Best Gravel Bike Handlebars – A Buyer’s Guide

group of gravel bikes showing the best carbon fiber and alloy gravel handlebars

Gravel Bike handlebars come in a wide variety of shapes, and they are as important as tires and saddle when it comes to overall comfort and handling.

Here are the best drop bar handlebars for gravel bikes, plus notes on how to choose the right one for you, your bike, and your riding style…

Top Gravel Bike Handlebars:

Here are the ___ handlebars that made the list so far, I’ll update, add, and swap as new ones are tested:

Best Overall – Easton EC90 AX

easton ec90 ax carbon gravel bike handlebar is the best overall gravel bike drop  bar
Click any image to enlarge.

With just the right amount of flare, a short reach and drop, and a compliant carbon layup, the Easton AX bar’s deeply flat ergonomic top section make it my top pick overall. For long rides, having a broad perch to rest my hands on seals the deal, and the diameter and depth are size specific to match rider’s hand sizes.

Easton’s reputation for strong-yet-lightweight carbon fiber gives me confidence in its light weight, only barely heavier than the Roval bar listed here. I raced this at BWR on 700×33 tires with a rigid fork (and with thick bar tape) and had zero hand or arm issues. The drop radius and shaping is comfortable and keeps brake levers in easy reach on the descents.

  • Widths: 40/42/44/46cm (center, at hoods)
  • Flare Widths: 468/488/508/528mm
  • Weight: 208g (42cm)
  • Drop: 125mm
  • Reach: 80mm
  • Backsweep: n/a
  • Flare: 16º
  • Clamp Diameter: 31.8mm
  • Material: Carbon
  • Features: Internal routing ports, Di2 bar end junction compatible
  • MSRP: $299

The Perfect All ‘Rounder – ENVE G-Series Gravel Bar

enve g-series carbon gravel bike handlebar review

The ENVE Gravel Handlebar combines a lot of the best features from several of the bars here. The tops are mildly flattened, just not as deep as the Easton or Ritchey WCS bars. The corners are sharp, like the Lauf (below), and combined those two features make it very comfortable with plenty of hand positions to keep you fresh.

The drops have a unique, progressive flare (see FAQ at bottom for diagram), giving you tons of room to maneuver aggressively. Flatter sections on the slope and bottom create two distinct platforms for your palms, providing great grip and easy braking on descents, with noticeable vibration damping there, too. For bigger riders, the 48cm bar is the widest in this list. Bonus points for having matching stem, post, and even a dropper post.

  • Widths: 42/44/46/48cm (center, at hoods)
  • Flare Widths: 540/560/580/60mm (at center of bar ends)
  • Weight: 246g / 261g / 271g / 281g
  • Drop: 120mm
  • Reach: 80mm
  • Backsweep: n/a
  • Flare: 10º at top progressing to 30.75º at ends
  • Clamp Diameter: 31.8mm
  • Material: Carbon
  • Features: Plug-free bar ends for cleaner tape wraps, wire ports
  • MSRP: $400

Most Compliant – Lauf Smoothie

lauf smoothie carbon gravel bike handlebar adds flex to feel more comfortable

If you prefer a round bar and ride rough terrain, just buy the Lauf Smoothie. Hands down, it’s the most compliant, vibration-damping gravel handlebar out there. They blend the same S2 glass fibers used in their leaf-spring forks into the top section to add noticeable vertical flex, helping it soak up bumps and minimize vibrations. Yet, it never feels so “soft” that it detracts from handling.

The top has sharp 90º bends into the hoods, which creates a nice corner to rest your hands on and a long hood extension to grip-it-and-rip-it on the attacks. The drops are comfortable, too, providing the same easy braking and control on wild descents, with the benefit of even more compliance. I have this bar on two different bikes and thinking about adding one to a road bike – it’s that good.

  • Widths: 40/42/44cm (center, at hoods)
  • Flare Widths: 470/490/510mm
  • Weight: ~250g (42cm)
  • Drop: 125mm
  • Reach: 80mm
  • Backsweep:
  • Flare: 16º
  • Clamp Diameter: 31.8mm
  • Material: Carbon & S2 Glass Fiber
  • Features: Backswept top for climbing comfort
  • MSRP: $220

Lightest – Roval Terra

roval terra carbon gravel bike handlebar is the lightest drop bar for off road riding

At 200g (with a 240lb/109kg rider weight limit), the Roval Terra is the lightest mainstream carbon gravel bike handlebar on the market. And, honestly, it’s about as light as I’m comfortable recommending. It’s also quite comfortable, with the shortest drop of any (normal) bar here making it easy to ride low without craning your neck.

The layup feels plenty compliant, and an “egg” shaped top section provides a comfortable, flattish grip even without much of a platform. The short reach also makes it easy to get behind the bike on descents. Basically, it’s a great handlebar that’s also really lightweight, and it’s the only one here that comes in a 38cm width, perfect for smaller riders.

  • Widths: 38/40/42/44cm (center, at hoods)
  • Flare Widths: n/a
  • Weight: 200g (42cm)
  • Drop: 103mm
  • Reach: 70mm
  • Backsweep: n/a
  • Flare: 12º
  • Clamp Diameter: 31.8mm
  • Material: Hi Modulus Carbon blend
  • Features: Internal Di2 wire routing & junction ports on both sides
  • MSRP: $250

Widest & Wildest – Ritchey WCS Carbon Venturemax

ritchey wcs carbon venturemax wide gravel bike handlebar for bikepacking and touring

This one’s both weird and wonderful. I rode the Ritchey WCS Venturemax across Utah’s desert roads and it’s the oddest mix of aerodynamic, ergonomic, and really comfortable. The ultra-wide flare provides massive control and helps diffuse impacts and vibrations, and it’s shallow enough to just cruise there for miles of rough terrain.

The 38mm-deep flat tops provide a comfortable perch, and Bio-bend shaped drops cradle your palm for better control and comfort. Despite all of the shaping and width, it’s one of the lightest bars here! If you are going for comfort over pure speed but still want something lightweight with room for cargo, this is it. (also comes in alloy, see below)

  • Widths: 40/42/44/46cm (center, at hoods)
  • Flare Widths: 525/545/565/585mm (at outer edge)
  • Weight: 228g (42cm)
  • Drop: 102mm
  • Reach: 76mm
  • Backsweep:
  • Flare: 24º plus 6º outward flare
  • Clamp Diameter: 31.8mm
  • Material: Hi Modulus Carbon blend
  • Features: Internal cable routing; Di2 junction port
  • MSRP: $320

Best Alloy Bar – PRO Discover 12

pro discover 12 alloy gravel bike handlebar review

Alloy bars are tough for me, I hate most of them (see bottom of post for why). But the PRO Discover 12 (for 12º flare, also comes in 20º and 30º flares) stands out for its fantastic top shaping and overall comfort. The teardrop-shaped tops provide just enough of a flat section to rest my hands on.

It has one of the shallowest drops, though it feels roomier than the numbers suggest – the extremely short reach gives it plenty of wrist clearance despite the narrower flare. That’s also helpful in keeping your weight back on steep descents, which is when most of us are in the drops on a gravel bike. Bonus points for having matching stem and seatpost, too, plus grooves on the bottom for smoother cable routing.

  • Widths: 40/42/44cm (center, at hoods)
  • Flare Widths: 450/470/490mm
  • Weight: 255g (40cm)
  • Drop: 115mm
  • Reach: 65mm
  • Backsweep:
  • Flare: 12º (20º and 30º also available)
  • Clamp Diameter: 31.8mm
  • Material: AL 6066 aluminum
  • Features: Di2 bar end junction compatibility
  • MSRP: $65

Also Best Alloy Bar – Zipp Service Course 70 XPLR

Honestly, it’s kind of a wash between this and the PRO…they’re both great, so it comes down to details. Zipp’s ergonomic tops look and feel a bit rounder, but add a bit of backsweep that the PRO bar doesn’t have. It has a wide 100mm center clamping area for all your computer, light and/or aero-bar mounts.

The drops use a unique combo of flare & outsweep, so the bar ends are angled outward in addition to the drops flaring, which creates plenty of space while putting your wrists at a more natural angle – it’s very comfortable. They’re the most affordable bars here, but also the heaviest by about 50g. Bonus points for matching stem and post.

  • Widths: 42/44/46cm (center, at hoods)
  • Flare Widths: n/a
  • Weight: 305g (42cm)
  • Drop: 115mm
  • Reach: 70mm
  • Backsweep:
  • Flare: 5º plus 11º outward angling of bar ends
  • Clamp Diameter: 31.8mm
  • Material: AL 6066 aluminum
  • Features: Silver color option; Di2 junction compatibility; cable grooves
  • MSRP: $59

Best Ultra-Wide Alloy Bar – Ritchey WCS Venturemax

ritchey wcs venturemax ergonomic alloy gravel bike handlebar shown from behind on a bike

Like the carbon version, the alloy Ritchey WCS Venturemax gets ergonomic shaping throughout, including the 38mm deep top wings and Bio-bend drops. These are the most “fun” gravel bike handlebars here and made us want to ride in the drops more often. The shallow, ergo drops made it easier to stay in the low position and more comfortable and controlled on rough, mottled roads.

If you like using handlebar bags or rolls, there’s plenty of room for those without interfering with your controls, partially because the brake & shift levers angle outward more on this bar than others listed here, which can take a little getting used to. A lot of people like the Salsa Woodchipper, but this one’s about 80g lighter, and I think it feels more ergonomic in the drops.

  • Widths: 40/42/44/46cm plus a 52cm XL version (center, at hoods)
  • Flare Widths: 527/547/567/587mm (at outer edges)
  • Weight: 270g (42cm)
  • Drop: 102mm
  • Reach: 75mm
  • Backsweep: 4.6º
  • Flare: 24º plus 6º outward flare
  • Clamp Diameter: 31.8mm
  • Material: Triple-butted 7050 aluminum
  • Features: Di2 junction compatibility; Bio-bend drops aid grip
  • MSRP: $110

Gravel Bike Handlebar FAQ

What’s the difference between road & gravel bike handlebars?

The biggest difference is the flare of the drops, which creates more room for your wrists so they’re not hitting the top part on rough descents. Most of us, myself included, mostly just the drops on descents as the flared shapes put our arms wider for better control.

The slope of the drops are usually more specific to where your hands are when descending, making it easier to reach the brake levers and providing a better grip to keep our hands on the bars if we hit a big bump.

Beyond that, the bars are similar other than gravel bars are built a bit tougher to withstand the rougher terrain and increased risk of wrecks.

What do the Drop, Reach & Flare measurements mean?

Diagram courtesy of Ritchey Logic.

In most cases, measurements on all bars are done “center to center” (sometimes noted as C to C). Unless otherwise noted, that’s how I’ve listed them for each handlebar’s specs above.

Here are the important measurements for gravel handlebar:

  • REACH is the distance forward from the center of the top section to the furthest forward point of the bar.
  • DROP is the distance down from the top to the end of the bar. Note that some bars extend further back than others, but this “length” measurement is rarely listed.
  • WIDTH is the distance from hood to hood. Some brands list this at the outer edges, which would make the bar narrower than a bar with the same figure as measured C to C, so double check how they measure.
  • DROP WIDTH is the distance from bar end to bar end (shown as W1 in this diagram). This measurement is one of few usually listed as the total width, from outside to outside (ENVE being the exception in this list), so, again, double check.
  • FLARE is the angle that the drops rotate out on an axis running fore-aft, parallel to the hoods. Flare is good because it puts your hands wider in the drops for a better bracing angle and more control on rough terrain.
  • OUTWARD FLARE is the angle that the bar ends rotate outward on an axis running vertically through the front of the bar. This is less common, but a few of the bars in this list have it. Too much outward flare can make it difficult to quickly transition back to the hoods or grab the brake levers.
  • BACKSWEEP is the angle at which the tops angle backward from the center clamping section. A few degrees of backsweep put your wrists in a more natural position and help bring your elbows in for a more aero position.

Not every brand lists every measurement online, but we dug around and found them for every bar listed here. If in doubt, just email the brand you’re considering and ask them for all the numbers.

an engineering drawing from ENVE showing the compound progressive flare of their gravel bar drops

The outlier in this group is the ENVE G-Series gravel bar, which uses a compound flare that increases its angle as it goes down. This is different than an “outward flare”, and it creates a familiar feel while increasing room in the drops.

Can I just use a road bike handlebar on my gravel bike?

Sure. It just might not be as comfortable for the reasons listed above. And some road bars might not be warrantied for such use, but it’s probably fine.

Should I get a carbon or alloy handlebar for my gravel bike?

Carbon, for sure. It’s lighter, more compliant, reduces vibrations, and is more often ergonomically shaped. Contrary to urban legend, it’s unlikely to break in a crash unless you absolutely demolish yourself. Yeah, it’s more likely to break than an aluminum bar, but the chances are still pretty small. If you do wreck, just press hard on all the parts before you start riding again to be sure everything is intact.*

If you can’t afford or don’t trust carbon, then the two PRO and Zipp alloy bars I listed here are as good as they get. That’s because they’re ergonomically shaped. Basic round bars put my hands to sleep almost immediately, and I hate them.

The Ritchey alloy bar is a great, bombproof option for off-grid bikepacking as the ultra-wide flares and spacing put you in a more relaxed position (and not a low or aero racing position) and easily accommodate bags…and the XL version adds even more room.

*Ultimately, you are responsible for your own safety. This information is provided for “entertainment” and based upon 25+ years of riding road and offroad on a LOT of carbon bars, wrecking plenty, and never breaking a single one. I trust them and recommend them, but I don’t guarantee anything. Your results may vary.

Why do I want vibration damping?

Because vibrations fatigue your muscles, and you want all of your energy going into riding, not wasted on countering “interference”. Vibrations can also make your hands feel numb.

Carbon bars absorb this nicely, alloy bars do not. Thicker bar tape, or gel pads under your bar tape, can help, and I usually use one of those things even on carbon bars, because why not. Vibration damping is definitely a “more is better” benefit.

Bars with a bit of intentional flex built into them also help with low frequency vibrations like washboards. Bigger tires are going to help more than your handlebar ever will, but if you’re counting grams, being able to run a slightly smaller tire because your bars and tape are compensating will pay dividends on the climbs – just make sure you have enough tire for the descents!

How wide should my gravel handlebars be?

The same or one size wider than your road bike. If your road bike has a 42, go with a 42 or 44. The extra width up top will give you a bit more breathing room, literally and figuratively. The extra width in the drops makes handling more confident and allows for more aggressive bike handling.

Just be mindful of the flare, it can add 50mm or more to the total width. If you routinely ride your gravel bike on singletrack or through tight spaces, it’s a measurement you should pay attention to.

If you’re building a gravel bike specifically for racing, you can stick to the same width as your road bike. You’ll be more aerodynamic when you’re narrower.

And, yes, you can go too wide. If your hands are too far out from under your shoulders, then you’re using extra energy to support yourself, which will tire you out sooner.

What about the other measurements?

If you have smaller hands, make sure the bar, tape, and/or pads (plus your gloves) don’t create a diameter too thick for you to securely grab around, particularly on the hoods and drops. Deeper aero/ergo tops are great for resting on, but if you can’t safely and securely grip the parts you hold onto during sprints, standing climbs, and descents, that’s bad.

Otherwise, just think about how you typically ride, where you rest your hands, and use the measurements descriptions above to determine which bar shape and size will work best for you.

What about cheap carbon handlebars online? Or other brands not mentioned here?

Do you like your teeth? And intact collarbones? And customer service and warranties? If so, stick to a reputable brand that offers the latter to preserve the former.

There are plenty of other great brands that make good handlebars. The ones listed here are the ones I’ve personally tested for many, many miles and months (and sometimes years). As I test new models, this list will be updated if something is better than what’s recommended here.

You can also ask your friends and your local bike shop what they recommend.

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