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PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2011 10:49 am 
Gold Trader
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Joined: Tue Nov 04, 2008 2:47 pm
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Location: Somerset
Morning! Beautiful day for riding! :)

I am new to road bikes and have only owned one since last summer. I probably haven't ridden it enough, (which could be half the problem) but part of the reason is that it feels so twitchy at medium/high speeds. It occurred to me on my ride into work this morning that part of this might be that my bars are too narrow. They feel a fair bit narrower than my shoulders, which is my usual rule of thumb for bar width on MTB's. When I stand up to pedal up a hill, I can feel a bit like my arms want to "fall off" the outside of the bars (when on the hoods).

So really I am after some advice - can the width of my bars affect the handling of the bike and make it feel "twitchy" and if so, how should I decide on an appropriate bar width?

Or, is it just that I am not used to road bikes and I will lose the wobble as my confidence on the bike grows?

Cheers

Barney


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2011 10:51 am 
Retro Guru
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Location: Oslo, Norway
As a rule of thumb (no exact science) the bars should be as wide as your shoulders. Especially narrower will be uncomfortable.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2011 12:43 pm 
retrobike rider
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+1 on the above

Nip into your LBS and try some bars against shoulders - ask them which width they recommend for you.

Twitchiness could also be stem length related.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2011 1:24 pm 
Gold Trader
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Thanks chaps! :)


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2011 10:08 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jul 21, 2009 5:27 am
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Location: Sydney
Road handlebar widths are really not all that variable. The narrowest are around 37cm wide, and the widest are around 46cm. 99% of handlebars are sized between 40-44cm, which is only a 10% range, and unless you are freakishly big or small, you should probably have a bar in this range.

Aerodynamics tells you to get narrow handlebars for minimising frontal area, but physiology tells you to get wide handlers so that you can open your ribcage to breathe comfortably when riding hard. The happy compromise for 99% of riders is bars in the 40-44cm range.

Notice that bike handling doesn't really come into the equation. I suspect the road bike you are riding may be the wrong size, or the wrong geometry for you. I very much doubt the handlebar width is to blame.

Two cases in point...

1) Track bikes are built to be twitchy, yet track bikes use narrower handlebars than road bikes. Cinelli track bars are almost all 37 cm wide, and a Cinnelli Pista bar in 40 or even 44cm is virtually unheard of. If handlebar width was an important factor in bike handling this would not be the case.

2) I like to ride 42cm (centre-centre) road bars. This is not surprising, since I'm pretty much average in my dimensions. I recently discovered that one of my Colnagos has 38cm bars on it, but I had never really noticed any difference in handling over the last 6 years that I have owned it. I was really surprised to discover it had such narrow bars. I know Colnagos, and I know their geometry works perfectly for me. The geometry of the frame meant that a different sized bar made no significant change to the bike's handling.

I would suggest going to your local bike shop, and asking for a test ride on a few road bikes. The sales staff should make sure you ride the correct sized frame. You will soon get the feel for what a road bike in the correct size should feel like, and you can compare that feeling with what you feel when your ride your own bike. You may even detect subtle characteristics of each different brand of frame.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2011 11:19 pm 
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Definitely try some wider bars, but twitchyness is probably more down to the geometry of the bike than the width of the bars. I love the feel of narrow bars on road bikes and mountain bikes feel a bit too wide and twitchy to me :D


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