Handlebars for a Mountain Bike

Unveiling the Importance of Handlebars in Mountain Biking

Mountain biking is an exhilarating and challenging sport that requires a perfect harmony between the rider, the bike, and the terrain. Among the various components of a mountain bike, handlebars for a mountain bike play a pivotal role in enhancing control, comfort, and overall performance. Selecting the right handlebars can significantly improve a rider’s experience, making it essential to understand the crucial role they play in mountain biking.

How to Choose the Perfect Handlebars for Your Mountain Bike

Selecting the ideal handlebars for a mountain bike involves careful consideration of several factors. By understanding these aspects, riders can significantly enhance their control, comfort, and overall performance during mountain biking adventures. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you choose the perfect handlebars for your mountain bike:

1. Determine Handlebar Width

The width of handlebars for a mountain bike plays a critical role in stability, control, and comfort. A wider handlebar provides better leverage and control but may feel cumbersome for some riders. Conversely, narrower handlebars enhance maneuverability in tight spaces but might compromise stability. Consider your riding style, bike type, and rider height when selecting the optimal width.

2. Choose the Right Material

Handlebars for a mountain bike are typically made of aluminum or carbon fiber. Aluminum handlebars are more affordable, durable, and offer a respectable strength-to-weight ratio. Carbon fiber handlebars, while pricier, are lighter, more comfortable due to vibration dampening, and can be more aesthetically pleasing. Evaluate your budget, weight preferences, and vibration sensitivity when deciding between these materials.

3. Select the Appropriate Shape

Different handlebar shapes, such as flat, riser, and sweep, influence bike handling, ergonomics, and rider positioning. Flat handlebars promote a more aggressive riding position and are popular among cross-country and trail riders. Riser handlebars offer a more upright position, enhancing control and comfort for downhill and all-mountain riding. Sweep handlebars, featuring a backsweep and upsweep, can further improve ergonomics and reduce strain on the hands, wrists, and arms.

4. Consider Bar Rise

Bar rise refers to the vertical distance between the center of the handlebar clamp area and the grips. A higher bar rise encourages a more upright riding position, which can be beneficial for less experienced riders or those prioritizing comfort. Lower bar rise, on the other hand, results in a more aerodynamic and performance-oriented stance. Assess your skill level, riding style, and bike geometry when deciding on the appropriate bar rise.

Top Recommended Handlebars for Mountain Bikes

When searching for high-quality handlebars for a mountain bike, a few options stand out due to their exceptional features, benefits, and performance. Here is a review of several top-rated handlebars, including the Renthal Fatbar Lite Carbon, Easton Haven 35, and Race Face Sixc 35.

Renthal Fatbar Lite Carbon

The Renthal Fatbar Lite Carbon is a popular choice among serious mountain bikers, offering a lightweight and robust design. Constructed from high-modulus carbon fiber, these handlebars provide excellent vibration dampening, reducing hand fatigue during long rides. The 760mm width offers a great balance between stability and maneuverability. However, the Renthal Fatbar Lite Carbon’s premium price tag may be a drawback for budget-conscious riders.

Easton Haven 35

The Easton Haven 35 is a versatile and durable aluminum handlebar, suitable for various riding styles. With a 35mm clamp diameter, the Haven 35 provides increased stiffness and strength compared to traditional 31.8mm handlebars. The 750mm width offers a comfortable balance between control and agility. However, the Haven 35 is heavier than carbon fiber alternatives, and some riders may find the 9-degree backsweep too aggressive for their preferences.

Race Face Sixc 35

The Race Face Sixc 35 is a burly and reliable carbon fiber handlebar, designed for aggressive downhill and enduro riding. The 800mm width offers superior stability and control, while the 35mm clamp diameter enhances stiffness and strength. The Sixc 35 features a 9-degree backsweep and 5-degree upsweep, promoting a comfortable and ergonomic riding position. However, the Race Face Sixc 35’s high cost and weight may deter some riders looking for a more budget-friendly or lightweight option.

Material Matters: Comparing Aluminum and Carbon Fiber Handlebars

When selecting handlebars for a mountain bike, the material plays a significant role in determining the overall performance, comfort, and cost. The two most common materials used in handlebar production are aluminum and carbon fiber. Understanding the differences between these materials can help riders make an informed decision based on their preferences and budget.

Aluminum Handlebars for a Mountain Bike

Aluminum handlebars are a popular choice due to their affordability, durability, and strength-to-weight ratio. Manufacturers often use 6061 or 7075 aluminum alloys, which offer a balance between weight, cost, and performance. Aluminum handlebars are typically lighter than steel alternatives, making them an attractive option for riders looking to save weight without breaking the bank.

Carbon Fiber Handlebars for a Mountain Bike

Carbon fiber handlebars are known for their lightweight and comfortable design, thanks to their superior vibration dampening properties. These handlebars are constructed from multiple layers of carbon fiber sheets, which are bonded together using a resin. The resulting material is both lightweight and robust, making it an ideal choice for high-performance mountain biking applications. However, carbon fiber handlebars tend to be more expensive than their aluminum counterparts, which may deter budget-conscious riders.

Key Differences Between Aluminum and Carbon Fiber Handlebars

When comparing aluminum and carbon fiber handlebars for a mountain bike, consider the following aspects:

  • Weight: Carbon fiber handlebars are generally lighter than aluminum handlebars, making them an appealing choice for riders prioritizing weight reduction.
  • Durability: Aluminum handlebars are more prone to fatigue and cracking over time, especially when subjected to repetitive stress or heavy loads. Carbon fiber handlebars, on the other hand, are less susceptible to fatigue but can catastrophically fail if damaged or improperly installed.
  • Cost: Aluminum handlebars are typically more affordable than carbon fiber handlebars, making them a budget-friendly option for many riders.
  • Vibration Dampening: Carbon fiber handlebars excel in reducing vibrations and hand fatigue during long rides, providing a more comfortable experience for riders.

The Impact of Handlebar Width on Mountain Biking Performance

Handlebar width is a critical factor in enhancing stability, control, and comfort during mountain biking. Selecting the optimal width based on rider height, bike type, and riding style can significantly improve a rider’s experience and overall performance. This section discusses the importance of handlebar width and offers guidance on choosing the right width for your mountain biking adventures.

How Handlebar Width Affects Mountain Biking

The width of handlebars for a mountain bike influences various aspects of riding, including:

  • Stability: Wider handlebars provide increased leverage and stability, making it easier to control the bike during technical descents and cornering.
  • Control: A wider handlebar enhances control, allowing riders to make quicker and more precise steering adjustments.
  • Comfort: Wider handlebars can reduce shoulder and arm fatigue by promoting a more upright riding position. However, excessively wide handlebars may cause discomfort or interference during tight maneuvers.

Selecting the Optimal Handlebar Width

To determine the ideal handlebar width, consider the following factors:

  • Rider Height: Taller riders typically benefit from wider handlebars, while shorter riders may prefer narrower options for better maneuverability.
  • Bike Type: Cross-country bikes often feature narrower handlebars for increased agility, while downhill and enduro bikes typically have wider handlebars for enhanced stability and control.
  • Riding Style: Aggressive riders may prefer wider handlebars for better leverage and control, while more casual riders might opt for narrower handlebars for increased maneuverability and comfort.

Typical Handlebar Width Ranges

Mountain bike handlebars typically range from 620mm to 820mm in width. Most riders find a width between 740mm and 780mm to be a comfortable balance between stability, control, and maneuverability. However, some riders may prefer narrower or wider options based on their individual preferences and riding styles.

Understanding Handlebar Shapes and Their Effect on Bike Handling

The shape of handlebars for a mountain bike significantly influences bike handling, ergonomics, and rider positioning. By understanding the different handlebar shapes available, riders can make informed decisions to optimize their riding experience. This section discusses various handlebar shapes, including flat, riser, and sweep, and their effects on mountain biking performance.

Flat Handlebars

Flat handlebars are characterized by their straight and uniform design, offering a simple and lightweight solution for mountain bikes. These handlebars promote a more aggressive riding position, with the rider leaning forward to better engage the front wheel. Flat handlebars are popular among cross-country and trail riders, as they enhance maneuverability and control during tight turns and technical sections.

Riser Handlebars

Riser handlebars feature a slight upward bend, positioning the grips higher than the handlebar clamp area. This design allows for a more upright riding position, which can improve control, comfort, and visibility during mountain biking. Riser handlebars are commonly used in downhill and all-mountain disciplines, where stability and control are paramount. However, they may slightly reduce maneuverability compared to flat handlebars.

Sweep Handlebars

Sweep handlebars, also known as backsweep and upsweep handlebars, feature a combination of both horizontal and vertical bends. The horizontal bend, or backsweep, positions the grips further back towards the rider, while the vertical bend, or upsweep, raises the grips slightly for a more ergonomic hand position. Sweep handlebars can reduce strain on the wrists and forearms, providing enhanced comfort during long mountain biking sessions.

Selecting the Right Handlebar Shape

When choosing the ideal handlebar shape for a mountain bike, consider the following factors:

  • Riding Style: Aggressive riders may prefer flat handlebars for better maneuverability, while more casual riders might opt for riser or sweep handlebars for increased comfort and control.
  • Bike Type: Cross-country and trail bikes typically use flat handlebars, while downhill and all-mountain bikes often feature riser or sweep handlebars.
  • Ergonomics: Riders with wrist or forearm issues may benefit from sweep handlebars, which can reduce strain and discomfort during long rides.

Maximizing Comfort: Handlebar Tape and Grip Selection

Handlebar tape and grip selection play a crucial role in enhancing comfort and reducing hand fatigue during long mountain biking sessions. By choosing the right combination of materials, designs, and ergonomics, riders can significantly improve their overall riding experience. This section discusses the importance of handlebar tape and grip selection and suggests several top-rated options for mountain bikers.

Handlebar Tape

Handlebar tape is a crucial component of any mountain bike, providing grip, shock absorption, and additional comfort during rides. High-quality handlebar tape can help reduce hand fatigue, improve control, and enhance the overall aesthetic of the bike. Some popular handlebar tape options for mountain bikers include:

  • Lizard Skins DSP 3.2mm Handlebar Tape: Known for its durability and vibration-dampening properties, this handlebar tape is a favorite among many riders. Its 3.2mm thickness offers excellent cushioning and grip, even in wet or muddy conditions.
  • ESI Chunky Grip Tape: This unique handlebar tape features a silicone construction, providing superior grip and shock absorption. Its lightweight and washable design makes it an excellent choice for riders seeking a low-maintenance and comfortable solution.


Grips are another essential component of handlebars for a mountain bike, ensuring a secure and comfortable hold on the bars. Various grip designs and materials cater to different rider preferences, including:

  • Ergonomic Grips: Ergonomic grips, such as the Ergon GA2, are designed to reduce hand fatigue and discomfort by accommodating the natural shape of the hand. These grips often feature a combination of soft and firm materials to provide optimal cushioning and support.
  • Lock-On Grips: Lock-on grips, like the ODI Elite Pro, offer a secure and slip-resistant hold, even during the most demanding rides. These grips feature an integrated clamp system that prevents twisting or rotating, ensuring consistent grip placement and ease of installation.

Selecting the Right Handlebar Tape and Grips

When choosing the ideal handlebar tape and grips for a mountain bike, consider the following factors:

  • Comfort: Prioritize options that provide adequate cushioning and support to minimize hand fatigue during long rides.
  • Grip: Opt for materials that offer reliable grip, even in wet or muddy conditions, to ensure optimal control and safety.
  • Durability: Select products that can withstand the rigors of mountain biking, including vibrations, impacts, and weather conditions.
  • Ergonomics: Consider ergonomically designed options that accommodate the natural shape of the hand, reducing strain and discomfort.

Installing and Adjusting Your New Mountain Bike Handlebars

Properly installing and adjusting your new handlebars for a mountain bike is crucial for ensuring safety, performance, and comfort during your rides. This section provides a detailed guide on installing and adjusting handlebars, including torque specifications, stem alignment, and bar rise adjustments.

Tools Required

To install and adjust your new handlebars, gather the following tools:

  • Allen keys (usually 4mm, 5mm, or 6mm)
  • Torque wrench
  • Bike stand or secure method to hold the bike

Step-by-Step Installation Guide

  1. Loosen the stem faceplate bolts using the appropriate Allen key. Be sure not to remove the bolts entirely; simply loosen them enough to slide the handlebar into the stem.
  2. Slide the handlebar into the stem, ensuring that the stem clamp area is centered on the handlebar. Tighten the stem faceplate bolts temporarily to hold the handlebar in place.
  3. Adjust the bar rise by loosening the top cap bolt on the stem and sliding the stem up or down the steerer tube. Once the desired bar rise is achieved, tighten the top cap bolt to secure the stem in place.
  4. Align the handlebars with the front wheel, ensuring that they are parallel to the ground and centered with the wheel. Make any necessary adjustments to the handlebar angle and tighten the stem faceplate bolts to the manufacturer’s recommended torque specifications.

Additional Tips

  • Always double-check all bolts and connections for tightness before each ride.
  • When adjusting the bar rise, consider the bike’s intended use, your riding style, and personal preferences.
  • Properly torque all bolts to ensure safety and prevent damage to the components.