Our favourites, bar none
A set of the best mountain bike handlebars are a relatively cheap upgrade that will last you for ages. 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…
Pro Tharsis 9.8 31.8
Shape: 4° up, 8 back
These are a very sensible set of handlebars indeed. Which, depending on what type of person you are, will make them instantly a turn-off or immediately appealing. There’s nothing flashy or gimmicky here. No carbon. No wild graphics. No wacky sweeps. Not expensive. Not cheap. These are just a mighty fine middle of the road mountain bike handlebar that will suit pretty much everyone and everything.
Nukeproof Warhead Carbon Riser 31.8
Shape: 6° up, 9° back
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
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
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.
Funn Kingpin 31.8
Width: 785mm or 810mm
Shape: 5.5° up, 8° up
The extra width options and bang-on stiffness/flex ratio make the Funn Kingpin another good choice for your long travel machine.
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
Our only caveat with these bars – and it’s a significant one – is that they are only 760mm wide. You really have to like narrow bars OR you have to be canny with your grip choice and set-up. Basically you can add about 20mm to any bar’;s width by running lock-on grips with encapsulated ends and/or running single-collar lcok-on grips ‘overhanging’ the ends of your bars by 10mm each. If yo do that, these bars are well worth considering due to their weight and ride feel.
Easton Havoc Carbon 35
Shape: 5° up, 9° back
This is a full-on Downhill grade handlebar. But the days of DH-grade automatically meaning heavy and OTT width are long gone. This bar is only 231g and its 800mm width isn’t that far off what a lot of us ride on all of our bikes. You can trim them a bit too… in theory (sawing carbon fibre is hazardous though so best given to your bike shop to sort). What this bar gives you is lightness and excellent ride feel.
Chromag Fubar OSX 35
Shape: 5° up, 8° back
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.
Burgtec WR Carbon Enduro 35
Shape: 5° up, 9° back
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.