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I'm looking to replace my current drop bars. I like the width just fine and would like to get a new set that is the same width (or at least close to it).

How is the width measured? Is it the overall outer width? The width between the center of the bar ends? The width between the inner edges of the bar ends? The width of the flats up until the curve? Something completely different?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

The most common measurement I've seen is c-c (centre to centre), the distance between the two horizontal tops of the drops, running parallel with the stem and behind the hoods.

If that doesn't make sense, see the following image. Bar size explanation. Image credit bikerumour.com

However, you're right to check this as not everyone does it this way. The internal or external sizes might also be interesting if you're wondering how much space the bike will take to store or what size bar bag might fit between them.

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One note - The bars must also match the diameter capacity of the stem being used. –  JohnP Jul 23 '13 at 15:10
    
I'd add that you don't necessarily want to match the width of your shoulders to the width of the bars. Find the bar width that is most comfortable for you in your primary riding position (usually on the hoods for road and in the drops for track). –  Ken Hiatt Jul 23 '13 at 16:38
    
@KenHiatt. Agreed, comfort is the aim, but shoulder-width is a reasonable place to start. –  JamesBradbury Jul 24 '13 at 8:28
    
@JamesBradbury Where did that graphic come from? It's pretty sweet. –  jimirings Jul 24 '13 at 17:43
    
I've added a link. –  JamesBradbury Jul 24 '13 at 19:54
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