Types of Bicycle Handlebars
A variety of bicycle handlebar designs is available, each created to accommodate different riding conditions. Some types of handlebars provide better steering control and power, while others offer multiple grip positions that can help to reduce hand and arm fatigue on longer touring rides. Different handlebar types also allow for riding postures that may work better for certain riding conditions. Whatever style of riding you prefer, there's a handlebar that's right for you.
Standard handlebars are commonly found on bicycles intended for pleasure riding. The handlebars bend forward and upward slightly then outward and back toward the rider. These handlebars allow for a comfortable and upright riding stance and relatively ergonomic grip position at the ends of the handlebars.
Straight handlebars, also known as mountain bike bars, run straight across the steering stem. While limited to a single grip position, straight handlebars provide better control for steering and more power for turning. This can be especially useful in off-road conditions. Straight handlebars require an elbows-out riding posture that can be uncomfortable if sustained for long periods of time.
Similar to straight handlebars in their ability to provide power and control when steering, raised handlebars first curve upward then straight outward. As with straight handlebars, raised handlebars have only one possible grip position. They are often seen on hybrid bicycles and are usually best for short distance riding.
Drop handlebars are the traditional style for road bikes. They first extend outward from the steering stem, turn forward, then curve downward and finally back toward the rider in an upside-down ram's horn configuration. This provides four grip positions. The handlebars can be gripped near the steering stem, at the first angle in the handlebars, at the tops of the brake levers toward the front of the handlebars, or at the bottom angle that points back toward the rider. The different positions allow either an upright stance or a lower, more aerodynamic position.
Trekking handlebars, often called Euro or butterfly bars, also provide multiple grip positions. They first curve forward at either side of the steering stem, then curve around, back toward the stem and can be grasped at the inside or outside front bends, the flats, or the end of the handlebars, near the steering stem. Because they extend well beyond the steering stem, trekking handlebars allow the rider to stretch forward, providing better weight control in different riding situations.
Named for their resemblance to an upside down moustache, these handlebars are similar to trekking handlebars, minus the final inward turn toward the steering stem. Moustache handlebars are primarily ridden with the hands placed on the curves, which allows for a more upright riding position.
Used primarily for time trial riding, cowhorn handlebars can make good touring bars when a drop position is not necessary. They extend straight out from the steering stem, then bend forward, with a final upturn at the ends. This provides several grip positions including near the steering stem, at the first bend, at the flat between the first bend and the upturn, and at the upturn itself. Grips, called bar ends, can also be added to extend the handlebars farther, providing even more positions.
In Jacksonville, Fla., Frank Whittemore is a content strategist with over a decade of experience as a hospital corpsman in the U.S. Navy and a licensed paramedic. He has over 15 years experience writing for several Fortune 500 companies. Whittemore writes on topics in medicine, nature, science, technology, the arts, cuisine, travel and sports.