Do Your Handlebars Fit Your Riding?

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January 24, 2019

While your riding experience is the sum of the bike's many parts, handlebars have a big impact on posture, stability, even power transfer into each pedal stroke.

So if different bars offer different benefits (and have different drawbacks), are you riding the bars best suited to your commute? Let's break it down...

Café bar

Café style bars come in a variety of shapes, but all have a swept back hand position and most have a rise. Those two features in combination tend to put you more upright, with your hands closer to your body. The result is a relaxed ride with a straight back.

Good for those who like to stay in the saddle and prefer an easier, more leisurely ride.

Riser bar

Riser bars are usually wider than bullhorns or drops (we'll get there), making them more stable, but not as upright or set back as café bars. They're utilitarian and work for a lot of riders and a lot of city bikes. Risers only offer a single hand position, but generally allow a wider variety of riding styles than café bars. What the riser bar lacks in power, it makes up for in comfort.

Good for those who prioritize stability and only need moderate power.

Flat bar

Flat bars typically come standard on mountain bikes, but make an excellent option for city riding too. Usually a tad wider than your standard riser bar, they incorporate (as the name implies) zero rise and have quickly become a favorite of fixed gear riders as they offer more torque when locking up for a skid.

Good for those who want a super stable and wide grip on their bike, with a very slight forward lean.

Bullhorn bar

Bullhorns offer two hand positions. The forward position out front on the "horns" allows for more aggressive riding, but often requires a stretch. When out of the saddle it's a particularly strong position from which to pull, creating a lot of power for climbing or sprinting. On the flats - the area to each side of the stem - your torso will be more upright, but the narrow grasp can feel less stable for some riders.

Good for those who ride hard and fast and like to be out of the saddle.

Drop bar

This is the classic road style bar. The drop bars best feature - multiple hand positions - often goes unused in city riding. While you'll have 2 to 3 places to put your hands, many riders stay up top on the flats for shorter commutes. If you're looking for power, getting down in the drops allows you to lean into position for the most effective power distribution while pedaling. This also reduces wind resistance substantially when coasting down hill. Since your torso is stretched out over the frame however visibility in traffic is slightly reduced.

Good for those who ride hard, or take longer rides particularly in hilly or windy areas.


1. Are there other bar styles than these?

Yeah of course, but these are what you'll pass most of the time on the street.

2. Can I replace my existing handlebar with one of these styles?

Totally doable, but you may have to replace some other components (like brake levers) as well, depending on the style.

3. Will the particulars of my bike affect how any one bar will fit me?

Definitely, but these descriptions are a safe place to start. Visit our shop at 766 Valencia (or your local bike shop) for specific advice.