Have these things disappeared? It used to be the first accessory you bought was a set of “horns”. The thought was it increased pedaling leverage on climbs and provided protection.
Now, it seems like it dates you as a rider. I still have an older commuter MTB with “Horns”. That bike is probably my most comfortable for cranking out miles in comfort without being in a rush. Now only a couple competitive XC riders use them
Most likely two factors contributed to the demise of the horn.
- Aggressive body positioning with a more weight forward design, longer wheel base and shorter stems lengths.
- Wide handlebars, with bars reaching over 800mm reaching even farther out seems silly.
DIY MTB Tip: Don’t completely disregard bar ends. It might be the solution to improve comfort, for a small price.
Hanging a bunch of goodies off your handlebars just seems like a “gadget” thing typical to folks that chase they passion. Indeed, at first glance, bicycle bar ends may seem like just another useless thing from the category of “hanging everything on a bicycle, it will be cooler.”
In particular, the so-called Big Box bikes (low-quality bicycles sold on the market) contribute to this opinion. In order to attract the attention of newbies when choosing a bike, many useful, but very low-quality accessories are installed on them, which turn the bike into a complete farce. Everything seems to be there, but nothing works.
Bicycle bar ends are the same story, they can be uncomfortable, heavy, creating more inconvenience than fulfilling their function. And what are the actual functions?
Why Do You Need MTB Bar Ends?
Bar ends are designed primarily to allow the cyclist to change grip while riding. By changing the grip, we can use completely different muscles of the arms and back, relieve the wrists and palms, and make life for the back many times easier.
Probably everyone’s had their back hurt while riding or fingers go numb. Bar ends help solve concerns.
DIY PRO Tip: MTB Pro Hannah Finchamp put together an awesome article – Best MTB for a Bad Back Plus 8 Tips to Help
Bar ends also have other advantages;
- Aside from switching up hand position. They can protect your hands from those nasty vines and branches that scratch the heck out of your hands.
- Do not allow your hand to slip off the handlebars, especially in the rain, without the use of cycling gloves.
- Protect equipment on the handlebars (shifters, brakes, bike computer) both when falling from the bike and during repairs, when the bike is turned over and placed on the handlebar and saddle – this is really convenient.
- It is more convenient when walking a bike, holding it by the bar ends is a comfy position.
- You can always hang a helmet, glasses, a bag and other things on the bar ends without fear that they will fall off the handlebars.
Often, they improve the appearance of the bike.
Nothing is perfect in this world, and neither are bike bar ends.
- Bar ends not only protect from blows from branches, but also cling to various objects;
- Increase the risk of injury when falling and may “hook” the rider.
- Can make the bike a little wider, tougher for storage and transport.
For those who experience discomfort in the back, hands and arms, bar ends may help at a low cost. I enjoy them on longer rides, the flexibility of changing hand position if a complete win for me.
How to Choose Bike Bar Ends
The first thing that catches your eye is the size of the bar ends. Generally, the size can be divided into short, medium and long bicycle bar ends.
Short, beautiful aesthetically, they don’t stand out. Most are integrated into the grip. Very little chance of hooking items, and smaller if you fall. As a measurement the horn length is approximately 60mm or just over 2 inches.
Medium, are most versatile; on rough terrain, the hand is unlikely to come off. In principle, you can opt for medium bar ends. A medium bar end is going to be 110mm long or 4 ½ inches.
Long bar ends – Provide more grip options for the hand, not only due to the length, but also the curved shape. Protect from branches well. If you are not worried by the weight and want the maximum hand position flexibility then this option is ideal for MTB. The downside is the shape and length will hook items. Vines and branches will tend to wrap around these and pull your handlebar. Lengths vary widely, anything over 200mm or 8 inches would be considered long.
After length the next thing to consider is the construction material.
For MTBers three materials dominate the market: Smooth aluminum (6061-T6 is common), Composite (like reinforced plastic) and over molded aluminum with plastic. To a lesser extent carbon bar ends are available, but if you’re worried about weight, you probably won’t be installing bar ends.
- Aluminum bicycle bar ends – great value, comfortable and can add a styling color.
- Composite – grippy, cheap and have a tendency to slip.
- Over Molded – My preference the hand grip of a composite but the clamp of aluminum. A bit more costly though.
Carbon handlebars and bar ends don’t mix – skip it.
Different Styles of Bar Ends
These are the most common. You slide your hand grips in and attach to the end.
Grip Integrated Style
Many brands like Ergon have integrated bar ends. What’s nice is the integration allows for a smooth transition into the “horn”. Providing another area for your hands. Check out the Ergon XXX on Amazon (hundreds of great reviews and current prices)
Inner Bar Ends Style
Lately this has been my favorite. I enjoy the control wide handlebars provide, but my rides often involve dirt roads. Inner bar ends give my shoulders a little rest and allow me to sit up. My favorite is the SQlab 411 Innerbarends (Amazon link for prices and delivery)
I’ve found that when my hands are moved inboard, I can use a straighten my arms to support my body. Plus, I sit a little more upright moving my balance point back over the saddle more. Since adding the inner bar ends my gravel road miles have gotten even more comfortable.
To start double check that your bar ends fit the standard 31.8mm diameter. Next gather up the tools you’ll need: usually a 5 mm hex wrench, a torque wrench (optional but recommended) some rubbing alcohol and a sharp craft knife.
Whether installing inner bar ends or the typical outer ends you’ll need to make some room on the handlebars.
- Pop off the bar end cap. Keep this as you might be reinstalling.
- If you want to slide the grips inboard, you may have to trim the end off. Hence the need for a sharp knife. If you’re really careful you to cut the flange that covers the handlebar.
- Loosen the brake and shifter clamps. Keep these loose for the moment.
- Slide the grip inboard. A little rubbing alcohol sprayed between grip and bar helps.
- Attach the bar end and tighten just enough so you can twist and slide.
- Slide the grip outboard toward the bar end. I like compressing the grip into the bar end slightly. The grip may move a little for a day or two until the alcohol from step 4 evaporates.
- Reposition the brakes and shifters. Tighten to specified torque, usually about 3 to 9 N-m or 30 to 80 in-lbs.
- Tighten bar end to 3 – 9 N-m. I would highly recommend carrying your wrench for a couple rides to tune in the fit.
A note on carbon fiber handlebars and end bars. My recommendation is you probably shouldn’t add bar ends. Often times when cutting a carbon handlebar, you scratch and fracture the handlebar slightly at the edge. Then, if you squeeze the heck out of the handlebar with the bar end clamp, plus combine the twisting torque of pulling on the bar end riding failure is going to result.
DIY MTB Tip: Getting the width of your handlebars right is a MUST. Read this article on trimming handlebars – How to Fit, Measure and Cut Handlebars
Bar End Position
Generally, performance riders will position the bar ends low – horizontal to about 15 degrees. This provides a powerful position for pulling on the bar end to climb when you’re out of the saddle. This same low position can add aerodynamic benefits when pedaling on pavement for extended periods.
The more casual rider is going to want a position higher angle, approaching 45 degrees. This allows for you to remain seated and grip the bar end for comfort and occasional straight arm pull for leverage.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Anyone Even Use Bar Ends Anymore?
Yes, but mostly cross-country riders. The benefits of bar ends become more advantageous when standing hill climbs and long road stretches dominate your ride.
Are Bar Ends the Same as Bar Extensions for Bikes?
No, bar extensions are best described as a second handlebar for mounting extra gear to your bike. (lights, phone, and displays)
What Are Those Things on the End of Handlebars?
If it looks like a horn, those are bar ends. Bar ends were super common in the past. The geometry of a MTB has changed since the mid-90s to a more weight forward aggressive position eliminating the need for bar ends.
David Humphries is the creator of DIY Mountain Bike. For me a relaxing day involves riding my mountain bike to decompress after a long day. When not on my bike I can be found wrenching on it or casting a fly on a small mountain stream. Read more about David HERE.