Switching to a wide drop bar: What should you consider?

Would you like to swap your old, narrow racing handlebars for a wider one? Good idea!

I have to admit that I have never been a fan of narrow racing handlebars. Of course, this depends on my personal preference, as well as body type and driving style. But wider handlebars definitely make sense, especially for gravel bikes and bikepacking. For example...

  • Better control off-road or off-road
  • More space for handlebar bags
  • The chest is not as constricted

Convinced or at least curious? Well then go!
Simply swap handlebars and you're done. Or are there a few things to watch out for? There is.

Length of the Bowden cables/cables

A wider handlebar may require longer cables or lines. If there are small differences in width, it will probably not be absolutely necessary to change the cables and wires. However, if the new handlebars are much wider, the old setup could be tight.

Stem length

When switching to wider handlebars, a shorter stem is recommended to maintain the usual posture. The more width means that the hands move further out and the body moves forward.
How much shorter the stem should actually be also depends on the shape of the handlebars. Generally you will find recommendations like: minus 10mm for the stem length for plus 20mm for the handlebar width. So, for example, changing from a 42 handlebar to a 48 (420mm to 480mm width) would then correspond to a stem that is 30mm shorter. I couldn't confirm this purely mathematically, but the changed position of the hands and arms must also be taken into account. This means that the elbows have to be bent a little more in order to compensate for a bend in the wrists, depending on the bend of the handlebars.

Length of the handlebar tape

And then there is the handlebar tape. The old handlebar tape may not be reusable anyway; Self-adhesive tapes in particular have this problem. Or it's already pretty dirty. But it will probably be too short, so a new one will be needed. However, many handlebar tapes are still based on traditional handlebar widths and are therefore too short for very wide handlebars. Here you will find a list of longer handlebar tapes for wide drop bar handlebars .

By the way: A great alternative to the usual handlebar tapes is the Grepp Gripper : reusable, washable and long enough for wide handlebars!

Notice

Everyone has to decide for themselves when a handlebar is too wide. Bike fitting could also help. However, it should be noted that the brake levers in the drops (lower links) may be harder to reach on very wide handlebars. The strain on the shoulders and arms also changes.
Self-promotion: Try before you buy!

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