Your Guide to Buying Bike Handlebars

Like if this guide is helpful
Your Guide to Buying Bike Handlebars

The handlebar plays an integral role in the safe operation of a bicycle. Not only does it allow the rider to steer, but it must also be able to support a portion of their weight while riding. The earliest handlebars were simple bars of solid wood or steel, but now a wide variety of styles are available.

Most modern handlebars are made of aluminium, a material this is both light and strong. Steel and titanium handlebars are also available, as are carbon fibre handlebars for high end bicycles. The design of the handlebar that is most appropriate depends on the kind of cycling it is intended for. For example, a wider handlebar may offer more control for off road cycling, whereas a road cyclist may find comfort to be a more important factor.

The handlebars of a bike are fitted to the ‘stem’, which clamps the handlebar in place and connects it to the ‘fork’ attached to the front wheel. Before buying a set of handlebars from the wide selection that is available on eBay, it is important to consider what the various different kinds of handlebars are most suited for, and the kind of bike that they will be fitted to.

Types of Handlebar

There are many different designs for modern handlebars, and each type is appropriate to different kinds of cycling.

Drop Handlebars

Drop handlebars are one of the most popular designs. They allow for greater comfort when road cycling, as a road cyclist is likely to spend much of their time riding with their weight resting on the handlebars.

These kinds of handlebars generally consist of a straight bar attached to the stem of the bike, before the handles curve down towards the ground and then back towards the rider. Variations of drop handlebars are further categorised depending on specific design.

Type

Details

Track

This variation is designed primarily for ‘track’ cycling, racing on dedicated tracks. These handlebars general have larger, sweeping curves and are designed so that the rider primarily places their hands on the ‘hooked’ ends of the bar.

Anatomic

This kind of handlebar tends to have a completely flat spot, which some riders find more comfortable to use.

Randonneur

These handlebars rise up slightly from the stem, and are designed to offer more comfort for long distance riders.

Drop-In

Curving in towards the stem, these handlebars were designed to allow the rider to take a more aerodynamic position than would typically be comfortable. Due to falling popularity, this design is now fairly uncommon.

Other Types of Handlebars

Drop handlebars and variations on its design represent a fraction of the handlebar designs available.

Type

Details

Pursuit

These handlebars are often called bullhorns due to the way they curve up and out, away from the rider. The shape of the handlebar allows for different hand positioning, which is a help for getting greater leverage when, for example, riding uphill.

Flat

These simple, flat handlebars are the standard for mountain bikes. Lower to the ground, these offer greater leverage to the rider as well as offering greater stability.

Riser

Similar to flat handlebars, these rise slightly from the stem, bringing the handles a little closer to the rider.

Triathlon

Also known as aerobars, these handlebars are designed primarily for speed. Often designed to fit over other handlebars, they are built to be aerodynamic. The cost of this, however, is less stability.

BMX

BMX handlebars are designed for strength. They rise up out of the stem significantly, and have a crossbar for added rigidity.

Upright

Often known as North Road handlebars, these handlebars sweep back towards the rider, sometimes to the extent that they are parallel with each other. These handlebars are popular for road cycling.

Porteur

These handlebars sweep back towards the rider, and are designed to allow front mounted baskets to be fitted.

Trekking

Also known as butterfly bars, these handlebars take the shape of an incomplete figure of eight. They are designed for comfort on long journeys, allowing the rider to sit upright and offering a number of different possible hand positions.

Moustache

This design has the handlebar sweep out from the stem and then back towards the rider, making the handles closer to reach.

Cruiser

These long handlebars are long and bend towards the rear of the bicycle. They are designed so that the rider can sit upright, and are primarily fitted to the heavy and durable cruiser bicycle.

Buying a Handlebar

Width

When buying a new handlebar, it is important to consider the width. While greater width generally gives more leverage to the rider, if the handlebar is too wide leverage is lost as the rider has to reach too far to manoeuvre.

It is recommended that a set of handlebars matches the width of the shoulders of the rider, ensuring both comfort and ease of control. It is also important to ensure that the handlebar will fit into the stem of the bicycle it is going to be fitted to. If the ‘clamp diameter’ of a handlebar is too big or small for the stem, it will not fit properly and the bike will not be usable.

Most modern handlebars are built to tolerate a slight difference in size; however it is best to get a good match. Like many bicycle components, there are different standards for different bicycles.

  • 25.4mm is the most commonly available size, as this is the international standard set by the ISO, the International Standardisation Organisation.  This is the most common size for a wide variety of bicycles.
  •  An ‘oversized’ standard of around 31.8mm is common among newer mountain bikes, allowing for a stronger and lighter design. This size is often found on more expensive models of bike. ‘Shims’ are available to fit 25.4mm handlebars to these stems, meaning that this size of handlebars can still be fitted to a 31.8mm bike.
  • A notable exception is for BMX handlebars, which require a clamp diameter of 22.2mm, which means such handlebars are incompatible with any other bikes.

Stem Size

If there is any uncertainty about the size of the stem, it is possible to measure the size required by measuring the width of the handlebars currently fitted. This can be done more easily using a measuring tool, but can also be done with a ruler. Simply measure the width of the part of the handlebars that fit into the stem clamp. Though it is very difficult to get an exact measurement this way, it is possible to tell which standardised size the bike fits.

Once a handlebar has been selected which fits a cyclist’s intended use, and the specifications of their bicycle, the next step is to remove the old handlebars and fit their replacement.

Removing the Old Handlebars

Removing handlebars is a simple task, which slightly vary depending on whether a bike’s stem is a threaded or unthreaded. To tell what kind of stem a particular bike has, try to turn the locknut by hand. If this is not possible, then the stem is threaded and will require an adjustable wrench to remove. This kind of stem is sometimes called a ‘quill’.

  • If the stem is threaded, the first task is to remove any cables attached to the handlebars, such as brakes or gear shifts. A screwdriver or Allen wrench will be necessary for this.
  • Using an adjustable wrench, loosen the locknut on the stem until the handlebars move.
  • Once loosened, it is simply a case of pulling on the handlebars until they come free from the bike.

If the stem is unthreaded, which is likely on more modern models of bike, the process is similar.

  • As with a threaded stem, any cables attached to the handlebars need to be removed.
  • Find the faceplate, which will be near where the stem meets the bike frame. Unscrew the bolt here and remove the faceplate. The faceplate and bolt must be kept, as they will be needed to fit new handlebars.
  • It will now be possible to lift the handlebars out of the stem.

Fitting New Handlebars

Like removing them, fitting handlebars is a fairly simple process.

  • In the case of the threaded stem, simply place the new handlebar where the old one was fitted and tighten the locknut with a wrench until the handlebar is securely held in place.
  • With an unthreaded stem, place the handlebars into the clamp and replace the faceplate, before tightening the bolt.

In either case, do not fully tighten the handlebar in place yet as the front wheel needs to be properly aligned with the handlebar first. This is simply a case of ensuring that the wheel moves properly with the handlebar, and can be done using the wheel as a visual guide. For example, when the handlebars are straight the wheel should point straight forward.

Once the wheel and handlebar are satisfactorily aligned, fully tighten the handlebars into place. To ensure that the handlebars are held in place tightly enough, hold the wheel in place then attempt to turn the handlebars. If the bar moves, it is too loose. Once properly fitted, anything that was attached to the old handlebars, like cables for brakes, can be reattached.

Accessories

It may be worth considering accessories which add comfort or utility to a set of handlebars.

Bike Tape

If a handlebar did not come with any kind of grips, it is advisable to attach grips or wrap the bar with bike tape. Bike tape is a material that is wrapped around the handlebar to provide added grip. Any part of the bar which a cyclist intends to use to steer their bike should be covered in this tape. This will not only make the handlebar more comfortable to use, but safer as well.

This tape comes in a range of different materials and is generally designed to be durable and water proof.

Grips

Similarly, grips are available. These are often designed to fit into a riders hand and offer a secure, durable point on the handlebar from which to steer a bike.

Bar Ends

For mountain biking, bar ends may be useful. These are extensions which are fitted onto the end of a set of handlebars. They allow a rider a greater variety of hand positions and can offer greater leverage, which are useful for riding over rough terrain. Bar ends are available in a variety of different shapes and sizes.

If a set of handlebars have open ends, it is important to seal them with a set of plugs. Unplugged bar ends, pose a significant danger to the rider, in the event of an accident.

Finding Handlebars on eBay

A wide selection of handlebars is available on eBay. A simple way to view the range available is to go to the Sporting Goods portal, then to the Cycling Section.

Handlebars can be found under the Bike Parts section. Accessories can also be found under this section. Important information such as the design of the handlebar and the clamp diameter will often be prominently displayed on the item’s entry. This makes it easy to see whether an item holds the desired specifications or not at a glance.

Further information about a particular item will be available on that item’s page, along with information about the seller. This will include their feedback rating and customer reviews, so a purchase can be made in confidence. Furthermore, it is possible to ask the seller a question about the item.

To find a specific kind or size of handlebar, it can be easier to use the eBay search function, which can be found at the top of every page. This way, specific items can be quickly and easily found. For advice on getting more out of the eBay search function, visit the Search Tips page.

Conclusion

Having the right handlebar is important for safe and comfortable cycling. A wide range of designs are available which can accommodate any cyclist’s needs, whether for mountain biking over rugged terrain or road cycling to work. Bicycle handlebars are simple to replace and can make a great difference for a cyclist, and finding the right one is simple on eBay thanks to the great deal of readily accessible information.

Have something to share, create your own guide... Write a guide
Explore more guides