The handlebars of the bike, how to choose it and grip it correctly
The good old handlebar

The good old handlebar


With its strikingly curved silhouette, the drop handlebar enables a cyclist to switch between a series of different grips. It is a comfortable and safe option in any riding situation and can be improved with suitable taping.


The handlebar, or rather the drop handlebar, is one of the three body contact points on a bicycle – the other two being the saddle and the pedals. With an attachment to the headtube, it also allows the rider to change the direction of the front wheel. Basically, it is a steering instrument.

A fascinating snippet of information, isn’t it? What are the bets that some of you thought it was just a place to put the computer on…

It might be self-evident, but the drop handlebar is a key element on the bike, not only because it enables us to point it in the right direction or because it is a mounting place for the brake levers and gearbox. The pedalling posture, which means comfort and performance, depends to a great extent on having the right handlebar and gripping it properly.

The iconic curved shape of the drop handlebar (Major Taylor bars) for road bicycles has tips facing downwards and was invented in the late nineteenth century by Marshall Taylor, a legendary American track cyclist. His aim was to make bars which gave the bike more streamlined contours.

Over the years, shape, structure and materials have undergone constant changes, but the core idea has stayed the same: the curvature enables the cyclist to rest his hands on different points depending on how hard the race is, but it is also ideal for varying position, thus ensuring that the arms and back avoid excessive strain.


Get the right handlebar

Whether you get a classic Italian-style one with a rounded silhouette, a Belgian deep squarish one or a compact modern one with an ergonomic design, you must always make sure that the handlebar provides you with sufficient support and gauge it according to the parameters of width, length and height.

If you choose the wrong one, it could not only cause discomfort, it could actually lead to health problems.

So enlist the help of a good biomechanical expert and find a style and size that suits you down to the ground. The width, which is basically the distance between the two axes of the curves, must be the same as the cyclist’s shoulder span, whilst the right length which means the depth of the curvature, serves to position properly the handguards of the lever body. Lastly, the height corresponds to the breadth of the curvature – the distance between the axis of the straight bar and that of the tip of the curved part. Finding the right balance between these various measurements will help the rider to maintain a more relaxed position throughout the entire outing. One old cycling rule, which is quite straightforward but often underestimated, tells us that the handlebar is right when it enables us to keep a series of grips without getting tired.


Are you sure you are holding it right?

So let’s talk grip.

Cast your mind back to your first time on a racing bike. Didn’t it feel awkward having to adopt such a strange crouching posture? Wasn’t it scary having to have your hands resting on the upper straight bar dangerously far away from the brakes? But after a while you got the hang of it and learnt to use and make the most of all the hand positions.

Or did you? Well anyway, we are going to go through the various positions now. It will be no doubt of use to any newbies.

Low grip

A sprinting grip like no other. It looks elegant but it is not always a comfortable one to maintain. Grip the handlebar on the curves underneath the brake levers. This gives an aerodynamic position and total control over the bike. A very good descent position but try it sometimes uphill standing on your pedals. It is reminiscent of Pantani for anyone who remembers his epic climbs and magical riding style.

High grip

A typically relaxed grip for a tourist trail with the hands resting on the bar, lightening the load on arms and shoulders. Also well suited to climbs sitting in the saddle. But the hands must not be too close to the centre for 3 reasons: so as not to compromise steering stability, so as not to strain the torso which would make breathing difficult and finally so as not to be too far away from the brake levers.

Grip on the controls

An “intermediate” grip which entails gripping the top of the handlebar to the sides of the brake levers, or holding the lever body with the rubber handguards.

This is not an aerodynamic stance, but it is a natural one when you stand up on your pedals in an en danseuse position with the typical rhythmic oscillations of the bike.

It allows you to pedal more powerfully as well as enabling you to reach brakes and gears instantly.


The right grip

Therefore, gripping the handlebar properly means greater comfort and more safety. And a professionally taped handlebar is going to help on both counts.

A firm grip avoids discomfort, uncertainty and distractions. It is the best guarantee of careful steering in all circumstances. This is why Selle Italia invented its patented Smootape, an innovative hi-tech tape which has special flared edges. This characteristic does away with any ridges and unevenness caused by overlapping which is so typical of traditional bar tape. The end result is a perfectly smooth surface which is pleasantly even to the touch.

Tough, easy to clean and simple to replace, Smoothtape comes in an array of different materials, colours and textures and is available in 4 versions to suit the needs and personality of all cyclists.




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