Cycle Touring Handlebars

Cycle Touring Handlebars and Rider Comfort

Cycle Touring Handlebars can include any common type of bicycle handlebar but there are also some more specialist options.

Riding a bike with straight handlebars for long durations can become uncomfortable due to placing your wrists and palms in the same weight-bearing position for too long. Discomfort can even turn to numbness by affecting nerves and circulation.

Unfortunately if you’re upgrading from straight handlebars to drop bars, including aero bars, you will need to buy different gear and brake levers too.

Cycle Touring Handlebars – Bar Ends

There is no need to throw out your straight bars if you don’t want to, you could just add bar ends to them. Sometimes known as ‘bull bars’, bar ends are cheap and may provide that much needed change of position that will prevent your hands and wrist from becoming uncomfortable.

Cycle Touring Handlebars - Specialised Bar Ends
Specialised Bar Ends

Bar ends come in many shapes, are typically about six inches long and can be mounted to point in any direction. They can be made from rubber, metal and plastics or a combination of materials. Some have very ergonomic, hand shaped, designs and some even mimic the shape and riding position of drop down bars.

Bar ends are by far the easiest and cheapest way to improve your handlebar set from plain straight handlebars. However, make sure you have long enough handlebars to mount bar ends whilst still leaving room for brakes, gears and a place for your hands to rest in the normal position.

Cycle Touring Handlebars – Butterfly Bars

One of the most convenient features of butterfly bars is that they can be fitted in the place of straight, regular shaped handlebars with no additional fuss and incompatibility stemming from gear and brake set-ups.

The position of the brakes and gears on butterfly bars is very similar to regular bars. In most cases it’s possible to buy a butterfly bar and some bar tape and transfer all of your existing brake and gear hardware onto them.

Butterfly Bars
Butterfly Bars

With butterfly bars the position where you have access to your gears and brakes is quite similar to a straight bar. But, because the bar is much longer and has a big loop in it there is a very small amount of play that reduces the vibrations travelling to your hands and wrists.

Cycle Touring Handlebars – Drop Bars

Ergonomic Aero Drop Bars
Ergonomic Aero Drop Bars

A popular choice amongst road cyclists, drop bars provide a more aggressive and aerodynamic riding position.

Changing from a straight bar to a drop bar can be quite tricky, there are a few compatibility issues that must be worked out first.

Drop bars are designed to be used with their own style of brakes that run vertically down the bar so when upgrading from a straight bar system you will need to factor in the cost of brake levers and, in most cases, gear levers too. Changing the brake and gear levers will also mean changing the cable and the cable housing as they may not be long enough for the new set-up.

Drop bars, when sitting in the drop position will seem too far forward if your bike has a long handlebar stem so you may need to find a shorter stem to reduce the distance between the seat and the drop bars.

Auxiliary Levers
Auxiliary Leaver
Auxiliary Lever

If you do decide to outfit your bike with drop bars and drop leaves you will find that, when riding in the top position, you don’t have immediate access to your brakes. This is where auxiliary levers come in handy.

Originally designed and marketed at cyclocross riders, auxiliary levers (aka ‘cross’ or ‘interrupter’ levers) add an extra set of brakes to your handlebars which permits breaking from the top riding position.

Chain Reaction Cycles is the place to go for cycle touring handlebars, they have a great range of bike components. I use them often.

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6 thoughts on “Cycle Touring Handlebars and Rider Comfort”

  1. What is the model/company of the hanlebars shown as “Ergonomic Aero Drop Bars”? I am looking for aero+touring dropbars, but I cannot find anything and those probably are it!

  2. Thanks for the great picture of the butterfly bars. I want to try them on my rigid mountain bike. The straight bars are just uncomfortable. I mostly ride with drop bars which I find comfortable. I’ve seen some not so clear pics of these butterfly bars and could not really tell what they did with the levers.

    I think from you pic that I can use my brake levers and twist shifters OK. If not I will replace them with Shimano Altus ST-EF51 4-Finger V-Brake Shifters. I was thinking about doing that anyway.

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