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Why are handlebars the diameter they are (22.2 or 23.8 in grip area)? In general, the best diameter for grip strength is where the hand around the grip has about 1mm from the tip of the middle finger to the palm (this rule is used to select tennis racquet grip diameter for example). Sounds like the usual handlebar diameter is too narrow for optimal grip for most people, even with thick wrapping tape. Any reason for this?

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    How hard go you think you need to grip a handlebar? – paparazzo Apr 18 '15 at 10:51
  • Not hard, but the optimal grip diameter makes any grip less tiring. – Sander Heinsalu Apr 18 '15 at 10:52
  • Then maybe they were not designing for optimal grip. Aerodynamics? – paparazzo Apr 18 '15 at 11:03
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    You do have a point, in that the weight of your body on the handlebar causes pain due to poor blood circulation and pressure on the nerves. However, I once calculated that the bar would need to be 3-4 inches in diameter to totally alleviate this issue. The better way to alleviate pain is to change hand positions frequently and/or have ribbed handlebar covers. There is no great need to grip the handlebar tightly -- there is no significant torque at the grip, unlike a racket. – Daniel R Hicks Apr 18 '15 at 11:42
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    @ChrisH - There is no real "standard" for handlebar diameter. Some sizes are, I suppose, "habitual" (and "blessed" by ISO), but new sizes are introduced at the whim of the manufacturers. The fact that there's not a wider variety of sizes is mostly due to the fact that there's no compelling "story" for new ones. – Daniel R Hicks Apr 18 '15 at 12:49
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You also need to consider how people use the handlebars. e.g. covering the brakes -- could someone with small hands reach the brakes easily with an optimal-for-the-average-person diameter (I suspect not, especially with the brakes of many years ago when standards were set). Also if pure grip comfort were the issue, drop bars wouldn't have happened; instead they are optimised for a range of positions for different situations and to allow the rider to vary their body position for several reasons.

It's easier to take a thin bar and make it thicker by double wrapping or padded gloves, but if your bars were too thick (small hands) they would have to be replaced, reducing the market for standard bikes.

Flat bar bikes tend to have grips with some thickness to them, taking them closer to the optimal while still allowing the rider to cover/use the brakes for long periods without contortions or spoiling the grip you'd need over rough terrain.

The exact numbers are a matter of convention, which may derive from imperial measurements, a round number minus a fixed thickness, or a combination of the 2 -- this is well documented for tyre sizing as a comparison.

This was a comment before I expanded and formatted it.

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