Which handlebars for a mountain bike are best?
The right mountain bike handlebars can help you steer and maneuver more precisely, maintain a proper riding position, and even absorb some of the impact and vibration from a rough course or trail.
Whether you’re hitting the trail for the first time or participate in competitive enduro racing, having handlebars that match your riding style and preferences can help you make the most of your ride. In our buying guide, we examine the key factors that set different mountain bike handlebars apart, including materials, type, width, and angle. We also share our top product recommendations, like the featherlight carbon composite Race Face SIXC DH Handlebar.
What to know before you buy handlebars for a mountain bike
Flat vs. riser
- Flat: This straight, classic design is a go-to for a reason. Flat handlebars are durable, strong, and encourage a better forward-leaning posture for challenging climbs and trail riding.
- Riser: Riser bars angle up slightly in a U-shape that flattens at the ends for the grips and brakes. Riser handlebars allow you to ride upright, which offers extra comfort and control on extreme courses.
- Carbon fiber: Carbon fiber is both extremely strong and lightweight, making it the gold standard in handlebar materials. It also helps minimize vibration for a smoother ride.
- Scandium: Scandium is lighter than aluminum but not quite as light as carbon fiber. It’s both strong and durable.
- Aluminum (or aluminum alloy): While not quite as strong as carbon fiber, aluminum is durable, long-lasting, and great for bikers on a budget. Unfortunately, aluminum won’t do much about vibration and impact while riding.
- Titanium: Titanium is heavy and expensive. Some riders still prefer this material, however, because of its superior ability to reduce impact and vibration.
- Steel: While steel is strong, inexpensive, and virtually indestructible, it is heavy. Many BMX riders prefer steel, but most mountain bikers steer clear.
What to look for in quality handlebars for a mountain bike
Wider handlebars may offer more control and leverage on downhill slopes or rough terrain, while narrower bars help you maintain a balanced riding position for longer cross-country rides. Flat bars are usually narrower (around 23 inches), while riser bars are often wider (around 27 inches). If you aren’t sure which width you prefer, you can buy a wider set of handlebars and have them cut down later if you decide you’d prefer a narrower set.
The angle or bend in a given set of handlebars determines how dramatically the bars angle away from the center. You can find some flat bars with little to no bend, or riser bars with between 4° and 9° of bend that allow you to ride in an upright position with your hands near your body. Most riders opt for a neutral 4° to 6° angle.
The majority of mountain bike handlebars have a 22.2-millimeter grip diameter and can accommodate almost any kind of grip you prefer. Keep in mind that the diameter of the clamping surface may vary from 25.5 to 35 millimeters. Make sure the size of your stem clamp is compatible with your new handlebars before you buy.
How much you can expect to spend on handlebars for a mountain bike
Budget mountain bike handlebars run between $8 and $65, with the most expensive options priced between $95 and $175. Economy handlebars are usually heavier and made from less durable materials like titanium or aluminum alloy, while pricier options are typically made from carbon fiber and are both lightweight and extremely durable.
Handlebars for a mountain bike FAQ
How wide should my handlebars be?
A. To find your ideal handlebar width, get into a pushup stance with your hands on the floor and your arms at 45-degree angles from your chest. The distance between your hands in this stance is the width of the most comfortable handlebar for your bike.
Which type of handlebars are best for enduro racing?
A. If speed is your primary concern, choose ultra-light carbon fiber handlebars that won’t weigh you down. Select wider handlebars that can help you maintain control on rough downhill sections.
What are the best handlebars for a mountain bike to buy?
Top handlebars for a mountain bike
Our take: Extremely light carbon composite option that’s as comfortable as it is durable.
What we like: Long bars are excellent for precision steering. Virtually indestructible carbon composite. Lightweight 220 grams.
What we dislike: Needs a 31.8-millimeter stem; incompatible with 35-millimeter stems.
Where to buy: Sold by backcountry.com
Top handlebars for a mountain bike for the money
Our take: Durable, affordable handlebars that are comfortable and simple to install.
What we like: Lots of room to accommodate many grip styles. Quick and easy installation with a single bolt. Great durability for price point.
What we dislike: Not as light as pricier options.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
Our take: Sleek, aerodynamic carbon fiber handlebars in a wide variety of attractive styles.
What we like: Durable. Design and engineering reflect expert input. Simple installation. Strong, durable materials. Many different colors, sizes, and styles to choose from.
What we dislike: Some color/size options are chronically out of stock.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Noelle Ihli writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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