Handlebar Width Blog
Handlebar width is considered during a good bike fit to provide both comfort and best fit anatomically. However, aerodynamically, gains can also be found in correct choice of handlebar width. It has been understood and adopted by elite cyclists that a narrow handlebar width can reduce frontal area, we recently put this to the test in our Sports Performance Wind Tunnel.
The tests were performed with 5 different handlebar widths, by two riders, to demonstrate how the rider’s physiology, or position on the bike may also affect the results. For reference Rider 1 was 178cm and 73kg, Rider 2 was 183cm and weighs 90kg. Shoulder widths were also 36cm and 38cm respectively.
The speeds selected for the test were 30, 40kph and 50kph, at 0 degrees yaw for simplicity.
The riders’ edges were captured during the baseline test, which were then projected in front of them for each subsequent run as a reference point to maintain the same position on the bike and ensure repeatability. A 10 second pedalling tare was also completed prior to each run to account for any changes in weight distribution from changing bar width.
The full results of each test can be found in the graphs below; however, we have summarised some of the key points below:
Rider 1: 36cm bar resulted in the lowest CdA across speeds.
Rider 2: 40cm bar resulted in the lowest CdA across speeds.
The results show that for Rider 1 a 36cm bar gave the lowest CdA across the three speeds.
For Rider 2 a 40cm bar gave the lowest CdA across the two speeds with a clear trend but at 50 kph there was some variation occurring that would need to be further investigated.
Both riders reported comfort being a factor and it was found that when measuring shoulder width, bar width correlated with this measurement.
Both riders also began to flare elbows outwards leading to a drag increase when the bar width selected was narrower than shoulder width measurement, when a bar is too narrow discomfort is presented so there could be a trade-off.
If you would be interested in arranging a session in the Sports Performance Wind Tunnel to optimise your own equipment choices, please refer to the Performance Consultants section of our website for further information – https://silverstonesportshub.co.uk/consultants/