The best road bike handlebar
The handlebars of a road bike don't elicit much thought unless a rider's hands cramp up or go numb from holding them in an uncomfortable position, or when a rider is trying to shed weight from a bicycle without sacrificing stability or comfort. Suddenly, that elegantly curved bar on the top of the bike stem takes on a different dimension.
Replacing handlebars is a series of tradeoffs between design, weight, comfort, balance, and stability. Read our shopping guide to get a feel for the different features you may want to consider. For comparison, we've included a few of our product recommendations, such as our top pick by Control Tech, which designs its handlebars for maximum comfort during long rides.
Considerations when choosing road bike handlebars
On a road bike, handlebars allow for five different grip positions to improve comfort or help with climbs, descents, and straightaways. Riders can put their hands on the top bar (the straight top part of the handlebars), lean forward to rest their hands on the hoods (the parts that point straight ahead) or a little further to grab the ramps (the portion just before the downward curve where the hooks begin). They may grip the hooks (the outward curved portion of the handlebars) on a descent or place their hands on the drops (the parts that curve back inward toward the rider) to really pick up speed on the downhill.
A handlebar's measurements help riders find their preferred style. For example, the drop (measurement) is the distance between the top of the bar and the bottom of the lower inward curved portion. The bigger this measurement, the more of a rider's weight rests on the handlebar when gripping the lower portion. Reach, width, and diameter of the handlebars should also be taken into consideration when choosing handlebars.
The shape of a handlebar is important, too. Lower-priced handlebars are often simply bent into position with little to no variation in tube diameter, while higher-priced handlebars have more ergonomic shaping that can make long rides more comfortable for the hands.
The aluminum alloy that is a hallmark of more economical handlebars isn't a bad thing. It holds up better to impact from falls or crashes than pricey carbon fiber handlebars. It's a decision between weight and durability.
The curvy drop handlebar is the gold standard and the most popular style for road bikes, but designs like elbow-friendly aero handlebars are available.
Road bike handlebar prices
The lowest-priced handlebars can be found for $20 to $50 and are made of heavier aluminum alloy. Look for handlebars in the $50 to $150 range for a better choice of designs and materials. If you want high-performance carbon fiber handlebars, expect to pay $150 and up.
Q. My hands get very uncomfortable when holding the top bar for long periods. How can I relieve this?
A. Discomfort and cramping is common on long rides when you hold the same position. Practice other grips at different positions on the handlebar so you are accustomed to using them and change grips frequently during a ride.
Q. I feel like I'm leaning too far forward on my handlebars and have trouble looking up to see ahead. What is a normal position for riders or handlebars?
A. It's really up to the rider to determine what is a "normal" or comfortable position for them. If you feel too far forward or off balance, the handlebars may be too low in relation to the seat. Try adjusting the seat and handlebar heights until you get a riding angle that feels natural to you.
Road bike handlebars we recommend
Best of the best: Control Tech Formidable Anatomic Bend Road Bike Handlebar
Our take: Inspiring performance and well-thought-out ergonomics make this a top choice for road bikes.
What we like: Comfortable drops and an ergonomic top bar design make for handlebars that are easy on the hands, wrists, and forearms. It's lightweight for aluminum alloy handlebars. Pre-marked set angles make the handlebars easier to install and adjust.
What we dislike: The hood sits a bit lower than handlebars with comparable reach (though this may be a preference for some).
Best bang for your buck: UPANBIKE Road Bicycle Drop Handlebar
Our take: Surprising quality for the price, making this a perfect upgrade for older bikes.
What we like: Sturdy yet light, these handlebars holds up to tough commutes and long weekend rides. It's a great upgrade for project bikes. Riders can easily install an aero bar on top of this one if they like.
What we dislike: The thick center taper at the top of the bar limits what you can attach to it.
Choice 3: FSA Omega Compact Road Handlebar
Our take: Built with comfort in mind, these compact handlebars fit most riders well.
What we like: The slightly flared drops improve comfort for riders, particularly those with smaller hands. The reach is just right for most and its compact design means riders can switch easily between grips to improve their overall ride.
What we dislike: Leveling the shifters can be a pain.
Samantha Bookman is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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