Handlebars for Racing Bikes

The Significance of Choosing the Right Handlebars for Racing Bikes

Selecting the appropriate handlebars for racing bikes is crucial for optimizing aerodynamics, enhancing comfort, and improving control. By investing in suitable handlebars, cyclists can experience a significant performance boost and minimize the risk of injuries. Aerodynamics play a vital role in cycling, as reducing air resistance can lead to substantial time savings, especially during long races. Comfortable handlebars also contribute to reduced muscle strain and fatigue, allowing riders to maintain a more efficient and powerful pedaling position. Furthermore, the right handlebars provide better control, enabling cyclists to navigate through various terrains and conditions with confidence.

Understanding Handlebar Types and Materials

When selecting handlebars for racing bikes, it’s essential to understand the different types and materials available. Each type and material offers unique features, advantages, and ideal use cases. Here are the most common handlebar types and materials:

Handlebar Types

Drop Handlebars: These handlebars, also known as road handlebars, are the most common type for racing bikes. They feature a curved shape with multiple hand positions, promoting aerodynamics and comfort. Drop handlebars allow riders to tuck into a lower, more aerodynamic position during sprints or climbs, while also providing an upright position for better control and visibility.

Riser Handlebars: Primarily used in mountain biking, riser handlebars can also be found on some hybrid and commuter racing bikes. These handlebars have a slight upward bend, placing the rider in a more upright position for better control and visibility in urban environments or technical terrains. However, riser handlebars are generally not suitable for high-speed racing due to increased air resistance.

Pursuit Handlebars: Pursuit handlebars are designed for track racing, featuring a long, straight, and low-profile design. They provide a highly aerodynamic position, with the rider’s hands positioned close together and arms extended. While pursuit handlebars are not typically used for road racing, they can be an option for time trial events or other specialized racing scenarios.

Handlebar Materials

Carbon Fiber: Carbon fiber handlebars are lightweight, strong, and offer superior vibration dampening, making them an excellent choice for racing bikes. They are also highly customizable, with various shapes, widths, and colors available. However, carbon fiber handlebars can be more expensive than other materials.

Aluminum: Aluminum handlebars are a more affordable alternative to carbon fiber, offering good strength and durability. They are generally lighter than steel handlebars but heavier than carbon fiber. Aluminum handlebars can be prone to vibration, which may lead to increased rider fatigue during long races.

Titanium: Titanium handlebars are a premium option, offering a balance between weight, strength, and comfort. They are highly resistant to corrosion and can dampen vibrations better than aluminum. However, titanium handlebars are typically more expensive than both carbon fiber and aluminum options.

How to Measure Handlebar Width for Racing Bikes

Measuring handlebar width is crucial for ensuring optimal handling, comfort, and aerodynamics when selecting handlebars for racing bikes. Follow these steps to determine the ideal handlebar width:

Step 1: Consider Shoulder Width

Your shoulder width plays a significant role in determining the appropriate handlebar width. A general guideline is to choose a handlebar width close to your shoulder width. To measure your shoulder width, stand with your back against a wall and mark the points where your shoulders meet the wall. Measure the distance between the two marks using a tape measure.

Step 2: Evaluate Riding Style

Your riding style also influences the ideal handlebar width. For example, if you prefer a more aggressive, aerodynamic position, you may opt for narrower handlebars. Conversely, if you value comfort and control, wider handlebars might be a better choice. Consider factors like your preferred hand positions, the type of terrain you typically ride on, and your experience level when determining the best width for your riding style.

Step 3: Assess Bike Fit

Proper bike fit is essential for maximizing performance and minimizing the risk of injury. Ideally, your handlebars should be positioned at a height and distance that allows for a comfortable, sustainable riding position. When measuring handlebar width, ensure that the new width will not compromise your bike fit or create handling issues.

Step 4: Select the Optimal Width

Based on your shoulder width, riding style, and bike fit, choose a handlebar width that strikes a balance between improved handling and aerodynamics. For most road cyclists, a handlebar width between 38 and 44 cm is typical. However, individual preferences and body dimensions may warrant a narrower or wider width.

Tips for Selecting the Optimal Width

When selecting the optimal handlebar width, consider the following:

  • Narrower handlebars promote better aerodynamics but may compromise control and comfort.
  • Wider handlebars enhance control and stability but can increase air resistance.
  • A width close to your shoulder width generally offers a good balance between aerodynamics and control.
  • Always test ride new handlebars before making a final decision, and consult with a professional bike fitter if necessary.

Selecting the Ideal Handlebar Reach and Drop for Racing Bikes

Handlebar reach and drop significantly impact rider comfort and aerodynamics in racing bikes. Understanding these concepts and how they relate to your individual riding preferences and body dimensions can help you choose the right handlebars for your needs.

What is Handlebar Reach?

Handlebar reach refers to the horizontal distance from the center of the handlebar clamp to the furthest point where the rider’s hands can grip the handlebars. A longer reach generally places the rider in a more aggressive, aerodynamic position, while a shorter reach promotes a more upright, comfortable position.

What is Handlebar Drop?

Handlebar drop refers to the vertical distance from the center of the handlebar clamp to the lowest point of the handlebars. A larger drop typically results in a lower, more aerodynamic hand position, while a smaller drop provides a higher, more comfortable position. The drop measurement includes the handlebar’s overall curvature or “drop.”

How to Choose the Right Reach and Drop

When selecting the ideal reach and drop for your racing bike handlebars, consider the following factors:

  • Riding style: Aggressive riders seeking better aerodynamics may prefer handlebars with a longer reach and larger drop. Conversely, riders who value comfort and control might opt for handlebars with a shorter reach and smaller drop.
  • Body dimensions: Taller riders with longer torsos and arms may benefit from handlebars with a larger reach and drop, while shorter riders with shorter torsos and arms may find handlebars with a smaller reach and drop more suitable.
  • Flexibility and core strength: Riders with greater flexibility and core strength can maintain a lower, more aerodynamic position for extended periods, making handlebars with a larger reach and drop a better choice. Those with limited flexibility or core strength may prefer handlebars with a smaller reach and drop to avoid discomfort or strain.

Recommendations for Selecting Reach and Drop

As a starting point, consider the following recommendations for handlebar reach and drop based on body dimensions:

  • For riders between 5’2″ and 5’8″ (158-173 cm), consider handlebars with a reach between 70-80 mm and a drop between 120-130 mm.
  • For riders between 5’8″ and 6’0″ (173-183 cm), consider handlebars with a reach between 80-95 mm and a drop between 130-145 mm.
  • For riders taller than 6’0″ (183 cm), consider handlebars with a reach between 95-110 mm and a drop between 145-160 mm.

Remember that these are general guidelines, and individual preferences and body dimensions may warrant adjustments to these recommendations. Always test ride new handlebars before making a final decision, and consult with a professional bike fitter if necessary.

Top Racing Bike Handlebar Brands and Models to Consider

When selecting handlebars for racing bikes, it’s essential to consider brands known for their quality, innovation, and performance. Here are some leading handlebar brands and popular models to help you make an informed decision:


Zipp is a well-known brand in the cycling industry, known for its high-performance components. Zipp’s handlebars are made from carbon fiber and feature innovative designs for improved aerodynamics, comfort, and control. Popular models include the Service Course SL-80 and the VukaSprint.


ENVE is a premium cycling component manufacturer that focuses on creating lightweight, durable, and aerodynamic products. ENVE’s handlebars are made from carbon fiber and are designed for various racing disciplines, including road, triathlon, and cyclocross. Popular models include the Compact Road Handlebar and the SES Aero Handlebar.


Ritchey is a respected brand in the cycling industry, offering high-quality components at competitive prices. Ritchey’s handlebars are made from aluminum and carbon fiber, catering to various riding styles and preferences. Popular models include the WCS Carbon Streem II and the Comp Logic Curve.


3T is an Italian component manufacturer known for its innovative designs and high-quality products. 3T’s handlebars are made from aluminum and carbon fiber, offering a range of options for road, gravel, and cyclocross racing. Popular models include the SuperErgo and the Exploro.


Full Speed Ahead (FSA) is a component manufacturer that offers a wide range of products, including handlebars made from aluminum and carbon fiber. FSA’s handlebars cater to various riding styles and preferences, with popular models like the K-Force Light Carbon and the Energy Compact.

Price Ranges

Prices for racing bike handlebars can vary significantly depending on the brand, material, and features. On average, expect to pay between $50 to $300 for aluminum handlebars and between $200 to $600 for carbon fiber handlebars. Keep in mind that premium brands and high-end models may exceed these price ranges.

When selecting handlebars for racing bikes, consider factors like aerodynamics, comfort, control, and weight. Research various brands and models, and consult with a professional bike fitter to ensure the best possible fit and performance.

Installing and Adjusting Handlebars on Racing Bikes

Installing and adjusting handlebars on racing bikes is a crucial process that can significantly impact your riding experience. Proper installation and adjustment ensure optimal comfort, control, and aerodynamics. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to install and adjust handlebars on racing bikes:

Selecting the Stem

The stem connects the handlebars to the bike’s steerer tube. When selecting a stem, consider factors like stem length, angle, and clamp diameter. Stem length affects your reach, while stem angle impacts your handlebar height. Ensure that the stem clamp diameter matches your handlebar’s clamp diameter.

Installing the Handlebars

To install the handlebars, follow these steps:

  1. Loosen the stem bolts and slide the stem onto the steerer tube.
  2. Insert the handlebars into the stem clamp and tighten the clamp bolts to secure the handlebars in place.
  3. Ensure that the handlebars are aligned straight and centered with the front wheel.
  4. Reattach the front brake and any other cables or accessories.

Adjusting Handlebar Orientation

To adjust the handlebar orientation, consider the following factors:

  • Handlebar height: Adjust the stem height to find the most comfortable position. A lower position can improve aerodynamics, while a higher position can enhance control and comfort.
  • Handlebar tilt: Adjust the handlebar tilt to ensure a comfortable wrist position. A neutral wrist position can help prevent injuries and discomfort during long rides.

Safety Tips and Best Practices

  • Always use torque wrenches and follow manufacturer guidelines when tightening bolts to prevent overtightening or damaging components.
  • Double-check all cable routing and connections to ensure proper function and safety.
  • Test ride the bike after installation and adjustment to ensure optimal comfort and control.

Regularly inspect and maintain your handlebars and stem to ensure safe and enjoyable riding. Look for signs of wear, damage, or loosening, and address any issues promptly.

Maintaining and Caring for Racing Bike Handlebars

Regular maintenance and care for handlebars on racing bikes are essential for ensuring longevity, safety, and optimal performance. Here are some guidelines on how to maintain and care for your racing bike handlebars:


Clean your handlebars regularly using a mild detergent, warm water, and a soft cloth or sponge. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive materials that can damage the handlebar’s surface. Dry the handlebars thoroughly after cleaning to prevent water spots and corrosion.


Inspect your handlebars frequently for signs of wear, damage, or loosening. Check for cracks, dents, or other damage, especially around the handlebar clamp area, stem, and brake lever mounts. Ensure that all bolts are tightened to the manufacturer’s recommended torque specifications.

Periodic Replacement

Replace your handlebars if you notice any significant wear, damage, or if they no longer meet your performance needs. Regularly assess your handlebar’s condition and consider replacing them every few years, depending on usage and maintenance.

Identifying Signs of Wear and Tear

  • Cracks or dents: Visible signs of damage, such as cracks or dents, can weaken the handlebar’s structure and increase the risk of failure.
  • Loose bolts: Loose bolts can lead to instability and reduced performance. Regularly check and tighten bolts to the manufacturer’s recommended torque specifications.
  • Worn or frayed brake lever hoods: Worn or frayed brake lever hoods can compromise grip and control. Replace them if they show signs of significant wear.

By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your handlebars remain in good condition, providing you with optimal comfort, control, and safety during your racing bike rides.

Comparing Handlebars for Racing Bikes: A Feature-by-Feature Analysis

When selecting handlebars for racing bikes, it’s essential to compare various models based on features like weight, stiffness, aerodynamics, and comfort. Here’s a feature-by-feature analysis of popular racing bike handlebars, along with recommendations based on different riding scenarios and budget considerations:


Lighter handlebars can improve a racing bike’s overall weight distribution and handling. Carbon fiber handlebars are generally lighter than aluminum ones, making them a popular choice among racers. However, lighter handlebars may come at a higher cost.


Stiff handlebars can provide better power transfer and control during high-intensity efforts. Carbon fiber handlebars often offer superior stiffness compared to aluminum ones, but premium aluminum handlebars can also provide excellent stiffness.


Aerodynamic handlebars can help reduce air resistance, enhancing overall performance. Deep-drop handlebars and integrated aerobar systems are popular choices for time trials and triathlons, while traditional drop handlebars are more suitable for road races and criteriums.


Comfort is crucial for long-term injury prevention and performance. Handlebars with ergonomic shapes, compact drops, and adjustable reach and drop can improve comfort and accommodate various riding styles and body dimensions.


  • Zipp Service Course SL-80: A lightweight, stiff, and comfortable aluminum handlebar with a compact drop design. Ideal for road races, criteriums, and cyclists seeking a balance between performance and affordability.
  • ENVE Compact Road Handlebar: A carbon fiber handlebar that offers excellent stiffness, aerodynamics, and comfort. Suitable for road races, criteriums, and cyclists willing to invest in high-performance components.
  • Ritchey WCS Carbon Streem II: A lightweight, stiff, and aerodynamic carbon fiber handlebar with a unique top shape for improved comfort during long rides. Ideal for road races, criteriums, and cyclists seeking a blend of performance and comfort.

By comparing handlebars for racing bikes based on these features, cyclists can make informed decisions and select the best components for their individual needs, preferences, and budget considerations.