The best handlebars will give you greater control and comfort while riding, and are a simple way to upgrade your bike. Shape, material and construction are important factors; these are the best we've tested.
The best mountain bike handlebars are the right width and form to give you control and comfort when riding your bike, whether you’re climbing, descending, riding cross-country or enduro. We’ve tried and tested many to bring you our pick of the best to suit the needs and budget of every rider.
Another essential part of the puzzle is grips; make sure you get the best mountain bike grips you can, as they’ll work in conjunction with the handlebars to ensure you have the best ride experience possible. Mountain bike stems are also part of the control and experience picture.
Jump straight to the handlebar diameter you’re looking for:
Best 35mm diameter bars
Best for comfort and control
Weight: 249g | Width: 800mm | Rise: 35mm | Dimensions: 8° back, 5° up | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Improved comfort and control. Reduced fatigue.
Reasons to avoid: Not the lightest carbon bar. Only available in 35mm rise in e-bike version. Difficult to see markings. Slight trade-off in steering accuracy.
In terms of tech specs, the 35mm diameter, 800mm wide E-Bar gets a 35mm rise with an 8º backsweep and 5º upsweep. Instead of eye-balling the bar rotation to get the sweep set up, OneUp provides markings on the bar according to your bike’s head angle. OneUp states that its Carbon handlebar offers 21% more vertical compliance on average compared to the best handlebars on the market, along with a 28% increase in steering stiffness. And OneUp’s bar genuinely delivers on this promise of more comfort and compliance. It’s a calmer, less hectic cockpit environment, that lets you relax your grip on the reins through the roughest chunder.
Improved comfort at a lower price
Weight: 340g | Width: 800mm | Rise: 20mm or 30mm | Dimensions: 8° back, 5° up | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Two rise options. Coloured decals supplied. Tones down trail chatter and boosts comfort
Reasons to avoid: Matt anodised finish scuffed up quickly. Only available in black.
The OneUp Aluminium handlebar is offered in two rises and a single 800mm width. The bar comes in stealth black, but you do get a set of colour decals in the box, which you have to apply yourself. It’s shot peened to increase the surface hardness and has a matt anodised finish. The key selling point of this handlebar is that it absorbs trail buzz better than its rivals. And OneUp’s technology does work, and really tones down that chatter and trail noise. It also takes that edge of those harsh spikes and means you can charge into the rough stuff, rather than having to ride around it. Recommended.
Top quality 35mm carbon handlebar
Weight: 218g | Width: 800mm | Rise: 10, 20 or 35mm | Dimensions: 8° back, 5° up | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Good shape. Lots of room for controls. Good ride feel.
Reasons to avoid: Costs more than an alloy bar.
Like its stablemates, the Next R is formed from unidirectional carbon and comes with a 35mm clamp size and Race Face’s excellent bar geometry, which includes 8° back sweep and 5° of up sweep. This puts your hands in a neutral position, but there’s enough leeway so you can roll the bar slightly to tweak the position.
The bar has a smooth transition at the rise so you can wiggle a stem on with it scuffing the carbon, and the control centres (that’s the straight sections of bar) are also pretty long, so there is plenty of room for all manner of lever spacing, extra controls and light brackets. If you’re looking to finish off a boutique build or want to take the edge off a harsh ride, the Race Face Next R riser is a great way to do that. It also has a fantastic shape, comes in three rises and, best of all, six colour options.
Great value carbon bar
Weight: 235g | Width: 780 or 800mm | Rise: 12, 25 or 38mm | Dimensions: 9° back, 5° up | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Unique offset sweeps suit modern MTBs, Accurate handling.
Reasons to avoid: On the stiffer side. Offset sweeps may not suit older bikes.
Nukeproof wanted more backsweep for enhanced comfort, and has done something unique with the handlebar shape to counteract how this places hands closer to the rider and effectively reduces the reach of your frame. The bar is ‘clocked’ slightly forwards so wrists sit at the same angle, but the bar lies further forward than most rivals with the same 9° backsweep. Offsetting the bar slightly like this gives more options to tune hand and riding position because rolling the bars in the stem makes more difference to grip position.
Aside from this unique – and successful – way of doing the bar sweeps, this second generation Horizon bar has plenty of other things going for it. From a practical and safety point of view, the denser 3K carbon weave placed at the control clamp areas is a good idea. So too is the use of a type of ‘gritty’ particle paint where the bar gets held by the stem, to prevent any undue bar rotational slip.
Best wide bar
Weight: 239g | Width: 820mm | Rise: 20, 35mm | Dimensions: 8° back, 4° up | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Plenty of precision. Great vertical compliance. Full 820mm width. Light.
Reasons to avoid: Will need trimming down in width for most riders.
Some riders love a wide bar, but others are going to want to cut 60mm off this one. Not that they can, because Race Face has put a minimum cut length of 770mm on this bar, which we imagine is due to the carbon lay-up. With its short bulge, getting a stem round the angles is pretty easy, and when we installed the controls they also slid on smoothly, but that is because the bar is slightly undersized by 0.2mm. You are never going to scratch the surface, but the collars and clamps may need another quarter turn to stop them slipping.
The SixC is really comfortable when you’re smashing over rocks or a maze of roots, but the problem we had is getting it through gaps – on some of our test trails there just isn’t room between the trees – you’re going to have to do either a manual/bar turn or shuffle through. Cutting it down is likely what most will do, but we’ve been running it full width because it is so comfortable. There’s still plenty of precision, but the vertical compliance is almost as good as the OneUp handlebar.
Beautiful and comfortable
Weight: 224g | Width: 800mm | Rise: 20mm | Dimensions: 7° back, 5° up | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: UK-made with beautiful exposed weave finish and muted ride sensation.
Reasons to avoid: Lacks back sweep for some. Only one rise option.
This is the newer addition to the Hope handlebar range, an oversize 35mm carbon bar. It bears the same sweep angles as the 31.8mm version, and also the single rise option (20mm) but Hope has been generous enough to extend its width to the full 800mm modern standard.
Not only that, but Hope also states that this 35mm diameter is actually more comfortable than their 31.8mm diameter bar. It’s still hand made in Barnoldswick, Lancashire and the result is a stunningly beautiful bar with exposed carbon weave. The ride quality matches the looks, with giving a very precise, direct control, but enough compliance in the material to take the edge off harsh bumps. Not cheap. But good. And made in the UK, if you like that sort of thing.
Full-on classic riser
Weight: 318g | Width: 820mm | Rise: 20 or 35mm | Dimensions: 8° back, 5° up | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Super strong with long life expectancy. Wide enough for all tastes.
Reasons to avoid: Super gloss finish requires careful brake/shifter/dropper clamping. Lacks angle-dangle markings for controls.
Not a fan of carbon? You’re not alone. Race Face uses 7075 series alloy for this bar and it really is very, very thin walled at certain parts. Let’s talk about bar width. We really like that extra 20mm width, as it offers a bit more leverage when muscling around on techy singletrack. I’m not saying this is an enduro bike specific handlebar but it is a little more versatile than most all-mountain/gravity handlebars.
Niggles? Whilst we appreciate the coarse matt finish of the bar where the stem clamps on to it (to prevent accidental rotational slippage) we do wish Race Face had put some extended graphics or line markings in the middle too. As it is, it can be hard to align the bars just-so.
Less tiring than other oversized bars
Weight: 320g | Width: 800mm | Rise: 25mm | Dimensions: 8° back, 5° up | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Lovely calm feeling for a 35mm bar. In-yer-face graphics.
Reasons to avoid: May feel overly dull for racers. In-yer-face graphics.
They don’t much credit (or blame) for it, but Chromag was one of the original proponents of the now ubiquitous 35mm diameter standard. Its bars have come on a long way since 2012 and are much more sophisticated. They are no longer purely about strength and the oversized aesthetic.
Chromag Fubar OSX is less harsh and more comfortable on longer descents than rival bars, while feeling just as positive in terms of control; a crucial benefit that makes it potentially less tiring than a lot of other oversized, super-strong alloy bars. Some riders will not like the garish graphics – or the relatively wide central fat section – but if you reckon you can carry off the Chromag look, goferrit.
Lightweight carbon handlebars
Weight: 227g (800mm) | Width: 760, 800mm | Rise: 20mm | Sweep: 9° | Rating: 8/10
Reasons to buy: Simple set-up, secure, position marks help centre the bars.
Reasons to avoid: Pricier than other carbon bars. Relatively harsh.
Available in two widths – 760 and 800mm – the 9º back sweep and 20mm rise put our wrists in an optimum position and allowed us to fettle with bar height easily, although the only other rise option available is a flat bar with a 760mm width.
The choice of back sweep and up sweep made setting up the bar pretty simple, and despite not having a grippy finish to aid clamping, it has resisted moving without needing to overtighten the stem. Grading around the 35mm diameter clamp area also helps put the bar into the right position. For its width the bar sits at the stiffer end of the carbon spectrum and on longer days out it highlighted a need for more cushioned grips.
Best 31.8mm diameter handlebars
Weight: 322g | Width: 780, 800mm | Rise: 20, 35mm | Dimensions: 8° back, 5° up | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Does what it says on the tin, as it were
Reasons to avoid: Would be even better if it came in a higher rise option for big riders/bikes
DMR has had a handlebar called the Wingbar in its line-up for aeons, and while this Mk4 is markedly different from the Mk1 Wingbar, it doesn’t appear to be any materially different to the previous Mk3 Wingbar. The gloss black finish and logo appears to be the only thing that’s different here. Good. The Mk3 Wingbar was excellent (we actually awarded the Mk3 a full 10/10 rating).
From what we can see the only difference is that the Mk4 Wingbar is now available in a 780mm width as well as the full-on 800mm width as before. The 8° x 5° sweep combo is neutral and the £55 asking price seems extremely reasonable. The two rise options (20 and 35mm) are par for the course. It’s the on-trail ride experience that makes us give the Wingbar Mk4 the nod over all the other 31.8mm diameter bars here. We just think it strikes the best balance of control and comfort.
Gets vibration reducing tech
Weight: 330g | Width: 800mm | Rise: 15, 30, 50mm | Dimensions: 8° back, 4° up | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Ideal for those looking for flatter grip angle. Unique Vibrocore ‘filling’ genuinely reduces discomfort.
Reasons to avoid: Graphics are looking a bit dated. Shallow up sweep can feel odd to some riders.
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.
How is this feeling achieved? Essentially by pumping the bar full of foam. No really. The essential idea here is that the foam can dissipate tiny vibration and chatter, leaving the metal handlebar being able to be made really stiff and inflexible. This Vibrocore foam buzz killing technology has since found its way into Spank’s other components (principally its wheel rims). And the Vibrocore filling only adds around 25g.
Weight: 364g | Width: 780mm | Rise: 10, 20, 30 or 38mm | Dimensions: 7° back, 5° up | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Modern classic that still cuts it. Loads of rise options.
Reasons to avoid: Not as wide as more modern offerings.
A modern classic handlebar. The blend of stiffness-to-flexiness is spot-on for all types of mountain biking. You don’t have to be railing World Cup downhills to get the benefits. And the iconic colourway and logos always raise a smile too.
There is nothing that rides like a Renthal bar. Especially if you’re into riding extremely fast. They ain’t exactly light but they are beautifully made and really hold on to their hard anodised good looks for years. Despite what you’d expect, the beguiling bronze colourway does seem to flatter every bike it gets put with.
Looks good and feels great
Weight: 225g | Width: 780mm | Rise: 20mm | Dimensions: 7° back, 5° up | Rating: 8/10
Reasons to buy: Rides even better than it looks. UK made classy carbon.
Reasons to avoid: Expensive. One size only.
No, you’re not seeing double. We did already list a Hope handlebar above in the shortlist of the best 35mm diameter handlebars. This bar here is the original 31.8mm version.
Carbon handlebars in the ‘old’ 31.8mm clamp size appear to be something of a dying breed but this one is a good choice. For the money a carbon bar isn’t the most costs effective way to save weight but it’s a nice addition because it’s something you’re going to be looking at every time you ride. Hope’s Carbon riser does look good and feels great but the high price (and lack of rise options) does count against it.
What do I look for in the best mountain bike handlebars?
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. It’s always a question of personal preference though, and other factors include things like where you ride. Tight and twisty trails with loads of trees close together? You may prefer to go a little narrower…though still wider than the old days of mountain biking!
We think you should be aiming for at least 760mm. 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.
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.
If you’re tall and/or you’ve not changed your bar rise for several years but have moved on to longer and longer reach bikes, we’d strongly recommend going for a higher rise bar than you’ve used previously i.e. 35mm rise or higher.
The majority of handlebars are 35mm or 31.8mm stem clamp diameter ie. they fit in a 31.8mm stem. You will need to also have/buy a stem to go with them so don’t forget to budget for that too when buying new bars, unless you already have one the right size.
Carbon or aluminium
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.
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.
Cut marks and reference marks
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.’