Drop Me some handlebar knowledge

Hey gang, I’m looking to troubleshoot some wrist pain/hand numbness issues and (while acknowledging there could be other factors in play) hoping to crowdsource some local knowledge/experience on different handlebar setups. My current strategy is to spend way too much time on the internet, make a spreadsheet, then pull the trigger on whatever is cheapest/looks the purdiest…
My other strategy when it comes to experimentation is go to an extreme-which I will either love or hate, so at least I know where I stand.
Currently running a race face affect R 35mm, which I suspect may be too stiff. I have a couple of directions I’m thinking of going. Either way I’m realizing I could very well need a new stem as well.

  1. Swap out for a similar type bar but in 31.8mm size, maybe a touch more give is all I need. (pros-may be able to find a local used/take off)
  2. Rise Up - I’m looking at something like ProTapers A76 riser bar.
  3. Backsweep - I’m intrigued by SQlab 12 or 16 degree backsweep bars. I’ve previously commuted for years on an on-one Mary bar, so I know the ergonomics can feel good, not sure how it would translate to an mtb setting.
    My preference in general is for an alloy bar. Any words of wisdom??

Funny enough Pinkbike just posted an article about this yesterday. It’s a good read and likely quite helpful.

One thing to consider if you go with more back sweep according to the article; “Bars with more sweep tend to be more comfortable but not as well suited for aggressive riding.”

Since you already have a 35mm stem, the OneUp bar may work for you. Looks like very similar specs to your RaceFace bar, but it isn’t too stiff like most 35mm bars. Carbon Handlebar - OneUp Components CA

I’ve had good success with Spank Vibrocore bars. 31.8mm clamp and foam filled. I found they really help dampen little bumps and vibration on the trail.


I also suffer from hand numbness thanks to carpal tunnel. Right now I’m running a fatter grip size on the PNW bars that are 35mm and haven’t really had an issue yet. If I do it’s usually from having a death grip on the bars

1 Like

Before you go dropping any coin, have you tried adjusting the position of your brake levers?
Personally I found that helped quite a bit with numbness.


I’m a trained bike fitter (no really, it’s true), but I’m not fitting anymore. I’ve got a sizing stem and a few different handlebars here if you want to drop by sometime and try a few things out. Hand numbness in my experience in my experience really boils down to three factors: 1) handlebar stiffness, 2) grip selection, 3) cockpit setup. I’ve personally run 35mm Race Face handlebars and found them to be incredibly stiff and uncomfortable. Right now I’m running a 31.8 PNW Range bar on my trail bike and I love it. Once you’ve found the bar with the right stiffness and a grip that fits your hand well the trick is to find that sweet spot position that balances rise, sweep (back and up), and reach. Once that’s dialed adjusting the controls is pure gravy.

(Here’s a little secret: sometimes the issue boils down to saddle height. I can’t say any more though or the bikefitters union will blacklist me)


For your consideration: Products · Ergon Bike

1 Like

Is the issue something that happens in certain body positions? Is it constant? Is it something that develops over a longer period of time? Previous injury?

How stiff do u run your front suspension?
1 or 2 finger breaking?

A picture of your current set up would help, one with your arms in the attack position would be better.

FWIW, I recently got my first set of Carbon wheels and bars after 20 years of biking and thought my wrists were going to legit rattle apart, but somehow got used to it over time, but I ride with basically only my palms lightly rested on the edges of the bar until its business time.

Brake lever position and how they engage plays a massive role in feedback from my experience.

And what width are your bars?


35mm clamp bars are ridiculous and were never needed but that’s the way the industry has decided we go. They are needlessly stiff, especially the aluminum bars. The OneUp bar is designed to reduce that stiffness and build in some comfort. I ran a spank vibrocore bar when I first went to 35mm clamp and it was ok but switching to the OneUp bar made a world of difference for me. I also know a few people who have grabbed OneUp bars and immediately noticed an increase in comfort over the aluminum bars. And I mean if Richie Rude can bash them through an EWS race I’m not worried about being too hard on them.
I’ve also raised the front end of my bike with max spacers and the 35mm rise bars and found that has made a huge difference in my comfort as well.
I have no experience with the large backsweep bars. I did find that the right grip made a big difference too. I used ergon grips for a long time with good results.
And like @Enduro_Performance said, suspension setup, brake lever setup, bar roll, etc are all factors. Interestingly the OneUp bar is marked with head tube angles to help you roll the bar to the optimal position and if not rolled to the right spot it can come across as extremely stiff and uncomfortable.
I have OneUp bars on my bike and also have fresh bars on the shelf if you were interested in seeing how they feel for sweep and such. My bike is an XXL with ultra fat grips so a test ride to see how they feel might be difficult, but we could meet up sometime at McRun if you were interested.


Thanks for the feedback guys,
I have been looking at the oneup bar as well, the PNW hadn’t been on my radar but it is now.
To answer some of your questions:
-While I haven’t utilized any bike fitters, I’ve read a number of “cockpit setup” articles like the one above and have played around with my lever angle, and bar roll which has minimized but not eliminated some complaints.
-My grips have progressively gotten thinner over the years, I have been thinking about trying a fat grip or going back to winged ergons. certainly I tend to grip too tight at times, that goes away the more I ride, comes back if I have a hiatus.
-I follow general suspension set up/sag and rebound guidelines, but I’m generally a set it and forget type. I’ll recheck my settings and maybe try a different rebound setting once a season or before a trip.
-I brake with my index finger and salute distracted drivers with my middle finger.
-No major injuries, some minor sprains and likely micro traumas. occasional tennis elbow.
Stoopidly-After a couple weeks off the bike I decided to go for a ride, wrist was a bit sore at the one hour mark, decided two keep riding, then had to deal with a double flat and extended hike-bike, was pretty sore at the 3 1/2 hour mark all told. In general, fatigue/discomfort starts to set in at 2+hrs, although at times this summer was doing multi-day rides at 4-6 hr/day without major issues.
-My current bar width is 780mm, Lee McCormack’s formula gives me a width of 771. I have experimented with moving controls inward but couldn’t discern enough difference benefit to justify cutting.

Similar to lucas i have carpel tunnel / trigger finger from years of working with power tools.

Ive found lower rise bars while leaning forward creates more numbness… after switching to a riser bar and a few different cock pit setups roll of the bar brake level angle i found way more relief.

Longer rides especially downhill rides still effect the trigger finger

1 Like

As stated above bike fit it the first step. I still had issues after that, and tried multiple combos of stem and bar and grip diameter (30-34mm) setups, I tried bars in 31.8 Al, 31.8 Al-Vibrocore and my stock 35 alum and a 35 carbon an once I went to the carbon my issues went away. Could be coincidence or placebo effect but I’m happy now.

1 Like

I have a medium rocky mountain fatbike which feels small for me. Using the stock stem i feel like im archint my bike riding it which exhausts my lower back… the large frame felt too big reach wise so i had to experiment with different length stems… 60mm stem was the trick

1 Like

I’m not sold on Lee’s bar width formula. Bar width is dependent on multiple physiological factors so it can’t be boiled down to some quick math. Likewise, buying the widest bar possible simply because its the widest bar possible is a recipe for shoulder problems.


Lee’s formula isn’t meant to determine your bar width. He says use it to find your MAX width. Then go shorter until you find the sweet spot that’s right for you.


I used that formula and it said I needed like a 900mm wide bar or something insane. It might work for some riders but anyone on the outer ends of taller or shorter are not going to get along with that.

I tried an 830mm bar for a bit but it Ben at my height found it too wide.


I recently had some major hand numbness that started right after I switched my grips. No other changes. Ditched those grips and the numbness went away. +1 for bike fit!

Also had issues decades ago that turned out to be a pinched nerve in my shoulder. Don’t recall how I figured that out or solved it, exactly, but likely bike fit was the issue there, too. Good luck!

PS: I tried a OneUp carbon bar and while it was very comfortable, but I had a crash and splintered the end of the bar so I’m much more keen on aluminum bars now.

1 Like

Regarding carbon bars and crashes, if you’re gonna run ‘em, you absolutely need to run an aluminum-capped grip to protect the end. Race Face Gripplers and their Easton predecessor have been protecting my carbon bars for 15 years or more. Highly recommended setup.


Good advice. I was running the One Up grips that just cover the end with thin rubber. The grip suffered some decent damage too, and has been relegated to the fat bike. :grin: