Our favourites, bar none
We think a set of the best mountain bike handlebars are a cheap upgrade that will last you for ages, so we’ve compiled our list of the best.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.’
Best mountain bike handlebars: 31.8mm clamp
Here are our current favourite handlebars with 31.8mm clamp size…
Nukeproof Warhead Carbon Riser 31.8
Shape: 6° up, 9° back
mbr review: “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.”
Spank Spike 800 Vibrocore Race 31.8
Shape: 4° up, 8° back
mbr review: “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.”
Renthal FatBar 31.8
Shape: 5° up, 7° back
mbr review: “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. The shape is good too; 7° backsweep and 5° upsweep means you don’t need to rotate it to a weird angle. You should be able get your hand position spot on.”
Funn Kingpin 31.8
Width: 785mm or 810mm
Shape: 5.5° up, 8° up
mbr review: “Clamp it on the bike and they feel pretty much spot on. The backsweep/upsweep combo put your hands and wrists in a perfectly neutral position, so presented no issues. In the 31.8mm diameter version there was a perceptible amount of flex felt when pushing hard. This flex wasn’t at the level where it felt too much though. In fact it helped to take some of the buzz out.”
Best mountain bike handlebars: 35mm clamp
Here are our current favourite handlebars with 35mm clamp size…
Race Face Next 35
Shape: 5° up, 8° back
mbr review: “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. Why not just get the SixC 35 bar and cut it down to 760mm? Because it wouldn’t offer anything like the same weight saving due to the way the clamp area is designed internally.”
Easton Havoc Carbon 35
Shape: 5° up, 9° back
mbr review: “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.It has also widened the central bulge compared to the 31.8mm standard Havoc bar, so cosmetically it is a bit ugly. It does work though; the bar is bomber-solid.”
Chromag Fubar OSX 35
Shape: 5° up, 8° back
mbr review: “Feels calm and dull enough anyway, with minimal twang or harsh vibrations, whilst also feeling really muscular and direct changing direction. This bar therefore offers everything you need for a smooth precise ride for a decent price. More comfortable on longer descents than rival bars, while feeling just as positive in terms of control.”
Burgtec WR Carbon Enduro 35
Shape: 5° up, 9° back
mbr review: “Apart from the width, one of the key differences between the original Trail bar and the Enduro is the shape. Since it’s wider, Burgtec has opted for a degree more upsweep and 5mm more rise. The shape still feels spot on; I didn’t have to rotate the bar at an odd angle to get it to feel right and, like the Trail bar, it creates a very neutral hand position.”
Best mountain bike handlebars: verdict
Best aluminium mountain bike handlebars in 31.8mm clamp size: Spank Spike 800 Vibrocore Race.
Best carbon mountain bike handlebars in 31.8mm clamp size: Nukeproof Warhead Carbon Riser.
Best aluminium mountain bike handlebars in 35mm clamp size: Chromag Fubar OSX 35.
Best carbon mountain bike handlebars in 35mm clamp size: Race Face Next 35.