The right road bike handlebars will help keep you comfortable on your wheels for hours at a time.
These days, more and more people are starting to get into the habit and/or hobby of biking. People do it for a number of different reasons. It could be because they’re looking for an alternative mode of transportation going to and from their workplace or school. Or, it could be because they want an activity that keeps them fit and on their toes at all times. And then, of course, you get people who simply want to bike because it’s a great way to see the sights nearby (or even pretty much anywhere, provided you bring your bike with you on your trips). Just imagine going camping with your bikes – it becomes even more exciting because you’re now afforded an easier opportunity to explore around you and keep fit at the same time.
Regardless of the reason why you choose to bike, one thing is for certain: it’s important to have a reliable bike with good quality parts that won’t let you down no matter what. This is no different when it comes to road bikes. In today’s article, we will be talking about finding the best road bike handlebars. We’ll discuss all there is to know about choosing the right bars for you in our ultimate buying guide below. And, we’ve also made sure to include some explanations of the most common terms and jargon that you’ll likely encounter as you shop for these items. On top of all of that, we’ve also made sure to include 5 of our favorites to give you an easier starting point as you begin to shop either online or in store.
With all of that said, here are our Top 3 of the most comfortable handlebars!
1. Cyrano 00 by Fizik
The Cyrano 00, a handlebar made by the company Fizik, looks quite amazing – from the get go it’s a sleek beauty that also functions quite well. It’s made out of carbon fiber, which makes the bars quite stiff but still incredibly lightweight. For example, the 40 cm handlebar pair only came in weight at about one hundred and seventy four grams.
- Body Material: Highmodulus Uni-Directional Carbon
- Reach: 80 mm, Drop: 130 mm
The shape of this bar is quite traditional – rounded, even. We did like this fact, as it was simply such a sleek and beautiful aesthetic. This handlebar has an internal cable routing that is taken care of neatly through the use of flat profile in the front of the bar’s tops. As a result, you can use bar tape for covering them. Fizik has made sure to offer this pair in three different shapes. It comes in Chameleon, Bull, or Snake.
Bull has a shorter reach and a shorter drop. It’s also less flexible. The snake is more flexible, and also have the most reach and most drop. Finally, the chameleon offers you the middle ground.
Unfortunately, this pair of handlebars is not exactly affordable. But it’s well worth it, considering the carbon fiber construction.
- Sleek design
- 3 variations
- Comfortable to use
2. WCS Carbon Streem III by Ritchey
If speed and aerodynamics are what you’re looking for, you’ll find yourself enjoying this offering by the company Ritchey. It’s incredibly aerodynamic, and the carbon fiber construction makes it really light weight. The cable routing for this bar is quite simple – there are some wide holes where the cables can poke through. There are also no obstructions found inside. If you want to include a cycling computer, there is space for it out front.
- The Carbon Streem II features an extremely aggressive wing-shaped top section that cuts through the wind and provides a comfortable cruising hand position, while the drops are designed with a traditional bend to accommodate multiple riding positions
- An internal groove keeps cables in place, eliminating the need to tape all the way to the stem
A pair that is 40 centimeters comes in at around 235 grams. 40 centimeters is the smallest size available, just to let you know.
The best part of this handlebar is that it is great for cruising. It’s comfortable to hold, and it’s even better as you go uphill. Many pro-riders choose this pair for its sheer quality.
- Very comfortable
- Light weight
- Amazing quality
- Sleek design
3. SL-88 Service Course Handlebar by Zipp
The third option on this list is this pair of handlebars from the company Zipp. In our opinion, this handlebar is a great option for more casual riders, considering it’s a lot more affordable. In fact, it costs about half as much as the other items on this list. It’s recommended for use when road cycling, and we can certainly say that it is without a doubt one of the more comfy pairs we’ve found thus far.
This pair comes in 3 different widths: 40 cm, 42 cm, and even 44 cm. The drop is 88 millimeters. The SL-88 is made out of aluminum, which makes it a lot more affordable than carbon fiber options. Unfortunately, this does mean that it won’t be as lightweight as carbon. It also won’t be as aerodynamic. Still, it’s really not at all that bad of a choice!
Each of these handlebars (as in, each of the size options) will give you a pair that weighs between two hundred and sixty five grams up to two hundred and eighty three grams. There are three different models – the SL-70, the SL-80, and the SL-88.
- SL-70: 70 millimeter reach, rounded shape, flat section in the center
- SL-70 Ergo: same as the SL-70, but with a top bar that is flattened
- SL-80: 80 millimeter reach, a bit more compact. Has a shape that is flatter, and a drop that is shallower
- SL-88: makes use of a traditional shape (roadie), and has the greatest/most drop
- Quite affordable
- Several options to choose from
- Still looks pretty sleek
- Relatively light considering it’s made from aluminum
- Won’t be as great as carbon options, but for the better price, who cares?
Terms and Jargon to Be Familiar With
When you’re shopping for handlebars for your road bike, or if you’re just shopping for road bike parts, there are likely a bunch of terms that you’ll encounter. To help you out with those, we’ve put together a glossary of terms you should familiarize yourself with. Knowing the terms will make it easier for you to understand the specifications and item descriptions. So here are the terms to know:
- Bend – the bend is basically the curved part or section of the handlebar.
- Drops – this is the straight section of the handlebar, which extends backwards towards you/the rider.
- Drop – not to be confused with drops. This is the vertical or y-axis distance from the bar top’s center to the bend’s deepest part. A shallow drop is that which is 125 millimeters or less. A medium drop is 125 millimeters to 128 millimeters. Anything more than 128 millimeters is basically a deep drop.
- Hooks – a hook is a section of the bar’s drop that is just below that clamp (brake-lever) used as you descend and corner.
- Reach – the reach is the distance horizontally from the handlebar top’s center to the center of the bend’s farthest extension, where the brake hoods usually get mounted. Reach less than 80 millimeters is short. 80 millimeters to 85 millimeters is medium. Anything longer than 85 millimeter is considered as long.
- Ramp – the ramp is the portion transitioning from top to hooks. Sometimes, it can be measured a different way – by the ramp’s angle of steepness up to the point of where the brake hoods get installed.
- Width – Most of the handlebar manufacturers measure the handlebar width between each drop’s center. Usually widths are 38 cm, 40 cm, 42 cm, and 44 cm.
Your Buying Guide for the Most Comfortable Bike Handlebars
To help you find the right handlebars for you, we’ve put together this buying guide. In the next section, we’ll be discussing the things that you should be considering as you plan your purchase. We hope that we’ll be able to give you the information you need to make the right choice for your needs!
With all of that said, here are some of the things you need to consider as you shop for your new handlebars.
The First Priority: Reach
The first and most important thing for you to consider immediately is reach. Which should immediately be your first priority because as a biker you will be spending most of the time keeping your hands on the handles’ hoods. As a result, this is the position that is most important for you to get correctly. As we mentioned in the terms and jargon listed above, reach is basically the combination of the length of the stem as well as the dimensions of the handlebar. If your hands are small, or if you ride a bike that is small, you might want to start with a bar that is short reach. To make sure that your bar is fit correctly for you, it might be a good idea to work with what’s called a fitter for help.
Choosing the Width
The next thing for you to consider is the width of the handlebars. To find the appropriate width for your needs, first grab the bar’s drops. Then, have someone like a friend or perhaps a bike shop employee look at you. They must be standing from the front. The correct width will have your arms extending straight going forward. If you’re riding on multiple surfaces, it may be a good idea to find a bar a little bit wider to give you more control.
Choosing the Shape
Next thing to look for is the shape of the bar itself. A good shape would be one that allows you to curl your index and middle fingers easily around the brakes’ levers while you’re in the hooks. Although to be frank, shape is also an aesthetic consideration, so it’s likely that you’ll probably want to make a choice on this deferring to your own personal preferences.
Consider the Materials Used
As you shop for your handlebars, you might want to take other additional factors into consideration, such as the materials used in its construction. Most of the time, you’ll probably want to go with a model made out of aluminum. Unless, of course, you need a bar that’s super lightweight or shaped really uniquely.
To note, if vibration dampening is something you’re seeking, carbon handlebars might be the best option for you. However, do know that carbon options will cost you far more – around two to three times that of an aluminum bar.
Make Sure Your Bike Isn’t Using Proprietary Stuff
One thing that we can say you should consider before you even start shopping around for handlebars is whether or not your bike makes use of proprietary parts. For example, there are indeed some bicycles that are designed to work only with proprietary types of handlebars and stems. You can replace the handlebars with a different size but you would still have to make sure it is using the same proprietary design as the original handlebar. Otherwise, it won’t fit or it will fit badly and put you in danger.
Consider the Aesthetics
Although we are firmly of the camp form over function, we do still think that there is always going to be room for aesthetics. And so, if you’re looking for a pair of handlebars, make sure that you find one in a style that you like that also appeals to you in appearance. However, appearance and aesthetics should only come 2nd to performance and to safety. Although aesthetics do kind of matter because they will increase your enjoyment of your bike, it’s still important to make sure that you consider all of the other factors on this list first.
Quality and Price
Finally, we do want to stress that you’ll probably want to take a look at the quality and the price of the bars that you are intending to buy. It’s not simply enough to purchase the cheapest one you can find – you must also consider the balance in between price and quality. In line with this, make sure that you read reviews and look at specifications to ensure your purchasing a product of good construction and durability. An expensive price tag does not a good quality handlebar make. It’s important to check reviews because you might also be skipping out on some really great and affordable bars with the notion that expensive means quality in your mind.
It truly is incredibly important to have the right set of handlebars for your road bike. After all, if you have what is in your opinion is the most comfortable road bike handlebars, then it becomes a joy to ride your bike no matter where you’re headed. Plus, better handlebars also mean the improved capacity for handling and maneuverability. This means that riding your bike will also become far easier and safer to boot!
We do hope that all of our recommendations can at least help you with finding a starting point for your shopping. And remember, if none of these 3 recommendations strike your fancy, at least you’ll be able to choose your own with the help of our handy dandy buying guide.