Choosing The Right Touring Bike Handlebars For You

The way we hold onto our bike becomes more of an issue when we ride several days in a row and for hours at a time. Being able to change position, especially the part of your hands you are resting on, and the angle of your back, makes a big difference. Choosing the right touring bike handlebars for you is of paramount importance.

Choice of touring bike handlebars is subjective. We all need to feel happy on our own bike. There are three choices offered on VWR bikes; broadly drop and sit-up styles. But there is no right or wrong. Our hands become familiar with where everything is within a few days.

The impetus for the drop bar user to change position is sometimes to be lower, to have more power, more body control and less wind resistance. But the trekking or riser bar rider cannot get as low, so thinks less in terms of speed, and possibly more about the scenery.

Touring bikes get used also for urban transport and for bush riding. “MTB touring” had brought some new handlebar designs into the market.

Why drop bars might be your preferred touring bike handlebars

Vivente model showing drop bar touring bike handlebars

Drop bars were originally developed to get our bodies a little lower, or at least to give us the option of being lower. This would reduce wind resistance. But for touring bikes, that get ridden for long periods, they (drop bars) offer the added benefit of being able to change our back-angle.

You can position your drop bars up high if you want, providing your forks have a long steerer tube. You still get the advantage of drop bars in being able to adjust your back-angle. So, drop bars don’t necessarily mean very low riding positions. It is still possible to get your body down low as you’d sometimes like to do when going down hills fast, going through faster corners or riding in traffic.

A unique thing about drop bars is the way you can pull against them in the drop position.

The brake lever hoods give you a whole extra place to put your hands. You now have a stretched-out position option.

In the racing world, the preferred width of drop bars is the width of your shoulder joints. That’s related to optimizing lung capacity. With the advent of so called “gravel” bikes, wider drop bars have become available. The lower (drops) section is flared out. Bore size (where the stem clamps the bar) has standardised at 31.8mm (they used to be 25.4mm or 26.0mm) so as to prevent movement in rough terrain. These are also improvements for long distance touring.

The new designs with flared out drops, are about 6cm wider. They are very comfortable and more steering leverage makes them seem “lighter”. They move the mirror in the HB end out and rear vision is superb.

Trekking Bars

Vivente model showing trekking bars

These allow lots of holding positions, including the chance to stretch right out. It is easy to rotate them to get an even higher position.

Traditionally trekking bars like these were designed for slightly more turning control.

Slightly swept back riser bars and sitting up on your touring bike

Vivente model featuring slightly swept back riser bars for touring bikes.

Some sit-up handlebars are flat and almost straight. By adding a 25mm rise and an 18° back-sweep you are now able to slightly rotate these bars to find your ideal and most comfortable position.

Unlike drop or trekking bars, these can be easily shortened if you want. They start at 700mm wide. The wider set-up is ideal for off-road as you get more leverage.