How to choose your MTB handlebar
First make sure that the diameter at the center of the handlebar, where you tighten your stem, is actually 31.8 mm as 95% of the current MTBs are. If your bike is old, entry-level or equipped with a very high-end extra-light handlebar, then you may be equipped with a 25.4 mm handlebar. Furthermore, a new format of 35 mm of diameter has just been released for an Enduro and DH practice.
At the level of the handle and controls, the diameter of the MTB handlebar is universal and will never cause any problems.
The width of the handlebar, from end to end, often depends on the bike used and the discipline practiced.
- A wide handlebar promotes manoeuvrability, downhill stability and balance for pedaling in a standing position on the bike and opens up your rib cage for better breathing.
- A narrow handlebar facilitates the passage between tight trees and gives better aerodynamics on the rolling parts.
A handlebar that's larger in 29' than in 26' is preferable in order to facilitate the larger wheel's handling, which in turn has more inertia.
The current trend of handlebars follows these sizes:
- 600-650 mm in XC 26'
- 660-710 mm in XC 29'
- 690-740 mm Enduro / All-Mountain
- 740-800 mm in DH
A 'Riser', a rise, which is very common in DH, allows to raise your handlebar to rebalance your weight to the rear.
The more you increase the lift, the more you get a manoeuvrable, agile and precise downhill bike to the detriment of the rising parts which will cause the front wheel to lift itself up and the loss of control of the bike, should the percentage become too high.
A 'Upsweep', very common in Enduro/All-Mountain, is equivalent to the 'Rise', but is more ergonomic for the wrist/hand bone alignment while riding your bike.
A 'Backsweep' brings the ends of the handlebar back to you, which makes the latter more comfortable in the wrist/hand alignment, just like the 'Upsweep' with whom it's often combined on the Enduro/All-Mountain handlebars. The 'Backsweep' on a flat handlebar or 'Rise' of 5° is appreciated in XC.
Concerning handlebars' materials, you have the choice between:
- Aluminum, inexpensive and solid.
- Scandium, thinner and lightweight and as durable as aluminum at equal weight.
- Carbon, the lightest, absorbs vibrations for better comfort, gives a racy look to the bike and remains at least as strong as aluminum at equal weight.
Each handlebar from each brand is subjected to wear resistance tests in laboratories in order to pass CE standards and to ensure you maximum safety in the long term.
- XC competition handlebars generally weigh between 100 and 150 g, and even 170 g for the very wide handlebars in carbon. For a more relaxed practice, handlebars more often weigh around 200 g.
- In Enduro, handlebars are more often located between 200 and 250 g because they are wider and comprised of more matter. Indeed, they generally provide a rise and require more robustness.
- In DH, handlebars weigh around 300 g for the most part in order to be rigid and resilient.
After a big fall, it's strongly advised to change your handlebar to avoid an unfortunate break: it could be damaged and jeopardise its wear resistance without it being visible to the naked eye.