The comfort of narrow handlebars.

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by Golliwog

Hi guys,
I ride a fairly aggressive frame and seem to spend a lot of time on the flats with my hands close to the stem. Does anyone else find this extremely comfortable? I'm 194cm with 40cm bars (2cm narrower than my measurements) and when i transfer to the hoods i just feel so wide and unwieldy - same goes for the drops. My back is fine and I'm fairly flexible and happy down low but it just goes in the face of what i thought was correct. Im thinking about getting 38cm or ever 36cm bars.

One thing that might be part of the issue is the fit. I seem to have more weight on my hands than should be necessary. I was thinking maybe that is the cause of my discomfort and the unbalanced feeling might go away if i can get my weight over the seatpost. Please forgive my lack of proper terminology I'm fairly new to the technical aspects of cycling.

So i guess my question is - Are narrow bars a possibility or is it more likely i have fit issues?


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by Lucas1234

I ride big miles on 38cm 3t Ergonova handlebars, they are 36cm at the hoods. I find them extremely comfortable and they provide me with a very narrow profile. They don't close up my chest really either. A good gauge is do what the pros are doing especially since you say you have an aggressive position, most pros even the biggers ones are riding smaller handlebars.

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by Philbar72

its all about the smaller handlebars. you save watts, and you are more comfy. the only issue initially was with descending but i've dialled that in now.

i was on 42cm 3t bars and swapped over to zipp sl 70's in 40cm. huge difference, comfort in the drops is epic compared to before.

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Have somebody who knows what they're doing take a look at your fit. You may find that you're more comfortable in the hoods/drops if you increase saddle setback. Also if you truly are running a very aggressive setup, you may run into elbows/knees contact issues if you go narrower in the drops/hoods.
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by roadieboy

It wasn't that long ago that narrow bars were the norm, when I first started riding, I had an old bike with 38 cm bars. I didn't have any problems there, but I'm going to keep my 42's for the foreseeable future.

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by chanthony

Riding narrower bars should be more comfortable, IMO. Try the 38's

Lucas1234 wrote:I ride big miles on 38cm 3t Ergonova handlebars, they are 36cm at the hoods. I find them extremely comfortable and they provide me with a very narrow profile. They don't close up my chest really either. A good gauge is do what the pros are doing especially since you say you have an aggressive position, most pros even the biggers ones are riding smaller handlebars.

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by Wingnut

I ride the widest I can find...I have broad shoulders, I don't like having to tuck my elbows in unnecessarily...
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by prebsy

I've got wide shoulders, should be on a 44, and have been riding 40s for the past year or so. It's definitely been a nice change for me. I find massive benefits in crits, and no issues with climbing or descending. For me, and most bike fitters I've run into, the belief is if the front end isn't causing you pain it's fine. Bike fit philosophy seems to mostly pertain to the rear end.

It is worth noting that you might need to change your stem length when going narrower as your are effectively, just slightly, reducing your reach. I'd love to hear how the narrower bars work out for you.

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by duvivr6

I also ride 40, had a pair of 38s from one of my wife bike and used them on a winter beater feel the same.
It is the bike industry fault that all bikes come with super wide bars!

Rode my uncles bike the other day, he is about the same size as I am had a 44 on.
Told him to ride my bike and next time I saw him he had a 40 bar on.
The 44 felt like I was riding a cruiser around.

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by Marin

I ride 770mm bars... on my Enduro bike :) I don't feel any difference between the 42s on my road and the 44s on my CX though.

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by 11.4

It's a point I've made elsewhere, but the relevant width to think about in measuring your shoulders is from center of ball joint to center of ball joint. After all, bulking up your deltoids shouldn't change your position, right? Now here's the interesting thing. There are a few measurements in the human body that simply don't vary that much regardless of height or build or ethnic origin. That ball joint to ball joint distance is one of those and it applies to both shoulders and hips. Your shoulders may extend much farther than the next guy, and your pelvis might do the same, but the ball joints themselves are pretty constant. If you think about it, there's a lot of geometry involved in those joints and evolution may have decided to keep the distance constant so it could keep the angles and lengths and other dimensions of your femur's or humerus's trochanter the same. Otherwise you'd have a lot of people with malformed joints. So keep the dimensions all the same and it's a simpler matter for evolution.

Where this takes you is that most people have pretty close to the same ball joint to ball joint distances, and they tend to be in the range of 37-39 cm. The Italians messed everyone up with an amateurish fitting guide in their CONI manual back in the 1950s, and the whole world adopted it. The Japanese keirin manual actually copied the illustrations and translated the text so literally that the Japanese even has a bit of Italian phraseology to it. Anyway, it means that wide bars were basically an idea promoted by some Italians who didn't really get it right.

So this begs the question of what is really right. Nothing says your bars actually have to be the width of your ball joints. Some people have range impingement of various types, especially in a cycling position, so that sets limits on your position. Others have body mass issues, or joint deterioration, or whatever. Reasons for narrower bars are more common and reasoned than for wider bars, by and large: You can work through smaller holes in a pack, you provide a smaller frontal section to the wind, narrower bars are significantly stiffer and also lighter, you are pulling more in line with the force you are applying through your pedals, and so on and so on. I happen to like narrow bars, mostly because I use 34 cm bars on the track and wider bars feel ungainly when I get on a road bike. But it's horses for courses, and in the end, this is like all aspects of fitting -- you have to know yourself. I like to promote the idea of looking at narrow bars, mostly because the Italians have had it all their way for 60 years, and that's reason enough. Now if it had been the French ...

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by KWalker

I run 40cm Rotundos but have yet to find a true 38cm in the same traditional bend. Most of the narrower bars have a pseudo traditional shape (Zipp SL-80) or compact bend.

I'm 1.87M tall and was first fit on 46s. A few months later I ordered the wrong bars from a sale but didn't realize until I installed them that they were 42s. Loved the change instantly. About a year later I purchased some bars that measured 40cm at the hoods and 42s at the drop and again wasn't really aware that I had made the switch for a while as the flare made the bars look a lot different in the first place. Those were even better and I've been on 40s since with a brief stint back to 42s, which I wasn't really that happy with.

My guess is companies will start offering more 38s and less 46s since narrow bars are becoming the standard amongst many fitters and pros. A few fitters have told me that they prefer to stock bars measured either O-O or C-C at the drops (with flair) as they can more easily sell the client on a narrower bar by tricking them into thinking its wider when they first put it on.
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by Tom-s

I'm 181cm with 37cm shoulders (c-c) and i run 38cm 3T Ergonova's. Love these, they are 36cm on te tops, 37cm on the hoods and 38cm in the drops (c-c). If they'd sell a 36cm Ergonova i'd buy it just to try.

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by User Name

I find 44s slightly more comfortable than 42s. I'm 182cm, with not particularly broad shoulders.

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by Furka

For me, 183cm, it is far more comfortable the 46cm o-o when I am climbing out of the saddle. More control too, on fast descents on my 73º head angleset frame. I have tried 42, 44 and IMHO and for my prefeences the 46 is the better. I am not racing, so the aero factor is not so important for me.

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