Mountain biking is a huge amount of fun.
Hitting the trails to challenge your fitness and skill is a thrill like no other. Mountain biking requires a huge amount of control, and the handlebars play a big part in helping you stay upright.
With this in mind, it’s important to understand MTB handlebar width.
In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about mountain bike handlebar width, covering:
- 3 Reasons It’s To Have The Correct MTB Handlebar Width?
- 4 Key Types Of Mountain Bike Handlebars
- Wide Vs Narrow MTB Handlebars: The Pros and Cons
- How To Choose The Correct MTB Handlebar Width For You
Let’s dive in!
3 Reasons It’s Vital To Have The Correct MTB Handlebar Width?
#1. Improved Bike Fit
Bike fitting is the process of making sure your bike is correctly sized and set up to suit your body and biomechanics.
The fitter will take measurements and match you to your bike and riding style. When it comes to mountain biking, the correct handlebar length is vital for the perfect position. If you want to learn more about bike fitting, check out this article from Physiopedia.
#2. Better Handling
Having the correct size handlebars will make it much easier when it comes to challenging trails.
The correct size handlebars for you will offer the best control possible and can prevent you from taking a spill.
Finally, we have comfort.
If you’re planning long days out on the bike, you will need the correct bars. You could face a few different issues from using the wrong width handlebars.
Some common issues mountain bikers find are shoulder pain, wrist discomfort, and even lower back pain.
4 Key Types Of Mountain Bike Handlebars
Many cyclists don’t know that there are many types of handlebars you can put on your mountain bike. Here are the most common types.
#1. Riser Bars
The first type to mention is the riser bar. These bars typically have a small amount of rise and a moderate width. “Rise” is the amount of the handlebars raise up on either side from the stem.
These are great all round bars for mountain biking, offering control, comfort, and an upright riding position.
#2. Flat Bars
Flat bars are straight handlebars with no rise. They are more aggressive than riser bars and offer a low-down position for the rider, which is great if you want to go fast and be in a wide aerodynamic position.
#3. Backswept Bars
Backswept bars angle back towards the rider. This gives the rider a more upright position, decreases pressure on the wrists, and is great for increasing comfort overall.
#4. Downhill Bars
Finally, we have downhill bars. They are very wide and have a large rise. This helps the rider shift their weight to the back of the bike while still being in control.
Wide Vs Narrow MTB Handlebars: The Pros and Cons
When it comes to MTB handlebar width, you’ll find most on the market are between 600 mm to 810 mm.
Over the decades, mountain bike handlebar widths have gradually increased, and are now typically much wider than they were in the early days of off-road riding.
We’re often asked about the advantages of going wider or narrower on mountain bike handlebar width. Here’s what you can expect from each:
Wide bars are excellent when it comes to providing control for the rider.
With the MTB handlebar width being greater, you get much more leverage and control over the bike. This is why you’ll see downhill riders on bars as wide as 800 mm.
Wide bars are usually paired with a shorter stem. Wider bars with shorter stems allow the rider to lean back more and move around the bike with a wider stance. This is a great advantage if you really like the tough trails or fancy yourself in a downhill or enduro race.
Wider bars will give you more control while going slow and better stability when going fast. The feeling of wider bars makes you feel much more planted, which can be great for confidence on those fast descents.
However, bigger isn’t always better.
Wide bars face a few disadvantages. It becomes more difficult to fit through small gaps, and on tight trails, you can end up being slower. Secondly, you must move your body further to turn when narrower bars can turn sharper and quicker.
The Pros of Wide MTB Handlebars
- Better Leverage
- Wider Stance
- More Control Over Technical Courses
- Easier To Use At High Speeds
- You Feel Much More In Control
- Can Get Further Back On The Bike
The Cons of Wide MTB Handlebars
- Hard To Fit Through Tight Gaps
- You Have To Move Your Body Further To Turn
Narrow bars might not seem like the obvious choice, but many mountain bikers still use them.
Narrow mountain bike handlebars reduce drag as you cycle, because the narrower stance of your arms means you have a smaller cross-section exposed to air resistance.
Professional road racers tend to use extremely narrow bars for this reason, and the benefits can carry over to mountain biking in styles with more emphasis on speed than technical riding.
They also make the bike feel very agile, and they are best paired with a longer stem to help soften their responsive (or twitchy) tendencies. A longer stem also leans you forward, making you more aerodynamic, and they are great for getting low and fast.
Many cross-country racers use them as they don’t require as much control as you might need on a downhill course.
You also need less exaggerated movements than you do with wider bars to get the front wheel turning. This means for quick cornering in a technically light cross-country race, they could be ideal.
Narrow bars do make the bike feel more snappy. If you can control them well, then it can be a benefit. However, your stance on the bike isn’t as wide, which can leave you feeling less secure and balanced.
- Very Agile
- Narrow Stance
- Easy To Get Through Tight Gaps
- Less Exaggerated Steering Inputs
- More Aerodynamic = Faster
- Less Stability
- The Handling Can Feel Snappy At Times
How To Choose The Correct MTB Handlebar Width For You
Now you know a little bit more about MTB handlebar width, you probably have a rough idea of what you want.
Here’s what you need to consider when looking for new handlebars:
Type Of Handlebars
As we spoke about earlier, there are different types of mountain bike handlebars.
It’s important to get the right bars for you. You might consider flat handlebars if you are looking to be incredibly fast and want an aggressive position. Suppose you want comfort, then a set of riser bars could be more beneficial.
The type of handlebar has an effect on the width of the handlebar.
You might find with flat bars, you don’t require as much length as if you were to be using riser bars. If the bars are flat, they will make you lower and wider than riser bars. We recommend trying the different types if you can before purchasing.
Consider the Discipline
Think about the riding you plan to do and the width you might require for that discipline.
The more technical the riding, the wider we recommend going. Many riders add size to their bars as the riding gets more technical for an edge over their competition.
For example, trail bikes might use an MTB handlebar width of 780mm, which giving you a reasonably wide stance and good control. However, Enduro and downhill bikes will be even wider, at around 800mm, reflecting the more extreme demands of the riding style.
One thing we see with newer bikes is handlebars are generally getting larger overall. Even some XC bikes now come with 780 mm as standard.
- Want to learn more about mountain biking disciplines? Check out Mountain Bike Types Explained here!
You will also want to take into account your height.
Generally, the taller you are, the wider handlebars you should use. This is because taller people generally have longer arms, and will be riding larger frames.
We highly recommend seeing a bike fitter if you are unsure what size you will need for your height. Bike fitters are professionally trained to fit you to bikes properly, so your saddle height, reach, pedal position, and handlebar width will be perfect.
You will also need to consider if the handlebars are compatible with your bike. Firstly it’s important to measure the old bar where it is attached at the stem and ensure that it will fit properly.
If you’re increasing the width of your bars, you also need to ensure the cables are long enough. We often see people getting new bars and then having issues with gearing and hydraulic cables after changing them over.
Now You Know all about mTB Handlebar Width…
When it comes to mountain bike handlebar width, it’s all about personal preference.
There’s a lot to consider, such as mountain biking discipline, your body size, and even the type of handlebars.
We hope you enjoyed the article and are on your way to finding the perfect bars for you!