20/02/2020 - Cy talks bar width and height

bar width and height

Getting the best from your cotic

enduro mountain bike, 29er mountain bike, cotic bikes, sheffield, steel full suspension, mountain biking, reynolds 853, steel is real, steel hardtail, trail hardtail, cotic cc

Three years ago I did a bunch of testing with a bunch of different bar widths and heights, learnt a lot and sent out an email to hopefully help you figure out what might be good for you and your Cotic. This came up again recently on a Singletrackworld forum thread trying to help a guy get comfortable on his new SolarisMAX, so I reposted my essay for him to read. Given how long it's been since I sent it, and given that it's even more relevant now to our Longshot geometry, I thought I'd give you a chance to read it or revisit it, along with a few updates and thoughts I have picked up along the way.

Click Here to read the original bar width blog

A lot of what I wrote there holds well for the current bikes, because what I couldn't say when I wrote that blog was that all the testing I did apart from the older 60mm stem setups was done on my first prototype Longshot geometry 29er frame, which with some more development became the FlareMAX Gen2, our first droplink Longshot bike.

Moving onto our current bikes I run an XL RocketMAX with a 35mm stem, 5mm spacer under the stem, Cotic Calver bars (25mm rise) still with my 775mm width over the grips I established during this testing. This is a key point: The bars themselves are actually cut to around 765 to achieve 775mm over the end of the grips with my WTB Padloc grips. Your actual bar width is the usuable width of your bars. If you have open ended lock on grips, it's probably 20mm narrower than the actual width. It's worth considering.

Sweet Spot?

One cool thing I picked up from that Singletrackworld thread is a Pinkbike article about the so called 'sweet spot' for handlebars. It's based on physiology measurements and it's really interesting. Have a read.

Finding your sweet spot bar width

The base assumption is that your handlebar width is as follows:

If you’re male, multiply your height in millimeters by 0.440

If you’re female, multiply your height in millimeters by 0.426

For me at 189cm tall, that give me 1890 * 0.44 = 832mm. That is seriously wide! If you have read my original blog at the link above, it's also likely to be the reason why I wasn't uncomfortable when I ended up with uncut 800mm bars giving me an actual width across grips of 815mm. However, that isn't what I settled on as my preferred bar width. If you read that Pinkbike piece further it suggests most people will be comfortable between the 'Sweet Spot' width and 5% less, which for me would give me 790mm. Given I actually prefer running 775mm, this is rubbish right? Well, no! It's a great rule of thumb to give you an idea of where you should be aiming, and as the article quite rightly says, there are a bunch of other considerations, not least of which is,

"If you ride in trees , make sure your bars fit. Duh."

Well, quite! The top point it makes is,

"There are lots of advantages to making your bars narrower: more range of motion, more pulling strength and better shoulder health, to name a few."

Refering back to my original testing, more range of motion and more pulling strength definitely chime with me for why I ended up on relatively narrow bars for my height. Having narrower bars means that when you have a lot of angle on the bike you aren't reaching as far, your arms stay bent at the elbows so you remain mobile on the bike. This is another function of Longshot geometry and longer bikes in general - you ride them with a lot more angle to get them through corners effectively.

Higher Baby!

enduro mountain bike, 29er mountain bike, cotic bikes, sheffield, steel full suspension, mountain biking, reynolds 853, steel is real, steel hardtail, trail hardtail, cotic cc

And all this is before we get talking about the height of the bars. To quote from my previous email:

"I've noticed my ability to run my bars higher as my bike has got longer. With a longer bike you stand up in the middle of the bike, without your weight being pushed back as your limbs extend. I have now realised that low bars counter the shorter bike by pulling you down and forward again so you can weight the front wheel. However, on the XL RocketMAX I can easily weight the front wheel [due to the length and the 35mm stem] so I don't need to compensate with lower bars."

I think it's particular 'thing' for people who have been riding quite a while - long enough that they learnt their skills when bike geometry was rubbish! - that low bars are seen as a good thing for certain applications like all day easy going rides, or more XC type riding, but this just isn't the case. We don't need aero on a mountain bike, and I'm sure those old low positions where all about compensating for poor bike geometry. If you have your bars higher, but can still weight the front wheel easily then it's a win all round. With higher bars you can almost certainly put out more power more easily, and with less likelihood of injury to your back or shoulders too. The ability to deliver a lot of force through very flexed hips is not a common one. Chris Boardman made the Lotus bike work as much as anything because he's something of a genetic freak who can put out huge power from that incredibly low aero position. It's almost guaranteed you are not so blessed, so get your bars up and see how it helps!

If you're looking at our bikes, we always supply at least 20mm of spacers to allow some stem adjustment, but if you'd like more, just add a note to the order. We can do up to 40mm and because we assemble every bike to order here in the UK, we can get it just right for you. If you want to go higher using bar rise instead of spacers, we have all the Renthal bar options up to 40mm rise. As I have probably said before, we build your bike for you.

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