A set of the best mountain bike handlebars are a relatively cheap upgrade that will last you for ages. We’ve compiled the best: carbon, alloy, 31.8 or 35mm.
The form of the best mountain bike handlebars is the riser bar. This is where the ends of the bar rise up higher than the centre section in the stem. The clamping diameter is either 31.8mm or 35mm. 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.
Read on to see our shortlists of favourites in each diameter, followed by comprehensive bar buying advice guide at the end. And if you’re looking to update your bike’s whole front end then you should check out our buyer’s guide to the best mountain bike stems.
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Best 35mm diameter bars:
Weight: 235g | Width: 780 or 800mm | Rise: 12, 25 or 38mm | Dimensions: 9° back, 5° up | Rating: 9/10
Pros: Unique offset sweeps suit modern MTBs, Accurate handling. Cons: 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. Truth be told, it’s not a massive world of difference; you could get on these bars and not notice the unique sweep at all. But it certainly does no harm and will no doubt be felt and appreciated by some riders more than others.
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.
In general its ride feel is indistinguishable from far more expensive carbon bars and this, combined with the sensible modern MTB sweep shaping, make the latest Nukeproof Horizon bar a winner.
Weight: 219g | Width: 800mm | Rise: 20, 35mm | Dimensions: 9° back, 5° up | Rating: 9/10
Pros: Lightweight and with a great ride feel without being a wet noodle Cons: Not extremely bendy if you were after that sort of flex
Ostensibly this is very epitome of a modern mountain bike handlebar: a whack full 800mm width, 35mm clamp diameter and available in 20 or 35mm rise (we recommend the latter for modern, longer mountain bikes by the way) and it comes in the almost de rigeur 9° x 5° sweep combo.
What sets this bar apart is its on-trail ride feel. It isn’t a painful, overly stiff stick of a bar. Don’t get us wrong, it isn’t as overtly flexy as some deliberately bendy bars (such as made by One Up or Syncros) but it most definitely does do that old carbon cliche of not passing on vibration and chatter into the palms of your hands.
And, er… that’s that. A great handlebar is a hard thing to bang on about. It just works. Is light. Rides nicely. Doesn’t cost a ridiculous amount of money. And has really cool graphics whilst doing so.
Beautiful and comfortable
Weight: 224g | Width: 800mm | Rise: 20mm | Dimensions: 7° back, 5° up | Rating: 9/10
Pros: UK-made with beautiful exposed weave finish and muted ride sensation. Cons: Lacks back sweep for some. Only one rise option.
Handlebars were one of the first things that Hope got round ot making oonce they’d got the tech to make carbon stuff in-house. Their initial handlebar was a 31.8mm diameter and we really rated it highly (we still do, it’s listed below in the best 31.8mm diameter bars shortlist).
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 have been generous enough to extend its width to the full 800mm modern standard
Not only that but hope also state that this 35mm diameter is actually more comfortable than their 31.8mm diameter bar. This is the wonder of working with carbon fibre. You can almost do what you want with it. The resulting bulgy, bulbous aesthetic is something of an opinion splitter, mind. So too is the carbon weave finish which does look rather noughties (although personally we secretly kinda like this modern retro vibe).
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
Pros: Super strong with long life expectancy. Wide enough for all tastes. Cons: Super gloss finish requires careful brake/shifter/dropper clamping. Lacks angle-dangle markings for controls.
Not a fan of carbon? You’re not alone. Even taking aside the expense and environmental concerns of carbon (we don’t think carbon bars are weaker than alloy bars by the way, so we’re not factoring that in as a negative), there is something really great about the feel of an aluminium handlebar.
Race Face use 7075 series alloy for this bar and it really is very, very thin walled at certain parts. Alloy bars may not do any magic vibration soaking-up as oft-claimed by carbon bars but they must definitely deal with the spikes and bangs of real world rough stuff a whole lot better.
In the past we’ve been big believers in carbon bars that offered a bit more resilience, but these days aluminium can feel just as good and is usually half the price. Obviously, carbon can save weight, but the 100g weight saving is going to be pretty insignificant on modern trail bike.
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.
Chromag Fubar OSX 35
Less tiring than other oversized bars
Weight: 320g | Width: 800mm | Rise: 25mm | Dimensions: 8° back, 5° up | Rating: 9/10
Pros: Lovely calm feeling for a 35mm bar. In-yer-face graphics. Cons: May feel overly dull for racers. In-yer-face graphics.
They don’t much credit (or blame) for it, but Chromag were one of the original proponents of the now ubiquitous 35mm diameter standard. Their 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 actually claim to have their own bespoke way of drawing out alloy into tubing, with the ability to be relatively specific about where the have more/less alloy thickness.
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.
Best 31.8mm diameter bars:
Weight: 322g | Width: 780, 800mm | Rise: 20, 35mm | Dimensions: 8° back, 5° up | Rating: 10/10
Pros: Does what it says on the tin, as it were Cons: Would be even better if it came in a higher rise option for big riders/bikes
DMR have had a handlebar called the Wingbar in the 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 warded 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.
Weight: 330g | Width: 800mm | Rise: 15, 30, 50mm | Dimensions: 8° back, 4° up | Rating: 10/10
Pros: Ideal for those looking for flatter grip angle. Unique Vibrocore ‘filling’ genuinely reduces discomfort. Cons: 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 their wheel rims). The Vibrocore filling only adds around 25g to the weight of these bars bythe way.
Most impressively, Spank don’t seem to be overly interested in overcharging for this unique feature and as such we really commend the sub-£80 price tag.
At home on trail or downhill
Weight: 364g | Width: 780mm | Rise: 10, 20, 30 or 38mm | Dimensions: 7° back, 5° up | Rating: 9/10
Pros: Modern classic that still cuts it. Loads of rise options. Cons: Not as wide as more modern offerings.
A modern classic handlebar. There’s a reason why so many professional racers run Renthal bars, it’s not (just) because they’re paid to, it’s because they really are supreme in terms of feel and shape.
The blend of stiffness-to-flexness 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. You’d think there would be some frame paintjobs that clash with Renthal bars but we’ve yet to see one. Magic.
Looks good and feels great
Weight: 225g | Width: 780mm | Rise: 20mm | Dimensions: 7° back, 5° up | Rating: 8/10
Pros: Rides even better than it looks. UK made classy carbon. Cons: 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.
How to choose 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.
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 ie. 35mm rise or higher.
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.
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.’