Best Road Bike Handlebars

Updated August 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

17 Models Considered
5 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
180 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best road bike handlebars

Last Updated August 2019

Fine-tuning your road bike should involve all of its components. This includes the handlebar, which is the center of your cockpit and should be comfortable and lightweight while improving your control.

Road bike handlebars allow for three different riding positions: You can put your hands on the bar itself, on the hoods, or on the drops. This allows you to shift positions and stay comfortable on long rides or adapt for a long climb or descent. The reach, width, drop, and bend of the handlebars can all vary and will result in a different feel or a different amount of control. These factors as well as your individual body size are important when considering handlebars. Drop handlebars—the ones with the curved part—are the standard, but there are a few less conventional choices available.

Like many other aspects of road bikes, there is no single “best” option when it comes to handlebars. You should find a pair that suits your preferences and your cycling style. Continue reading to learn more about the types of road bike handlebars available and their features.

There are three points of contact on a road bike: the pedals, the seat, and the handlebars. Each one is a major part of your comfort while you ride.

Parts of the handlebar

Just about every part of road bike handlebars has a name, but we’ll focus on the most crucial parts that impact your cycling experience and that should inform your decision.

Hoods

These are the parts of the bar that point straight ahead and are closest to the brakes and shifters. This is where your hands will rest most of the time. Hoods are sold separately from handlebars.

Drops

The lower parts of the handlebar that point backward are called the drops. This is where you will place your hands during descents.

Hooks

This is the bent part of the bar where you will occasionally rest your hands. The shape of the bend will vary from one pair of handlebars to the next.

Bar top

This is the straight part of the bar closest to the stem.

Stem

The tube of metal that attaches your handlebars to the rest of your bike is called the stem. Different length stems can affect how far away from the seat the handlebars are. Stems must be purchased separately.

DID YOU KNOW?

The “drop” of the handlebars refers to two things: the distance in height between the top of the seat and the lowest part of the handlebar, and the lower portion of the handlebar.

Key considerations

Finding the best pair of handlebars for you means considering your riding style and your size. A triathlon cyclist may want different style handlebars than someone who cycles for exercise on city or country roads.

Handlebar styles

Road bike handlebars come in a few different shapes, each of which vastly alter your cycling experience.

  • Drop bar: This is the oldest style of road bike handlebars, and there’s a reason it is still the most popular. A straight bar curves into two drops, allowing for different riding positions. Modern drop bars typically have hoods attached, which provide a resting place for the hands and easy access to the brakes and shifter.

  • Aero bars: With their focus on speed and reduced wind resistance, aero bars induce a compact position on the bike that lowers your center of gravity and keeps you curved into the wind. Aero bars are typically a pair of parallel bars with elbow rests and grips on the front end of the bars. They may be installed on top of your drop bar or alone as integrated aero bars. Since aero bars are usually specific to time trial cyclists and triathlon cyclists, we will primarily cover the variations of drop bars.

Drop

The drop (as in the measurement, not the part of the bar) is the vertical difference between the bar top and the lowest part of the bar. This is usually in the range of 10 to 150 cm. The deeper the drop, the more of your weight will be on the handlebars and the more you will have to crane your neck to see. There’s no right answer here—it comes down to preference and comfort.

Reach

This is the distance from the center of the top bar to the furthest part of the bend. This should range from 7 to 9 cm. Stem length can also impact how far you have to reach when gripping the bars. The reach should feel comfortable and appropriate for your frame.

Width

This is the overall width of the bars, which should correspond with the width of your shoulders so that your arms are roughly parallel.

Diameter

While this aspect is less important for comfort, it is critical for finding handlebars that fit your clamp — the part where the stem attaches to your bike. The standard diameter is 25.4mm.

Shape

Many more expensive road bike handlebars have molded ergonomic shapes designed to comfortably accommodate for the shape of your hands in different positions. Less expensive handlebars are simply the same diameter throughout the entire bar. This does not accommodate for the different grips cyclists use and may result in numbness in your hands if you don’t change positions frequently.

EXPERT TIP

The shape of drop bars allows for several different positions. The drops are perfect for fast descents, while the tops and hoods are best suited to climbs and flat coasting.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Once you know what type of road bike handlebar is right for you and what measurements are comfortable for you, you should consider additional factors such as the materials of the bar and handlebar tape.

Materials

Less expensive handlebars are typically made of aluminum alloy, which is lightweight and very strong. Carbon fiber is lighter than aluminum alloy and is the choice of most professional cyclists. It also helps to muffle vibration. However, it is considerably more expensive and more brittle, making it prone to breaking in the event of a crash.

Grip

This part is easy—road bike handlebars don’t have grips! You will need to purchase handlebar tape separately. It is usually made of synthetic materials with a foam core to cushion your hands and reduce vibration. Wrapping your handlebars in handlebar tape requires a bit of technique, so you may want to consider having it done at the bike shop.

Road bike handlebar prices

Inexpensive: Handlebars in this category cost from $20 to $50 and are usually made of aluminum alloy. In this range, most handlebars have fairly basic shapes that do not taper to accommodate for your grip.

Mid-range: For $50 to $150, you’ll find high-quality aluminum and carbon fiber drop bars. They may be molded to allow for more comfortable grips and tend to be fairly lightweight in design.

Expensive: Road bike handlebars for $150 and above are almost always made of carbon fiber and may be aero bars. If you bike casually, there is little reason to opt for bars in this price range.

FOR YOUR SAFETY

Riding with your hands on the drops while descending may feel scary at first, but it is actually the safest position when you are coasting downhill. Just remember to keep your fingers on the brakes.

Biking positions

There are five popular positions, each of which has a name corresponding to the part of the handlebar where your hands rest.

Tops is used primarily when biking slowly or during uphill ascents. This is because it gives you no access to the brakes or shifters. Avoid putting your hands on the bar tops when you are moving quickly, especially if you are descending.

Hoods is the most common position, as it is fairly neutral and allows you to easily reach the brakes and shifters (depending on your shifter setup). It can be used for cycling at any speed, uphill or downhill.

Ramps is similarly to hoods but somewhat more relaxed. In this position, your hands rest right where the hoods begin to curve into the hooks. You have to shift your hands slightly to access the brakes in this position.

Hooks is a more aerodynamic position that puts your hands at the forwardmost point on the handlebars. This is one of two options for descending positions.

Drops is the common position used when descending, as it lowers your center of gravity and improves your grip on the road. In addition, you still have access to the brakes, and the increased weight on the handlebars gives you more control.

Other products we considered

While we believe our top recommendations represent the best road bike handlebars available, there are a few other products worth calling out. If you are looking specifically for aero handlebars, consider the Profile Designs T3+ Carbon Aero Bar. While the price of these handlebars may be outside your budget, they are worth considering if you bike competitively and need a reliable pair of clip-on aero bars. For a pair of carbon fiber bars that work well for those on a budget, there’s the SAVADECK Ultralight Carbon Fibre Bike Handlebars, which weigh only 260g and have a comfortable ergonomic design. One affordable pair of handlebars that we love for its ability to accommodate those with wider shoulders is the Ritchey Comp Logic Curve Road Bicycle Handlebar. Though there are lighter bars available, these are an excellent pair for the price and perform well.

Though you may have a preferred handlebar position, you will likely use all parts of your handlebar at some point.

FAQ

Q. Do brakes and shifters come with handlebars?
A.
No, these are separate components. However, it does make shopping easier, as you can find brakes and shifters that fit your preferences.

Q. How should road bike handlebars be angled?
A.
The drop of the bars should be angled just slightly forward so that your wrists are comfortable when you are riding downhill.

Q. How high should the handlebars be?
A.
First, make sure that you have your seat adjusted properly. Handlebars may be above or below the seat height, but positioning them a couple of inches below the seat height is the most common option. In general, higher handlebars are more comfortable and put less strain on your neck and back, while lower handlebars lead to better aerodynamics. Don’t forget to consider the various positions on the handlebar when determining the proper height.

The team that worked on this review
  • Austin
    Austin
    Writer
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Enid
    Enid
    Editor
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Peter
    Peter
    Writer

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