Question: I changed from a 42-cm-wide alloy handlebar to a 44-cm-wide carbon bar. I have a relatively long reach, 36-inch arms and a 46-inch chest. I wanted to open my chest a bit with a wider bar for better breathing. Yesterday, I did a 50-miler. For the last 20, I was in agony. My hands were numb and my arms hurt. I’ve never had this problem. Can you suggest a cause and solution? — Bill F.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: Simply widening your grip less than an inch shouldn’t cause the pain you describe. A wider bar splays your arms compared to your shoulder joints, which can cause discomfort when a new bar is too wide. But given your physical stature, a 44 should be okay.
However, a 2-cm increase can be a problem when combined with other factors. So, also check:
- Where are your brake levers on the new bar? If they’re substantially different from your former setup, you could be putting too much weight on your hands (if the levers are lower) or feeling extra pressure from the hoods on your hands’ nerves (if the levers are higher).
- Is the new bar’s reach longer or shorter than the old bar? The reach is the distance from the straight top portion to the front of the forward curves. Changing the bar reach can substantially change your own reach to the brake lever hoods, altering the amount of weight on your hands and arms.
- Is the new bar’s drop greater than the old bar? Drop is the distance between the bar top and the straight bottom sections. More drop means more forward lean and more pressure on your hands when riding down there.
As you can see, your new grip might be just 2 cm wider but perhaps 3 or 4 cm longer, and also lower. Combined with brake levers placed farther around the bend, there could certainly be enough difference to cause discomfort.