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How to choose a handlebar for a gravel bike

Gravel bikes look almost the same as road bikes, but their purpose is somewhat different. The following is a summary of how to select handlebars, which are important for the operation and position of the bike.

Modified at: 2023.11.9Posted at: 2022.10.11

Should I use special handlebars for gravel bikes?

Regular drop handlebars are fine for light gravel

When we think of gravel bikes, we imagine riding on rough roads such as animal or muddy roads, but when riding gravel in Japan, not in the United States or other countries where gravel is popular, there are not many rough roads.

In most cases, the route to the gravel road is a paved road, and once you enter a forest road, you will probably find a gravel road or a beast road.

For such routes with a mixture of paved and unpaved roads, drop handlebars for ordinary road bikes will not be a problem.

In fact, if you look at professional gravel races, you will see that even the pros ride with regular drop handlebars on mixed paved and dirt roads, and some even ride their road bikes instead of gravel bikes.

However, if you have chosen narrow handlebars for road bikes, you should keep in mind that choosing handlebars that are 2 cm wider will give you more stability on gravel and other rough roads.

Gravel bikes from well-known manufacturers sometimes use “flared handlebars” with a wider end section.

Flared handlebars are shaped to allow the rider to grip the bracket portion on paved roads and stable gravel, and to grip the lower handlebar, which is about 5 cm wider than the bracket portion, on bumps and gravel slopes to increase stability. The handlebars are a combination of drop handlebars and flat bar handlebars.

Of course, they are not as stable as MTB’s 50+ cm long bars, but the big advantage is that they allow for more flexibility in riding form than regular drop handlebars that drop vertically from the bracket.

The key is proper position

Gravel bikes seem to require special equipment for riding on rough terrain, but the most important thing is to set up a proper position for yourself that allows you to take optimal form when riding on paved or unpaved roads.

Even with the same handlebars, the position can vary greatly depending on the height and angle of the handlebars and the length of the stem. If the forward lean is too deep, you run the risk of falling forward over bumps, and if the forward lean is too shallow and upright, you will experience increased aerodynamic drag on flat roads.

Since the position in this area will vary greatly depending on your body size, flexibility, and the type of road you ride on, it is best to consult with the dealer or pro store where you bought the bike, and repeatedly try and change the position to find the best fit for you.

Gravel Bike Position Guide

Gravel bikes have a slightly different approach to position than both road bikes and MTBs. This section explains how to optimize the position.

Easily convert your bicycle to gravel bike

Gravel bikes are often bought from manufacturers who sell them as "gravel bikes," but it is also possible to customize a road bike or cross bike and "gravel bike-ize" it.

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