CHOOSING THE RIGHT MTB HANDLEBARS
Mountain bikes are off-road vehicles. This means they require a degree of steering control from the rider that is best achieved with a flat, non-drop (road) style handlebar. There are various options for mountain bikers to choose from covering different aspects such as material, width, geometry and of course cost. Choosing is pretty simple though. At Evans Cycles we carry a wide range of mountain bike handlebars in styles covering all options.
The choice is pretty straight forward with alloy and carbon fiber defining the market place for handlebar material. A notable exception to the rule, are bars made from Titanium. Mostly the choice between materials is made on the basis of weight and cost. In general alloy bars cost less but weigh more than their carbon fiber counterparts. That said, some riders opt for alloy on the grounds of being more crash resistant, which is a difficult point to prove, as modern carbon fiber materials and manufacturing processes make them at least equal. That said, if you know that the odd prang is likely, an alloy bar will generally make replacement – which you should do after significantly crashing a handlebar (in our opinion).
There are a bunch of numbers in the description of the material of most alloy handlebars. 2014-T6, 7075, 7050 and 6061. Other brands like Easton use proprietary alloys which they name themselves EA70, EA90 etc… Basically these numbers refer to are marginally different types of alloy (alloy being by its very nature a mix of constituent metals) blended to create a final metal with specific heat treatment processes to imbue particular attributes and ride characteristics. All the alloy bars from brands stocked by Evans Cycles are strong, light and equally safe to use. Worry less about the alloy blend and more about the dimensions.
Similarly to alloy, there is a lot of internet chatter about good and bad carbon fibre, particularly in relation to handlebars – after all, you’re holding this tube of cloth and resin as you skim down the mountain. Fear not, Evans Cycles only works with leading brands who perform extensive R+D, testing and monitor production. There’s no reason to not pick a carbon fibre handlebar (or any carbon fibre product ranged by Evans Cycles) on the basis of durability.
This abundant but hard to extract and refine. Titanium alloy produces a set of ride characteristics which make it stand out on its own. Twice a strong as aluminium alloy and with a high resistance to fatigue, make it great for safety critical items like handlebars.
Regardless of all other physical dimensions, the width of mountain bike handlebars is what gives a rider control of the bike when riding off road. Width of mountain bike handlebars is a topic affected as much by fickle trend as anything. In the early nineties 530mm was considered normal, today no one even makes a sub 580mm mountain bike handlebar.
As a rule of thumb you should start with the width of your shoulders and work outwards from there. Remember you’re not trying to squeeze between city busses, but control a mountain bike in rough terrain. It is possible to buy mountain bike bars with widths of up to 800mm, though most riders (regardless of what sort of mountain bike they ride) settle on bars with widths around 720 – 770mm, giving an optimum of leverage without over extending arms etc.
As it sounds, backsweep (sometimes just ‘sweep’) is measured in degrees and refers to the angle of the bend rearwards from Zero degrees (which would be a straight tube and very hard on the wrists..). The old school 3 and 5 degree bends have been largely replaced with modern trends erring towards for greater levels of backsweep between 6 and 15 degrees. There is no right or wrong when choosing a backsweep angle, it’s really about what feels right you’re your hands and that works with your bikes specific top tube length and stem length.
Riser bars have a bend, or a pair of bends (depending on the brand of bar), each side of the central stem clamp zone. This adds height to the ends of the handlebar where the rider will hold the grips and operate the controls. Generally riser bars are used in more technical and steep terrain where the more head up riding position they give adds control. Measured in millimetres (or inches occasionally for the American brands) the choice of riser bar shapes and heights is wide.
Cross Country and trail (flat and low rise)
Most of the time cross country racer use flat handlebars with zero rise, this is because, as with road racing, the riders are usually trying to attain a low, powerful and wind-cheating position. If you’re not necessarily pinning a number to your bike, but just covering a lot of cross country miles, then you’ll probably want a ‘low-rise’ riser bar. These still allow a low power packed position. Without asking the rider to attain a riding position that is quite as extreme.
Downhill bars –riser/low-ride and flat
Downhill bars are generally alloy – to help reduce replacement cost when the inevitable crash happens, they’re also usually a bit wider than those for cross-country or trail bike. The modern trend is for them to be relatively low rise with some riders even opting for downhill spec flat bars in an effort to achieve a lower position with more rider weight on the front tyre.
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