How Is The Width Of Drop Bars Measured?

How is the Width of Drop Bars Measured

One of the crucial factors to consider if you want to experience comfortable bike rides is your handlebars.

They’re either flat or drop bars, each possessing advantages and disadvantages. 

However, drop handlebars are typical among cyclists, especially road bike users since they allow you to change different hand positions.

But before using them, you should take a width measurement to ensure you get a suitable size. But how is its width measured?

Measuring a drop handlebar’s width involves using a measuring tape to size it from one end to the other. The area where the measuring tape crosses over the handlebar’s center across both ends is the drop bar’s width. This measurement helps you avoid exaggerated handlebar widths which affect handling and posture, helping you make the right choice for better cycling.

How is Handlebar Reach and Drop Measured?

How is the Width of Drop Bars Measured

A handlebar’s reach refers to the span from the stem’s center connecting to the bar and the most distant point in the ‘drops.’ Then the drops are the length from the most elevated to its lowest bar area.

On road bike handlebars, your reach is the length between the clamp point’s middle to the center of the forward area of drops where you can find the bike’s brake hoods.

This measurement is the span you must cover to bend forward when cycling in a tucked posture.

You only need a pencil, ruler, and A4 paper sheet to measure your handlebar’s reach. To begin, you must adhere to the steps below.

#1. Step 1

Place your drop handlebar on a smooth surface on your A4 paper sheet. Ensure the clamp area is upward so you can position the bar flatly or just as it would be during cycling.

#2. Step 2

You can place an object under the handlebar to support its weight and make it sit suitably.

Next, use your measuring tape to measure the length from the table to the clamp bar’s middle. Write down that measurement in your paper for use later.

#3. Step 3

Maintain the drop handlebar’s position and measure the span starting from the table it’s sitting on to the middle of the drop’s most elevated point. Write down the measurement you obtain.

#4. Step 4

All you have to do now is subtract the initial measurement you got in step two from the one in step 3. The remaining distance is the precise reach distance of your handlebar.

#5. Step 5

Place your drop handlebar on a smooth surface on your A4 paper sheet and ensure the clamp area is facing upward. So that you can place the bar flatly or just as it would be while riding.

#6. Step 6

Move your pencil vertically by the side of the clamp area and make small lines down each side.

#7. Step 7

Hold the bar in a steady position to ensure it doesn’t move, then use your pencil to make a circle around that bar’s rear close to the paper.

#8. Step 8

Gauge the width of both lines you made with the pencil and plot a midpoint between these lines.

#9. Step 9

Maintain a horizontal distance with your ruler and expand the midsections from the clamp area over the paper.

#10. Step 10

Plot the circle’s center and make a vertical line down through the middle. Continue going until both lines overlap.

Lastly, use your ruler to measure the span from the circle’s center to the overlapping area. Whatever number you obtain is your handlebar drop distance/measurement.

How do you Size a Drop Bar?

When sizing a drop bar, you need to consider the width, drop (drop style) and reach as primary factors affecting your measurement and convenience during cycling.

The width is the area from one end of the bar to another and influences your ride’s comfort. 

Choosing a drop handlebar that is too wide or narrow isn’t advisable. But remember, there is no standard width measurement as they vary from bike manufacturer to another.

Hence, understand how your drop bar type is measured to get an accurate sizing. Most importantly, getting the right size depends on your shoulders’ width.

A conventional way to determine this is by holding the handlebar up to your shoulder level without touching your other body parts.

The bar’s rear should reach outside your shoulder but shouldn’t be very wide that it extends beyond it.

Reach and drop are the other factors affecting a drop handlebar’s sizing. The reach determines how wide your body becomes when you rest your hands on the brake lever.

If you feel you’re overreaching, you need to go low by opting for handlebars with a shorter reach. 

A shallow drop bar is suitable for flexible cyclists or people with smaller hands who require closeness to the handlebar for better control.

There are several factors to assess before choosing a handlebar, so don’t skip any to ensure you get the right one that gives you no trouble.

You’ll see the clues when you pick the wrong drop bar size. It could come in sore necks & shoulders, lower backache, and inability to stretch to the drop without struggling.

How do I Know if my Handlebars are Too Wide?

If the handlebars with your bike’s stem are too broad, you’ll notice that steering the bike feels slower.

Your posture will be affected as you bend over the hip areas, compromising your riding position.

Due to this, many prefer narrow bars because they help you maintain an open chest even when tilting forward in an ascending position.

However, your body physique determines what handlebar width is best for you. Using narrower handlebars is a good option if you’re a short rider.

If you spread your hands much further than you should, you work harder to get a push-up done.

To solve this problem, you only have to find a convenient middle area suitable for your body type and consider what kind of cycling you desire.

On the other hand, tall or slim cyclists will do better with a wide handlebar. Tall people mainly have long arms and torsos, so using narrow bars restricts their movement.

But wide ones give them sufficient control over the bike and ensure a smooth ride experience.

What is the Best Handlebar Width?

The ideal handlebar width for road bikes ranges between 38-46 cm, while in mountain bikes, handlebars are around 740-760 mm.

However, note that an ideal handlebar’s width is about discovering a balance between the firmness of your wide handlebar and giving your body the ability to steer a narrower bar.

So your body size and riding style are crucial in this regard. The table below highlights the advantages and disadvantages of the narrow handlebars.

Many cyclists consider narrow handlebars to be more aerodynamic. The small bar encourages inward elbow movement and allows airflow more smoothly, improving your cycling.Narrow handlebars reduce your bike’s control during cycling, making it less stable, primarily on off-road terrains. They’re better for experienced cyclists.
Narrow handlebars improve racing positions and make it easy to navigate tight spaces since your elbows aren’t spread wider.Narrower handlebars feel restrictive, especially for broad-shouldered riders making it uncomfortable to take in enough oxygen.
It improves handling and comfort, especially for riders who bend their elbows. It allows you to move on a straight track and is easier to propel forward.Some narrow handlebars bike riders have complained of compromised standing starts and increased strain on their wrists.

The table below contains the pros and cons of wide handlebars

It improves your climbing and offers more leverage during pedal-stomping, giving you more power in rough terrains.Bars that are too wide cause discomfort during cycling and make you vulnerable to scratches from objects near you during cramped-space riding.
Wide handlebars give more speed to downhill riders, offering them the stability they need. And since the riders are closer to the controls, they accelerate and brake effortlessly, making them a better choice for off-roading.Overly wide handlebars strain your body, especially your shoulder, leaving you sore.
The extended grip on these handlebars allows for better control and makes it unlikely to lose balance during riding. It also makes steering easier.Wider handlebars are not suitable for all body types. So if you choose it because it offers better control, you’ll feel uncomfortable throughout the ride, and it feels slow on tight sections.

Final Thoughts

To enjoy cycling, you need to prioritize handlebar sizes. Picking the proper bar width is essential to avoid being overstretched or cramped, as it improves your cycling by offering improved stability.

If you don’t know what width to choose, try the narrow & wide bars to decide. And don’t worry, you can adjust the handlebar’s width to suit you.

Josh Matthews

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