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BUYER'S GUIDE

Best road bike handlebars 2024 — fine-tune your bike's front end for comfort and performance

A set of the best road bike handlebars can truly transform your ride. Here's a selection of our favourites to suit all budgets

This article contains links to retailers. Purchases made after clicking on those links may help support road.cc by earning us a commission but all of our reviews are fully independent. Find out more about road.cc buyer's guides.

We've spent thousands of hours testing hundreds of sets of the best road bike handlebars over the years, so we thought it was only right we put our favourites currently available into a handy guide, with lots of bonus buying advice! Below you'll find our very favourite road bike handlebars with quick links to each, plus an extended selection of more higly-rated handlebars underneath. All are highly likely to improve your bike's front end over stock handlebars you'll see on off-the-peg road bikes, and there are options to suit all budgets.


Whatever type of bike you own, whether it's an endurance bike or aero road, we have something here for you. We’ve even thrown in options for gravel bikes

We’ve stuck to drop handlebars here because that’s our area of expertise. If you want a flat – or a flat-ish – handlebar for mountain biking, head over to our sister site off.road.cc where you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for.

If you want to know more about what to look for when it comes to buying handlebars – the variables that should influence your decision – head to the FAQ section below where all will be revealed.

How we review handlebars 

Far from just getting them out of the box and going for a quick spin, road.cc reviewers use products for a month before submitting their verdicts. Handlebars will be assessed on quality of construction, performance, durability, weight, comfort and value, and we'll make sure we compare to similar products when assessing how good or bad something is versus what else is available. We won't expect a 20 quid set of bars to be as good as some £200 carbon ones, basically!

First and foremost, we assess handlebars on how they are to use, but most of our reviewers will do the legwork and set them up on their bikes themselves. We may mention how easy or difficult they were to set up, route cables through etc, but will only factor set-up into the review score if it influences how the bars perform. 

Why you can trust us

When it comes to road.cc buyer's guides, we will only ever recommend products that fared well in reviews. That does mean sometimes that popular products or brands don't make it into our guides, but if the review wasn't mostly glowing, we won't include it. 

Our reviewers are all experienced cyclists, and so are the road.cc team members who put these guides together. That means you can be sure the product selections are our genuine top picks, not just a round-up of things we can make a commission from. 

Right then, let’s crack into the best-scoring handlebars we've tested over the years, including our favourite budget picks.

Best road bike handlebars

PRO PLT Carbon handlebar

PRO PLT Carbon handlebar

9
Best all-round road handlebar
Buy now for £200 from Sigma Sports
Very well made
Looks great
Comfortable
Stiff
Reasonably light
Not a huge weight saving over aluminium

PRO's PLT Carbon Handlebar offers good stiffness and excellent comfort and is reasonably lightweight, at a price that is lower than most other carbon-fibre options. The compact drop offers a powerful sprinting position and the round tops with internal cable routing are a super-comfy place to spend time on the climbs and flats.

This bar is constructed using UD T700 carbon, with a 130mm drop and a comfortable 80mm reach. The drops flare out by 2°, giving a hand position in the drops that is 1cm wider than at the hoods. It's all very comfortable for a relatively aggressive position.

The PLT bar absorbs buzz well to provide plenty of comfort and it comes with about three inches of internal routing. This gives a clean finish and because the section is straight and short, it's incredibly easy to feed cables through.

Out on the road, there is no rattling from the internal cables and wrenching on the bar brings no front end movement.

The PLT Carbon looks really smart, performs well it comes at a very attractive price for a bar of this kind. 

This handlebar is also available with wide top sections for a more ergonomic fit. We've reviewed that version too and found it to be equally impressive

Prime Primavera Aero Carbon Handlebar

Prime Primavera Aero Carbon Handlebar

9
Best aero road handlebar
Buy now for £74.99 from Chain Reaction
Stiff
Great drop for sprinting
Great price
Horizontal portion of the drop could be longer

Prime's Primavera Carbon Aero Handlebar is a great upgrade option at an attractive price. The drop is slightly shallower (122mm) than on the previous model with a more ergonomic shape that's excellent for sprinting, and the price is still very good.

The Primavera Carbon Aero Handlebar's key features include easily-accessible drops, an aero top section, huge holes for internal cable routing, and space around the stem clamp for a computer mount and light.

Tester Liam writes: "The shape gives a tight and stable hold on the bar that really helps you get planted and the road buzz that can hamper stiff carbon components isn't present here. Even with gloveless hands resting on the bare carbon of the aero top section, I don't feel much buzz."

Genetic STV Road Bar

Genetic STV Road Bar

8
Cheapest road.cc-recommended road handlebars
Buy now for £29.99 from Genetic Bikes
Compact shape
Small diameter top section allows you to run thick bar tape
Cable grooves are non-existent
No 'sandpaper' effect for gripping gear shifters

The Genetic STV Road Bar delivers a good balance of stiffness, comfort and weight at a decent price. It also has a compact shape that can be used by less flexible riders.

The STV does pretty much everything a handlebar needs to. Made from 6061 series aluminium alloy, it doesn't flex and its slightly thinner-than-usual top section means you can run thicker bar tape for extra comfort without adding too much to the bulk. 

Schmolke Roadbar Oversize Evo TLO

Schmolke Roadbar Oversize Evo TLO handlebar

8
Best handlebar if money is no object
Buy now for £450 from Schmolke Carbon
Superlight
Good balance of stiffness and comfort
Great shape
Well, there's the price tag

The Schmolke Roadbar Oversize Evo TLO is an astonishingly light carbon-fibre handlebar that offers a good level of stiffness although the price is going to send all but the most dedicated weight-savers diving for cover.

Schmolke is a German brand that has supplied bars for the likes of Jan Ullrich and Erik Zabel in the past. All of its products are made in Germany. The TLO – it stands for 'The Lightest One' – is made from T1000 carbon fibre and it comes with a reach of 76mm and a shallow drop of 126mm.

The top section of the bar is slightly squashed in profile, fitting beautifully into your palm when you're climbing, and it's easy to arrange things so that you get a flat or just slightly angled platform from the shoulders to the hoods of your levers.

The drop bends smoothly with a generous amount of rearward extension at the end, allowing you to shift your hands backwards if the road ahead is clear and you don't need immediate access to the controls.

The Schmolke Roadbar Oversize Evo TLO sits about mid-table for a high-end bar in terms of stiffness, offering plenty of confidence when you're out of the saddle or cornering hard while, on the other hand, also helping to damp vibration over rougher road surfaces. It's a decent balance.

If you want to use clip-on aero bars or Di2 internal wiring for a bar-end junction box, models are available with the necessary strengthening (which adds 8g of weight in each case).

More of our top road handlebar recommendations

Bontrager Elite Aero VR-CF handlebar

Bontrager Elite Aero VR-CF handlebar

9
Buy now for £71.99 from Sigma Sports
Cheap
Stiff
No road buzz
Internal cabling is fairly fiddly

The Bontrager Elite Aero VR-CF handlebar is one of the cheapest aero road bars that money can buy, making it an attractive option for a DIY aero bike. It's also decently stiff, with no real feeling of flex when pulling hard, but despite this you don't feel too much road buzz, which makes it very comfortable to use.

Assisting this comfort is the slight flare in the drops which allows for extra stability when sprinting or descending. This flare certainly isn't massively pronounced when you look at the bar, but you can certainly feel it when riding in the drops. This aside, it's are a regular compact bar, with a 123mm drop and 93mm reach.

 

Genetic Driser-16

Genetic Driser-16 handlebar

8
Buy now for £44.99 from Triton Cycles
Good combination of features
Well priced
The riser bit may be out of bounds for mounting lights or other stuff

This bar offers a 16° flare of the drops, plus a 20mm rise to the tops. This rise will come in handy for those looking for a more upright position for long rides on or off-road without getting a new stem or – for anyone who has maxed out their steerer tube – a new fork.

The tops are 'semi-aero palm friendly' as Genetic puts it, meaning even extra-large hands get plenty of grip with just a single layer of bar tape. Cable-run indentations on the underside of the tops help to guide and minimise the feel through the bar tape.

The flare makes for confident handling at speed through the rough stuff. The end of the drop section is straight for a palm's width and immediately above that is a pistol grip for all-out efforts where you need access to the shifters and brakes.

Value is pretty darn good when you compare it with what else is available – especially given that if you need to raise your bar you don't need to fork out for a new stem.

All in all, the Genetic Driser-16 is a cracking handlebar for more adventurous riding, and with the 20mm rise and wide tops it may well suit you for less-rigorous pursuits as well.

Although the RRP is £54.99, this handlebar is available for under 50 quid.

Black Inc Integrated Aero Barstem

Black Inc Integrated Aero Barstem

9
Buy now for £511.55 from Black Inc
Comfortable swept shape
Vibration damping
Integrated mount options
Wide range of widths and lengths
Tricky cable routing
Short stack height

The Black Inc Integrated Aero Barstem is available in a range of sizes, has a comfortable shape, is beautifully finished, and comes with a cleanly integrated computer mount.

Designed for both road and gravel use, it suits bikes with internal cabling, and only those with disc brakes and electronic groupsets. It comes with cable guides installed, to help with the internal cabling.

The Black Inc Integrated Aero Barstem feels very stiff in use. The stiffness can be felt both in the drops when sprinting, and from the hoods when climbing and pushing hard. You still get a surprising amount of vibration damping here.

The shape allows plenty of hand positions. The width is great for climbing or times when you’d rather sit up, while the wide flat section creates a place to rest your forearms when in a more aero position, holding on to the hoods.

While the seven-degree flare might not be as much as some would like for off-road use, on the road it gives a useful little extra width for descents.

Pro Vibe Aero Alloy Handlebar

Pro Vibe Aero Alloy Handlebar

9
Buy now for £120 from Sigma Sports
Great shape
Room for mounts on round section
Stiff
Internal routing
Heavier than some

The Pro Vibe Aero Alloy Handlebar is comfortable to hold with the six-degree flare allowing for a narrower position when on the hoods while retaining maximum control when you have your hands down on the drops. It’s not the lightest bar out there, but it is high quality and will save a heap of cash over carbon alternatives. On top of that, it features internal routing and looks the business.

The Vibe Aero isn’t a traditional round tube bar. Instead, the tops are flattened, but they’re not so wide that you can’t fit your hands around them when climbing.

The balance between stiffness and comfort can be a tricky one to get right, but it’s something that the Pro bar does brilliantly. Yanking on the hoods when sprinting up sharp climbs reveals no discernible flex, nor is there when you are braking hard.

It’s the same when your hands are down in the drops. This is a proper racer’s bar, and they love to sprint. You do get some buzz from rough roads, but it’s really not bad.

The Pro Vibe Aero is a really good buy. It looks excellent, performs admirably and is a great shape for both racing and training.

PNW Components Coast Handlebar

PNW Components Coast Handlebar

9
Buy now for £57 from PNW Components
Wide and stable
Great ergonomics
Good looks
Great price
Lifetime warranty

The PNW Components Coast handlebar is an instant classic: wide, shallow and stable, it's perfectly suited for long days on rough roads and trails. It's affordable too, and has a lifetime warranty.

The Coast bar is, on the face of it, a simple idea: go wider and shallower, to give more stability and more comfort. PNW does a range of mountain bike bars, where wider has been better since the world got over the 1980s addiction to bar ends and realised leverage is king in keeping your wheel tracking through the rough stuff.

Tester Mike writes: "I'm 6ft tall with long arms, and shoulders that measure 440mm across the protuberances. Traditional roadie thinking says I should be happiest on a 440mm bar, but the Coast proved that wrong. Whether climbing, descending or on long, flat runs, I felt comfortable and in control. Once trails turned rowdy the feedback to the bar and propensity to deviate from chosen course was markedly reduced – something I could scarce believe was afforded by a mere 20mm extra either side."

Ritchey Comp Venturemax XL handlebar

Ritchey Comp Venturemax XL handlebar

9
Buy now for £48 from Amazon
Super-wide for rough-road and trail control
Shallow drops are easy to get to and stay in
Ergonomic drops fit your palms perfectly
Plenty of space for drybag luggage
Aero tops for comfort and aeroness
Great price
Could be too wide for some

The Ritchey Comp Venturemax XL is a fabulously wide, ergonomic bar that’s brilliantly suited to long days, rough trails and wide luggage. At a great price and with very comfortable drops, it’s a winner on all fronts.

Measuring 615mm at the drops, the Ritchey Comp Venturemax XL is one of the widest drop handlebars around. There’s also a 4.6-degree backward flare on the tops, to help reach the hoods. It’s made from double-butted 6061 alloy and weighs 350g.

The drops are just over 10cm deep so they’re easy to get into and out of – important for long days in the saddle. The ergonomic upward curve of the drops fits perfectly into the palm of your hand.

The width and comfort mean you get loads of control from the drops – perfect for hardcore descending over surfaces.

Another benefit of this width is that there’s a huge 46cm free inside the hoods to carry luggage.

If you want oodles of extreme terrain, high- and low-speed control, super-comfortable grip, loads of luggage space, and all at a sharp price, the Ritchey Comp Venturemax XL could be the answer.

Best road bike handlebars: how to choose and what you need to know

faq-icon
What materials are handlebars made from?

Handlebars are almost always made of either an aluminium alloy or carbon fibre.

Carbon is lightweight and can be shaped more easily into aerodynamic or ergonomic profiles, but many racers still prefer aluminium for its ability to withstand the odd crash or drop. It's also more obvious when an aluminium bar has failed following an accident.

faq-icon
How wide should my handlebar be?

Width is usually measured between the two ends of the bar (but see below: What is Flare On A Handlebar?). Beware, though, that some brands – such as FSA – measure between the centre of the ends while others – such as Deda – measure from the outside of one end to the outside of the other.

handlebar-measurements - bar width.jpg

Drop handlebar widths usually increase in 2cm/20mm increments.

Broad shouldered riders will get more stability and breathing capacity from wider bars, but go too wide and you could end up with aches in your neck and shoulders.

A rule of thumb is to match your handlebar width to your shoulder width, but we'd advise a professional bike fit to make sure you get it right.

After vanishing for many years, bars with a flare that provide a wider stance in the drops are making a comeback for gravel riding.

faq-icon
Are all handlebars the same diameter?

The vast majority of drop handlebars on modern bikes have a 31.8mm clamping area diameter, but when buying a new bar always double-check that you're replacing like with like. Smaller bars, usually found on older bikes or some very cheap models, may be 25.4mm (Japanese and British bars), 26.0mm (most old Italian bars) or 26.4mm (old Cinelli bars).

A few years ago, Deda introduced bars and stems with 35mm clamp sections. That idea wasn't a big success for road bikes, but there are quite a few mountain bike bars and stems now in 35mm, where the greater strength and stiffness makes sense along with super-wide modern mountain bike bars.

faq-icon
What is internal cable routing?

Brake cables/hoses and gear cables always used to be positioned on the outside of the handlebar but many bars now have internal routing. The Vision Metron 5D handlebar (below), for instance, has holes in the tops where cables/wires can enter and exit.

Vision Metron 5D handlebar internal cable - 1

Internal cable routing does make swapping to a new handlebar more complicated.

faq-icon
What are handlebar reach and drop?

Reach is the horizontal distance that the handlebar extends forwards from the stem clamp area. A longer reach pulls you further forward.

handlebar-measurements - reach and drop.jpg

Ritchey's WCS Streem handlebar has a reach of 73mm across all sizes, for example, while the majority of FSA handlebars have an 80mm reach.

How to choose the right stem length

Drop is the vertical distance from the stem clamp area to the end of the bar. FSA's K-Force New Ergo handlebar, for instance, has a drop of 150mm while the K-Force Compact has a 125mm drop.

Compact handlebars have become common over recent years. Some people use a compact bar as a means of avoiding an extreme riding position that's hard on their back and neck when they move from the hoods to the drops.

Easton EA70 Handlebar - detail 2.jpg

Flip the thinking, though, and some racers use a compact bar to ensure they don't come too far out of their most aero position when they shift from the drops to the hoods.This is the horizontal distance that the handlebar extends forwards from the stem clamp area. A longer reach pulls you further forward.

faq-icon
What is flare on a handlebar?

Flare is the amount that the drop section of the handlebar slopes outwards from the vertical, measured in degrees.

handlebar-measurements - flare.jpg

Most road handlebars have just a small flare or none at all. On the other hand, gravel and adventure handlebars have a large flare to provide extra stability and control when you're using the drops. 

handlebar-measurements - shifter width.jpg

In cases like this the brand will often quote the handlebar width as the distance between the shifter clamping points (measured centre-to-centre) rather than the distance between the ends of the bar.

faq-icon
Why do handlebar drop shapes differ?

Constant-curved drops are traditional but many brands offer different types of bends that are designed to be more comfortable.

Genetic Drove Bar - drop.jpg

The Genetic Drove (above), for example, is an anatomic shape with a tight radius at the top of the bend, a flatter section where your hand can rest just behind the lever, and a gentle curve towards the end.

faq-icon
Why aren't the top sections of some handlebars round?

The tops of most handlebars are circular in cross section but some are shaped for comfort or aerodynamics.

Ritchey Comp ErgoMax handlebar - front.jpg

Ritchey, for instance, says that the tops of its Comp Ergomax gravel/adventure handlebar (above) are ovalised for comfort – your weight is distributed over a larger area so pressure is reduced – while the Prime Primavera carbon handlebar (below) has flattened tops that are designed to reduce frontal area and drag.

Prime Primavera Carbon Handlebar - detail 2.jpg

Bear in mind that it can be difficult to fit some lights, computer mounts and so on to the non-round sections of bars, although it's usually possible right next to the clamping area.

faq-icon
What is a handlebar's sweep?

The tops of most handlebars head out at right angles to the stem but others sweep forwards or backwards. 

handlebar-measurements - sweep.jpg

The Vision Metron 5D (below) has a 10° forward bend, for instance. Vision says that this results in "a more ergonomic climbing position and easier breathing".

Bianchi Oltre XR4 Disc - stem.jpg

In contrast, the tops of the Ritchey Comp Ergomax handlebar sweep 5° backwards. Ritchey says that this, combined with the ovalised tops, more evenly distributes the weight of the rider's hands and wrists and puts them in a more natural position.

faq-icon
What is a handlebar's rise?

The tops of most drop bars sit level with the stem clamp but riser drop bars do exist. The bars slope upwards on either side of the stem clamp area before levelling out.

handlebar-measurements - rise.jpg

Most bars of this type are designed to increase the height of the front end for gravel use, doing a similar job to a taller head tube, a higher rise stem, or a stack of headset spacers.

Genetic Driser-16 Bars - detail.jpg

The Genetic Driser–16 handlebar that we reviewed, for instance, has a 20mm rise to provide a more upright riding position.

Specialized S-Works Aerofly handlebar 25mm rise

Specialized's S-Works Aerofly Carbon Handlebar isn't designed for gravel riding, though. Specialized says that "a 25mm rise [will] allow you to achieve a more powerful position, or lower you stem stack to become more slippery in the wind".

faq-icon
What is the outward bend of a handlebar?

The outward bend, or outsweep, is the degree to which the ends of the bar are angled relative to a line going down the centre of the stem.

handlebar-measurements - outward bend.jpg

Most Pro bars, for example, have no outward bend, the ends of the bar pointing directly backwards. Zipp's SL-70 Aero has an outward bend of 4°, the same as most FSA bars.

faq-icon
Can I fit aero bars to my handlebar?

You can't fix clip-on triathlon aerobars to all drop handlebars. Some bars are the wrong shape and others simply aren't designed to handle the forces.

Deda Elementi Parabolica Due Clip On Bars

It's always best to check the manufacturer's specs before fitting any.

Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.