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  1. #1
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    Big guys, Big bikes, Big handle bars and narrow trails with lots of trees?

    Hello all you big guys like me - so I had a chance after hitting the streets for a month to take my first trail ride and had a blast (even when I broadsided a big Oak Tree). The trail was rated easy and although I had to allow several folks to pass me, I made it around twice and even to a expanded Northern Loop for an additional 2.6 miles on the second trip.

    So here is my question. I am 6'1" and around 280# and losing! I have a '12 Rockhopper Comp 29er that is an XL/21. The spec handlebar is 700mm and I think it might be a bit wider with the Ergon grips I added.

    On this trail there are a lot of situations where the trail runs between two trees and although clearly there is enough space to blast through, I find my perception being that I just won't fit (My tree broadside came when I decided too late that I needed to brake and walk through).

    So is this a big guy thing? A big bike thing (I have been thinking maybe I should get a smaller width handlebar), or just something that comes with more trail time.

    Anyone else experience this?

  2. #2
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    More trail time. I am also riding an XL frame with 700mm bars and I weight 265ish at the moment. Once in a while I'll still catch a tree or wonder if I'll make between two close together trees.

  3. #3
    Super Clyde
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    Agreed, it will just take a little more time to get used to the bars and improve your perception.

  4. #4
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    700mm is on the narrow side for bars these days....

    Give it some time, you'll figure out how close you can get (most trails are wider than they look), and learn how to manage when you have to do the little bar-jog move because you do hit on both sides.

    Narrow bars suck. Really, really suck. There was a time when 580mm was as wide as bars came and it was awful.

  5. #5
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    I agree that narrow bars suck, especially for tall riders. I'm 6' 4.5" and run 780mm bars on my ibis HD. Check out what size bars some manufactures are putting on their bikes these days. The new Santa Cruz Bronson comes with 750mm bars (70mm or 80mm stem) with their XX1 kit. If frame size changes proportionally with rider height, than should't bar width change too? I've found that everything in mountain biking is a compromise. Depending on your riding area you might have to run a narrower bar to fit your trails even though it might not be the best fit for you on your bike.

  6. #6
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    You'll get better at throwing the bike around - so stick with what you have, as long as you have enough standover room. I'd have said the 21" was a bit big for 6'1", but as long as you can get your feet down when it matters it is all good.

    There will always be trees that grow close together - no point in buying narrower bars every time!

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by tcufrogger View Post
    Hello all you big guys like me - so I had a chance after hitting the streets for a month to take my first trail ride and had a blast (even when I broadsided a big Oak Tree). The trail was rated easy and although I had to allow several folks to pass me, I made it around twice and even to a expanded Northern Loop for an additional 2.6 miles on the second trip.

    So here is my question. I am 6'1" and around 280# and losing! I have a '12 Rockhopper Comp 29er that is an XL/21. The spec handlebar is 700mm and I think it might be a bit wider with the Ergon grips I added.

    On this trail there are a lot of situations where the trail runs between two trees and although clearly there is enough space to blast through, I find my perception being that I just won't fit (My tree broadside came when I decided too late that I needed to brake and walk through).

    So is this a big guy thing? A big bike thing (I have been thinking maybe I should get a smaller width handlebar), or just something that comes with more trail time.

    Anyone else experience this?
    I'll take the other side of the bar width argument as a 6'4" XC racer on courses that are tree lined and narrow. I've found 640 - 660mm width to be the golden width for getting through the trees, bike handling and solving the issue of tree banging. Your bars at 700mm plus the extra width of the Ergon (not sure how much that may or may not have added) puts you at a disadvantage for flying through tree lined singeltrack. Even with my 660mm bars, the rubber grips I use add an additional 5mm on each side so the total width is 670mm. And my 640mm bars are 650mm with their rubber grips installed. Could be, with your Ergons, your 700m bar is more like 710mm. Measure the width and you'll know for certain.

    Such a wide bar is not a problem if you ride on the moon (desert states), but it is if you ride in other areas. Wide bars are also not a problem if speed and dicing through tight, tree lined singletrack in a competitve racing environment is not your bag. Your original post sounds like you would like to fly through the tight stuff a bit more than you are currently doing.

    You could easily trim your bars down a bit at a time to get a width that you like, provides good handling, and gets you through the tight stuff without banging into the side. Whether it is 5mm on each side you cut off as a starting point, or more - see how that does. If it's not enough, knock off another 5mm on each side until you find that perfect solution for you - and only you.

    It's not a technqiue issue. It's the width of your bars.

    BB

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by BruceBrown View Post
    I'll take the other side of the bar width argument as a 6'4" XC racer on courses that are tree lined and narrow. I've found 640 - 660mm width to be the golden width for getting through the trees, bike handling and solving the issue of tree banging. Your bars at 700mm plus the extra width of the Ergon (not sure how much that may or may not have added) puts you at a disadvantage for flying through tree lined singeltrack. Even with my 660mm bars, the rubber grips I use add an additional 5mm on each side so the total width is 670mm. And my 640mm bars are 650mm with their rubber grips installed. Could be, with your Ergons, your 700m bar is more like 710mm. Measure the width and you'll know for certain.

    Such a wide bar is not a problem if you ride on the moon (desert states), but it is if you ride in other areas. Wide bars are also not a problem if speed and dicing through tight, tree lined singletrack in a competitve racing environment is not your bag. Your original post sounds like you would like to fly through the tight stuff a bit more than you are currently doing.

    You could easily trim your bars down a bit at a time to get a width that you like, provides good handling, and gets you through the tight stuff without banging into the side. Whether it is 5mm on each side you cut off as a starting point, or more - see how that does. If it's not enough, knock off another 5mm on each side until you find that perfect solution for you - and only you.

    It's not a technqiue issue. It's the width of your bars.

    BB
    XC verse all mountain. Two different disciplines within the same sport. Fit your bike and your bars to your riding area. I completely destroyed my left elbow trying to ride a long stemmed, narrow barred XC hard tail on a rocky tech ride a few years back.

  9. #9
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    I have been mountain biking for a long time now and when I started narrow bars (under 600mm) were normal. I have ridden most bar widths over the years. on my last all mountain bike I had 785 mm bars and yes I did hit tree from time to time it was not all that common. you have to learn to thread your bars through the tight spots on the trails. with time you can learn to do that at speed as well. That being said I do believe that wide bars in the 780mm range are a bit too wide for XC riding and I feel that the 700mm range is right for us bigger guys (6'4" myself).

    Give yourself more time ridding offroad and I think you will end up liking your current handlebars.
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  10. #10
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    Since you know that there is enough room, you just need more trail time and get more confident on your bike.

    The trail I frequent has many different routes, and when I was on those trails for the first time, I had to walk through several tree lines to see if my bars would fit (Raceface Turbine, 725mm with Odi clamps). Some of them had barely enough room (about 2 inches on both sides), and I just have to slow down and be more precise when passing those trees.
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by BruceBrown View Post
    I'll take the other side of the bar width argument as a 6'4" XC racer on courses that are tree lined and narrow. I've found 640 - 660mm width to be the golden width for getting through the trees, bike handling and solving the issue of tree banging.
    It's not a technqiue issue. It's the width of your bars.
    I have ridden mountain bikes in several countries, where I have found trees to grow both closer together and further apart than 660mm.

    Ride what is comfortable for your shoulders and learn to handle your bike to suit you. This has to be the mantra for the big and tall who are at the outer edges of what is made. Be comfortable first.

  12. #12
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    I live and ride in Northern California and I have 750mm bars on my Mojo HD. Over the years I have only caught the end of the bar on a tree one time. I would not give up the control or the comfort of the wider bar for the possibility of not scraping the tree that one time. Once you try the wider bars and feel your arms come away from your chest and you feel how easier it is to breathe and the gain in control you will not go back to the narrower bars. My 2 cents.

  13. #13
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    Go for the bar thats most comfortable for YOU!
    Then more riding time to become more agile on those narrow tracks..

  14. #14
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    Just close your eyes and blast through!! That has worked for me roughly 40% of the time.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nate3510 View Post
    Once you try the wider bars and feel your arms come away from your chest and you feel how easier it is to breathe and the gain in control you will not go back to the narrower bars. My 2 cents.
    How are riders and racers on road bikes able to breathe so easily with narrow drop bars?

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by BruceBrown View Post
    How are riders and racers on road bikes able to breathe so easily with narrow drop bars?
    They could breathe easier if they got their hands further apart. Sacrifice some lung function for aerodynamics, which isn't usually an issue for the casual mountain biker.

  17. #17
    Fat boy Mod Moderator
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    more time riding will help...

    that being said I picked up a set of 680mm bars and I feel like i've got my arms spread out like wings while riding with it... I started riding in the mid 90's and I still like fairly narrow bars... my 630mm bars are much better... and given the option I'd prob go back to my 58cm ti flat bars with cane creek ergo 2 bar ends if I was riding much off road right now... it required a goofy stem to get the bars up but it was a great setup for me
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  18. #18
    Fat boy Mod Moderator
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    oh on the other side... I don't understand the UP sweep to bars these days... no matter how I position the bars it just makes it uncomfortable in short order :-/
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  19. #19
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    Bigger people need bigger bars. Close your eyes, hold your hands out like you gripping the handlebars. Now look, that's what you want for width.
    I'm 6'4" and take a 18 neck 36 sleeve dress shirt. Think shoulder width. And comfortable for a long ride. All my bars are 27.5 to 28" wide. Tight trees? Go slow and alternate angle the ends between the trees, also slide the hands toward the stem a bit. So they don't get smashed or clipped.

  20. #20
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    Why not pick the tightest squeeze between the trees and take a quick measurement. I'd imagine if the gap is on the trail it will be more than wide enough for most bars. I believe it's a perception thing.

    I had same issue a few times. Than took out the tape and realized it could be done.

    Just slow down and it will come.

    Oh yes, look ahead ! Do not keep swiveling your head from left to right to judge your fit between the trees.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by leeboh View Post
    Bigger people need bigger bars. Close your eyes, hold your hands out like you gripping the handlebars. Now look, that's what you want for width.
    I'm 6'4" and take a 18 neck 36 sleeve dress shirt. Think shoulder width. And comfortable for a long ride. All my bars are 27.5 to 28" wide. Tight trees? Go slow and alternate angle the ends between the trees, also slide the hands toward the stem a bit. So they don't get smashed or clipped.
    27.5" - 28" is only 700 - 710mm which is right at or slightly above stock handlebars on a lot of bikes. The way this post was headed I thought you were going to end up recommending 800mm bars.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by TooTallUK View Post
    They could breathe easier if they got their hands further apart. Sacrifice some lung function for aerodynamics, which isn't usually an issue for the casual mountain biker.
    Really? Where's the scientific proof for that?

    Let your arms hang naturally by your sides. Take a deep breath. Now, put your arms out a foot to either side and take a deep breath?

    Any difference?

    I didn't think so....

    Seriously. Take a look at my set up. 6'4" on a size XL using a Syntace 620mm flat bar. What about my arms is impeding my lungs from functioning the way I am sitting on the bike?

    BB

    I don't get the "better breathing" myth that keeps percolating with regard to wider bars. I have no problem with those that want to run wider bars, but it ain't about breathing.

    No problems breathing on my road bike either with bars much, much narrower (440mm).

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by BruceBrown View Post
    No problems breathing on my road bike either with bars much, much narrower (440mm).
    I'd speculate that the theory started on road bikes.... 44cm is fairly wide for a road bar... I had a 40cm and went to the 44 on my last road bike and it was a nice change in comfort... don't know about breathing but i much preferred the "wide" bars
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  24. #24
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    The "breathe easier" thing is pure bunk. One of the many myths that seem to permeate cycling. Bottom line - use the handlebar width that is most comfortable, which for most people is shoulder-width or slightly wider. Probably DH racers want to go wider and XC racers want to go narrower, but that isn't "most people" I don't think.

    Even narrow handlebars can catch a tree sometimes - just one of the hazards of the sport. Happened to me just last week going through a section where the trail zig-zagged through a stand of close trees. I was cooking a little too fast, took a turn a little wide, and couldn't lean back the other way before - wham! - handlebar caught a tree on the left and I pinballed into another tree on the right. Good times!
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  25. #25
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    Bruce - calm down. I was comparing road bike with mountain bike width, and sacrifices are made for aerodynamics there, because of the gains they can make.
    Just to add - showing a picture of you on a bike is not you giving more scientific evidence for anything. Oh - an absence of evicence does not prove or disprove anything, other than there isn't any evidence.

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