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Which Types of Handlebars Are Best for Long-Distance Motorcycle Trips?

Which Types of Handlebars Are Best for Long-Distance Motorcycle Trips?

1. Introduction

Whether you intend to go on a motorcycle camping trip or just want to go on a long tour, your biggest priority during the planning process should be on the type of handlebars you will be using. Motorcycle handlebars are not the most complex motorcycle part, but they are undoubtedly vital due to all the tasks they fulfill. Handlebars help you to maintain your balance, change direction, and give you access to all the controls.

However, depending on the type of handlebars, there are still limitations to what they can do. Some handlebars are only suited for slow, short commutes, while others work best when traveling highways. But if you plan to travel for several hours or almost the entire day, you want handlebars capable of handling quick maneuvers and ensuring stability across hundreds of miles.

In this article, you will find a comprehensive list of several types of handlebars best suited for long-distance trips.

2. Criteria to Consider When Choosing Handlebars

2.1 Material

Most handlebars are constructed from long-lasting and durable materials, including stainless steel, carbon fiber, or aluminum. Stainless steel handlebars are weather-resistant, tough, and difficult to dent. Carbon fiber handlebars are more lightweight and shock-absorbent. Aluminum handlebars are more affordable and have a heavier build.

2.2 Diameter

The diameter is the thickness of the handlebars’ bars/rods that form its structure. Thicker handlebars are more durable and long-lasting, but you should ensure you can fully close your hands around the grips.

2.3 Width

Handlebars with more width between the grips offer better stability and leverage, ensuring better handling when on the road. Meanwhile, handlebars with a narrower width between the grips reduce wind resistance and improve aerodynamics.

2.4 Clamp Size

Make sure that the handlebars’ clamp size will fit the dimensions of your motorcycle during installation. Handlebars with a large clamp size will not easily come off and remain securely in place. Meanwhile, handlebars with a smaller clamp will better absorb shock and vibrations when riding over bumpy roads.

2.5 Rise

The rise is the height between the bottom of the handlebars and the top of the handles. Make sure the rise brings the handles at a level height with your arms.

2.6 Pullback

The pullback is the length between the front of the handlebars and the end of the angled handles. Check that there is enough clearance to bend and extend your arms when turning.

2.7 Riding Posture

Depending on the rise, drop, reach, and pullback, these factors determine whether the handlebars put you in an upright or leaning riding position. An upright riding position improves back posture and offers better comfort when traveling long distances. A leaning riding position improves aerodynamics and vehicle performance at high speeds.

2.8 Hand & Wrist Positions

Depending on the shape and length of the handles, you can shift the position of your hands and wrists. Longer handles with grooves along their length let you re-position your grip to keep your hands and wrists from cramping.

3. Butterfly Handlebars

Butterfly Handlebars

Butterfly handlebars, also known as trekking handlebars, are constructed with an incomplete figure-eight shape closely resembling a butterfly. These handlebars are best suited for touring motorbikes. Due to the rounded and angular shape of the bars, it is easier to attach accessories and luggage, such as a phone mount, GPS, and handlebar bag.

Butterfly handlebars offer an upright riding position and have at least four places to grab the handles securely. Having room to move your hands and wrists reduces the risk of cramping and spreads your arms at a comfortable length. Due to having an extensive width, butterfly handlebars offer better stability when traveling at slow speeds and allow you to turn smoothly at high speeds.

However, butterfly handlebars tend to be heavier in weight due to their extended width which makes them harder to install. Because these handlebars keep the rider upright, this results in more wind resistance that slightly drags down your vehicle. Though these handlebars handle well on long and paved roads, they are not suited for off-roading.

Pros Cons
Comfortable upright riding position
Multiple hand & wrist positions
Better stability at low speeds
Can turn quickly at high speeds
Room to install accessories
Heavier weight
Increased air drag
Not suited for off-roading

4. Drop Handlebars

Drop Handlebars

Though drop handlebars can come with different designs, they all typically have a rounded center and angled ends with curved or straight handles. They are best suited for touring and adventure motorcycles. There is a diverse range of drop handlebar types, including classic, compact, ergo, track, or drop-in. You should have little problem finding the right drop handlebars suited for a certain distance, weather, and road conditions.

Built with a lightweight and low build, drop handlebars are easy to install and remove. These characteristics also ensure a lower riding position which helps to reduce wind resistance and improves aerodynamics. Due to the extended length of the handles, it is possible to re-position your hands and wrists during a ride to prevent cramping.

However, because drop handlebars are closer to the ground, this can make it difficult and uncomfortable for taller riders to handle these. Due to the angle of the pullback, drop handlebars cannot turn tight corners nor offer reliable handling when traveling on rough terrain.

Pros Cons
Low overall height
Easy to mount
Better aerodynamics
Multiple hand & wrist positions
Cannot clear tight turns
Not suited for off-roading
Not suited for taller riders

5. Riser Handlebars

Riser Handlebars

As their name implies, riser handlebars have tall riser heights which make them better suited for average and taller riders. Aside from their tall handles, riser handlebars tend to be built with a curved body and slightly pulled-back grips.

Riser handlebars offer an upright riding position that ensures better comfort and helps you have a clear view of the road ahead when traveling long distances. Because of the considerable width between the handles guarantees better leverage, stability, and control when steering. The extra length of the handles ensures plenty of room to reposition your hands and wrists and install add-ons or accessories.

However, riser handlebars tend to weigh more than most other handlebar types, making them harder to install. The width of riser handlebars means that the ends tend to jut out, which could prove dangerous if trying to travel between vehicles or narrow roads. Being in an upright riding position results in your outstretched body causing more wind resistance and affecting your vehicle’s aerodynamics.

Pros Cons
Multiple hand & wrist positions
Upright riding position
Clear view of the road ahead
Room to install accessories
Better leverage & control
Heavier weight
More air drag & less aerodynamics
Difficult to maneuver in tight traffic & narrow roads

6. Mustache Handlebars

Mustache Handlebars

Mustache handlebars are slightly modified drop handlebars with a slightly higher height which resemble the shape of an M or a fancy mustache. Depending on the type of mustache handlebars, they may be fitted with straight bars or wide curved handles.

Designed with a lightweight, low, and narrow build, mustache handlebars are easy to install and remove when necessary. Due to their low height, it is easier to see the road ahead. The narrow width between the handles brings the brake levers closer, making them easier to access and press. The reliable braking control will ensure you stop immediately and decrease the likelihood of getting into an accident. The length of the handles makes it possible to reposition your hands and wrists to reduce cramping while riding.

However, due to the mustache handlebars’ complex design, it takes a while to install them on your motorcycle’s front end. It also is hard to secure accessories to the curved bars. Because these handlebars force the rider to sit forward at the edge of the seat, this could cause discomfort in your lower torso.

Pros Cons
Low & narrow build
Easy to install
Multiple hand & wrist positions
Reliable braking control
Takes longer to mount
Cannot install accessories
Less comfortable riding position

7. Flat Handlebars

Flat Handlebars

Flat handlebars are straight steel bars with only slight bends at the base of the handles. These handlebars are the most accessible, being easy to handle for riders of all experience levels and body types. Due to their simple design and extended width, they have enough space for you to install accessories such as a phone mount, GPS, or luggage.

Flat handlebars offer a comfortable upright riding position whether traveling on paved roads or off-roading. Despite their long width, the simple straight design ensures responsive steering when avoiding obstacles or steering through traffic.

However, flat handlebars only offer a single spot on the grips where you can position your hands and wrists which means you cannot shift them or relieve stress until after you get off your ride. Due to being in an upright riding position, it is difficult to shift your body when leaning and causing an increase in air drag which slows down your vehicle.

Pros Cons
Suited for on- & off-roading
Suited for all riders
Room to install accessories
Comfortable upright riding position
Can navigate through traffic
Responsive steering
Limited hand & wrist positions
More air drag & less aerodynamics
Difficult to shift weight

8. Takeaway

If you wish to go on a long-distance motorcycle trip, you may want to consider modifying or refitting your two-wheeler with a new set of handlebars better suited to the task. Depending on the type of handlebars you use, you may be able to ride with better comfort, multiple hand and wrist positions, easy installation, etc. Keep in mind that for every advantage each handlebar type has, they may also have their share of disadvantages.

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