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Narrower bars - has anyone NOT got on with them?

neebneeb Posts: 4,445
edited January 2019 in Road buying advice
Thinking of switching to 38mm bars (from 40mm, although with 42mm drops). Basically for the aero benefits.

A lot of people seem to rate narrower bars, but has anyone found that they haven't got on with them? Thinking about comfort over longer rides, possible affects on handling etc.

My shoulders are probably 40-41cm centre to centre (i.e. between pivot points, maybe about 43-44cm total external width).

Posts

  • MatthewfalleMatthewfalle Posts: 17,380
    i normally ride 40s but was given a really nice set of 38s that I put on a build - too small, cramped, couldn't breath, felt like i was riding a child's bike.

    didn't make any differenxe to handling just made the bike uncomfortable to ride.
    Postby team47b » Sun Jun 28, 2015 11:53 am

    De Sisti wrote:
    This is one of the silliest threads I've come across. :lol:

    Recognition at last Matthew, well done!, a justified honour :D
    smithy21 wrote:

    He's right you know.
  • Yes, I ride smaller frames from most manufacturers. When I started riding and bought complete bikes they always had 40cm bars. Never felt right, just too cramped. When I built up my first frame from scratch I switched to 42cm which is perfect for me.
  • lincolndavelincolndave Posts: 9,441
    I was told on a bike fit I would be better off with 38 cm bars, I tried some for a few rides but changed them to a 40 cm, 40s are fitted on all my bikes now
    The original bars fitted were 42cm
  • mercia_manmercia_man Posts: 1,426
    I didn't get on particularly well with narrower bars when I switched from 42 to 40 on my tourer some years back. It was most noticeable when riding with camping gear in front and rear panniers. The handling was more twitchy, the steering was heavier and I occasionally got interference with my knees. I later went back to 42 and stuck with that width on all my bikes until my most recent - a Legend custom carbon road bike. Thanks to an English/Italian language misunderstanding, my new bike was fitted with 44 bars. But I have to say I like them. They seem to give a greater sense of control and stability when descending on bumpy roads.

    So I would suggest only switching to 38 if riding aero is the most important thing for you or if you are a smaller than average rider.
  • frozefroze Posts: 160
    I don't really care to be quite frank! I don't care because I know in about 20 years or so someone will go back and make an argument for wider drop bars again and then we'll all be on that kick, so I just go by the old standard rule of measuring your clavicle and adding 2cm, this will help keep your wrist straight instead of having to constantly be canting the wrist in or out to ride your bike which can cause your hands to get tingly, also a narrower bar could also put more tension and stress on the forearm at the elbow causing discomfort there that can lead to something similar to tennis elbow. If you're measurement comes up odd simply add 1cm.

    The original idea for many years is to go with a wider bar even when racing because it opened the lungs up by spreading out your chest, now they say the opposite is the case, quite frankly I don't think they know! I've talked to people who raced with both wide and narrow bars and in the aspect of breathing they said they couldn't tell the difference, and for that I agree.

    Of course if you'll be racing the aerodynamics can be an issue, the other issue with racing is that a narrower bar can help you thread through tight crowded bicycle traffic a bit easier, but if you're not racing go for comfort and don't worry about the slight aerodynamic advantage or being able to thread through a crowd of cyclists, it will make your riding experience more pleasurable. On a heavily loaded touring bike it's actually more beneficial and more comfortable to go with a bar that is about 2cm wider than normal even though your wrist might angle out a bit more but the less work you have to do to control the bike will return any discomfort from that. Most of that touring bike stuff is because most touring bikes have a higher trail than a standard road bike and bikes with this higher trail geometry have a tendency to have a wee bit more wheel flop then a lower trail bike and with a load it gets more exaggerated so the wider bar tames that sensation. The problem with going to wide can result in pain between the shoulder blades so you have to be careful on a touring bike you don't go too wide, and usually 2cm extra shouldn't cause a problem (by the way, that is how you can tell if your current bars are too wide).

    Also you have to consider the drop of the bar, too much of a drop means you have to lift your head more to see where you're going and this can lead to a sore neck, so generally for the non racer it's better to go with a shallow drop due to better comfort making your riding more enjoyable which means you'll want to stay with cycling for years to come.

    Just opinions by the way.
  • I went from 42 to 38cm with no problems and I'm pretty broad shouldered.

    Felt weird for a few minutes then you get used to them tbh
  • paulbnixpaulbnix Posts: 552
    I like 38's.
    I bought them by mistake because the quoted width of 40 was measured outer to outer but they really suited me.
    My clavicle is about 38.
  • Btw the wide bar breathing thing. How can time trialists stay in such a ridiculously narrow position for hours on end if their breathing should be so massively affected?
  • imposter2.0imposter2.0 Posts: 11,729
    Btw the wide bar breathing thing. How can time trialists stay in such a ridiculously narrow position for hours on end if their breathing should be so massively affected?

    Or team/individual pursuiters on the track, for that matter. Even track endurance riders tend to favour bars around 36-38cm width, generally-speaking. Assuming one has a normal skeletal structure (ie, you have a rib cage with lungs inside it), how close-together your arms are is not going to affect your ability to breathe. The shoulder width thing is also a red herring..
  • cougiecougie Posts: 22,512
    Btw the wide bar breathing thing. How can time trialists stay in such a ridiculously narrow position for hours on end if their breathing should be so massively affected?

    Because it's a totally different position. Their arms are forward and the chest is open.

    Personally I prefer the wide bars. I can see they won't be as aero but most of the time I'm not that bothered. If you're not racing on the bike - I don't think it's necessary.
  • neebneeb Posts: 4,445
    Interesting range of opinions!

    Clearly the only real option is to try it and see how I get on. I like the 3T ergonovas / ernovas. Current ones are 42s, which with the slightly flared drops means they are actually 40 on the hoods / top of the bars. There are some good deals around right now on these as 3T have replaced them with the superergos (which seem to be pretty similar although critically are sized by the measurement across the hoods, so a 40cm superergo = a 42cm ergonova/ernova).

    Need/want new bars anyway as current ones have been crashed (although they seem OK they are old and it's probably about time I replaced them), also mine are the older ergonovas without the internal cable routing and I could use that. Going to try the 40cm ernovas which are close to 38cm at the hoods.

    (Incidentally if anyone wants some *really* narrow bars Merlin have a great deal on the 38cm Ernova Ltds (which are effectively 36mm..). £150 (these are the uber light ones). Equivalent superergos are £325 and they don't come in a size that small (the 38cm is 38cm)).
  • DeVlaeminckDeVlaeminck Posts: 7,794
    I like narrower bars but the only issue I have found is on a bike with a shorter stem than I'd usually choose - still 10cm though - sprinting requires a bit more thought to avoid the front end "tucking under" than with the 44cms the bike came with originally. That may not be a universal thing of course.
    [Castle Donington Ladies FC - going up in '22]
  • cougiecougie Posts: 22,512
    neeb wrote:
    (Incidentally if anyone wants some *really* narrow bars Merlin have a great deal on the 38cm Ernova Ltds (which are effectively 36mm..). £150 (these are the uber light ones). Equivalent superergos are £325 and they don't come in a size that small (the 38cm is 38cm)).

    Sweet baby Jesus. What do £300 bars do for their money ?
  • neebneeb Posts: 4,445
    cougie wrote:
    neeb wrote:
    (Incidentally if anyone wants some *really* narrow bars Merlin have a great deal on the 38cm Ernova Ltds (which are effectively 36mm..). £150 (these are the uber light ones). Equivalent superergos are £325 and they don't come in a size that small (the 38cm is 38cm)).

    Sweet baby Jesus. What do £300 bars do for their money ?
    :D Basically they are just very light (while still managing to be stiff). About 170g. Although if I was going to spend that sort of money on uber-light bars (which I'm not), I'd go for these, which are about 50g lighter:
    http://darimo.eu/en/darimo-ellipse-road-handlebar
  • neebneeb Posts: 4,445
    I like narrower bars but the only issue I have found is on a bike with a shorter stem than I'd usually choose - still 10cm though - sprinting requires a bit more thought to avoid the front end "tucking under" than with the 44cms the bike came with originally. That may not be a universal thing of course.
    At least with the ernovas the drops are 2cm wider than the hoods which should help to mitigate that. Running an 11cm stem at the moment.

    I wonder if it could also be an issue climbing out of the saddle - slightly less leverage?
  • MatthewfalleMatthewfalle Posts: 17,380
    cougie wrote:

    Sweet baby Jesus. What do £300 bars do for their money ?

    this on today of all days, totally and utterly this.
    Postby team47b » Sun Jun 28, 2015 11:53 am

    De Sisti wrote:
    This is one of the silliest threads I've come across. :lol:

    Recognition at last Matthew, well done!, a justified honour :D
    smithy21 wrote:

    He's right you know.
  • neebneeb Posts: 4,445
    cougie wrote:

    Sweet baby Jesus. What do £300 bars do for their money ?

    this on today of all days, totally and utterly this.
    Well, I don’t know. It’s a pagan winter solstice festival after all. I’ll bet our Anglian/ Pictish/Gaelic/Norse ancestors would have been really into flashy handlebars. Probably steel with abundant gold and enamelled embellishment and weighting 5kg, but still.. :-)
  • MatthewfalleMatthewfalle Posts: 17,380
    neeb wrote:
    cougie wrote:

    Sweet baby Jesus. What do £300 bars do for their money ?

    this on today of all days, totally and utterly this.
    Well, I don’t know. It’s a pagan winter solstice festival after all. I’ll bet our Anglian/ Pictish/Gaelic/Norse ancestors would have been really into flashy handlebars. Probably steel with abundant gold and enamelled embellishment and weighting 5kg, but still.. :-)


    ¿but WILL NO ONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN????!!!!
    Postby team47b » Sun Jun 28, 2015 11:53 am

    De Sisti wrote:
    This is one of the silliest threads I've come across. :lol:

    Recognition at last Matthew, well done!, a justified honour :D
    smithy21 wrote:

    He's right you know.
  • I recently went from 42cm to 38cm. I'm at least 0.5 mph faster (27mph ave vs. 26.5mph).
    Not had a chance to try them outdoors yet though.
    "You really think you can burn off sugar with exercise?" downhill paul
  • imposter2.0imposter2.0 Posts: 11,729
    I recently went from 42cm to 38cm. I'm at least 0.5 mph faster (27mph ave vs. 26.5mph).
    Not had a chance to try them outdoors yet though.

    Does not compute. Or are you not being serious?
  • neebneeb Posts: 4,445
    Imposter wrote:
    I recently went from 42cm to 38cm. I'm at least 0.5 mph faster (27mph ave vs. 26.5mph).
    Not had a chance to try them outdoors yet though.

    Does not compute. Or are you not being serious?
    He’s being typically quite funny (I reluctantly have to admit, although it’s quite cutting and at my expense.. ;-)).
  • neeb wrote:
    Imposter wrote:
    I recently went from 42cm to 38cm. I'm at least 0.5 mph faster (27mph ave vs. 26.5mph).
    Not had a chance to try them outdoors yet though.

    Does not compute. Or are you not being serious?
    He’s being typically quite funny (I reluctantly have to admit, although it’s quite cutting and at my expense.. ;-)).

    No offence intended neeb :)
    "You really think you can burn off sugar with exercise?" downhill paul
  • philbar72philbar72 Posts: 2,228
    started with 42's and have ended up back with 42s on the favourite bike. over the last 5 -6 years have tried all sorts to be honest. 38's from zipp ( Sl70) and then ergonovas in a variety of sizes. sl70 aeros on the climbing bike, which work pretty well at 40cm across the tops and 42 on the drops...

    now I'm not racing anymore, i'll just go for comfort... and not worry about aeros.
  • lakesludditelakesluddite Posts: 1,337
    neeb wrote:
    I like narrower bars but the only issue I have found is on a bike with a shorter stem than I'd usually choose - still 10cm though - sprinting requires a bit more thought to avoid the front end "tucking under" than with the 44cms the bike came with originally. That may not be a universal thing of course.
    At least with the ernovas the drops are 2cm wider than the hoods which should help to mitigate that. Running an 11cm stem at the moment.

    I wonder if it could also be an issue climbing out of the saddle - slightly less leverage?

    When I had a (albeit rudimentary) bike fit for a new frame build a few years ago, they recommended that as I lived in a hilly area, then going 42 rather than 40 would be better for this precise reason.
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