Having briefly mentioned the top of the bars it’s time to take a closer look at this section.
It might be overlooked as people concentrate on the drop and reach but it has an important part to play, especially among newer riders who will spend a lot of time with their hands there as they slowly build the confidence to spend time in the drops. And a lot of riders like to climb on the tops, too, so if you’re heading to the mountains you’ll definitely want to think about comfort in this section.
Once again there are a range of factors to look at when it comes to the top of the bars; there’s the clamp diameter, the length of the top section, the shape and even the cable routing.
Clamping diameter has already been discussed, but it’s what happens to the bar after the centre bulge that’s more important here. Traditionally, the bars simply slim down in size, but with modern technology such as hydroforming for aluminium and the ability to mould carbon fibre into various shapes there are now ergonomic and aerodynamic options for this area. Bontrager claim that the extreme profiling of its Aero line of handlebars is enough to reduce PBs on time trials (up to a claimed 23 seconds per hour). More common are handlebars with an ergonomic top, whereby the top section is flattened to provide an area to rest your hands, particularly when climbing. Whether you actually find this more comfortable compared to wrapping your hands round a tubular profile comes down to personal preference.
There’s also the routing of the brake and gear cables to consider. Some designs will include shallow grooves on the underside of the bar to provide room for the cables before the bars are wrapped. The simplest version will have a single groove on the front while feature-heavy versions will get a second groove as well. Choose a double-groove bar and with careful cable routing and wrapping of the bar tape it’s possible to change the shape of the tops from round to oval which some riders find more comfortable.
Finally, before we consider the material from which your new handlebar will be made, some bars (but not many) will have built-in padding aimed at offering additional comfort, with the Bontrager IsoZone handlebar being a notable example.