Different Types of Handlebars Explained

One of the most important components of a bicycle are its handlebars. Every bike has one. Each handlebar serves a different purpose and understanding the different types of handlebars may help you decide which type of bike you want (if you’re in the market for one) or perhaps how to maximize comfort or efficiency on your current bike. We’ll discuss 6 of the most common type of handlebars we see here at Bikes Palm Beach and type of riding and bikes they’re suited for.

  1. Flat Bars
  2. Cruiser Bars
  3. Riser Bars
  4. Drop Bars
  5. Bullhorn Bars
  6. Aero Bars

Flat Bars

TYPES OF BIKES: Hybrids, Mountain Bikes, Dual Sport

RIDING STYLE: Cross Country Mountain Bikes, Leisure, Fitness

Most bikes on the market are built with flat bars as they’re the most versatile and simplistic. The simplicity makes steering predictable and precise. The clean bar design allows the bike manufacturer to attach brake levers, shifters and riders can customize their experience further with accessories like lights, bells, cargo carriers, phone holders, and grips.

Flat bars are terrific for cross country mountain bikers because it allows the rider to lean forward towards the bar in a more aggressive position ideal for climbing, improving leverage and tire grip on rougher ground surfaces.

Riders using flat handlebars will enjoy more upright position (compared to drop bars or other bars designed for aggressive road riding). Hybrid and fitness bikes tend to be stocked with flat bars to maintain comfort on longer rides.

Cruiser Bars

TYPES OF BIKES: Cruiser Bikes


Riders who want to sit completely upright while pedaling should opt for the cruiser bars. They’re typically stocked on a cruiser bikes, as you may have guessed. They’re perfect for leisurely rides around town and short, quick commutes.

Cruiser bars have plenty of room to add a cute little basket in the front, lights, bells, and any other accessories your heart desires.

Riser Bars

TYPES OF BIKES: Mountain Bikes

RIDING STYLE: Trail, Free Riding, Downhill

Riser bars are basically flat bars that feature a slight rise from the center clamp area. Riser bars are typically wider than flat bars. You’ll commonly see these bars used on trail bikes since it allows the rider to be slightly more upright than flat bars.

The wider the handlebar, the more leverage and control the rider will enjoy. It makes turning easier and requires less energy. For rough terrain with lots of twists and turns, the wider the better – unless you’re trying to ride through narrow singletrack lined with trees spaced tightly together!

The back sweep, which is the angle at which the bar bends back from the stem, offers riders a comfortable grip. The rise allows the rider to sit further back with less weight distributed to the front, which can alleviate stress or pain in the wrists.

Drop Bars

TYPES OF BIKES: Road Bikes, Gravel Bikes, Vintage Bikes

RIDING STYLE: Road, Gravel

Popular bars among the more traditional bike enthusiasts due to its great looks and versatility. Typical drop bars have a straight middle section similar to a flat bar with each end curing downwards and towards the rider.

Riders have many options for hand placement on drop bars including on the flats (top part of the handlebar), on the brake hoods (most upright and neutral position, and easy control of braking/shifting levers), and in the drops (leaning down in a more aggressive position to reach the lower part of the handlebars).

Bullhorn Bars

TYPES OF BIKES: Triathlon, Time Trial

RIDING STYLE: Long Distance / Endurance, Aerodynamic, Racing

Bullhorn handlebars are bike bars that curve up and forward. These bars are optimal for anyone looking to improve aerodynamics, that’s why Time Trial and Triathlon bikes feature bullhorn bars. They allow you to get much lower on the bike when facing a headwind or going at fast speeds and racing. Bullhorns give the rider more leverage, too, when climbing.

Bullhorn bars are not suitable for tight turns or quick maneuvering. Nor are they recommended for riders who ride and train within tight-knit group rides.

Aero Bars

TYPES OF BIKES: Triathlon, Time Trial, Road, Gravel, Cross Country Mountain Bikes

RIDING STYLE: Long Distance / Endurance, Aerodynamic, Racing, Bike Touring, Bikepacking

Aero bars or triathlon bars are primarily used for time trial cycling where the rider competes against the clock. Two extended bars placed close together allow the rider to grab on with arm rest pads to rest the forearms. Aero bars put the rider into a narrow forward tuck position to reduce air drag.

Some aero bars are integrated into the design of the handlebar and bike, but most typically, they are an add-on accessory used on road, triathlon, and time trial (TT) bikes. Sometimes they are used for long distance, endurance, bike touring, and bikepacking in conjunction with gravel or cross country mountain bikes to stave off fatigue by offering riders another option for hand placement and body positioning on longer rides.

Because the aero bars are meant to be used for longer, straighter sections of racing courses and terrain, they’re not recommended in group rides or routes with tight turns and/or other riders and traffic to contend with (your hands are away from your brakes and often shifters when using the aero bars).

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