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When it comes to maneuvering across uneven gradients and rigorous terrain, the handlebars can be a mountain biker’s greatest asset. But is there a science to choosing the best MTB handlebars for your specific riding needs?

Handlebars are crucial for maintaining your balance and position on the bike to control the steering and technical precision. Since they’re basically an extension of your hands and forearms, it’s important to ensure they deliver optimum results, both on the trails and that daily commute.

Here at The Adventure Junkies, we’re breaking down all the factors to consider when looking for the right pair to suit your needs. From the shape to the diameter to the grip cushion and more, we’ll “steer” (pun intended!) you toward the best MTB handlebars to maximize your overall performance on the bike.

For more of our top mountain biking gear recommendations, check out the Best Mountain Bike Grips.

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Quick Answer - The Best MTB Handlebars

  1. Race Face Next
  2. Origin8 ProSweep
  3. Sunlite NorthRoad
  4. Soma Oxford
  5. Thompson Cross-Country
  6. Salsa Woodchipper 2
  7. Nitto Randonneur

 

Comparison Table - Best Mountain Bike Handlebars

PictureNameMaterialDesignPriceRating
Race Face NextCarbon FiberRise Bar$$$5.0
Origin8 ProSweepAluminumFlat Bar$4.9
Sunlite NorthRoadChromeRise Bar$4.6
Soma OxfordAluminumRise Bar$5.0
Thompson Cross-CountryCarbon FiberFlat Bar$$$5.0
Salsa Woodchipper 2AluminumFlared Bar$$5.0
Nitto RandonneurAluminumFlared Bar$$4.0
PictureNameMaterialDesignPriceRating

Reviews - The Best Handlebars for MTB

Race Face Next

Specs
  • Design: Rise Bar
  • Material: Carbon Fiber

BEST FOR: OFF-ROAD RIDING

PROS: Increased diameter for a lighter weight that doesn’t compromise strength or stiffness

CONS: None that we could find

Origin8 ProSweep

Specs
  • Design: Flat Bar
  • Material: Aluminum

BEST FOR: COMMUTER RIDING

PROS: Steering ability is right on-par with some of the more expensive models

CONS: Bikers who prefer more rise will need bar end attachments

Sunlite NorthRoad

Specs
  • Design: Rise Bar
  • Material: Chrome

BEST FOR: COMMUTER RIDING

PROS: Upright position supports riding posture to reduce tension on the back and shoulders

CONS: Narrow diameter might not be ideal for rigorous climbing

Soma Oxford

Specs
  • Design: Rise Bar
  • Material: Aluminum

BEST FOR: COMMUTER RIDING

PROS: Upright position supports riding posture to reduce tension on the back and shoulders

CONS: Heavier than some of the sleeker, more ergonomic models

Thompson Cross-Country

Specs
  • Design: Flat Bar
  • Material: Carbon Fiber

BEST FOR: DISTANCE RIDING

PROS: Combination of three different fibers to maximize sturdiness and flexibility on rough terrain

CONS: Bikers who prefer more rise will need bar end attachments

Salsa Woodchipper 2

Specs
  • Design: Flared Bar
  • Material: Aluminum

BEST FOR: DISTANCE RIDING

PROS: Bent along three planes to support technical maneuvering on singletracks

CONS: None that we could find

Nitto Randonneur

Specs
  • Design: Flared Bar
  • Material: Aluminum

BEST FOR: DISTANCE RIDING

PROS: Bent, angled shape offers multiple hand positions for maximum comfort over long periods

CONS: Narrow diameter might not be ideal for rigorous climbing

 

 

HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST MTB HANDLEBARS

We suggest paying the most attention to these components when selecting the right handlebars for your mountain bike. If you want to know more about how they function with the other MTB parts, our beginner’s guide is a useful resource.

 

MECHANICS

The structure of your handlebars should take into account three elements: weight, strength and width. These are largely determined by which material the handlebars are made from.

Choose among aluminum, carbon fiber or chromoly, which all have their own advantages. Aluminum and carbon fiber are the strongest, most durable options, and carbon fiber is also the most lightweight of these materials.

However, a carbon fiber handlebar can’t be tweaked for optimal shoulder width. So, riders who need a narrower grip should opt for chromoly or aluminum, both of which are adjustable.

 

DESIGN

There are two basic handlebar types: flat bars and rise bars. SingleTracks explains rise height as the measurement between the tapered edges and where the bars attach to the frame.

For mountain bikers, a rise bar is preferable because it shifts the center of gravity further back. It allows them to lift the bike over rugged surfaces and navigate sharp descents more efficiently.

For riders who want to further customize their handlebar shape, there are three sub-categories worth knowing about as well.

Flared bars are wider in the middle and narrower at the ends. Tapered bars are thinner between the stem and grips. Butted bars are thicker on the ends than in the center. These options are ideal if you’re looking for added strength.

 

LEVERAGE

Also called “torque,” this feature determines how much stability and control you can exert on the bike. In general, a wider handlebar with a shorter stem offers increased leverage because the bar’s steering input requires less force to operate which allows you to conserve momentum.

BikeRadar also points out that with greater leverage, you’ll be positioned more centrally over the bike which distributes both front and rear weight evenly.

To gauge if the handlebars provide enough torque, measure the distance between your hands when leaning over the bike. They should be about shoulder-width apart or within two inches of that radius.

 

COMFORT

If the handlebar’s location forces you to bend over it drastically to maintain a firm grip, this causes pressure on your hands or wrists, often making them go numb.

To avoid that discomfort, ensure that the handlebar is equidistant from your position in the saddle to the length of your arm extension.

If your hand placement is too spread out or your shoulders are too arched over the handlebars, there are structural adjustments you can make such as lowering the stem or moving the saddle forward.

For extra hand cushioning, MTB gloves are also an option. Our guide can help you choose the right pair.

READ MORE

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