on one side of my carbon fibre handle bars and they snapped right at the end of the handle grip! It was not pleasant and definitely added to my build up of scar tissue.

Related Articles:
Bicycle Handlebars: design thoughts for road vs mountain biking
Features to Invest In
Aluminum Bike Handlebars
Carbon Fiber Handlebars
Titanium Bicycle Handlebars

Other Articles of Interest:
All About Materials Used in Bicycle Handle bar Construction

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copyright Jan. 2007