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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
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    Question Shoulder width vs. bar width

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    Hi.
    I'm not sure where to post this - cycling related, health issues, or here - so this one won out!

    Is there a "rule of thumb" regarding your shoulder width and the optimal width of your handlebars? From where to where do you measure your shoulders?
    If bars were too wide, what would be the predicted body symptoms?

    Thanks.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Massachusetts
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    2,559
    I don't know alot about this. I've heard hb the same width as your shoulders, or hb 1-2 cm wider. I've got shoulders exactly 38 cm wide, and I find that 38 cm bars feel too narrow. 40s feel perfect to me. I'm sure others will have somewhat different opinions and experiences.
    Oil is good, grease is better.

    2007 Peter Mooney w/S&S couplers/Terry Butterfly
    1993 Bridgestone MB-3/Avocet O2 Air 40W
    1980 Columbus Frame with 1970 Campy parts
    1954 Raleigh 3-speed/Brooks B72

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Top of Parrett Mountain, Oregon
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    453
    The LBS swapped out the handlebars that came on the WSD bike I purchased. One of the reasons is the handlebars were too wide. The LBS said where the hands are positioned on the drops need to line up with the shoulders. I love the new handlebars; I feel I have control and mastery over the bike. On the original bars, I felt a complete lack of confidence.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Pacific Northwest
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    3,473
    My shoulders are about 38-39". The Eros Donna had 36" bars which were way too small and made my hands go tingly. I switched out the 36" for 42" and they work fine, although I suppose 40" would be ideal.
    "My predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved;I have been given much and I have given something in return...Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and an adventure." O. Sacks

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    San Francisco, CA
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    1,080
    For comfort, the rule of thumb I use in bike fit is no more than 2cm wider than your shoulders (measured from A/C joint to A/C joint). That means most women would be on a 36cm or 38cm bar. You should be able to lift your hands straight in front of your shoulders and grab the hoods while keeping your wrists in a straight plane (ie no cocked wrists). A bar that's too wide will cause pain in the shoulders/neck and potentially in the hands/arms (if you ride with a tight grip on the bar).

    For performance, we tend to fit a bit wider, since this allows the rider to "push" the bar for high-speed cornering and descents. Because most racers spend much more time on their bikes than rec. riders, they're able to build additional strength that prevents the shoulder/neck pain. The other alternative is a bar that flares slightly at the drops, but this isn't necessarily safe for close riding (such as in a crit).

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Posts
    1,063
    Towards the end of the season when our mileage was getting higher, I started to have problems in my upper back. I just assumed that my bike was too long. I'm 6' tall but only have an arm span of about 5'6".

    When I started riding on a trainer a couple weeks ago with a 20+ year old racing bike, I noticed how much more comfortable that bike was than my newer road bike. So this weekend I got out the tape measure and discovered it was actually just a tad bit longer between saddle to handle bars. Hmmm...

    But after searching old posts (note: there are some good back threads on this one) I found the shoulder width == handlebar width. Sure enough, the old bike has 40cm handle bars and the new bike has 44cm. When I do the measurement on my shoulders I am at 38cm. Looks like I'll be looking for new handle bars. I just haven't decided if I should go down to 38 or go with 40. Dropping 6cm seems a drastic change.

    These forums are awesome!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Posts
    2,507
    This is something I have been wondering about myself as I tinker with bikefit a little this winter.

    I've searched a little for a 38 cm bar on the 'net, but they seem to be hard to come by. 40s a bit more plentiful. Which ones have others used?

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    WA, Australia
    Posts
    3,292
    I have 38 on my older road bike and 40 on my new one. I actually prefer the 40. Most of the long distance cycling books I read say in general the width should equal your shoulders but recommend a slightly wider bar for long distance stuff as it opens your chest for breathing.
    The most effective way to do it, is to do it.
    Amelia Earhart

    2005 Trek 5000 road/Avocet 02 40W
    2006 Colnago C50 road/SSM Atola
    2005 SC Juliana SL mtb/WTB Laser V

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Flagstaff AZ
    Posts
    2,521

    Bar Width

    I have 38s on my road bike and cyclocross bike - I have pretty narrow shoulders so this works quite well for me.

    I also run a very narrow mountain bike bar (don't know the exact measurement) but since mountain bike bars do not have a lot of places to put my hands and sometimes I like to be wider for climbing, I have bar ends on the end of my bars for another place and position to put my hands.

    When I started riding mountain bikes, it was the norm to have bar ends. Now people make the choice. I really have a hard time riding without them so I love them.

    I tried riding riser bars on my mountain bike and that was a disaster. First thing I did was crash - and then I was determined to ride them to see if it was because I was not used to them so I rode them for 2 weeks. It did not get better. That is, my bike handling was horrible so I went back to narrow straight bars with bar ends and love them.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Hillsboro, OR
    Posts
    5,050
    My first road bike had bars that were too wide. It was a 49cm bike but it had 44cm bars. Even the bike shop guys were amazed at how wide the bars were for such a small bike. They measured my shoulder width at 39 cm and my new bike now has 38 cm bars. I no longer have back, shoulder, elbow or hand pain! I didn't notice any handling differences even with a 6 cm change...and the change in comfort was totally worth it!!

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Looking at all the love there that's sleeping
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    4,172
    Wow. Thanks. This is all very useful, and it's making me wonder if my 42 cm bars are too wide. I'm currently off the bike with neck spasms, shoulder irritation and median nerve irritation. I wonder, tho', if it really IS the handlebars, as all of my ailments are on one side only.

    GLC1968 - did you have pain in both arms or just one?

    My shop has offered to re-fit me to the bike. I may take them up on that, and focus on the handlebars, as that is one of the major components I recently changed on the bike.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Posts
    2,507
    I cruised around the net for appropriately sized bars and ran across THIS ONE.

    Is anyone familiar with it?

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    NW Georgia
    Posts
    399

    Salsa Poco

    I have those bars on my bike and like them.

    KB

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Posts
    2,507
    Quote Originally Posted by kaybee View Post
    I have those bars on my bike and like them.

    KB
    Thanks. May be my next purchase.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Traveling Nomad
    Posts
    6,662
    I love Salsa Pocos. Even in the narrower widths (I have 38 cm), they feel wide because they have such a nice wide flat section on top before the bend begins. I also love that they are shallow, so I can ride comfortably in the drops, and I like the little anatomic bend in the drops as well. I've recommended these bars many times before.

    Emily
    Emily

    2011 Jamis Dakar XC "Toto" - Selle Italia Ldy Gel Flow
    2007 Trek Pilot 5.0 WSD "Gloria" - Selle Italia Diva Gel Flow
    2004 Bike Friday Petite Pocket Crusoe - Selle Italia Diva Gel Flow

 

 

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