Selecting The Right Handlebar – Road Bike

Selecting The Right Handlebar – Road Bike


A perfect handlebar can have a big impact on your riding performance. Apart from the saddle and pedals, the handlebar is one of the main contact points and essential as it also controls your manoeuvrability and how the bike handles. Each has its own distinctive pros and cons that can either make your cycling experience enjoyable & pleasant or otherwise. There is a couple of considerations that one needs to take note of when selecting a handlebar; The Width and The Shape.  


Handlebar Width

Handlebar width is commonly measured from the two centres of the drop and the size ranges from 36cm to 46cm, depending on the rider’s shoulder width.

To choose a suitable handlebar width, measure the acromion (bony tip of outer edge) of the shoulder blade and match it with the corresponding handlebar width.

With a correct handlebar width, the wrists are straight and relaxed; elbows and shoulders are also relaxed; these help to absorb road bumps.

An incorrect handlebar width will lead to discomfort and may cause shoulder, back and neck pain.


  • Wrists will go outwards and lock up
  • As a consequence, both elbows and shoulders will lock up
  • Vibrations and shocks go through arms directly to the neck

Correct Width

  • Wrists are straight and relaxed
  • As a consequence, both elbows and shoulders will relax


  • The wrist will go inwards and lock up
  • As a consequence, both elbows and shoulders will lock up
  • Vibrations and shocks go through arms directly to the neck
  • Will cause shoulder, back and neck pain


The Shapes

Choosing a suitable handlebar shape is usually down to personal preferences. There are three shapes generally; Classic, Anatomic and Compact.


Classic – Long reach and deep drop. This encourages riders to adopt the hooks position which is more aggressive and aerodynamic.


Anatomic – Designed to fit the anatomy of the hand while in the drop position. This provides comfort and allows riders to ride longer without feeling fatigued or numb.

Compact – Short reach and shallow drop. The shallow drop allows riders to ride comfortably on the drop.    


Drop Bar Hand Positioning

This position allows you to bend down and reduce drag. It can increase your speed and efficiency. When set up correctly, any positions you are at should be fairly comfortable. These are the typical hand positions; The Tops, The Hoods and The Drop.  

The Tops – By gripping the top of the handlebar, it gives you an upright position. This is ideal for relaxing slow rides or climbing slopes while on the saddle.  

The Hoods – The most comfortable among the 3 positions as it allows you to easily shift and reach the brakes while maintaining a relaxed riding position.  

The Drops – The most aggressive and aerodynamic position. Ideally for those who want to have a breakaway or a strong sprint.  

Selecting the right width and shape of your handlebar in achieving an optimal performance can be quite a laborious process. Regardless of whether you are a weekend warrior, chill rider or competitive rider, a solid grip and comfort are crucial. Spend the time to set up your handlebar that suits your riding style and you will boost your confidence and enjoy the ride.  


Ride safe!  

Published by Dicky Hamid, 3 Nov 2021