Biking is a cost-effective and healthy way for you to get around. The individualism attached to bicycles is on par with cars and motorcycles for some, so the proper handlebar will make a large difference if you’re a more frequent rider.
This guide will teach you which is best for your needs, costs to be expected, and even how to change your own handlebars.
Are Bike Handlebars Interchangeable? (And Are They All the Same Diameter?) – Yes, they are interchangeable, but the process is not simple. There are dozens of handlebar types to suit different rider needs, leverage on the bicycle, and diameter measurements will vary for each. The standard handlebar diameter is 25.4mm on mountain bikes, often upwards of 30mm+ on road bars and cruisers.
Bicycle handlebars are what we would call ‘essential’ to the process as without them it would be a unicycle (which wouldn’t end pretty). With dozens of handlebar types and hundreds of manufacturers, it can be difficult to know which is best suited to your needs.
If you own a bike, it is essential to understand the correct handles for your riding purpose, terrain, and long-term savings.
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Are Bike Handles Interchangeable?
Yes, and having a handle that you are relaxed with can affect your performance and handling of it similarly to steering a vehicle.
It can be a time-consuming process but for a true cyclist, the efforts might be worth the investment.
Most riders advise that it isn’t wise to change your handlebars but rather to invest in the right bike/handlebars in the first place, to eliminate the need for repairs altogether.
If you’ve already invested a hefty amount in the bike you have, this guide will help you know which handlebars are right for your upcoming trade.
Anatomy of Your Bike
The handlebars are for the purpose of steering as we all know, but they are useful for other practicalities within the riding.
These trusty grips also provide a mounting for shift levers, cycle computers, brake levelers, bells, baskets, and more. Being attached to the bikes main stem is what affects the balance for the rider and it is important to place your handlebars with knowledge.
A badly installed handlebar will have your bicycle wobbly, off-balance, and in turn, will affect the fork (skeleton) of your bike.
Know Best Handlebars for You
Before you try to change your handlebars, riders often recommend you consider a new bike altogether. If the ride you’re on presently isn’t satisfying your needs, spokes are breaking, you feel off-kilter, or any negative attached to the handlebars – it could be less stressful to purchase a new bicycle than fitting new handlebars.
Knowing the best ride for you will depend on factors such as:
- The terrain in your area.
- Be honest with how hard you are on your bike. If you’re going to hit potholes or tree trunks on rough paths, have a bicycle that’s built for that compared to a relaxed street cruiser.
- A relaxed person may want handlebars similar to cruisers as they’re wide and can be held in a laid-back manner. A fast-paced hyperactive rider may want a bar/grip that can offer a variety of bike styles.
- Cost of course. You’ll need to keep in mind how much you are comfortable investing and what kind of cyclist you are.
Different Types of Handlebars
There is a variety and it can certainly be overwhelming. To make the process easier, I’ve compiled a list of the most popular breeds with their pros and cons.
- Flat bars – Most standard and have a slight bend in them that anyone would recognize the normal bike. Great for cross-country riders and baskets if you need to transfer things (being that the handlebar is straight).
- Pros – Simple. Another pro is going uphill can be simplified as these handlebars are easier to lean into. This improves the weight distribution to the front and grips the road. They’re also lightweight handlebars that adapt to most types of bicycles.
- Cons – Not for the risky riders. You’ll need something more advanced and ready for your fast-paced nature. While being adaptable, these are not the fastest bars.
- Bull Horn Bars – These beauties look exactly how they sound. Picture a bull and the upward turning horns. You’ve seen these bike handles but perhaps didn’t know they’re a purpose. Great for leaning forward and room for your body to lean into it. This is what makes these bars the best for speed and climbing and you’ve probably seen them on bikes in the Tour De France for example.
- Pros – Made for professional riders than fully extend into their forward lean and are seeking that control. Wonderful on the aerodynamic front and speed-oriented.
- Cons – Not the best at turning. Since these cool-named bullhorn handles are for speeding to your fullest pleasure, they are not suited for tight turns. There is less leverage in this design and shape. This means they’re not the best for city living and maneuvering traffic.
- Drop Bars – These are very versatile bars that curve downwards, hence the name. Designed to feel very natural with the shape of the bike, these are aerodynamic and useful in many terrains.
- Pros – There is actually an argument for these being the easiest to pedal against and get more power moving forward with bars in a tucked position. Being aesthetically-pleasing doesn’t hurt this handlebar’s popularity as well.
- Cons – Again, this handle-baby is not best for tight turns. Of course, they will make the turns but it simply won’t be as elegant as it could be. If you hit the ground, your hand will hit before the bar because of the angle.
- Butterfly Bars – Named adorably and created for a variety of riders, the butterfly handlebars are almost a full circle shape to rest your hands in. This can be practical for toting things and giving an extra row for baskets, phones, mirrors, etc.
- Pros – lots of shelving which makes them practical for long rides and relaxed rides. The shape is actually healthier for your wrists in fact and gives an angle that suits these longer trips.
- Cons – These models are slightly heavier simply due to the fact that you’ve got an extra row/loop. Strong and useful but may not be practical for kids or women.
- Cruiser Bars – Lastly, we’ll discuss the cruiser bars. This is the bike you bring home to mom. The handles are what you might picture on a vintage bright yellow bike with tassels, flying by in the wind. Adorable in shape these are possibly the most aesthetically pleasant of all handlebar models.
- Pros – Due to the large sweep in the center, the rider can sit well-postured in a comfortable upright position. Other bikes you may want to lean into, but this handle allows for comfort. Perfect for the basket and bell too!
- Cons – With your new-found perfect posture, you may actually need to invest in a larger seat. You’ll be putting more pressure backward to the tush than forwards to the legs, so you’ll want a padded seat. Another con is that they are bad for climbing. Mountains are not your friends and if you see a hill, just ride the other way.
The diameter of your bike will need to be measured carefully. If you’re seeking to replace your handlebar, you’ll need a proper measurement of the stem where your new handle will be fitted.
Standard sizes are around 25-26mm with the stern clamp at the center. Grips and rubber support my add width to this but the part that fits in the stem (the rest of the bike) is what matters.
Mountain and road bikes are often closer to 30mm+ and The easiest way to measure will be with calipers for an accurate reading.
BMX bikes are one of the few breeds with smaller diameters closer to 22mm-25mm. This is for aerodynamic purposes and should be looked at if you have a need for speed.
Many riders say replacing the handlebars can be as costly as the original purchase of the bike. This is why I recommended at the start of this article to purchase the proper bike the first time instead of trying to sort out the handlebars later.
If you’re in love with your bike, emotionally attached, or have already invested in a wonderful ride but just need new handlebars – it can cost upwards of $100-500 on average. This is including all parts and labor, quite dependent on the model and quality of your bike.
Expect to usually pay to have these repaired as break cuts are part of the process. But if you want to take on the endeavor yourself like a true handyman, here are the steps:
Process to Change Handlebars
I told you this process would be tricky, and I wasn’t lying. If you are a handy-person and want to save on labor from the bike repair shop, here’s how to do it yourself:
- The first thing you’ll need to do is purchase your new handlebars based on your needs. Be sure you purchase one that fits the diameter of your stem (where the handle will fit into).
- Detach your brake cables from the current handlebars.
- You’ll see a screw that is connecting your old handlebar. Unscrew this and slide the old handlebar off.
- You will need new brakes. Didn’t I warn you it’s a big project! Many people give up at this step and you’ll need to be certain the breaks fit your brake mounting and wheel. You may need cable hangers to connect these if yours are too short. All of which can be found on Amazon.
- Attach breaks and cables to the new handlebar. Leave enough room in your cables that you can move freely but they’re not dragging or getting caught in any chains, gears, etc.
- Thread the new cables and tighten the nut. Close your breaks when tightening the cable and ask for extra hands if you need them.
- Lastly, test the breaks and see if they feel tight enough for you. Loosen accordingly and check this carefully. Brakes are necessary and you don’t want to be flying down a hill with no way to slow down or stop.
As you can see it will involve a bit of studying and understand your personal needs to find the best bicycle handle and diameter width for your purpose. This guide is proof that the process entails many details and it may be potentially easier to purchase a new bike – depending on costs.
If this is your first bike then you’re in luck – you can invest properly the first time and know the handlebars that will suit your needs.
Handlebars do greatly influence the speed, terrain impact, turns, and overall physics of your bike. Their impact is no joke and worth digging deeper into if you’re serious.