Our favourites, bar none
The importance of finding the best mountain bike handlebars for you and your bike can’t be overstated. In combination with your grips, they are the one bit of kit that keeps your bike pointing in the right direction.
We’ve come a long way from the shoulder-width steerers of the nineties and modern geometry theorists will tell you that wide bars are the way to go.
We think you should be aiming for at least 750mm. While this may seem extreme, in the majority of cases they will add a level of control and stability that can transform the way your bike rides. Plus, a wider bar doesn’t cost any extra and you can always cut it down.
We’re not alone; bike manufacturers have been moving in this direction over the last few years, even if the pace has been glacial. Wider handlebars are now far more common as standard equipment, and some brands are even designing their bike’s geometry around them.
We think a set of bars are a cheap upgrade that will last you for ages, so we’ve compiled our list of the best mountain bike handlebars for you here below.
The majority of handlebars are 31.8mm stem clamp diameter ie. they fit in a 31.8mm stem. There are a couple of brands offering 35mm clamp diameter handlebars (Race Face and Easton mainly). You will need to also have/buy a 35mm stem to go with them so don’t forget to budget for that too.
Aluminium or carbon is the choice. Aluminium is cheaper. Carbon is lighter. Carbon bars can be stiffer – some can even be uncomfortably stiff.
Obviously there is a spread of prices and materials here, which means there is something for every pocket. Carbon bars are pricy, but they are superbly made and you’re looking at roughly a 150 gram weight saving over the aluminium alternatives
What you’re looking for is a perfect balance between stiffness, comfort and resilience. If you can also get a bar that’s light and wide enough, then you’re probably looking at a winner.
The shape of a bar is dictated by three key measurements: rise, backsweep and upsweep.
Rise is typical measured in millimetres — hence 20 or 30mm rise — and basically indicates the bar’s height.
Backsweep and upsweep are measured in degrees and they affect the angle of the bit you hold.
Not all manufacturers produce bars in multiple rises, and you need to consider stem angle and bar rise together to achieve your perfect bar height. All of our favourite bars combine upsweep and backsweep, so we’d avoid any that are too flat or angled too far back.
You should know how to get your controls at the same angle by eye, but to reduce the guesswork several manufacturers print reference marks on the bar.
Cut marks are a handy addition if you want to trim the bar and don’t own a tape measure. They also allow you to ignore the old maxim ‘measure twice, cut once.’
Nukeproof Warhead Carbon Riser
A fuller 800mm width might suit more riders, as it offers options to cut down, and many riders’ personal preference is for slightly less backsweep, but if the numbers suit you, this bar is highly recommended — especially considering it’s around 20 per cent cheaper than most of the competition.
Race Face Next 35
The main point here is if you want the great profile and resilience of the SixC 35 bar but don’t need the full-blown 800mm width, the Race Face Next 35 is a better option for trail riding. The only catch is that you need a stem with a 35mm clamp to run it.
Spank Spike 800 Vibrocore Race
In terms of stiffness, the Spike is solid and steers precisely, but there’s a distinctly deadened, dull sensation that’s similar, yet somehow different, to the feeling you get from the best-damped carbon bars. High frequency trail chatter was noticeably more muted, leaving our hands fresher and less sore at the bottom of tough descents.
The Renthal Fatbar is certainly heavier than a standard trail bar, but it can take the knocks, and there’s still plenty of resilience to absorb trail chatter. If you’re after a bar for an all-mountain or DH bike, then look no further.
Race Face SixC 35
If you compare the Race Face SixC to other high end carbon bars such as the Easton Havoc, you’ll see they’re similar weights, widths and even the same price, but what makes the Race Face the better bar is its blend of stiffness and resilience.
Deity T-Mo Enduro Carbon
As the name suggests, this Tracy Moseley signature bar is designed for enduro riding, which means it’s tough enough to withstand hits without adding too many grams to your bike.
Easton Havoc 35 Carbon DH
The Easton Havoc 35 Carbon DH is slightly heavier than a pure trail bar might be, but the reason it still bags a nine out of ten, and remains one of our favourite bars, is simply down to the quality of the ride-feel.
The Ragley Wiser is made from good quality 7075-T6 aluminium tubing, and while it’s a little bit dead-feeling, the finish has been hard-wearing and it’s a good weight. If you’re looking for a wide aluminium bar at an affordable price then you won’t get better.