Be sure to experiment with various widths (Josh Patterson/Future Publishing)
Handlebars have been trending wider for many years. Few of us are riding the 580mm-wide Answer Hyperlite bars that were the rage fifteen years ago, but that doesn’t mean you should rush out and buy a handlebar that’s wider than a Honda Civic just because it’s what your favorite pro downhiller is riding.
If you’re thinking about going wider, do it for function, not fashion. And before doing it at all, weigh the pros and cons.
Specialized fit professor Aaron Post recommends balancing biomechanics with terrain and riding style to find your ideal handlebar width
The Evolution of Wide Bars
Like the rest of the components we ride, handlebars have evolved dramatically since the early days of our sport. In the beginning there were just ‘mountain bikes,’ today we have all manner of species of knobby-tired machines—cross-country, trail, all-mountain, enduro, freeride, downhill—along with components designed specifically for these breeds.
Noel Buckley is the owner of Knolly bikes. He has a background in engineering physics and has seen the mountain bike market diversify over the past two decades. “The changes in riding style, advances in full suspension bike geometry and suspension travel, the rise of new applications (e.g. downhill bikes) have allowed handlebar manufacturers to go wider than the standard cross-country bar of 20 years ago,” said Buckley.
His engineering background lends itself to an analytical view of handlebar width, though he admits there’s no hard science to finding one’s ideal handlebar.
“There are no simple answers here: even making a table of rider height versus frame application versus suggested bar width would be difficult and probably not overly useful. Local factors such as trail design, trees, rocks, and the balance of climbing versus descending might sway a given rider’s preferred bar width by 25-50mm,” said Buckley. “The obvious argument towards using longer handlebars is that they give you more leverage (or torque) to steer the front wheel: this is supposed to make controlling the direction of the bike easier. In general, this is correct. At the end of the day, it is very difficult to say anything more than wider bars = shorter stems, smaller riders = narrower bars, and low and slack bikes can typically get away with wider bars than steep, tall bikes. But even these dogmas are being challenged by the increase of 710-740mm bars in the trail bike market—bar widths that were decidedly DH oriented less than half a decade ago.”
Wider Does Not Necessarily Equal Better
Like most things in life, handlebar width is best approached with an eye towards moderation and practicality. If your trails are very tight, heavily wooded, and lack high-speed sections then a wider a bar may be a hindrance. If your handlebar is so wide that you are riding with your arms extended and your elbows locked you will find it very hard to react to obstacles. Likewise, if you’re slight of frame with narrow shoulders, wider bars may cause discomfort.
You shall not pass!
Aaron Post is a fit professor with Specialized. He notes that while there are tangible benefits to going wider, wide bars are not for everyone, and my have little to no benefit, depending on how and where you ride.
“The wider trend has come from riders who are riding very technical, very fast terrain, where the trail is literally starting to pull the bar out of the rider’s hand. If your trails are not particularly technical the need for a wider bar diminishes. More often than not, it is biomechanically easier for a rider to support themselves with a narrower bar, you would want to go wider as the terrain dictates,” said Post.
Tire pressure has a huge impact on how your bike performs on the trail (Josh Patterson/Future Publishing)
Question: I’m relatively new to mountain biking, so forgive me if this seems silly, but how important is it to follow the recommended tire pressure guidelines? They seem much higher than I feel I should be running.
Answer: Tire pressure is a critical component in getting the most out of your mountain bike. There are a number of variables that go into figuring out the ideal pressure range for a bicycle tire. Many of those are completely out of the control of the manufacturer, causing them to err on the side of caution. “It’s a lawyer thing, for sure,” said Schwalbe’s North American OE sales manager Henry Horrocks.
A tire’s maximum pressure is not the pressure at which it will burst like a balloon; more often than not it’s the rim that can’t withstand the pressure. Not all bicycle rims are created equal; some can withstand much higher pressures than others. Companies have no way of knowing which rims you, the consumer, will be pairing with their tires. Consequently, their maximum recommended pressures tend to be conservative.
For mountain bikers, the maximum pressure rating generally isn’t the issue, as most riders run well below this number. Many – myself included – often run pressures well below the minimum rating, especially with tubeless setups.
Why go lower? Well, it can allow your tires to roll faster and absorb more trail irregularities, and can increase traction as well as comfort. There are numerous studies that offer supporting evidence (though most focus exclusively on road performance). When it comes to mountain biking, finding one’s ideal tire pressure is a qualitative pursuit.
While the maximum pressure rating is a hedge against rim strength, the minimum recommended pressure is a hedge against you, the rider. If the pressure is too low the tire can squirm, roll off the rim, or burp air as you corner. Riding under inflated tires can also cause the casing to flex excessively, leading to premature wear. At best, minimum recommended ratings are educated guesses as to what will work for most people most of the time.
The pressure ranges printed on the sides of your tires are educated guesses
The variables that impact tire performance can be broken down into six categories, and while companies might not be able to account for all of them, you can.
Six things to consider when finding your perfect tire pressure…. Continue reading HERE!
Long time Norco Fans and North Shore Legends Lee Lau and Sharon Bader recently took a trip through the Swiss Alps where they saw the sights aboard Norco bikes. Here is their story:
We call North Vancouver and Whistler our home, they are awesome places to ride. But the world is huge. So much to offer, it’s great when you get an opportunity to travel further and see what else is out there.
This year we returned to some less travelled mountain bike destinations in Switzerland and South Tirol.
We checked out the touristy area of Grindewald, home of the Jungfraujoch. We did manage a few rides there that were pretty fun. I’d say checking out the Jungfraujoch is worth it, especially if you haven’t been on a glacier before. They’ve done a really good job to give you that experience. Some of the nicer riding is at the other end of the Glacier that starts at the Jungfraujoch – Aletsch Glacier in the area of Fiesch, Riederalp, Bettmeralp, Bellwald. This area of Wallis is quite well known for skiing and even road riding. But the riding on the Wanderwegs wasn’t bad! Neither were the views!
Our first stop was at Trail Rider Bike Shop in Ungeraegeri, Switzerland one of the Norco stores in Europe. Here Rene and Guide received our Norco Sight and Norco Shinobi 29r bikes that were lent to us by Felix of Indiansummer for our vacation.
The trails there are fast and steep! See more photos here.
Norco Sight on Unteraegeri steep slick trails
Construction will begin at the conclusion of ski season; trails should open in June
Bryce Resort has partnered with Trek, a manufacturer of high-end bikes, to offer bike rentals and demos once the new mountain park opens this summer. Courtesy art
By Linda Ash
Area mountain bikers will have a challenging new venue beginning this June. Bryce Resort in Basye is planning to start construction on a lift-access mountain bike park after the current ski season ends.
Rob Schwartz, Bryce Resort general manager, said Friday that the new park will offer beginner, intermediate and advanced runs.
“Our goal is to open with three or four runs, and we will be adding features and a new run every year,” he said.
“I’d love to finish this year at five or six, including a beginner pump track.”
The pump track, he said, is a great way to develop skills.
“If you’ve never been on a mountain bike, it’s an easy-going trail using a series of rollers. You learn how to position your body. It’s a really nice feature and a great way to learn how to ride a mountain bike before getting into the more aggressive stuff.”
Construction will start at the end of the resort’s ski season. Whistler, British Columbia-based Gravity Logic will design and build the park, which will traverse the ski area.
“Literally, you will take a chair lift up and the park [trails] will criss-cross all of the slopes,” Schwartz said, adding that it also will include a variety of man-made features.
Once the park is open, the resort will offer lessons, and it has partnered with Trek, a manufacturer of high-end downhill bikes, for bike rentals and demos.
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