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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 10 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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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
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@KenHiatt. Agreed, comfort is the aim, but shoulder-width is a reasonable place to start. – James Bradbury Jul 24 '13 at 8:28

Yes, this answer is a couple years behind. Some manufacturers measure overall outside to outside others center of the tube to center of the tube.(for ease of measuring, center to center is the same as inside edge of one to outside edge of the other) Generally measured at the tips as this provides the easiest point to get an accurate repeatable measurement. The width you choose is based on largely on personal experience but as a general starting point have another person measure the width between the boney protrusions at the outer front of your shoulders(where the clavicle and acromion meet) then add about 2cm for bars measured center to center, or 4cm if they are measured outside to outside. I've heard that for general comfort, having bars slightly too narrow can be more comfortable than too wide because your chest and upper back must do more work to bridge the gap of being too wide. While too narrow could possibly slightly restrict maximum breathing capacity and also cause elbow-knee interference. However issues with being too wide or narrow also depend on other factors like reach, bar/drop height, leg length ratio, etc.

Overall I think folks make all the wrong fuss over these sort of measurements, the optimums are rarely steep peaks on a graph, most often the optimum is just the middle of a nice wide gentle curve with plenty of margin for error.(ie cranks for the xs to xl frame range should span about 150 to 185[~25% or people 5'>6'4"] based on femur lengths and knee bending, but good luck finding anything outside of 170-175[~3%]. Meanwhile people will worry for days over 170 vs 172.5[~1%]) I mean my motorcycle has 80cm handle bars and my mountain bike 58cm my old roadbike 40.5cm, half that of my motorcycle.(I did find this a little bit cramped for my body but it never caused any notable issues) and other than the shock of transitioning between them if it has been a few months, they all work well enough.

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