Varieties of Handlebars

August 21, 2010

Changing handlebar styles can significantly change the character of your bike. Sometimes a change is needed for comfort, while other times you simply want to spice up your ride a bit. Here's a brief look at four of the most common handlebar styles that we see roll through the Adventure Cycling office -- might give you some ideas for any upcoming retrofits to your touring bike.

Drop Bars: These are by far the most common handlebar for road/touring bikes. They even pop up on mountain bikes, such as the Salsa Fargo, and Co-Motion Pangea. The big benefit with drop bars is that they give you a lot of different riding positions. Putting your hands on the tops of the bars will give you a more upright position, you can stretch out by riding on the brake hoods, or move to a lower position in the drops to fight headwinds. As the most common style of handlebar, they have taken on a number of slight modifications, which include ergonomic bends, and 'randonee bends,' which flare out a little more in the drops to give you some additional stability.


Flat Bars: Most commonly found on mountain and commuter bikes, these offer a very stable handling platform, generally in a more upright position depending the height and length of your stem. Some flat bars are bowed towards the rider a bit, which helps reduce pressure on the wrists, and if you want to be in a more upright riding position, you can get 'riser bars,' which raise the handlebar position an inch or so, depending on the model.

Butterfly Bars: More common over in Europe, the Butterfly bars are also referred to as Tour or Trekking handlebars. They have a figure eight shape to them which gives you a good variety of hand positions while keeping your body more upright. It's rare to see these on stock bikes, but the Novara Safari is one bike you can find these on.

Moustache Bars: I really believe that these handlebars make your ride more enjoyable, and they always make me loathe the day I sold my Bridgestone XO-1. They are ideally suited for bar end shifters, and give you a wide hand position for great handling in a more upright position. They provide quick access to shifting and braking, and are a fun retrofit for any touring bike, on or off-road.

These are the most common bars we see for touring, but you certainly aren't limited to this list. Whichever handlebar you choose, the most important thing is that they give you proper control of the bike first, and comfort a close second.


TOURING GEAR AND TIPS is written by Joshua Tack of Adventure Cycling's member services department. It appears weekly, highlighting technical aspects of bicycle touring and advice to help better prepare you for the journey ahead.


Josh, Gear Reviews August 23, 2010, 7:24 PM

Hey Doug,

Harris Cyclery does a good job of selecting quality parts, so I would trust those. As it stands, alloy handlebars are pretty hard to screw up anyway, so you shouldn't have much to worry about.


Doug W. August 22, 2010, 2:39 PM

Does anybody have a good source for butterfly bars? I'm currently building up a new bike and want to put those on, but the only pair I can find are an eye-raisingly inexpensive pair on Harris Cyclery. Is this a reputable make of handlebar? Of course, I don't want to spend more but I don't want to regret the purchase either...

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