The bicycle handlebars perform two important functions: On the one hand, the handlebars are of course important for steering the bike, but on the other hand, the rider also rests on the handlebars, and thus handlebar height and shape dictate the rider’s sitting position. It is mainly the choice of handlebars that determines how sporty the bike rides – in this sense, the handlebars are the real criterion for the road bike. In addition, the correct handlebar shape plays a significant role in the comfort of the driver. Here you can learn what there is to know about bicycle handlebars and find our guide to bicycle handlebars.

Further Advice On Bicycle Handlebars

Read also our technical guides on the subject of handlebars:

Bicycle Handlebar Types And Shapes


Bicycle handlebars come in completely different shapes. Just think of the difference between straight flat bar handlebars and road bike handlebars or bullhorn handlebars. But even within these broad categories, there are more subtle differences. At first glance, it’s difficult to get an overview when browsing different handlebars. After all, everything looks the same. If you are at least in the bike store on the road, you can at least touch and try, but from this, you also do not really get smart.

Basic Terms: Cranking, Riser, And More

Therefore, we would first like to clarify some basic terms here. After all, all avenues are open to the handlebar manufacturers – the bicycle handlebars can go up, down, front, or back. The exact degrees of angle is always different. So here’s a list of common terms in bicycle handlebars. For straight handlebars, you’ll mainly find crank, rise, and upsweep. For road handlebars, it’s more about drop and reaches.

Backsweep on an example of typical mountain bike handlebars

Cranking: Cranking or backsweep refers to the bend to the rear. Most handlebars have a crank angle of at least 5 degrees because this brings a more relaxed, ergonomic posture. The degree angle of the cranking has a significant influence on the posture. Handlebars with a very strong backsweep angle are sometimes called comfort handlebars.

Backsweep (offset) and upsweep using the example of a normal Holland bike handlebars

Upsweep: Upsweep refers to bending upward.

The elevation of the handlebars on the example of a classic touring bike

Riser: A riser handlebar increases the handlebar height due to its shape. This gives you a more upright riding position, but it puts more weight on your buttocks. Most MTB handlebars have a rise of at least 20mm, but also comfort handlebars for city and trekking bikes usually have a high rise. For such handlebars, the rise is usually specified in mm – sometimes also referred to as height.

Flatbar: Flatbar again refers to the counterpart to the riser. Here, the handlebar does not increase the handlebar height but is built flatter, which leads to a sportier, more stooped posture. Sometimes you can also find intermediate categories such as “Mini Rise” or “Lowriser”, which have a low Rise.

Road bike handlebars are sized based on the reach and drop

Drop: Drop refers to the distance between the upper link and lower link on-road bike handlebars. So you know how deep the lower link goes. So drop is practically the opposite of the rise of the riser handlebars. The deeper the drop, the more stooped you sit on the bike – but this is also influenced by saddle height. Drop is specified in mm.

Reach: Reach refers to the distance from the shortest to the widest grip position on road handlebars. The shortest grip position is the “normal” grip position, where the handlebars are grasped like a normal flat bar handlebar. The widest grip position is then the grip position in which you have to stretch your arms and body as far forward as possible. In other words, reach refers to how far forward the handlebar goes. Reach is specified in mm.

Comfort handlebar with particularly strong crank angle.

Flatbar, Riser Or With Upsweep?

flatbar riser
Typical bicycle handlebar sizes and diameters

With straight handlebars, the choice is between flat bar, riser or with upsweep, or a combination of factors. Riser and upsweep handlebars provide a more upright posture, while flat bars without an upsweep angle put the rider in a lower, sportier position. When it comes to the question of what makes more sense, you have to try it yourself. It depends on the individual wrist – some riders get wrist pain after riding for a long time with one form or the other. It’s best to check whether there is a bike fitting option in a local bike shop. As a rule, however, most riders rely on the kind of handlebars they’ve always ridden without problems.

Some fixie designers, on the other hand, install completely straight handlebars that do not tilt backward or upward. So such a handlebar simply looks like a tube on which you mount grips or handlebar tape. This brings a unique, Ikea-like look, but the ergonomics leave something to be desired. Whether you do not cramp in the long run here, everyone must see for themselves.

Wide Or Narrow?

wide or narrow
Typical mountain bike sizes and diameters

Another important factor in the handlebar is the width. Most trekking bike handlebars, which are installed as standard, are particularly wide because that brings more stability off-road and on tours. Some fixie handlebars, on the other hand, are particularly narrow, are only recognizable as mere stubs, in order to save as much weight as possible. Road bike handlebars are also usually much narrower than trekking bike handlebars.

A rule of thumb is: handlebar width should correspond to shoulder width. That’s why many manufacturers of ergonomic bike parts also offer handlebars in different sizes. A handlebar that is too narrow causes neck tension. That’s why you shouldn’t touch the top of the handlebars on racing bikes for long periods of time since the arms are usually aligned more inward here.

MTB handlebars are more often over-wide. Especially downhill handlebars are usually 800mm or even wider. This provides more stability and control in particularly rough terrain.

Road Bike Handlebars

roadbike handler
Typical road bike handlebar size and diameter

Racing handlebars are also called drop-bar handlebars. For racing handlebars, it’s all about drop and reaches – the dimensions of the handlebar’s signature camber. Some road bike handlebars also have an additional outer camber or other unique formal differences. But what always sets road bike handlebars apart is that you have a variety of posture options. You can touch the handlebars at the top, front, or bottom and can thus adjust the posture to your liking. Relaxed or yet rather times sporty: That’s why you see the racing handlebars more and more often on touring bikes.

Typical road bike handlebar with the distinctive downward curvature.

Trackbar Handlebars

Track bike handlebars are also known as track bar handlebars. They look very similar to road bike handlebars because they also have distinctive downward curvature. But track cycling is not about long tours, it’s about absolute riding efficiency. That’s why track bike handlebars don’t even let you touch the top – the typical track bike handlebar shape curves straight down. Trackbars are also increasingly being installed on fixies.

Bullhorn Handlebars

For a while in vogue, but now rarely seen again. Nevertheless, a class of its own, the bullhorn handlebar offers a compromise between road bike handlebar and flat bar. Like two bullhorns, the bullhorn handlebar has only one bulge forward instead of the typical road bike bulge forward and down. So you effectively only have the reach and not the drop. For efficiency-oriented fixies, this makes sense if the rider only wants the widest handlebar position.

An alternative to the bullhorn can be found in barends – these are either bike grips with camber to the front, or on the other hand handlebar attachments that you additionally mount on the handlebar to get the camber to the front. Read more in our article: Bicycle grips.

Overview Of Comfort And MTB Handlebars

Here is an overview of bicycle handlebars with a straight, classic shape. This category includes comfort handlebars for city and trekking bikes, but also flat bar and riser handlebars for trekking bikes and MTBs. Please note the dimension of the stem clamp – this dimension must fit your stem clamp.

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Overview Road Bike Handlebars

Here’s an overview of bicycle handlebars with the typical road bike shape or a similar curvature. For us, this also includes track bike and bullhorn handlebars, although these handlebars are currently probably more likely to be found on fixies. These handlebars are often available in different widths, which can vary between 38cm and 44cm.

In the Bullhorn handlebar, the Reach value indicates the length of the ends – “All Reach, no Drop”.


How Much Does a Bicycle Handlebar Cost?

A simple bicycle handlebar costs between 10 and 20€. If it should be an MTB handlebar with a riser shape or a handlebar with another special shape, you can already come up to 50€. All this, of course, is only for aluminum handlebars – for carbon handlebars, you move in the triple-digit range. Carbon is much lighter than aluminum, which is why the pros ride completely carbon.

Bicycle Handlebars: How Wide?

As a rule of thumb, the handlebars should be as wide as the rider’s shoulders. If the handlebars are too narrow, the neck muscles will otherwise become tense. But with road bike handlebars, you reach further forward or downward, which puts more tension on the back and eliminates this problem. It’s more about the steering behavior. With the wider handlebars, you have a longer lever, which is more stable and it steers more roughly sensitive. Narrower handlebars are more sensitive and sleek. MTB handlebars are therefore much wider, as this brings more stability to the terrain.

Which Bicycle Handlebars for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

If you have problems with stiffened hand posture, an ergonomic bicycle handlebar is recommended. For more information on this, see our post on bicycle grips.

Which Bicycle Handlebar for Back Problems?

For back-friendly riding, the right sitting posture is the be-all and end-all. Many people make the mistake of setting the handlebars too high and sitting too upright and straight. This puts a strain on the lower back. You should always have at least a 15° body angle. More is, of course, even more athletic – but that requires trained back muscles. The handlebars play a decisive role in posture. Most handlebars have an individual height – but on the other hand, you can always adjust the handlebar height to get the right posture. If you’re unsure, keep an eye out for local providers of custom bike fittings.
What is always recommended for back problems, however, is a handlebar with cranking, i.e. with an inclination to the rear. This gives you a more natural posture when riding. That’s why comfort handlebars with a strong crank angle are recommended.

Bicycle Handlebars: How High?

The question of how high you should set the handlebars is not so easy to answer. The best way is to find out for yourself which handlebar height is best for you. But the handlebars should be at about saddle height or even a little lower. A higher handlebar leads to an upright sitting position, which may seem more comfortable at first, but it puts more strain on the buttocks. The more horizontal the seating position, the more the rider’s weight rests on the arms, which is more advisable. If you want to get it exactly right, you can look for a bike fitting provider in your city.

How do you Adjust Bicycle Handlebars?

In most cases, all you need is a size 6 Allen wrench to open the stem’s Allen screw clockwise. This screw may be protected by a plastic cover that is easy to open. Simply open the Allen screw and the stem can be moved up or down.