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1. Handlebar-Shoulder Ratio:
One way to get an idea of what width handlebars works best is to measure the distance between your shoulder blades. Have someone hold a yardstick against your back to take a reading.
Drop handlebars come in sizes ranging from about 38-cm to 44-cm wide and you select by matching the width of your shoulders. So, if the distance between your shoulder blades is 42-cm, that's what the handlebar width should be, measured from the center of the other end. Some manufacturer's measure from outside-to-outside, so check with us if you're not sure.
2. Improve Breathing and Control
The right bar width will provide comfort and increased efficiency because you'll be able to breathe better. It's especially noticeable if you've been using too-narrow a drop handlebar and you climb frequently. You'll appreciate additional leverage too, whenever you stand.
3. Extra Padding
If regular tape doesn't provide enough comfort, another effective improvement can be made by inserting additional bits of padding under the tape and the hoods. In this case, we've used the excellent Marsas foam inserts.
After positioning and holding them in place with electrical tape, try not to overlap the bar tape as much as you would normally when wrapping – you'll need to save a bit for the extra bulk and slightly bigger diameter of the padding to make it last to the end at the top of the bar.
Other padding can be installed under the brake hoods, but this takes a bit of doing, as you have to roll the rubber back far enough to make access easy and prevent folds. Do this before taping up.
4. Bar Tape
The padding on your handlebars is one of the easiest and most effective ways of making your bike a more comfortable ride. Some tapes contain a gel-like material integrated into the fabric to make it even more forgiving.
After you've removed the old tape, start winding the new stuff from the bottom of the handlebars upwards. The trickiest bit is getting the tape to go around the brake lever body in a tidy way; use one of the extra pieces of tape provided to hide the lever clamp – too many wraps around the clamp zone and you may run out before you get to the top of the bars.
Finish off by cutting diagonally in line with the edge of the bar bulge and tape the edge over with some black electrical tape to make it neat and tidy.
5. Try Higher Bars
Riser bars are also available, which are models that slope upwards on the ends to provide less bend in your back when you lean forward to grab the grips. Many off-roaders find that risers are just the ticket for a more comfortable position. THey're also typically a bit wider than flat bars to provide additional leverage, which is helpful on technical terrain.
6. Lever Adjustment
As well as making life safer and less tiring, getting your lever reach correct will boost your conﬁdence by increasing your braking control. Some Shimano STI levers can be moved closer to the bar by either screwing in the small adjustment screw as shown (Sora models) or inserting a set of spacer shims (current Tiagra, ST-R600, ST-R700).
You'll need to release a bit of cable at the brake anchor bolt to bring brake adjustment back to normal, then retighten ﬁrmly; but check that the cable hasn't suffered from cut strands at the old pinch point, and replace if in doubt.
If your levers have no adjustment, releasing a little cable will help you achieve an easier braking action, especially if you have smaller hands.