Flat vs. Riser Handlebars: Which Style is Right for Your Mountain Bike?
Mountain biking is an exhilarating and challenging sport that requires the right equipment to ensure you have an enjoyable ride. When it comes to handlebars, there are two main styles to consider: flat vs. riser handlebars. Deciding between these two options can be confusing as each style has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. In order to make an informed decision, it's important to understand the differences between flat vs. riser handlebars. This article provides helpful information and guidance to assist you in choosing the ideal style of handlebar for your mountain bike based on your riding style and preferences.
When deciding between flat vs. riser handlebars, flat handlebars are ideal for achieving a lower, more aerodynamic riding position, resulting in a more comfortable ride due to the rider being closer to the bike's center of gravity. On the other hand, riser handlebars are better suited for recreational riding, as they provide more stability and control.
This video tutorial by Clint Gibbs provides a detailed comparison of flat and riser handlebars for mountain bikes.
To ensure you get the best handlebar type for your riding style, it’s important to understand what makes each one unique. In this article, we’ll discuss flat vs. riser mountain bike handlebars so that you can decide which type is best for you.
What Are Flat Handlebars?
Flat bars are generally lighter and easier to maneuver than riser bars. The flat shape also allows the rider to get into a more aerodynamic position, making them ideal for racing or long-distance rides.
Flat handlebars are a popular type of mountain bike handlebar, characterized by a flat, rectangular shape and width of around 10 inches. Due to their width, flat bars provide greater stability when riding over uneven terrain.
Flat handlebars like these come in various widths which help with stability and control. Our article about how to choose mountain bike handlebar width for your bike and riding style takes an in-depth look at various factors that need to be considered when decking on your handlebar width.
What Are Riser Handlebars?
Riser handlebars are wider and bend upwards slightly. The higher handlebar position of riser handlebars allows for more relaxed and upright riding, which is great for recreational riders who want to enjoy the scenery.
Riser mountain bike handlebars feature a wider and upward-curving design compared to flat bars, typically around 15 inches wide. These handlebars provide riders with a higher handlebar position, which increases stability during steep descents or when navigating technical terrain.
The extra width of riser handlebars, as explained in our guide on how to choose mountain bike width, provides more leverage so that you can generate more power while pedaling.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Flat and Riser Handlebars?
When it comes to mountain bike handlebars, the choice between flat vs. riser handlebars plays a crucial role in determining the rider's posture and positioning while pedaling. Incorrectly positioned handlebars can lead to serious injuries, which is why it's important to carefully consider which type of handlebar is best suited for your riding style and preferences.
Riser bars offer several advantages, including enhanced stability, control, and power, making them ideal for steep descents and technical terrain where better control is required. However, riser bars tend to be heavier and more challenging to maneuver. On the other hand, flat handlebars are lighter and offer easier maneuverability, promoting a more aerodynamic riding position due to their lower profile. However, flat bars may not provide as much control or power as riser bars.
This article from the Clinical Biomechanics journal, explains how a rider’s weight is positioned on the cervical spine, and what loads tender areas like the perineum will have to endure if the incorrect handlebar position is not rectified.
Additionally, the higher handlebar position makes it harder to get into an aerodynamic riding position, which can be a disadvantage for racers or long-distance riders. Our article on whether you can put drop handlebars on a mountain bike explains how these types of bars offer riders variations in their positions when riding so that they can adopt more aerodynamic positions when necessary.
These are the advantages of using riser bars:
Greater Stability on Steep Descents and Technical Terrain
Riser bars like these are an excellent choice for mountain bikers who want to enjoy stability and control on steep descents. With their wider and more curved design, they provide up to 15 inches of width, allowing riders to get a higher handlebar position that can help them stay in control even when the terrain is challenging. This extra leverage also provides more power when pedaling.
Our article about whether you should position your mountain bike seat higher than the handlebar explains the ideal position of the seat in relation to the handlebar to ensure safe riding on any terrain.
Higher Handlebar Position
Riser bars provide a higher handlebar position for riders who want to enjoy the scenery or tackle technical terrain. The extra width of the handlebars also makes it easier to transfer energy from your arms and upper body into the bike, making it easier to power through tricky sections. This article from SpringerLink investigates common cycling injuries that result from sup-optimal handlebar positions and how to avoid cycling accidents by adjusting the handlebar position.
More Power When Pedaling
Riser bars provide more leverage when pedaling, allowing riders to generate more power. This is particularly beneficial for those who tackle steep ascents or technical terrain. The last thing you would want to face on rough terrain is a lack of power.
If you are interested in improving your pedaling power and cadence then our guide on choosing between mountain bike toe clips and clipless pedals is a must-read.
Easier To Maintain an Upright Riding Position
Riser bars make it easier to maintain an upright riding position, which is great for recreational riders who want to enjoy the scenery. Most importantly, this position helps reduce fatigue and make the ride more enjoyable.
These are the disadvantages of riding with riser handlebars:
Heavier Than Flat Bars
Riser bars are usually heavier than flat bars, which can be an issue if you're trying to ride with as much speed as possible. While the weight difference is not huge, it can still make a difference when it comes to racing or long-distance rides because it can cause fatigue in the arms and torso.
More Difficult To Maneuver
Due to the wider design and higher handlebar position of riser bars, they can be more challenging to maneuver than flat bars. This could affect your handling in tight corners or on technical terrain.
Less Aerodynamic Riding Position
The higher handlebar position makes it harder to get into an aerodynamic riding position, which is beneficial for racers or long-distance riders. If you choose riser bars, you’ll have to work extra hard to achieve a lower position and greater speed. Though if you do both competitive and leisure riding, there is nothing stopping you from changing your handlebars from riser bars to flat bars or vice versa as necessary.
Having a basic toolkit will enable you to make changes to your mountain bike yourself, so we recommend that you take a look at our mountain bike toolkit essentials guide to see what tools you’ll need.
These are the advantages of riding with flat mountain bike handlebars:
Lightweight and Easier To Maneuver
Flat bars like these are lightweight and easier to maneuver than riser bars. This makes them an ideal choice for racing or long-distance rides, as your arms won’t get tired easily. This means you can ride longer and faster.
Lower Riding Position
The lower handlebar position allows riders to get into a more aerodynamic position, which is great for racers or long-distance riders. Most importantly, this position is more comfortable and helps reduce fatigue.
These are the disadvantages of riding with flat mountain bike handlebars:
Reduced Control and Power
The flat design of the handlebars doesn’t provide as much control or power as the riser bars. If you’re riding on technical terrain or steep ascents, this could be an issue. You might find yourself struggling to have enough leverage to control the bike or get up hills.
Less Stability on Steep Descents
Flat bars don’t provide as much stability as riser bars, which can be a problem on steep descents. You might find it harder to stay in control and feel confident when going downhill.
If you enjoy downhill riding then our article about how to buy downhill mountain bike armor will help you choose the correct protective gear for this terrain.
Tips for Choosing Between Flat vs. Riser Bars
When it comes to mountain bike handlebars, choosing between flat vs. riser handlebars can have a significant impact on your riding experience. Riser bars offer increased stability and control, making them ideal for technical terrain and steep descents. On the other hand, flat bars are lighter and offer easier maneuverability, making them a popular choice for racing or long-distance travel.
When tackling technical terrain or steep ascents, riser bars can provide more control and power. However, when racing or going long distances, flat bars are usually the better option as they’re lighter and easier to maneuver.
Follow these tips when choosing between flat vs. riser handlebars:
Tip 1. Try Flat Handlebars If You're Racing
Flat handlebars are light and easy to maneuver, making them the ideal choice for racing or long-distance rides. For example, the lower handlebar position helps you get into an aerodynamic riding position and reduces fatigue. This greatly benefits those who are trying to ride with as much speed as possible.
Tip 2. Mountain Bike Riders Should Try Riser Handlebars To Get a Better View of the Terrain
Riser handlebars like this, provide more control and power, which can be beneficial on technical terrain or steep ascents. Therefore, they're the ideal choice for mountain bikers who are tackling rough terrain. The wider design and higher handlebar position also give riders a better view of the trail ahead, allowing them to plan their route with ease.
Tip 3. Choose Riser Bars for Technical Terrain
Riser bars provide more control and power than flat bars, which makes them great for technical terrain or steep ascents. The wider design and higher handlebar position can help riders stay in control on tough trails or climbs. This is especially beneficial for downhill or mountain bike riders.
Tip 4. Test Out Different Handlebars
The best way to find the right handlebar for you is to test out different ones. Experiment with both flat and riser bars to see which one fits your riding style and offers the most control, power, and comfort. Remember that the choice is ultimately up to you!
Summary of What Handlebar Type Suits Different Terrain or Situations
|Riding Situation||Best Handlebar||Example Product||Price|
|Mountain Bike Racing||Flat Bar||Upanbike Mountain Bike Road Bike Handlebar Aluminum Alloy Flat Bar||~$25|
|Downhill Riding||Riser Bar||Mixsuper Mountain Bike High Riser Handlebar 31.8mm Length 720mm Rise 90mm Aluminium Alloy Mtb Handlebar Red||~$40|
|Needing a Lightweight Bar||Flat Bar||Satori Horizon Bow Professional Level Mtb Mountain Bike Bicycle Full Carbon Fibre Flat Straight Handlebar||~$80|
|Better Visibility of the Trail Ahead||Riser Bar||Upanbike Mountain Bike Road Bike Handlebar Aluminum Alloy Riser Bar||~$25|
How To Find Comfortable Handlebars for Your Mountain Bike
After deciding between flat vs. riser handlebars, the next step is to find the right handlebars for your mountain bike. Look for handlebars that prioritize comfort with a wider design and extra padding compared to traditional handlebars.
To find comfortable handlebars for a mountain bike, look for handlebars with wider designs and ample cushioning.
The comfort of handlebars can also be enhanced with handlebar grips, as explained in our article about handlebar grip upgrades.
Comfortable handlebars help reduce fatigue while riding and give riders a better grip on rough terrain. Look for a comfort-specific handlebar that is made from durable materials and provides plenty of cushioning. Depending on the type of mountain biking you do, you may also want to consider handlebars with a thicker diameter for extra control, or ones with multiple rise heights for added versatility.
Follow these tips to find comfortable handlebars for your mountain bike:
Tip 1. Opt for Handlebars With Thicker Diameters for Added Strength and Stability.
Look for handlebars with thicker diameters if you’re looking for added control. This is especially beneficial for downhill and technical mountain biking, as it helps keep the bike stable when tackling rough terrain. Our article about choosing mountain bike grip diameter offers tips and tricks to help you choose the right size for your hand size.
Tip 2. Look for Handlebars With Multiple Rise Heights to Find the Best Fit for Your Riding Style
If you’re an all-around mountain biker, you’ll want to look for handlebars with multiple-rise heights, or install an adjustable stem riser like this one. This allows you to adjust the height depending on your riding style and terrain. It also gives you more control over the bike in different situations.
Tip 3. Choose Handlebars Made from Durable Materials to Ensure They Can Withstand Rough Terrain and Frequent Use
When choosing a comfortable handlebar for your mountain bike, make sure it’s made from durable materials. The handlebar should be strong enough to withstand the rough terrain and any sudden movements you may encounter during your ride. Look for high-quality products that are designed to last. If you are still deciding on your handlebar type, be sure to have a look at our tips and tricks for choosing mountain bike handlebar upgrades that will work well with your mountain bike.
Can You Put Different Handlebars on a Mountain Bike?
It’s important to note that some handlebars may require additional adapters or spacers to fit correctly onto your mountain bike. Additionally, you may need to purchase a stem with an adjustable reach if the original stem is too short or long. Be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions before installing new handlebars on your mountain bike.
It is possible to replace the handlebars on a mountain bike. To do so, start by removing the existing handlebar and stem. Next, measure the length and width of the old stem to ensure that the new stem and handlebar are the same size. Finally, attach the new stem and handlebar, making sure that all screws are properly tightened.
The right handlebars can significantly impact your mountain biking experience. When choosing between flat vs. riser handlebars, be sure to test out different handlebars to find the best one for your needs. Consider handlebars with thicker diameters, multiple-rise heights, and made from durable materials.
Additionally, installing different handlebars on your mountain bike is possible if you follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Our article about the simple steps for adding drop bars to a mountain bike as well as other essential mountain bike accessories, demonstrate how you can customize your bike with accessories that improve your comfort and enjoyment.