Do bar widths depend on body size?

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  • Do bar widths depend on body size?
  • A long, long time ago I remember reading that the bars should be as wide your shoulders. I assume that was so that your arms would be in as neutral position as possible. Although I don’t think I’ve heard this advice for about twenty years, It’s still what I do which probably make me a luddite too.


    Ah muppet, I read the same thing, probably in the same mag all that time ago! Luddite…. 😉


    I have fairly narrow shoulders and find over wide bars uncomfortable

    Premier Icon aracer

    you always buy a bike with the right size frame, yet handle bar widths don’t seem to be seen as something that should vary with body size

    Of course not – the correct thing to do is just slap on the widest thing you can get.


    OK, so I’m a luddite, I still run a 630mm bar although on the newer bike, I do think I’m going to go for a raically wide 690mm. This however has got me thinking, you always buy a bike with the right size frame, yet handle bar widths don’t seem to be seen as something that should vary with body size. Would I, reasonably broad shoulders, 6′ tall (I’d give proper dimensions if I could be bothered measuring but I think the wife would look at me all funny if she walked in and I was measuring body parts) use the same size bar as someone say 5′ tall and ultra slim given the same type of riding on the same type of bike?
    I know all things are personal preferance, but doesn’t size really matter?


    i went from 680 to 750 best thing i ever did. More control and leverage on the trails full stop!


    Pinkbike – How wide handlebars affect your ride

    I found this very informative. Currently looking for some wider bars myself now.


    you always buy a bike with the right size frame

    You see – that isn’t an exact science either. How it feels and for many, how it looks.


    i use 27″ bars. wider feel uncomfortable to me and i cant control my bike as well as with the 27s

    Premier Icon jameso

    it’s not an exact science, no. bar width is proportional to body size on road bikes and i’d say it should be on mtbs to some extent, but it is less important and more about handling and riding style.
    a 740mm bar on a 14″ mtb frame for a 5′ rider may increase the reach too much if the bike fitted well with a 660mm bar. as your arms widen, your body has to lean forward a bit to compenste, so you’ll need a shorter stem for it to work well.

    690mm is a good bar width for general riding, at 6′ especially. 710mm wouldn’t be too wide.


    i would also say as your bars get wider the gaps you can get through also get wider, which if your riding through woodland starts to become a problem.

    traditionally road bars are sized to shoulder width,


    For road bikes you definitely want to take your shoulder width into account.

    For mountain bikes it’s a bit more complicated. Wider bars do have certain advantages, but if it feels uncomfortable it’s probably wrong. FWIW I have 680 wide bars and wouldn’t want to go any wider for my rides purely on the basis of being able to fit through gaps.

    Best thing would be to try riding someones bike fitted with wide bars and see how you like it!


    I’m 6ft4 and broad shouldered and to be honest I’m finding my Easton Havens a little uncomfortable, getting a lot of weaving on steep climbs, probably just need to get used to them, they’re a lot lighter than my previous bar, I might need a shorter stem, currently running a 80.

    Premier Icon convert

    Ex swimmer/triathlete (and genetically predisposed to that rather than mtb) so wide shoulders. Recently put some flat bars on a xc bike again but the old 580mm I had felt restrictive. I bought some 620mm ones which even for me when using using bar ends in race(ish) mode was as wide as I would want to go.

    At the other end of the scale I do find wider gives more control downhill but as I’m not very rad I have tempered that not by my size but by the tight trails I tend to ride- wide bars meant my hands were constantly getting ripped up in the brambles and some bits through trees were slower as forced to take a non terminal line! Just under 700mm seems to be as wide as I’d want to go now but as I say I’m far from gnar!

    So to answer your question ergonomics does(should?) play a part but so does geography and riding style.

    The best advice I’ve seen is to have them optimum push-up width. This matches their width to your particular combination of shoulder width, arm length and muscle balance.

    I should add the caveat that I ride bars about 1.5″ narrower than that due to the trees round here!

    I have silly wide bars on my “big” bike, and they feel pretty spot on after initial rides. I don’t have particularly wide shoulders, but I do have big long monkey arms and a short stem and frame.

    wide feels sturdy for me… feel more in control, jumping on a bike with narrower bars feels too twitchy for me personally.

    mrsconsequence took my old bars to replace the narrow bars put on as standard on her ‘wimminz spec’ bike, first ride after she was beaming saying how much more confident it made her feel. i’d suspect, and i can only comment from personal experience, that (especially in the halfords price bracket) the standard bars thrown on a bike aren’t special and are targeted at the average rider. mrsconsequence is tall with long arms so needed wider than the normal wimminz.

    however… if i was too go too wide i’m sure it wouldn’t feel fantastic! my guess is its a case of finding the width that suits you as a rider, along with the angle of your bars, position of brakes, gear shifters etc etc. there is no ‘correct’ set-up other than what’s optimal for the individual.


    Dont just change your bars, you need to think about how the extra width may require a change in your stem length.

    I now use 810mm with a short stem. If I hold my arms out infront of me they are comfy at that spread, Im under 6 foot tall.

    I have hit a few trees though 🙂


    Real mix in the house, two riders here, both 5’10 old one with med (normal) arms, young one with ape like arms! Most are 710 but depends on age of bike (though the older bikes have had wider bars than they started on), use, and size of wheels and age of rider.

    Range is 630 on retro bike (did have 580s once!) to 780 on young one’s DH bike. I have 745s on burly 29ner but can’t quite get use to them.

    I catch things with 745s, James never catches things with wider bars on similar bike same ride. I only went wider when I saw how he rode (I originally was dismissive of wider bars), but they have been great and really improved bike ride even on the retro.

    Worth noting I have usually shortened the stem at the same time so it is a mix of things….

    ps a couple of DH racers riding 810s at winter event could not get between two trees!

    thats a point… i was very close to buying a longer stem to adjust my body position, but that would’ve pulled my COG forward, by going for wider bars my COG has stayed where it is, no new stem.

    oh and they’re anodised purple, which means i’m a pimp.


    I used to run 580mm bars on my old bike, when bought a new one it came with 685mm which I tried to get on with for a year or so but couldn’t. Recently took them down to 630mm and they’re about perfect, I’m 5’5″ but broad shouldered.

    IMO it’s almost certainly dependent on your physique and riding style/location. As above I ride mainly tight woody singletrack so narrower bars are better for me. When I do hit the rougher stuff I’m no Peaty so the advantages of a much wider bar are probably wasted on me.

    I did read somewhere that wider bars are better not only as they give you more control on the downs, but open up your chest so allow for faster recovery from the climbs. Of course I may have read that on here somewhere which means it’s got no science behind it at all but it makes sense to me.


    Phil – wider bars would still bring your upper body forward a little so your COG would still move I’d think, just not quite so noticeable perhaps?


    Also in the ‘used to be dismissive of wide bars’ camp, but thought I would actually try a pair rather than just write it off as ‘fashion’

    Went from 70mm stem/630 bars to 50mm stem/685 bars and the difference was really noticable – bike felt more stable, more scope to move body weight due the the wider ‘trangle’ of hands/butt, and the opening up of the chest reduced shoulder ache and cured my tenedency to hunch up.

    As for tree clearance, I ride almost exclusively wooded twisty singletrack, never clipped a tree that I’ve seen coming – clearance (like many bike skillz) is, I find, mainly in the head.

    as soon as I can, I’m going to try going proper wide as 685 is only an inch on either end of 630, mebbe go up to 750’s, can always cut them down.

    The wider the bar, the bigger the gnar 😉

    Premier Icon chakaping

    yeah, stem and frame length are important too.

    wide bars and short stem on a short frame made me feel as if I was being crucified. painful for XC

    new bike has a long TT and 50mm stem and 720mm bar are fine for XC.

    710mm bar and 50mm or 60mm stem are probably my personal preference for XC


    ^^ that pinkbike link is impressively clear and thorough

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