A Guide to Mountain Bike Handlebar Width
Handlebars are one of the most important contact points on your mountain bike after your saddle. They affect your posture and control, dictating how you sit, stand, turn, jump, and perform everything in between. It's critical to fit your handlebars to your body in order to achieve the most effective riding position, which aligns your shoulders, wrists, and elbows. All of these factors are affected by your mountain bike handlebar width.
Mountain bike handlebars range in width from 710mm to 780mm. The most common width for handlebars is 760mm. Shorter riders will need narrower handlebars and taller riders will need wider handlebars.
Finding the right handlebar width involves balancing your body's capacity to push/pull and change position using a narrower handlebar with the stability of a wide bar. The width of the handlebars on a mountain bike should be determined by the rider's size and style of riding. Your riding style, level of comfort, and overall performance, both in the short and long term, can all be greatly impacted by the width of your handlebars.
How Wide Should Your Mountain Bike Handlebars Be?
Imagine you’re performing a push-up, you have to exert more effort to complete one push-up if your hands are spread much wider than when they are in their natural position. Now, if your hands are very close to each other, it is again unnatural and very unstable. This is why choosing the right handlebar size is dependent on body size. Although there are no hard-and-fast guidelines to follow, selecting the right handlebars frequently involves striking a balance between riding style, terrain, and body proportions.
On average, the width of mountain bike handlebars ranges from 710mm to 780mm. Narrow handlebars range in width from 670mm to 760mm and wide handlebars range in width from 760mm to 880mm.
Finding a comfortable handlebar width is crucial because a shorter rider will naturally use a narrower handlebar. Narrower handlebars like this one have a width of 670 to 760 mm.
Another consideration is the type of grip that would be best for you so have a look at our suggested mountain bike grip upgrades and how to choose the ones you need.
Using a wider bar would also be highly recommended if you are tall. The width of wide handlebars like this one ranges from 760mm to 880mm. If you are extremely tall and have long arms, using a wider bar will put you in a more natural and comfortable riding position and allow you more control over the bike. Your bike's handlebar width has an impact on control, comfort, and aerodynamics. Because of the leverage, a wider handlebar provides more control but is less aerodynamic, while a narrower handlebar provides less control but is more aerodynamic.
Make sure to also read our related article explaining how to choose the best mountain bike handlebar sweep for more tips and tricks. Additionally, you might find interest in these tips for choosing the right mountain bike handlebar upgrades.
Mountain Bike Handlebar Width Calculator
The ideal handlebar width can be calculated for each individual rider by using a formula that uses height.
Use this formula as a mountain bike handlebar width calculator to find the suggested handlebar width for any height: For males, multiply your height in mm by 0.440 and for females, multiply your height in mm by 0.426.
According to this article by Pinkbike, a rider's height is an important factor to consider when measuring handlebar width, and it is one of the parameters used to find the suggested handlebar width.
Chart of Corresponding Cyclist Heights and MTB Handlebar Widths
|Height (In feet & inches)||Height (in millimeters)||Female Sweet Spot Handlebar Width (in millimeters)||Male Sweet Spot Handlebar Width (in millimeters)|
Determining the Best Handlebar Width for Your Mountain Bike
There are many factors to take into consideration when deciding to choose a handlebar width for your mountain bike, but the two most important are your body height and your shoulder width. If you are a short rider and your height is displayed on the chart above, then you should pick the corresponding handlebar width, and if you are a tall rider, pick the corresponding handlebar width.
The width of a mountain bike handlebar for a rider that is 5’8” should be 736 millimeters for female riders and 760 millimeters for male riders. For a rider that is 6’0”, the width of a mountain bike handlebar should be 779 millimeters for female riders and 804 millimeters for male riders.
Advantages of Narrow Mountain Bike Handlebars
Our article that explains how to choose between mountain bike drop bars vs. flat bars looks at the differences between wide and narrow handlebars. Narrow handlebars are not as common as wide handlebars on mountain bikes, but if you use a narrow handlebar for your mountain bike due to personal preference or other factors, here are some of the benefits you will experience:
Advantage 1. Enhanced Aerodynamics
Narrower handlebars reduce aerodynamic drag. Handlebars that are narrower are more aerodynamic. The bars are a little bit smaller, but you're also urged to bend your elbows slightly inward for better positioning and aerodynamics. This article from the Journal of Wind Engineering and Industrial Aerodynamics explains how aerodynamic drag affects cyclists. Professional cyclists will also conclude that the narrow handlebar width makes it easier for them to pass other cyclists without catching their bars.
Narrow handlebars, as explained in this article by Shimano, work better with longer stem lengths because they let you move your weight forward and put you in a better position for a more powerful ride as your weight is centered over the front of your bike. Your speed will increase, and you'll be in a more aerodynamic stance with narrower handlebars.
Advantage 2. It is Easier to Maneuver Through Tight Spaces
Narrow handlebars are useful for maneuvering through small spaces. In crowded cross-mountain races and when riding through forests, narrow handlebars are preferred, which is why bikers use them. Your elbows can only move inward when your handlebars are narrow, not outward. As a result, narrow handlebars are ideal for riders who bend their elbows to absorb shocks, steer their bikes with a light touch, and avoid obstacles like rocks or trees. With narrow handlebars, you can maneuver through tight and close trails.
Disadvantages of Narrow Mountain Bike Handlebars
Below are some of the disadvantages of using a narrow handlebar:
Disadvantage 1. Less Control
There is less control when using narrow handlebars. The stability of the bikes decreases as the bars become narrower. If you want the most stable ride, a wider handlebar is probably best for you, because narrow handlebars make you feel less stable. Navigating the bike becomes more difficult when you have a narrow handlebar, and you will need to exert too much force to overcome crosswinds and bumps.
Disadvantage 2. The Steering is Less Responsive, and There is Little Leverage in Turns
Narrower handlebars have less leverage, which affects the amount of force needed to turn the handlebar by a specific amount. If the handlebars are too narrow in relation to the stem, the steering will feel even slower, you will be hunched over at the hips, and a strong riding position will be compromised. As a result, narrower handlebars require more energy to turn than wider ones, and when you have a great deal of maneuvering to do, you can bet that riding with a narrower handlebar will exhaust you more.
Advantages of Wide Mountain Bike Handlebars
When it comes to mountain bike handlebar width, wide handlebars have a lot of advantages. They provide you with more control, easier breathing, and better body weight positioning. This increases your stability and slows your fatigue rate. For more details on how to determine if wider handlebars are better, read this article by Shimano.
Advantage 1. Improved Control of the Bike
Your ability to steer and control the bike will improve with a wider bar. On challenging and steep terrain, wider bars aid in giving you more control. The bike will be easier for you to maneuver because you'll have more leverage over it. Riders can go faster and faster thanks to the extra control provided by wide handlebars.
In simple terms, when things get really fast and bumpy, they'll help you control the front wheel better. The wide bars also give you leverage in confined off-road spaces when you need to quickly turn the handlebars without first adjusting the bike with slight weight shifts. Wide handlebars make it easier to maintain balance during abrupt stops or turns and enable the rider to quickly change their weight from side to side, resulting in sleeker movements when turning corners quickly or stopping suddenly.
You'll be able to conserve energy, and it might give you more riding confidence. You will feel more stable when riding on downhill terrain and better able to maneuver when crossing obstacles if your handlebars are wide.
Advantage 2. Better Balance on the Bike
With a wider handlebar, you will develop an increased sense of balance as it's easier to hold onto wide handlebars. Furthermore, they make steering simpler. The weight of the bike is transferred uniformly across the shoulders of the rider, which may result in a more comfortable ride. A wider bar also necessitates or permits the use of a shorter stem, which can help you maintain a more upright position while riding. Weight shifts between the front and rear are made simpler and more dramatic as a result, improving overall bike control.
In the case of downhill riders, for instance, stability is essential for downhill mountain biking, and using a wider handlebar provides you with an excellent stable feel and more leverage in the corners, and all of that gives you the assurance to ride more aggressively. Wider handlebars enhance side-to-side stability and provide more pedaling leverage for prolonged standing pedal efforts or having to stand still for slow grunts up short, steep climbs. To ensure your safety while riding downhill, check out our tips and tricks to buy downhill mountain bike armor.
Advantage 3. Riding Fatigue is Reduced
Wider bars will not only allow you to change your bike direction and maintain the front wheel with less energy, but they will also allow your chest to be more open making it easier to breathe when the going gets tough and your lungs start to labor. This is due to the fact that when your arms are extended away from your torso, your lungs can expand fully, unlike when you are on a narrower bar that makes you keep your arms close to your sides and hunch over the bar. Many riders claim that wider bars enable them to open their airways and inhale more oxygen, which is important in a sport where breathing is crucial.
Disadvantages of Wide Mountain Bike Handlebars
Below are some of the disadvantages of having wider mountain bike handlebars:
Disadvantage 1. They Occupy More Space
Wide handlebars take up a lot of space, which is especially noticeable when racing, and they make it difficult to navigate narrow trails where there is a risk of trimming tree branches or getting stuck on other obstacles.
Disadvantage 2: Feel Sluggish in Tight Sections
Turning through winding terrain or around tight bends with a wide handlebar can feel slow because the handlebar is wide and you may not be able to turn the handlebar quickly. To make minor corrections when steering through tight corners, wider handlebars necessitate quicker and greater steering inputs.
Summary of Handlebar Alternatives for Improved Riding
|How do you want to change your riding?||Recommended Mountain Bike Handlebar Width||Why||Example|
|More control||Wider than the average||The bike will be easier for you to maneuver because you'll have more leverage over it.||Upanbike Mountain Bike Extra Long Handlebar|
|More power during uphill rides||Wider than the average||Wider bars will make it easier to stabilize the front wheel with less effort and will also help while climbing because they will open up your chest.||Renthal FatBar 35|
|Enhanced aerodynamics||Narrower than average||Narrower handlebars reduce aerodynamic drag, and handlebars that are narrower are more aerodynamic.||PNW Components handlebar|
|Easy to maneuver. through tight spaces.||Narrower than average||Make it easier to move through tight spaces because bikes with narrow handlebars have streamlined shapes.||Rxl Sl Carbon Handlebars, Drop Handlebars|
|Better balance on the bike||Wider than the average||It's easier to hold onto wide handlebars, and they make steering simpler.||Renthal FatBar 35|
|Riding fatigue is reduced.||Wider than average||It takes less effort to control the bike.||RaceFace Atlas Mountain Bike Handlebar|
|Handlebars occupy less space.||Narrower than average||To avoid brushing obstacles like tree branches while riding.||PNW Components|
Factors That Might Affect Comfortable Handlebar Width
There are many factors to take into account that could affect comfortable handlebar width, but the most important thing for any rider is to balance any potential advantages against any potential drawbacks. The proper bike handlebar shape and fit create a riding position that supports your upper body without placing undue stress on your neck and shoulders and controls your weight between the front and back wheels for safe handling.
Factors that affect comfortable handlebar width are shoulder pain, stunt riding, and the different types of mountain bike riding that a rider enjoys. Buy a narrower handlebar to reduce shoulder pain from injuries and a wider handlebar for stunt and technical riding.
Since it can affect your bike's safety, maneuverability, and overall comfort, the right handlebar width is essential to a cockpit setup that works well. Trimming your handlebars is a common step in achieving the ideal fit. To learn more about your mountain bike’s cockpit setup, check out our tips and tricks to alter reach using our mountain bike reach calculator.
As explained in this article by Bike-Components, the preferred handlebar width of a rider is significantly influenced by the terrain. Your speed and agility will increase with narrow handlebars, while your control and stability will increase with wider handlebars like these. In order to choose the proper handlebar, it can be helpful to understand your riding style.
Here are tips for choosing the right handlebars for your mountain bike:
Tip 1. A Narrower Handlebar is Better for Reducing Shoulder Pain
You experience less shoulder pain when the handlebars are narrower. With your humerus connecting to your shoulder and your shoulder blade seated slightly backward and downward, you are in your strongest and most stable position on your bike when using narrower handlebars like these. While having a wider handlebar increases stability, having one that is too wide puts additional strain on your neck and shoulders. This article from the Journal of Science and Cycling explains that the space between a rider's hands on the handlebar is important. Read through our guide on where to hold mountain bike grips to maintain proper posture if you are struggling with upper body discomfort.
A wide handlebar can put you in an awkward position that is likely to cause discomfort, including aches and pains. Narrower handlebars make it possible for the scapular muscles to stabilize the shoulder joint properly, improving handling and range of motion during downhills. You want to have your arms in the most relaxed position possible for maximum comfort. Your arms should be held straight out in front of you. The handlebars for this position should be shoulder-width apart.
Tip 2. A Handlebar That’s Wider is Better for a Reactive Rider That Does Bike Stunts.
Wide handlebars are advised if you are a reactive rider who likes to pull stunts like bashing into bumps and just trying to hang because they give riders a great sense of stability and control. Wide handlebars are intended to provide maximum power and strength. The design places the rider in an ergonomic position, reducing the risk of injury. You will experience greater control when you use wide handlebars.
Tip 3. Choose a Wider Handlebar for Downhill Mountain Biking
Wider handlebars are recommended for downhill mountain biking. This article by Shimano explains that due to the additional control and stability needed when moving down extremely technical downhills at high speed, handlebar width is most crucial. While downhill handlebars can be wider than 800mm, individual preference is still a factor. If you look at the handlebars used by professional downhill racers, you might notice some that are as narrow as 750mm. The handlebars of a downhill bike like this one must be especially sturdy to withstand landing hard and swift riding over uneven terrain. Aluminum and carbon are both options, but since downhill bikes are subjected to more damage, aluminum may be the more safe and cost-effective option. We discuss this in greater detail in our article that compares carbon mountain bikes vs. aluminum and which is best.
To help you reposition your weight over the rear wheel, you should probably go with bars with the highest rise like this. The handlebars with the highest rise are usually those used for downhill biking because they make it simpler to reposition your weight over the back wheel when descending steep terrain. When riding downhill, using a wider handlebar gives you a good sense of stability and more leverage in the corners, giving you the assurance to ride more aggressively.
With these wider bars, the chest and body profile are opened up to provide the most stable platform possible for going downhill. Swift descents and acute turns require rapid adjustments and maximum leverage. Many downhill riders use handlebars in the 760–820 mm range, though 760 mm might be thought of as the starting handlebar width for them.
Tip 4. Choose a Narrower Handlebar for Cross Country Mountain Biking
Cross-country riding requires narrower handlebars, but the exact width depends on your preferences. Cross-country riders enjoy having a more aerodynamic position instead of needing precise evasive maneuvers. To reduce drag and wind resistance, the hands are drawn closer together. This also closes the shoulders and chest. For quick handling and to keep the rider's center of gravity over the front of the bike, cross-country terrain handlebars are typically flat or have minimal rise and sweep like these ones.
Your climbing will benefit from you using these. Anything shorter than 760 mm is typically considered to be a handlebar for an XC bike. The degree to which you go narrower here is determined by your personal preferences and body type. A good place to start, though, might be around 740 mm. From there, you can experiment with narrower grips to see which suits you the most.
For steep climbs, narrow handlebars with lower rise handlebars and longer stems are preferable. By using a longer stem, you can exert more power more effectively on the bike because it puts you in a good position. That longer stem usually fits better with a narrower bar. Your center of gravity is pulled forward while riding the bike when you are standing because of the longer stem.
The controls will feel slower if the bars and stem are too wide, and your hips will be too bent. On difficult climbs with a steep ascent, the lower rise bar makes it easier to maintain your weight over the front wheel of the bike. When you hit those big climbs, a lower rise bar combined with a longer shaft will help you put out good power. Because a lightweight setup is essential, almost all XC bike handlebars are made of carbon fiber. Cross-country handlebars typically range in width from 680mm to 740mm.
Tip 5. Choose a Narrower Handlebar for Trail and Enduro Mountain Biking
Enduro and trail mountain biking require handlebar widths that fall somewhere between cross-country and downhill mountain biking. Given the range of terrain that trail bikes like this one can traverse, it is not surprising that trail handlebars are frequently the most diverse. The best handlebars allow you to maintain control and stability while riding downhill while also putting you in the best possible pedaling position and allowing you to squeeze between obstacles.
Balance is important, and it's crucial to discover your personal comfort zone. In spite of this, handlebars for trail or enduro biking are typically wider than cross-country bars and place greater importance on control and stability on challenging downhill terrain. Although some bikes may have handlebars as wide as 780 mm or even 800 mm, trail handlebars typically start out at around 740 mm wide.
If you spend long hours riding, you might also find the extra width and carbon fiber more comfortable for your hands due to the material's damping qualities. These enduro or trail mountain biking handlebar widths range from 740mm to 780mm.
Summary of Handlebar Alternatives for Improved Riding
|Riding Factor||What Type Of Handlebars Are Best?||Why?||Example|
|Shoulder Injuries||Narrower handlebars||Narrower handlebars allow your arms and shoulders to be in a comfortable position.||Carbon Handlebars, Mountain Bike Handlebars|
|A Reactive Riding Style||Wider handlebars||Wider handlebars help reduce the risk of injury and provide a great sense of stability and control.||Renthal FatBar Carbon Handlebar|
|Trail and Enduro Mountain Biking||Narrower handlebars||They give you the best possible pedaling position, allow you to fit between obstacles, and promote control and stability while riding downhill.||Renthal FatBar 35|
|Cross-country mountain biking||Narrower handlebars||They are useful for navigating through tight spaces and allow for more aerodynamic movement with precise evasive maneuvers.||PNW Components|
|Downhill Mountain Biking||Wider handlebars||When riding down steep terrain, you can shift your weight over the back wheel. They also provide stability and balance around corners, for aggressive riding.||Mixsuper Mountain Bike High Riser Handlebar 31.8mm Length 780mm|
How to Measure Mountain Bike Handlebar Width
The handlebars on your bike are one of the most crucial points of contact. Comfort has a lot to do with handlebar width, but there is no concrete formula or rule that can be used to determine what is comfortable except what you just feel through trial and error.
To measure the mountain bike handlebar width, first, remove both grips and bar end caps from the handlebar. Then, hook one end of the measuring tape and drag it to the other end to take the reading.
You must measure any handlebar you want to purchase because there are so many different types available from numerous different brands. Handlebars that are too wide can cause wrist pain due to their bent position as we explain in our article that provides tips for choosing mountain bike grips for large hands. On the other hand, having handlebars that are too narrow is disadvantageous because it restricts your ability to breathe.
You can use some methods, such as measuring the width of your hands while performing pushups or applying a calculation based on your height, to figure out the proper bar width. A bar that is too narrow cannot be made wider.
However, a wide bar can always be made narrower by cutting it with a hacksaw and guide. The purchase of wider handlebars and, if necessary, their subsequent trimming to fit is frequently a wise decision.
Follow these steps below to know how to measure a mountain bike handlebar:
Step 1. Remove Both Grips and Bar End Caps
To take an accurate measurement of the handlebar, you must remove all of the handlebar accessories.
Step 2. Hook One End of the Measuring Tape
Put the measuring tape on your mountain bike's handlebars and hold one end of it there.
Step 3. Drag to the Other End and Take the Reading
Take a reading in mm at the point where the handlebar ends by pulling the tape along the handlebar towards the other end. This is the width of the handlebars.