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As some of you already know, I'm putting together a trekking bike. It is mostly to commute where the usual route will be 15km: up to 10km on paved roads and the rest unpaved, including a highway construction site and woods. I also want to be able to take it bikepacking to Bieszczady, the Polish low mountains.

I actually put it together yesterday, and it works pretty great. The frame might've been a bit smaller, but it is quite comfortable.

My friend, who assembled like a hundred bikes so far, says my handlebar is a bit too long for me. He has seen me ride it and still thinks so. I don't have any comparison, but for me it is really comfortable as it is, without shortening it. But cutting is irreversible, so I am reluctant.

How to tell if I really really need a shorter handlebar?


I'm 194cm tall and 115kg. My shoulders are about 55cm wide, and my handlebar with grips is 65cm wide.

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    @MaplePanda, that seems like a really bad idea. The grips would be only partially supported and it would be far too easy to bend the unsupported end to a dangerous degree. – Andrew Aug 14 at 20:58
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    650mm is very narrow by todays MTB standards, especially for someone your size, I would expect to see someone like you on up to 750mm (XC) possibly over 800mm for enduro/downhill. How is the bike intended to be used? – mattnz Aug 15 at 2:36
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    Narrower will generally be more aerodynamic. If you don’t need the width for offroad handling I’d cut it down. Road bikes or single speed bikes (bicycle couriers) often have handlebars as narrow as 44cm (or narrower) for a guy your height. – Michael Aug 15 at 8:29
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    "...for me it is really comfortable as it is, without shortening it." . Sounds like you shouldn't shorten the bars. Your comfort > another persons opinion. – Warren Burton Aug 15 at 11:19
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    In addition to what @michael said, the main difference in comfort between long and short bars is that it is more natural to have a shorter bar when you crouch down. When your posture is rather upright, there is little gain from short handlebars, but when you crouch down, the shorter handlebar aligns your forearms below the upper arms, allowing your triceps to handle the major part of any vertical load. A wider handlebar puts this load much more on the weaker rotational muscles in your shoulder, making crouching much less comfortable. – cmaster - reinstate monica Aug 15 at 18:09
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Presuming as you are talking cutting down they are a flat bar.

Slide the grips, brakes and shifter inboard and ride it, see if it feels better. If so, cut it down, if not, leave as is. If you are still not sure, a cheap shorter bar to try for a bit a longer might be worth the investment before committing to cutting.

Bars can always be cut down, so its cheaper for the supply chain to supply one length, that too long for most people, and have them trimmed. Many have markings to show where to cut when trimming.

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    I'm using anatomical grips that just does not slide inboard. Otherwise I would do what you suggest. – Mołot Aug 14 at 20:37
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    @Mołot you can just wrap your hands around the bars, over the brake body or shifter controls. Not for long term, but this does help you get an idea if the position feels better or not. – Criggie Aug 16 at 7:33
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Some thoughts:

Comfort is certainly a factor, and if that's the primary consideration, it sounds like you're good to go. A bike that will be ridden on a nice paved trail should be primarily comfortable. If that's not the use case, read on.

Does the handlebar width allow you to get good arm and hand posture? That is, when you're in a high-force situation (say, going down a rocky incline where some jarring has to be managed), are you able to have a straight force line from your brake levers through your wrist and up your arms, or is your wrist form an angle with your forearms? Similarly, is the top of your wrist reasonably flat with your forearm, or is the bottom of your wrist twisted down? A summary-- are you having to choose between a good grip and being able to use your brakes?

How efficiently are you riding? Obviously, the importance of this one varies according to your discipline-- as you move from XC toward DH, control becomes more prized over efficiency. Width that causes you to have to constantly tension your shoulders to put power down efficiently is not good for XC, but might be more acceptable for enduro/DH, especially as it means greater stability and control.

Is there any chance your builder friend might have a couple of narrower bars you could try out? That might give you some peace of mind if you do find yourself about to saw some length off your bar.

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    My wrists are at small angle, but that does not seem to cause problems. Mostly I'll be riding relatively flat routes :) but I'm one step closer to being convinced to narrow it down – Mołot Aug 14 at 20:54
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    That would point more to an XC setup than a wider one, giving comfort and efficiency more priority. But no Red Bull Rampaging, hear? ;-) – Andrew Aug 14 at 21:06
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    At 650mm (Recently added to the Q) the bars are already very narrow by modern standards - even for XC. 2020 XC Bikes (e.g. Scott Spark, Trek Calibre) come out with 740-750mm bars – mattnz Aug 15 at 5:45

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