Though one of the most important contact points on a bike, handlebars are an often-overlooked upgrade. Choosing the right handlebars can have a significant impact on your performance and comfort – they in part influence your weight distribution and position.
Numerous bike handlebar types exist nowadays. Each handlebar has both pros and cons that can make or break your road and mountain biking experience. Understanding the different bicycle handlebar styles can make it easier for you to choose a handlebar that offers optimum reliability, stability, and overall handling of the bike.
Bike Handlebar Types and Their Pros & Cons
These are the standard handlebar type – you will find them on the majority of the bikes. They are generally completely flat, although, in some cases, they bend slightly toward the rider.
Due to their versatility, flat handlebars are extremely popular among people who enjoy cross-country biking trips. Their simplicity makes their steering both precise and predictable.
Pros of Using Flat Handlebars
- Simple and versatile – You can easily attach brake levers, lights, phone holders, handlebar bags, and other auxiliary biking gear. The handlebars also make it easy for riders to fit various types of bar ends to offer extra functions and hand positions.
- Ideal for climbing – Flat bars make leaning forward easier. Moving your body towards the mountain bike’s bar during climbs improves leverage while shifting weight to the front improves the tire’s grip on the bikepacking trail.
- Ideal for tight spaces – Compared to other bicycle handlebar styles, flat bars are narrower. This makes getting them through corridors and doors easier.
- Cheaper and lighter – In addition to being affordable, flat bars carry less weight. This makes them more ideal for people who carry their bikes around.
- Reduced lower back load – Flat bars distribute the weight evenly between the bike saddle and the handlebar. This makes them perfect for people with ongoing back issues.
Cons of Using Flat Handlebars
- Less ideal for speed – Since it is hard to go into the tuck position with flat bars, they are less ideal for people who need speed.
- Less optimal for risky courses – Flat handlebars are not ideal for freeriding and performing tricks.
These are essentially flat bars that feature a rise from the center clamp area. Compared to the flat handlebars, these are wider. Allowing the rider to be in a more upright position, riser handlebars are ideal for trail biking.
Pros of Using Riser Handlebars
- More control – Offering the rider more leverage, the handlebars make turning easier. This makes them perfect for people riding through long winding roads featuring a lot of debris.
- Ideal for free riding – A wide grip and weight distribution toward the back allows the rider better control for rough terrain and riskier courses.
- You can give the handlebar a negative rise – If you are dressing for mountain biking, you can make the handlebar ideal for climbing by flipping it upside down.
- Good for the wrists – In addition to a back sweep that offers a comfortable grip, riser handlebars allow the cyclist to sit farther back, allowing minimal weight to fall on the wrists. This helps relieve stress.
Cons of Using Riser Handlebars
- More costly – In addition to being more expensive, the handlebars are heavier.
- Bad aerodynamics – The handlebars make tucking difficult. This makes them less ideal for riders who need speed.
- Not ideal for climbing – In the normal set-up, riser handlebars are not ideal for mountain bikes.
- They are wider – This means that they are harder to fit through corridors and doors.
Bullhorns are handlebars that simply curve forward and up. The handlebar features many similarities to other bike handlebar types that are its variation – a good example is the pursuit handlebar which curves forward, slightly drops down, and then curves back up again.
The Pros of Using Bullhorn Handlebars
- Pursuit handlebars are ideal for speed – The drop on these handlebars allow the rider to tuck deeper, enhancing leverage and speed.
- Best for climbing – They give you room to move further up and forward. This provides the best leverage when pedaling uphill.
- Good aerodynamics – These allow you to get lower while going at high speeds and facing headwinds.
Cons of Using Bullhorn Handlebars
- Not ideal for frequent turns – When it comes to turning, these handlebars have less leverage.
- They can snag on things – The extra front clearance makes them susceptible to snagging on things when riding through tight paths.
One of the popular bicycle handlebar styles, drop handlebars feature a balance of both versatility and great looks. Drop handlebars have a straight midsection with both ends curving downward and towards the cyclist.
Pros of Using Drop Handlebars
- Great aerodynamics – They allow tucking, which makes them ideal for people who like to put on their biking shoes and shorts and go on track races.
- Highly versatile – You can add a brake hood to the drop handlebars. The brake hood can add extra hand positions.
- Better pedaling leverage – You can exert more power to the bike pedals with less effort.
Cons of Using Drop Handlebars
- Not ideal for trail biking – When riding in rough terrain, the handlebars can put too much stress on your wrist.
- Not a good choice for tight turns – Their positioning makes frequent tight turns too difficult.
Also known as triathlon handlebars, aero bars are ideal for time-trial cycling. This is where the rider competes alone against the clock. Featuring 2 extended bars close together and armrests for the arms, this is one of the bike handlebar types that allows getting into a narrow tuck position to minimize air drag.
Pros of Using Aero Handlebars
- Superior aerodynamics – This guarantees maximum speed when riding against the wind.
- They allow hand rest – If you do not need aerodynamics, you can install the aero handlebars on your bike to rest your arms on long trips.
Cons of using Aero Handlebars
- Bad for climbing – The rider’s position when using the aero bars make it hard to apply power when pedaling.
- They can be dangerous – Putting you at a disadvantageous position, aero handlebars minimize your ability to react to unexpected obstacles and turns.
If you like to ride your touring bike luxuriously, cruiser handlebars may be ideal. Also known as upright or north road handlebars, cruiser bars feature an extreme sweep that allows the rider to control his/her road bike while sitting completely upright.
Pros of Using Cruiser Handlebars
- Aesthetics – This is one of the bicycle handlebar styles that offer your bike a cute and homely look.
- Superb comfort – The handlebar puts the wrists in a natural position when you are riding.
- Suitable for baskets – Their swept-back design leaves room for the basket at the front and also keeps the weight balanced when you fill your basket with treats when riding with your dog.
Cons of Using Cruiser Handlebars
- Bad for climbing – Pedaling up a hill with these handlebars is extremely exhausting.
- Need extra seat padding – The handlebars encourage an upright position, transferring more weight on the bike seat.
Also known as trekking or touring handlebars, these are designed for numerous hand positions suited for long rides. They also have a lot of space for the bikepacking gear you may need on the rides, including bags, maps, phones, mirrors, etc.
Pros of Using Butterfly Handlebars
- Ideal for long rides – In addition to being comfortable, they offer you space for keeping the gear you may need.
- Better for shifters – You can easily position the shifters right in front of your hands.
- Better for your wrists – Their irregular shape gives riders numerous handle positions.
Cons of Using Butterfly Handlebars
- Heavier – Compared to other bicycle handlebar styles outlined in this article, butterfly handlebars are the heaviest.
Q: Which Bike Handlebars Are Best?
The commonly used handlebars include butterfly, cruiser, aero, drop, bullhorns, riser, and flat handlebars. Each type of handlebar has varying pros and cons, which make it more suited for a specific type of riding.
Q: Why Do Road Bikes Have Curved Handlebars?
The best handlebar type varies depending on the type of riding. For example, bullhorns are best for climbing while aero handlebars are perfect for cyclists who get involved in races.
Q: Can I Put Flat Handlebars on A Road Bike?
When choosing handlebars, the first thing you will need to consider is the type of riding you do. If you enjoy mountain biking, go for handlebars that allow you pedaling leverage, for example, bullhorn handlebars. If you are into racing, choose handlebars that offer maximum aerodynamics, for example, the aero handlebars.
Q: Why Do Road Bikes Have Curved Handlebars?
The curved handlebars on road bikes allow the riders to get in a more aerodynamic position. Letting you grip lower; the handlebars allow you to get low and flatten your back out. This minimizes air drag.
Q: Can I Put Flat Handlebars on A Road Bike?
Yes, you can put flat handlebars on a road bike. However, the flat bars are only ideal if you do not intend to ride for long distances, say less than 20 miles per day. For longer distance riding, curved handlebars may be ideal.
Globo Surf Overview
While most bike owners choose their saddles and pedals with military precision, the third contact point – the handlebars – is generally forgotten. Using the right bike handlebar types will not just improve your comfort – it will also improve the pedaling leverage and handling mechanics. After going through the different benefits and limitations offered by different bicycle handlebar styles, you should be able to choose ideal handlebars.