The Best Mountain Bike Handlebars
The handlebar is an essential and often overlooked mountain bike component. Mountain bike handlebars are a key connection to the bike and finding the right one can reduce hand fatigue, improve your bike fit and handling. When choosing a handlebar you need to consider, rise, width, clamp diameter, and material. Here’s our primer on what to look for as well as our picks for the best mountain bike handlebars currently on the market.
Related: The Best Dropper Posts
Flat or Riser Bar?
When you start the search for mountain bike handlebars the first thing you’ll want to know is whether you’re looking for a flat or riser bar
Riser bars will put you in a more upright position, while lower bars will offer performance benefits like more weight on the front wheel. Traditional XC bike geometry was more focused on efficiency and aerodynamics while modern trail bikes are designed around an array of other characteristics that can benefit from personal adjustments.
Advantages of a flat or low MTB handlebar
+ Ability to get more weight on the front wheel for more precise cornering
+ More tuned into front wheel movement
+ Less understeer in corners
Drawbacks of a low MTB handlebar
– Possibly too much weight over front end
– More weight on hands, wrist, upper body
Riser bars are a great choice if you have any type of wrist or hand issues or if you notice you feel too hunched over on your bike. Not only will a more upright position alleviate aches and pains in your body, but they also have the potential to provide improved handling in certain situations —a more upright posture will be better when the trails get steeper and more technical.
Advantages of a tall MTB handlebar
+ More control on steeper trails
+ Improved sight down the trail
+ More comfortable position—less weight on hands, wrists
Drawbacks of a higher MTB bar height
– Must be conscious to push front end down, especially on longer, modern bikes
– Slower steering feel
Wider is not always better and defining the width of your bars may take a bit of trial and error as bars have gotten wider. My personal preference for bars trends toward the wider side, but a great rule of thumb is to run bars similar to where your hands rest when in a push-up stance. I recommend giving a wider bar a try first and incrementally trim off a few millimeters at a time. Cutting bars is an easy DIY project, just make sure you have a fresh hacksaw blade and a saw guide.
31.8mm vs. 35mm
Over the last few years, we’ve seen more and more 35mm clamp diameter handlebars and stems after what seemed to be a solid consensus of a 31.8mm bar diameter standard. Manufacturers argue that the 35mm clamp diameter bar/stem combo can “potentially” increase overall stiffness and durability. But what many argue is that a bar with more compliance provides a more stable and comfortable interface, this can be experienced firsthand with unique bars like the titanium Black Sheep Mountain Mustache bar. But in the modern MTB industry, the idea with 35mm diameter bars is that, when done correctly, they can be lighter than their 31.8mm counterpart while still maintaining a similar strength but this lacks consideration of the bar’s compliance. In the end, there has yet to be much of a consensus as to which diameter is better, but when buying new bars make sure you have a stem with the same diameter clamp.
Carbon vs. Alloy Handlebars
Carbon Handlebar Pros:
+ Damping – Due to the unique properties of carbon, carbon bars can offer more damping performance than most alloy bars, due to the ability to lay up carbon to offer specific rider characteristics. So instead of feeling each and every vibration from the trail, carbon handlebars help to absorb some of the chatter. When you are out on a long ride, that might make the difference in more comfort for your hands.
+ Weight – One of the most obvious benefits of carbon handlebars is just how lightweight they can be. Carbon bars can be constructed to be just as strong as aluminum bars and weigh significantly less. If weight is a major concern for your bar purchase, seek out carbon.
Carbon Handlebar Cons:
– Durability – Another perceived negative to carbon bars is that they are not as durable. Scratches and cuts in the carbon can diminish the structural integrity of a bar. Where an aluminum bar might bend (which usually leads to a crack), a carbon handlebar will likely break more catastrophically.
– Cost – One main drawback of carbon bars is that they are more expensive on average, sometimes twice as expensive as some similar aluminum bars. Similar to other components, carbon is just more expensive to produce.
Aluminum Handlebar Pros:
+ Durability – One of the biggest perceived advantages of aluminum handlebars is the extra durability they offer. If you were to crash your bike, aluminum is less susceptible to scratches than carbon.
+ Cost – While carbon handlebars are often expensive, aluminum bars can be had for as little as $40. There are some examples where you could buy two sets of alloy handlebars for the cost of one carbon bar, but is two better than one?
Aluminum Handlebar Cons:
– Weight – Aluminum handlebars are most of the time heavier than carbon and so if weight is the most important thing, you might not want to go with aluminum. With that in mind, there are still some very lightweight aluminum handlebars out there.
– Stiffness – This isn’t necessarily the case for all aluminum bars. But in my experience, aluminum bars ride much harsher than similar carbon bars. Especially with the 35mm diameter, some handlebars end up being much too stiff no matter the material they use.
So what do we recommend when it’s time to replace your bike’s handlebars?
The Best Carbon Mountain Bike Handlebars
One Up Carbon Handlebar
One Up claims “that most carbon bar designs on the market copy the tapered profile of an Aluminum bar while with carbon you can take advantage of more complex shapes to get a better performing product.” The One Up bar profile minimizes the length of the 35 diameter clamping area as this is the stiffest portion of any 35 diameter bar. By tapering the clamp diameter quickly and manipulating the bar shape to a flattened, oval shape in the transition zone and then to a standard 22.2mm clamp diameter for the control zone, the One Up bar offers amazing compliance with stiffness right where you need it. One up benchmarked their carbon bar against the most popular carbon bars on the market as well as foam-filled aluminum bars in a compliance test and they claim their results were, on average, a 21% increase in vertical compliance (comfort) coupled with a 28% increase in steering stiffness (responsiveness). If you’re looking for the most compliant 35mm carbon bar on the market, this may be it.
Widths: 800mm | Clamp diameter: 35mm |Rise: 20mm Rise (220g) 35mm Rise (225g) |Material: Carbon
- Great compliance for a usually stiff carbon bar
- Reasonably priced for a well-designed carbon bar
- All-day comfort
- None. This is the best 35mm bar we’ve ridden.
ENVE M6 Mountain Carbon Handlebar
ENVE manufactures a range of carbon bars, each tuned with a specific carbon layup for each unique riding application; from the XC-oriented M5 up to a bomber DH ready M9. The trail focused M6 falls right in the middle of the range and is aimed at trail riding. Designed around a 31.8mm clamp, the bars offer a 780mm width and feature cut guidelines down to 740mm though ENVE doesn’t recommend going narrower than the 740mm as they say it will make the bars overly stiff. The M6 bar is available as a traditional 25.5m rise or low 7.5mm rise the bars sweep 9-degrees back and 5-degrees up. If these are in your budget, they are my personal favorite MTB bars.
Widths: 780mm | Clamp diameter: 31.8mm |Rise: 25.5mm or 7.5mm |Material: Carbon
- Lightweight at 200g
- Balance of comfort and stiffness
- ENVE quality and US Made
- Only 780mm width
Deity Speedway 35 Carbon Riser
Known for their gravity focused MTB components, Deity builds products for hard-charging riders looking to push their limits. At 810mm wide and a 30mm rise, this 35mm bore handlebar is impressively responsive and comfortable at the same time. Though the Speedway may be on the stiffer end of things, it does strike a nice balance when added to bigger travel bikes.
Widths: 810mm | Clamp diameter: 35mm | Rise: 30mm | Material: Carbon
- Super strong DH ready carbon bar
- Good rise
- Nice design touches — Colorways, textured grip surface
- May be too stiff for some riders
Ibis Adjustable Width Carbon Bars
The Ibis Adjustable Width Carbon offers an innovative design that allows the user to adjust the width of the handlebar for experimentation or varying needs. Ibis has created the option to add or subtract width between 750 and 800mm simply by adding threaded aluminum inserts to the ends of the carbon handlebar. The aluminum inserts can also be trimmed to help you find your perfect width anywhere in between the provided increments. Additionally, new inserts can be purchased for just $15 should your experimentation end badly. The Ibis Adjustable Width bars are a little less stiff than other choices, making them great for shorter travel bikes or riders looking for more compliance out of their bars. Available in two rise options, hi-fi (30mm) and lo-fi(10mm) with a 9 degree sweep. Weight is claimed without aluminum extenders at 256g.
Widths: 750mm-800mm | Clamp diameter: 31.8mm |Rise: 10mm or 30mm |Material: Carbon
- Adjustable width
- Less stiff than many carbon bars
- Not the lightest bars
- A little more flex than some riders look for in a carbon bar
Santa Cruz Carbon 800 Handlebar
Santa Cruz carbon handlebars are designed and made exclusively by Santa Cruz, using everything they’ve learned from creating World Championship winning carbon bicycles and carbon wheels. Each bar has a dialed amount of stiffness, keeping vibration in check and minimizing arm fatigue. Discrete markers take the pain out of set-up alignments and stealth branding keeps things class. Initially conceived for the DH track, Santa Cruz soon realized the 800mm-wide 35mm-clamp design delivered DH strength at All Mountain weight, coming in at 200g.
Widths: 800mm | Clamp diameter: 35mm |Rise: 20mm |Material: Carbon
- Clean and simple
- Solid, refined construction
- Pretty stiff
Whisky Components Milhouse Bar
As the most unique carbon bar design on our list, the Whisky Milhouse bar is just that… a truly unique take on carbon riser bikes. I added the Milhouse to my fatbike and am absolutely blown away with how much I love the shape and rise of this bar. Especially for touring, fatbikes, or if you need to sit more upright on your MTB rig, the Milhouse bar is the ticket. At $215, they aren’t cheap, but if you’re looking for more rise, more sweep, or just something totally different, give the Milhouse a try.
Widths: 825mm | Clamp diameter: 31.8mm |Rise: 70mm |Material: Carbon
- Awesome rise and backsweep
- Great moto styling
- 70mm carbon riser bar with 16 degree of backsweep
- Pretty stiff
The Best Aluminum Mountain Bike Handlebars
Renthal FatBar V2
Renthal went back to the drawing board to redesign their legendary FatBar to better serve all-mountain, enduro, and gravity disciplines, result is the re-engineered FatBar V2, which builds on the iconic performance and success of the first version by adding 20mm for an 800-millimeter width while reducing weight through careful application of light, yet strong 7050 T6 aluminum alloy. While adding 20 millimeters of width for better control, Renthal was able to cut weight by approximately 45 grams, which is pretty significant in a handlebar while also considering it’s still made of alloy and doesn’t cost any more than the original bar. If the Fatbar is a bit too wide for your tastes, you can always cut down the bar ends using the width markers to help you get the job done cleanly and confidently. Additionally, Renthal now offers the FatBar V2 in a stealthy black colorway. Weight comes in at 345g.
Widths: 800mm | Clamp diameter: 31.8mm |Rise: 10-40mm |Material: Carbon
- Clean and simple
- Less than $100
- Super durable aluminum bar
- Pretty stiff
RaceFace Atlas 35 35mm Riser Bar
The Atlas 35 35mm Rise Handlebar represents Race Face’s top-end aluminum bar for these types of riding, and comes in a tall 35mm rise that keeps the head and torso slightly higher for better control on the descents. Designed for extreme riding, and lookin’ good while doing it, the Race Face Atlas sets the standard for freeride/ downhill bars. At 820mm, this bar is perfect for many types of mountain bike riding. Race Face produces the bar with two different rises to accommodate a variety of rider preferences. Choose the 35mm rise handlebar to achieve or maintain a high bar height or choose the 20mm rise handlebar to stay low and fast. The internal taper increases the strength of the bar, so your front end won’t flex.Weight comes in at 320g.
Widths: 820mm | Clamp diameter: 35mm |Rise: 20 or 35mm |Material: Aluminum
- Color options
- Less than $100
- Super durable aluminum bar
- Pretty stiff
PNW Components Range KW Edition
Coming in at 10 degrees of rearward sweep, the Range KW Edition helps put your shoulder blades in a more neutral position while reducing wrist fatigue and discomfort. When designing the Range KW handlebar, Kyle Warner wanted to create the best cockpit configuration. The handlebar features 2014 Aluminum alloy, a trail-friendly material, resembling carbon’s chatter absorbing characteristics, in a more cost-friendly and durable package. 2014 is lighter than 6061 alloy and more supple than 7075. Kyle Warner has decided to donate all his royalties from his signature handlebar to NICA, The National Interscholastic Cycling Association. Five percent of every sale goes directly to NICA and helps grow mountain biking. Weight: 334g
Widths: 780mm | Clamp diameter: 31.8mm |Rise: 30mm |Material: 2014 Aluminum
- 10 degrees of backsweep
- 2014 Aluminum offers better damping properties than other aluminum
- Some proceeds go to NICA
- Backsweep not for everyone
- Tall rise
Spank Spoon 800
Spoon bars are a value-oriented way to personalize the color and fit of your trail, all-mountain, enduro, park or downhill bike. Constructed using a micro-grain refinement during the extrusion process for additional strength and toughness from the metal. Additional structural reinforcement comes from what Spank calls “Extreme Gradual Taper technology (XGT)” which helps spread the load out over a greater area of the bar to minimize breaks and bends. The Spoon is a great budget upgrade for riders of all types. Available in 31.8 and 35mm clamp options. Weight: 365g
Widths: 800mm | Clamp diameter: 31.8mm and 35mm |Rise: 20-75mm |Material: 6000 series Aluminum
- Many rise options
- Super durable MTB bar
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