Bar width

Discuss light weight issues concerning road bikes & parts.
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wasabi1
Posts: 192
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2011 9:57 pm

by wasabi1

Noticed recently that a few pros seem to be riding narrower and narrower bars.
Guess the main reason is narrower body, less frontal area therefore more aero.

I've been using 420mm for a while. And have always been comfortable with it.
Just wondering if anyone can see the value in downsizing.

Anyone use narrower than traditionally ideal bars for themselves?

Brandonnie
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Joined: Sat May 12, 2012 5:48 am

by Brandonnie

i like to go 2 cm narrower than the shoulder

KWalker
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Location: Bay Area

by KWalker

The shoulder formula is stupid- it has no bearing on width. Most riders I saw come in for fits were on really wide bars, which has the effect of spreading your hands out much wider than they need to be and involving more of the trapezius and other upper back muscles. Others would often ride with their palms either to the inside of the hoods or just behind the hoods on the curved sections. Some would say that the wide bars felt more stable, but that indicates their entire position is poor if they need a much wider hand support structure just so they're stable on the bike. If a person claims that bar width makes them more stable, then their position is inherently poor be it fore/aft or seat height related or general functionality. Wider bars also do not give more leverage, so that argument is out the window as well.

On a road bike your elbows are not fixed. If your bars were even 30cm, your elbows would flare out to ensure optimal position under power. The entire 'constricting your ribcage' argument is a red herring and doesn't actually make sense in reality. Personally speaking my first fitter put me on 46's. I hated them. I ride a 42 Rotundo at 6 feet 2 and have ridden 40cm bars pretty comfortably actually. I might try em again in the future. Riding a bike with 44's feels like a boat.

According to a wide range of people including Steve Hogg, Gerard Vroomen, and in some cases Andy Pruitt you should get away with the narrowest bar that doesn't cause discomfort. Pruitt took Boonen off of 46's and put him on a Zipp 44cm, which measures 43 at the hoods so a 3cm total different and it hasn't seemed to have constricted his breathing. Most of the old Cervelo crew all went to narrower bars after working on their S series bikes in the wind tunnel. Many Garmin riders ride narrow 3T bars as you have to remember that 3T, FSA, Zipp, and some Easton bars measure 2cm narrower at the hoods so when you see 42cm its really 40 or so, 44 is really 42cm, etc. with the exception being the more traditional bend bars.
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Valbrona
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by Valbrona

KWalker wrote:The shoulder formula is stupid.


Agreed.

I am not sure how clever it is to 'philosiphize' about bar width at all. If you are undecided, you buy budget bars to the pattern that suits you and you try them out. When you are happy with the fit, you upgrade to the better performing equivalents at greater cost. A narrower bar offers aerodynamic advantage, and that's about the only thing that holds true. With that in mind, you factor in comfort.

11.4
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by 11.4

There are extensive threads on this over at Fixed Gear Fever.

The old shoulder width thing was printed up in the old CONI manual and became a mantra. Not only did it never have any substance, but it also didn't even address how shoulders get measured. Are you measuring from the bulk of the deltoid muscle or from the center of the ball and socket joint? The latter is a lot, and I mean a lot, narrower than the bulk of the muscle. And since that's where the pressure is borne and where force vectors get calculated from, it should at least be the reference point.

Two basic questions: If you are doing pushups or lifting a heavy weight, do you spread your arms wide apart? No. You keep them close together. Second, if you are fighting the wind, do you spread your arms and chest far apart to catch more wind? No. You want to lift with your hands on the drops on the same line of effort that your feet are pressing down on the pedals. You only keep your hands outboard of your feet in weightlifting because you can't put your hands and your knees in the same space. On a bike, no problem. So the track strategy, which is proving itself out, is that you really don't need bar spacing more than your pedal spacing. The only reason would be if you had so much chest bulk that it blocked your lungs. But consider this: Keep your drops closer together and then just extend your bars forward so you raise your rib cage above your diaphragm and give your lungs more volume to expand into. Better VO2Max without trying. Sound good? And if you've followed some of the threads about hip rotation recently, that position naturally provides better hip rotation, muscle utilization, and fewer back problems.

It's entirely legit. That's why 3T and others are now offering 38 cm c-c bars. Watch the pro peloton and you'll see a lot of 38 and 40 cm bars now, where before you never saw less than 44. Science wins out over Italian mystique. Now the Japanese keirin manual just needs to get updated, since it cribbed the CONI illustrations and just translated the captions.

RussellS
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by RussellS

wasabi1 wrote:Noticed recently that a few pros seem to be riding narrower and narrower bars.
Guess the main reason is narrower body, less frontal area therefore more aero.


No. Pros use narrow bars because it allows them to do their job better. Pros ride in 100-200 bike packs. Shoulder to shoulder. Touching shoulders, touching hands/hoods. Narrow bars allow pros to get into narrow gaps easier. Or fit between other riders easier.

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djconnel
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by djconnel

If I set my bars to get my arms pointing out straight ahead I get 38's (c-c). Those are comfortable for me: going to 40's feels too wide. Arms below the shoulders is the strongest position for me to do push-ups. I figure that's also the most stable position for me to be riding a bike.

I think most small bikes come with bars too wide for the riders.

wasabi1
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by wasabi1

Some great stuff thanks.

So conclusion is try out smaller and see how it goes?
Guess one size is a big enough step down.

HillRPete
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by HillRPete

wasabi1 wrote:Anyone use narrower than traditionally ideal bars for themselves?

I'm running 40cm center-center bars at 186cm height on my road bike, but I have rather narrow shoulders. Think hood position matters more than 1 or 2cm on each side. On the CX/Beater I have 44cm, which feels weird at the start of each ride, but the feeling goes away quickly, and I'm trying to convince myself that the slower steering is worth it on gravel. Anyhow, the bikes I see at shops often have ridiculously wide bars.

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euan
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by euan

djconnel wrote:I think most small bikes come with bars too wide for the riders.


Tell me about it. My Trek CX bike in a size 52 came with "42cm" which actually measured 44cm. Bike fits me properly at 5'6 but the bars were mad wide.

Put 38cm bars on for goodtimes.
"Step forward the climber and all those who worship at the altar of lightness" - R. Millar

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bura
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by bura

RussellS wrote:
wasabi1 wrote:Noticed recently that a few pros seem to be riding narrower and narrower bars.
Guess the main reason is narrower body, less frontal area therefore more aero.


No. Pros use narrow bars because it allows them to do their job better. Pros ride in 100-200 bike packs. Shoulder to shoulder. Touching shoulders, touching hands/hoods. Narrow bars allow pros to get into narrow gaps easier. Or fit between other riders easier.


Wasabi1 has an issue there.
If you look further back into the 70's and until the late 80's pros indeed were riding wider bars in general.

What I would like to hear from fellow cyclists here around is the point during climbing.
I always felt more comfortable with +2cms when standing up on the bike.
Any thoughts?
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wasabi1
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by wasabi1

Now you mention the climbing, i can imagine narrow will feel odd at first.
But like anything guess will get used to it.

Talking about pro width. This shot look very narrow. Not sure how much that is perspective, but guessing these are 380.

Image

Plus david millar looks cool on a bike!


euan wrote:
djconnel wrote:I think most small bikes come with bars too wide for the riders.


Tell me about it. My Trek CX bike in a size 52 came with "42cm" which actually measured 44cm. Bike fits me properly at 5'6 but the bars were mad wide.

Put 38cm bars on for goodtimes.


Would definitely agree that stock bikes come with overly wide bars. And too short stems, but thats another topic entirely!

11.4
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by 11.4

bura wrote:What I would like to hear from fellow cyclists here around is the point during climbing.
I always felt more comfortable with +2cms when standing up on the bike.
Any thoughts?


Think of climbing as heavy lifting. Why hold your arms out from your sides when you lift? Imagine all your energy operating straight up and down, pushing down on pedals and pulling up on bars in the same line. If your bars are wider than your pedals, you are basically having to tilt the bike back and forth so you can achieve that efficient stroke. Ever notice how some of those climbers from the past threw their bikes around as they climbed, where today their bikes are stable and hardly flip back and forth at all? Narrower bars.

Yes, you'll have to get used to the difference in width, because you simply got to hold your body weight across a broader base with wider bars. But that just meant you were being inefficient with core strength. You'll do just fine with narrower bars in a climb. If Chris Hoy with his huge physique can outsprint the world on 33 cm bars, you can outclimb them on 38's or 40's.

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bura
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by bura

11.4 wrote:
bura wrote:What I would like to hear from fellow cyclists here around is the point during climbing.
I always felt more comfortable with +2cms when standing up on the bike.
Any thoughts?


Think of climbing as heavy lifting. Why hold your arms out from your sides when you lift? Imagine all your energy operating straight up and down, pushing down on pedals and pulling up on bars in the same line. If your bars are wider than your pedals, you are basically having to tilt the bike back and forth so you can achieve that efficient stroke. Ever notice how some of those climbers from the past threw their bikes around as they climbed, where today their bikes are stable and hardly flip back and forth at all? Narrower bars.

Yes, you'll have to get used to the difference in width, because you simply got to hold your body weight across a broader base with wider bars. But that just meant you were being inefficient with core strength. You'll do just fine with narrower bars in a climb. If Chris Hoy with his huge physique can outsprint the world on 33 cm bars, you can outclimb them on 38's or 40's.


Thanks. As I said I feel comfy with wider bars while up from the saddle during climbing. When I am on a top grip on the hoods it feels just better with a slightly wider bar.Tried it many times. When on the saddle during climbing I do take mostly the top of the bar narrow grip anyway .
And I can not imagine of hill climbing as heavy lifting because you do not push weights with your arms.Just another technique.
Must be something personal.
BTW have you guys looked at the older pre 1990 races where 46 and 44cms were really common inside the peloton?
So in general we can say that the bar width has came down inside the pro scene.
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Pharmstrong
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by Pharmstrong

I went from 420mm to 400mm, which feel more natural to grip. I agree that many small to medium sized bikes have too wide a bar as standard.

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