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I'm just getting into trail riding and coming off an old school bike onto a new one. Bar width on the new bikes ive been looking at varies from 680 to 780mm. Is it just personal preference or are different widths better for different types of riding?
 

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I'm just getting into trail riding and coming off an old school bike onto a new one. Bar width on the new bikes ive been looking at varies from 680 to 780mm. Is it just personal preference or are different widths better for different types of riding?
There's a big element of personal preference involved, but a bike's geometry plays a role, as well.

Generally speaking, more recent bikes are built around the idea of shorter stems and wider bars, whereas older bikes are built to use longer stems and narrower bars. There's a little wiggle room, but generally speaking, putting 680 bars onto a modern slack bike isn't going to be a good idea because bar width also affects handling and fit.

That said, most manufacturers nowadays put on really wide bars and they fully expect that if you think those are too wide, that you'll trim them. FWIW, my wife prefers her bars trimmed to about 740mm. She rides an xs frame and has pretty short arms (a negative ape factor, or a t-rex factor), and wider just feels ungainly to her. I like untrimmed 780mm bars on my bike right now (medium frame, and I have a positive ape factor). I might like wider, but haven't tried that yet. Haven't really felt a need to go wider, though.

Different types of riding - meh, sorta but not really. And not in the way most folks talk about. All else equal, bar width affects stability and the way a bike handles. A wider bar will feel more stable at speed but a narrower one will offer quicker handling. You can confound things by changing stem length, too, to account for fit changes. If your riding consists of narrower, twistier trails, you might find yourself preferring a slightly narrower handlebar. And if your riding consists of straighter, faster descents and more open trail corridors, then you might prefer wider.
 

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Another thing connected to Harold's advice, but rarely mentioned is that stem length and bar width are connected in that they are basically parts of the same lever, and adjusting one requires a change in the other to maintain the same feel. There is a rough guide, where if you shorten the bars by 20mm, the stem should go up by 10 mm to keep leverage equal. If you want to change the feel, longer lever equals more power (control?) and slower steering, shorter lever makes for twitchy fast feel.
 
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Just went through this on a bike build and as stated, you do have to play around with it a bit to get the combo of stem and bar that is right for your riding.

I am running an 810mm Deity carbon bar on my Stache. After riding it a bit it just felt too wide and I was having some issues on narrow local trails. I cut it down to 790 and it feels much better. I did not need to change stem length though.

On my Ogre I have a Moloko bar, so the width is pretty much set. However, I had to play with stem length on it for a bit before I got it dialed in like I wanted it.

Your best bet when doing this, IMHO, is to start wide. Measure everything and move your controls in to allow for you to try multiple hand position widths. Put some tape on the bar ends and mark 10mm increments. Then try each position until you get the width that feels right.

Stem length is harder to gauge And is effected by a lot of factors. Typically, today, shorter is better for most trail bikes. On the Ogre I ended up trying 4 lengths before I settled on one. So get cheap ones ($15 on Amazon) until you find what you like, if you mess with this at all. Then buy a quality one in the length and rise you want.

Oh, and that is another key factor, rise and pullback. Even most “flat“ bars have some amount of rise and pullback. Sorry, another set of dimensions that need to be factored in a bit.
 

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Ok, I felt bad about posting that last paragraph as it causes confusion. I have been building motorcycles for many years and so handlebars are something I have done a lot with.

Rise and Pullback (or sweep).

This relates as much to comfort as control. An aggressive rider typically wants less rise and pullback as they tend to be a bit more forward or neutral on the bike. A less aggressive rider (me) likes a bit of rise and pullback to be able to sit up and rest the back.

This also can get into the relationship with the top tube and your seating position as shorter bars and seating can get your knees into the bars .

It might help to take something like a pool noodle or something similar, sit on your bike and play with what you think feels right for you. Then do a bit of measurement and figure out what you want in bar rise and pullback.

Just food for thought.
 

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I'd just ride it a while. It takes time to adjust from the two different designs. Like a month or 2 if you ride at least a few times a week. It took me longer than that coming from 640mm bars before I was comfy, but now I'm glad to have stuck with it. It just works better in almost every situation.
 

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When I go full 800 or more my shoulder gets sore (one side weaker due to surgery), if I go down to 780 I seem to engage different muscles and don't get the sore shoulder. For me the change is minimal enough where I don't change stem length.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
When I go full 800 or more my shoulder gets sore (one side weaker due to surgery), if I go down to 780 I seem to engage different muscles and don't get the sore shoulder. For me the change is minimal enough where I don't change stem length.
I figure the 740mm is gonna be plenty wide for me coming off an old school bike with 600mm bars
 

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I was looking at 3 bikes. The merida big9 had 690mm bars, the xds boss 4.0 had 680mm bars, the jamis durango a1 which I ended up buying has 740mm bars.
XC bikes tend to have slightly shorter bars as their geo lends themselves in that direction. Shorter frames, longer stems, narrower bars.

Modern trail bikes tend to have longer frames, shorter stems and wider bars.

Ideal bar width falls in an intersection of preference, individual anatomy and bike type and geometry.

Most quality bikes tend to come with longer bars so you can trim them down as part of the fit process which also involves at the very least adjusting the height of the stem and the height, fore and aft of the saddle.
 

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Xds boss 4.0
If that's the bike you intend on buying...I would just ride it for a few weeks and decide. The stem is 70mm in length and comes with a 680 bar. By today's "standards"...that bar is quite narrow...but the bike is pretty basic and designed for relatively smooth trails...not sure you'd need a really wide bar for where the bike is intended to be ridden. If you're someone with wide shoulders you can look into some 720 or maybe 740 bars.
 

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If that's the bike you intend on buying...I would just ride it for a few weeks and decide. The stem is 70mm in length and comes with a 680 bar. By today's "standards"...that bar is quite narrow...but the bike is pretty basic and designed for relatively smooth trails...not sure you'd need a really wide bar for where the bike is intended to be ridden. If you're someone with wide shoulders you can look into some 720 or maybe 740 bars.
He said he bought a Jamis Durango which has 740 and is trying to adjust from ~600 on his old bike...
 

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You have to ride it. It's essentially seated reach you're looking for. Your torso is pulled closer forward with longer stem and longer bars. See how you feel seated and start there. If you feel too hunched over, I would start by shortening the stem if possible. Then look to trim the bars in 10-20mm increments. Or move the grips in 10mm on each side and stroll around the block/pump track.
 
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