Handlebar & Stem Length

Handlebar & Stem Length

Let’s talk bike bars more specifically mountain bike bars. Road bike bars follow some of the same principles but because of the different positioning for road riders they often follow different rules, comfort wise.

So below is a basic guide on how to make an informed decision on your mountain bike bars, and how they will benefit you in not only short term, but long term too.

Width

The latest trend for mountain bike bars is the wider the better. The idea behind this is that wider bars offer more control and a better riding position for balance, leading to not only a more stable ride but slower fatigue.

What constitutes as a wide bar is relative to the height of the rider, the size of the bike and the type of riding they do. But generally anything over 700mm is now considered a wide bar.

If you are thinking about going wider with your bars you will also have to consider stem length. In order to balance the bars out a shorter stem is usually required.

Stem Length

The wider the bar the shorter the stem should be, in order to restore the perfect balance stem length is closely linked to bar width.

700mm bar the suggested stem length is 75mm

730mm bar the suggested stem length is 65mm

750mm should ideally go down to a 50mm stem

Considering riding style and terrain

Once you head into the 700mm range you should consider what terrain you are riding. If you ride wide trails and carry lots of speed you will definitely benefit from a longer bar and shorter stem. But slow technical singletrack riders will find wide bars are unsuited to weaving between trees and past natural features like bushes.

Riding style plays a big part too as hinted at above. Faster trails are generally more open, so are better suited to wider bars. If you prefer downhill or hitting jump trails, then a medium sized frame rider could happily push the bar width up to 800mm, whereas more xc orientated riders who like to explore bridleways and tracks off the beaten track would probably benefit more from a 680mm.

So what are the main advantages of a wider bar?

Well it increases leverage which means less effort is used to turn the front wheel. Another advantage is it dampens trail feedback, by which I mean if you hit a rock and it throws you into a series of ruts you can maintain control easier, due to the wider bracing and positioning a wide bar gives you.

A wider bar allows a shorter stem which centres you over your bike, making it easier to shift your weight more dramatically both forwards and backwards. This allows for more control of the bike overall.

So that covers the downhill but what about the climbs? Well the extra leverage gives you a massive benefit when you are out of the saddle putting the power down. But the most noticeable benefit most riders will instantly feel is how the extra width opens up the chest area for easier breathing when climbing.

In conclusion, here are the merits of a new bar and stem;