Bike nerd question: grip narrow or grip wide?

Hi Lee,

I have a bike-nerd question that’s been bothering me for a couple of weeks and I think you’re the guy to help!

If you look at freestyle BMX riders they don’t hold the bars at the ends – they seem to consistently hold the bars more inward so that there is an inch or more of grip protruding from each side. Seems to go against the theory of wider bars = more control.

I’ve been playing around with this — move the controls inwards, pushing my thumbs up against the inside of the grips when I’m cornering and only using the full width when climbing — and it seems to put less strain on my wrists, but I don’t know why and I’m not sure if I’m just imagining it. Any thoughts?

Cheers – Mike


I could go into endless detail on this, and that’s why it’s taken two months to respond. Rather than let this fruit die on the vine, here are some quick ideas:

A narrower grip gives you more pulling power. Watch BMXers in the start gate — they often grip the bars inward.

Narrower grip increases range of motion for tricks.

Narrower grip can me more neutral for your wrists and shoulders, especially with a thumb-forward grip. Imagine riding a road bike on the hoods.

A wider grip tends to give you more pushing strength and makes it easier to handle violence.

Mick Hannah pulls hard on his old pump track. Check out the narrowness of his hands and elbows. Screen shot from this video.

Hannah shreds some DH. Here his grips and elbows are in a wider, bench press position. Photo from this article.

Some handlebar grips, like the Shimano PRO Atherton DH grip, are wider than others. These give you more options on the fly.

Try narrower when you’re pulling hard (like on the pump track) and climbing; wider when you’re shredding DH.

Cool? Tell me how it goes!


Know more. Have more fun!

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5 replies
  1. Max says:

    I run pretty wide bars, and I’ve been experimenting with this very thing. Lee posted a vid of Kris Fox once that demonstrates this well ( I’ve found that a slightly narrower grip allows me to be a bit more dynamic on the bike, I find my shoulders/arms have a bit more range of motion which is useful when changing lines frequently and diving in an out of corners. I’ve been using grips that have an internal flange which allows for even more control with a loose grip at the bars. My hands definitely drift to the outer edge when things get really rough or really fast though. Aaron Gwin is a good example of someone who tends to have an absolute gorilla wide grip on the bars.

  2. Ignacio says:

    Bar witdh is something that has me confused, seeing how what used to be perfect 3-4 years ago (about 720 mm), now seems to be ridiculously narrow.

    I have a 711 mm wide Easton Haven that had “the perfect bar width” according to a well-known web, that now talks about “way too narrow 740 mm bar”…

    The best thing to do? Go out and ride!

  3. NeverTooOld says:

    Your individual biomechanics will make a difference in terms of what bar widths and sweep angle and rise for that matter work for you. If you aren’t comfortable you won’t ride as long or as fast. Don’t let keeping up with the “experts” keep you from riding what you like and you find comfortable.

  4. Mike says:

    Cheers Lee. This video shows the kind of thing I’m talking about – I must be getting old as I had to turn the music down but the riding is amazing.

    You can see how they’re holding the bars inwards. I think you’re right though, a combination of a greater range of motion and maybe less torque fed back into your wrists when you get it wrong. Plus I think some are using a thumb-over grip.


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