When it comes to choosing the best gravel handlebars for your bike in years gone by, the choice would be limited to the world of road bike handlebars. However, gravel riding is a versatile and varied discipline, and as its popularity has grown, so have brands' understanding of riders' needs.
Despite being a growing discipline for the best part of a decade, there's still no single agreed definition of what gravel riding looks like. For lots of people, the best gravel bikes provide a steed for cycling to work and back all year long, battling rough roads and rain before being called upon for the weekend rides. For others, it spends long hours covering miles of adventures, sometimes those miles mean group rides and pavement, sometimes not. Just as often, those miles mean gravel roads, double track, or even a little bit of singletrack.
What can be agreed upon is that gravel riding has few limits, and the bike is the vehicle that makes the adventures possible. The best road handlebars don't always meet the brief, so various brands have begun introducing gravel-specific handlebars to cater to the variety of needs of their customers.
The best gravel handlebars cater to various requirements, from bikepackers wanting increased space for handlebar bags, to off-road enthusiasts looking for bars that flare outward for increased control. Others keep things more civilised in appearance, simply offering maximum vibration damping for the rough terrain.
No matter what kind of riding you do, changing handlebars can transform your ride, so keep reading to see our list of the best gravel focused handlebars available today, or jump to the bottom to learn more about how to choose.
The best gravel handlebars on the market today
The best option when you need to cheat the wind on gravel roads
Available Width Options: 400mm, 420mm, 440mm | Drop: 110mm | Reach: 78mm | Flare: Multi-angle | Price: £325 / $349
Almost every modern road bike is aero optimised. When it comes to gravel bikes there has been less focus on aerodynamics but that's starting to change. As long gravel races gain in popularity, aero optimisation becomes important. An aerodynamic handlebar also makes a lot of sense if you are using the same bike for road and off-road use. If you want to keep the routing internal as well as go with a winged style for the tops but pair that with flared out drops, there are not many options. The 3T Aeroghiaia provides an option that fits the bill. The design also keeps the controls perpendicular to the road which helps with both on-road performance and style.
Ritchey WCS VentureMax Carbon Handlebar
Aero flats, a generous flare, and a bio-bend to accommodate the shape of your palm on the drops
Available Width Options: 400mm, 420mm, 440mm, 460mm | Drop: 110mm | Reach: 76mm | Flare: 24° | Price: £279.95 / $299.95
Ritchey offers the WCS VentureMax handle bar in a carbon or alloy version. There are two main differences between the two. The Carbon fibre option adds partial internal routing and saves 42 grams of weight compared to the triple butted aluminium alloy. Aside from those differences there are some small differences in specifications but all the broad strokes remain the same. In both cases the flats remain ovalized and the flare remains a generous but not exaggerated 24 degrees. You'll also find a subtle backsweep on the flats although the carbon version is a little straighter with only 4 degrees. The defining bio bump in the drops is there whatever material you decide on.
From the company responsible for the first gravel groupset with a design that compliments the GRX levers
Available Width Options: 400mm, 420mm, 440mm | Drop: 150mm | Reach: 75mm | Flare: 12°, 20°, 30° | Price: £289.95 / $339.99
Shimano was the first to recognise that gravel cycling had needs that a specific groupset could complement. It only makes sense that its brand of accessories, Pro, created a handlebar to compliment the design of the groupset. There's not just one option though. Pro has options for 12, 20, and 30 degrees of flare ranging from just a little to truly wild. If 20 degrees is a good number for you then the carbon fibre version saves 55 grams as well as adds a little extra shelf space at the corner of the tops. That little extra space is a perfect spot to rest your palm during a long day of riding.
Roval Terra Handlebars
Specifically designed for mixed surface riding with an emphasis on comfortable positioning
Available Width Options: 380mm, 400mm, 420mm, 440mm | Drop: 103mm | Reach: 70mm | Flare: 12° | Price: £250 / $250
Roval is a company that understands the need of being out all day and transitioning between paved and unpaved riding. The focus of the Roval Terra handlebars is squarely on keeping your hands and arms comfortable no matter what position you take on the handlebars. The point of a flared drop is to add an extra wide position that's there when you need it for stability. If that drop is so low you can't get into position then it becomes less usable. The Roval Terra and its low 103mm drop means you can choose whatever position is best for the terrain without concern for your back.
Bontrager GR Elite
Integrated, replaceable foam padding keeps vibration from being a problem
Available Width Options: 380mm, 400mm, 420mm, 440mm | Drop: 128mm | Reach: 75mm | Flare: 13° | Price: £59.99 / $99.99
With only a small 13-degree flare the Bontrager GR Elite Road handlebars won't look out of place no matter what bike you pair them with. What makes them unique is their focus on vibration reduction. There's nothing that makes for a comfortable ride like padding on your bars. To that end there are options for adding padding after the fact but that can mean bars with weird lumps after wrapping. Bontrager makes space for the pads then pairs that with pads perfectly fit to the space provided. Once you wrap the bars the traditional round shape is all you see and the padding remains your secret.
Zipp Service Course SL 70 XPLR
A hoods-first design with plenty of clamping area
Available Width Options: 400mm, 420mm, 440mm, 460mm | Drop: 115mm | Reach: 70mm | Flare: 11° outsweep and 5° flare | Price: £129 / $110
Modern bike design dictates that resting on the hoods is most people's primary riding position. SRAM and their Zipp brand have responded by making the Zipp Service Course SL 70 XPLR a hoods-first design. There's a small three-degree backsweep from the clamping area and five degrees of flare. That small flare keeps the controls mostly vertical with just a little angle that helps wrist position. To get the drops wider for more control there's an 11-degree outsweep, which twists the drop outward so that the lower portion is rotated, instead of simply offering lots of flare - which keeps the alignment of the drop, but angles it outwards. In the end the result is similar but the path to get there is different, and the benefit is a more ergonomic hand position. If the design sounds great but you don't mind trading a little extra weight for more affordability Zipp also offers the Service Course 70 XPLR with the same design.
Surly Truck Stop
Another take on comfort over the long haul
Available Width Options: 420mm, 450mm, 480mm | Drop: 99mm | Reach: 74mm | Flare: 12° | Price: £59 / $70
The Surly Truck Stop Bar is another hoods-first design, but done in a completely opposite way to what Zipp has available. There's a slight forward sweep and the biggest feature is a 30mm rise from the clamping area to the flats.
You could use this to adjust geometry on a bike without much rise but it also opens up possibilities in hand positions. If you bring the hoods up by 30mm you gain a more upright position for cruising but it also brings the drops up 30mm. With an already short drop number, that makes the flared drops nearly as high as the tops of some road bars, meaning they are a whole lot more accessible.
Enve G Series Gravel Handlebar
Supremely comfortable in the most aero positions
Available Width Options: 420mm, 440mm, 460mm, 480mm | Drop: 110mm | Reach: 80mm | Flare: 12cm of flare from the hood to the drop | Price: £360 / $350
The Enve Gravel Handlebar shoots for the gravel racer audience, but that also makes it an excellent mixed surface option. The most distinctive feature is the tight bend radius at the end of the flats. Very little space gets lost to the bend. If you clamp aero bars or lights near the stem there's plenty of room for hands and bags along the tops. That tight bend also makes for a straight run to the controls which creates a supported area for resting your forearms on long straight miles. If you decide to move down to the drops there is tons of room for your hands and arms to stay out of the way as you pedal.
Whisky No.9 12F
Low reach and low drop make for a comfortable ride no matter where you take your bike
Available Width Options: 380mm, 400mm, 420mm, 440mm, 460mm | Drop: 115mm | Reach: 68mm | Flare: 12° | Price: £229.99 / $230
Every company has its own take on which problem its handlebars can solve. That's a very good thing because whatever your need is, there's an option out there. For Whisky and the No.9 bar the problem is excessive reach when paired with the design of modern controls. With a reach of only 68mm they represent the smallest reach number on this list. It's a very specific fit that's represented but if you need it the option is available. Not only that but there are also tons of options available. Choose between six, 12, or 24 degrees of flare and widths ranging from 380mm all the way up to 460mm.
How to choose the best gravel handlebar for your needs
Do I want carbon fibre or aluminium handlebars?
Carbon fibre has a couple of advantages. The most obvious is lower weight, so if you are wanting to save grams, carbon handlebars will do it. The other often quoted advantage of carbon is vibration reduction. Road vibration travels easily through aluminium and switching to carbon does reduce the buzz that gets to your hands.
Like with carbon fibre bike frames, weight and vibration aren't the only advantages, just the most obvious. There are other, more subtle advantages. Carbon fibre lends itself to complex shapes and allows tuning of flex very specifically. Even if you don't care that much about weight it's worth considering carbon fibre.
While advantages to carbon fibre are real that doesn't mean it's the only thing worth considering. Aluminium handlebars are inexpensive, work great, and are generally more resilient to impacts that might happen when crashed.
What makes a gravel handlebar different?
The defining feature of a gravel-specific handlebar is usually flare. Sometimes that actually means sweep and different companies define those two terms differently. What's important to understand though is that no matter what terms you use the drops are wider than the controls.
The idea behind this concept is stability. Keeping control of a bike on loose surfaces means you want all the control you can get, and that can be achieved with a wider hand position. At the same time, drop bar bikes gobble up long miles and an ultra-wide hand position would be uncomfortable as the hours ticked away. To satisfy both needs gravel focused handlebars keep the tops where bike fit dictates they should be. The drops being wider allows for a second position only when you need it.
How much flare is best?
The answer to this depends on your riding habits. The bigger the flare, the wider your hands will be when riding in the drops, which will mean greater and more finite leverage over the front wheel, and thus, more control. However, the trade off is that the wider position will be less comfortable for extended periods.
If your gravel riding commonly includes short gnarly descents, then wider bars will probably add to your ride experience. However, if your riding is more about 'lite-gravel' and high average speeds with long descents, then a smaller flare will help you remain comfortable - and probably more aerodynamic - so you can spend more time in the drops.
What width handlebars should I get?
A common school of thought with the best road handlebars over the years has been to choose a width that most closely matches the width of your shoulders, so for gravel riders who are predominantly riding on the road or smoother gravel, this is a good starting point for the width of the hoods, opting for the preferred amount of flare from there.
However, since wider handlebars will generally mean an increase in control, there's plenty of room for interpretation here. If you tend to ride rough gravel and want increased leverage on your front wheel, then the only trade-offs when going wider are aerodynamics and comfort.
Of course, bear in mind that as you go wider, the distance - or reach - to the handlebar is increasing, which you might want to offset by shortening the stem. This in turn will affect the handling, so there's a bit of a balance to find.
Can I use gravel handlebars on my road bike?
Gravel handlebars also tend to have shorter drop and less reach than road handlebars, and inherent in the decision to leave the controls at a standard width and make the drops wider is a recognition that most people don't use the drops most of the time. That's true beyond gravel bikes and applies equally to road bikes. All those characteristics mean the best gravel handlebars make a really comfortable handlebar for most people.
Of course, on the road, aerodynamics is a key focus for a lot of riders, and the standard width of road handlebars is beginning to narrow as manufacturers begin to understand the benefits. But for everyone else, a comfort-focused handlebar makes a lot of sense on a road bike. The best endurance road bikes are becoming more and more off-road capable and able to handle lite-gravel, and in many cases, gravel handlebars are an obvious choice as they handle whatever you want to do.
Even if you've got a dedicated road bike the extra comfort of a gravel handlebar design makes a lot of sense for a lot of people. Don't worry about labels and rules. If you want to run a gravel handlebar on a road bike do what makes the ride best for you.
Josh hails from the Pacific Northwest of the United States but would prefer riding through the desert than the rain. He will happily talk for hours about the minute details of cycling tech but also has an understanding that most people just want things to work. He is a road cyclist at heart and doesn't care much if those roads are paved, dirt, or digital. Although he rarely races, if you ask him to ride from sunrise to sunset the answer is probably yes.
Weight: 137 lb.
Rides: Look 795 Blade RS, Cannondale Topstone Lefty, Cannondale CAAD9, Priority Continuum Onyx
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