Taking the mystique out of finding the right handlebars
There are a LOT of choices out there when it comes to getting new handlebars for your dirt bike. Lots of brands: Renthal, ProTaper, ODI, Mika Metals, Neken, etc. Even more, options when it comes to bends, heights, widths, and sweeps; it’s easy to get lost. Luckily we here at BTOSports.com have got a handle on bars and can help steer you towards options that are in the right direction.
SIZE AND COMFORT FACTORS?
Learn the difference between what “standard” and “oversized” bars mean in our quick youtube video.
Handlebars have a semi-standardized diameter of 7/8″, which is considered “standard”, like the Renthal Race Handlebars. Many manufacturers such as Renthal, Pro Taper, ODI also build larger bars which are considered “oversized”. These bars have a thickened base clamp area of 1 1/8″ and usually taper off to the normal width of 7/8”-1” (Neken SFH handlebars are a great example). Oversized bars also tend to extend out wider compared to usual bars, creating a wider arm spread and better shock absorption. If oversized bars are something that’s being considered, be sure to know they’ll actually fit on your bike with OEM/aftermarket triple clamps.
WHAT EXACTLY ARE BAR “MEASUREMENTS”?
There are several distinct characteristics/measurements handlebars have that affect riding position, hand position, and ride experience. They are:
RISE: Measurement of the bottom of the clamp to the first bend of the bar. The higher the rise, the higher the “handles” of the handlebar will be.
HEIGHT: Measurement of the bottom of the clamp area vertically up to the top of the control area. This is the biggest factor in seating position.
WIDTH: Distance between two farthest ends of the handlebar. Typically around 31.4 inches, but can vary several inches as well
SWEEP: In a top-down view, the distance from the center clamp area to the closest point back towards the rider. The deeper the sweep, the closer to the rider.
WHAT TYPE OF BAR SHOULD I GET?
In order to figure out which type of bar will work the best, the type of bike or riding style must first be considered. Track? Freestyle? Trail? Adventure? Do you like to race? Or is catching air more your speed?
A lower sitting bar with a shallow sweep (Such as the ProTaper Contour) may be beneficial to racers, street bike users, or those concerned with speed. This keeps the rider’s body weight further forward on the bike, aiding with hard acceleration and cornering.
Adventure/Touring bikes tend to be equipped with a higher bar with a deeper sweep, allowing for the rider to sit more upright and for the hands to be level with the shoulders, reducing arm fatigue and allowing for a longer, more comfortable ride. Trail riders stand on their bikes for long periods of time and often need to get through tight spaces, so a medium-to-high level narrow (or trimmed) bar are usually suitable.
A medium-to-high level narrow/trimmed bar is usually suitable for trail riders who need to get through tight spaces and stand for long periods of time.
Height is also a large determinant when it comes to choosing a handlebar. Taller riders usually go for a higher-up bar, so consider this when deciding on a bend.
DO I NEED A CROSSBAR?
Crossbars on a dirt bike handlebar act as a rigid reinforcement to handle the extreme forces put on the bike. Standard 7/8” off-road handlebars basically always require the presence of a crossbar and provide a rigid, predictable response. Oversized models like the 1 1/8” ProTaper EVO come without a crossbar. This allows the handlebar to flex more and absorb impacts better than conventional bars—all while weighing less than them.
However, these do require oversized bar clamps in order to install. Some models, like the ProTaper Fuzion, can actually switch between both using crossbar support or not. Always be sure to include a protective Bar Pad if you’re looking at one without it. You like keeping your face intact, right? Just remember: Crossbar = rigid, stiff response. No crossbar: looser, flex response.
Aluminum alloy makes up the majority material of handlebars. 2014 grade is commonplace, alloyed with copper to give a comparable strength to steel. The zinc-blended 7000 aluminum series is considered one of the strongest on the market, providing excellent resistance to fracturing. 7075 is the strongest commercially available grade, but 7010 and 7050 grade fare better with fracture toughness. Higher grades have even better processing, but all share similar yield and overall strength.
Chrome-plated steel bars are still around but have been largely phased out due to new processes with aluminum that can achieve the same strength as steel at one-third the weight. Aluminum bars have better flex as well.
WHAT IF I BEND/SCRATCH MY BARS?
Replace your handlebars immediately if they get bent. DO NOT try to bend them back to their original shape. The outer skin of the bars gets stretched and the inner gets compressed. This compromises the structural integrity of the bars, which will eventually crack and snap from repeated stress. Deep scratches may also weaken the bar to a certain degree. If there is any substantial damage to the bars—replace them. Don’t gamble on your safety!
Be in Control
Hopefully after reading this you have a better handle on buying handlebars. You can find these and any other parts you may need over at BTOSports.com!