Working out with a narrower grip

This is a followup to yesterday’s post: My shoulders hurt: Are my bars too wide?

Yesterday Dane at REVO Physiotherapy & Sports Performance showed me that 25 inches might be my maximum functional handlebar width for mountain biking. That’s interesting considering my bikes run 29-32 inches.

Today I checked my home workout setup and …

I do my home strength work using an 800mm handlebar with two grips. My hands always end up right between the two grips.

Today I put tape at the 25-inch mark:

WOW! That’s where my hands have been this whole time. It’s cool how your body will find its own way.

Next: Try narrower bars on my bikes!

Stay tuned.


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11 replies
  1. JoeG says:

    That’s a big difference on your bike. Although, I liked running 29 inches for a few years, the last 6 months I have enjoyed using 27 inch bars. I believe that I have similar body measurements as you.

    Did Devo mention anything about what the alt bars do to the shoulder? Bars like Carver MyTi or Mary Nar. Not that you would run them but rather if that would help your shoulders. I understand that these type of bars are too much visually for some people.

  2. JD Dallager says:

    Lee: I’m an older guy (68) and don’t have the skills or desire to do the super gnarly stuff you and others routinely do; but, I went to wider bars/shorter stem about 2 years ago (it made my riding much more fun and allowed me to do more challenging terrain) and found the following guidelines helpful:

    1: A quick baseline to start from is to do a push up and experiment with hand width and find out where you feel most stable and powerful (keeping your scapula/shoulder-blades pinned to your back ribs!!). From this starting point go out a bit wider and start working your way in. What you’re looking for is for your forearms to slope outward slightly from your hands to your elbows when you have lowered your chest in a “half push-up” position. At the widest your forearms should go straight up to your elbows when in this position (Betterride suggestion).

    2: “Under-rotating” at the wrists and feet (a term Mountain Bike magazine uses) helps me keep my shoulder-blades/shoulders down on my back while still pushing through the bike with both my feet and hands.

    Since doing both I have experienced much less irritation in my shoulders and lower back. But then again, I don’t do the pounding type terrain that you do.

    Not sure that helps or further muddies the water……Pin it!

    JD Dallager

  3. Steve R says:

    Fantastic Lee, keep this topic going. Your really pinning it with this one. I, and I’m sure many others are in process of trimming down new wider bars and trying to find the sweet spot width for ourselves. There are so many variables with hand position. Riding style, bike set up, Body type, past injuries, stem lengths, height, and differing handlebars. I myself have elbow problems. Wear and tear from many years landscaping. Differing position with mini bar ends gives me relief.
    Waiting to hear what helps your shoulders.

  4. JB says:

    Definitely interesting stuff. After taking a skills clinic with Kevin, I’ve been paying special attention to my shoulders and keeping them packed in. Many separations in my past and nowhere near enough time in the gym means they’re definitely a weak link for me. I may follow your lead and move my controls 10mm inboard to see if that helps things out.

    Care to share any shoulder mobility exercises you find work for you? One of the better ones I’ve found for me is wall slides – if nothing else, it makes me find those limits and work on them.

  5. Lee McCormack says:


    My current bar width is 750mm from end of grip to end of grip. I’ve arrived at this in two ways:

    1 – Experimentation on the bike and in the gym.

    2 – This number is corroborated by the bar-width calculator I built. Actually, my calculator says 752mm is my “sweet spot” width. Narrower is better than wider.

    To calculate your sweet spot width, use the free RideLogic Sweet Spot Handlebar Width Calculator at the LLB online MTB school:

    Sign up for a free account here:

    Then go here:

  6. Stevo says:

    Hi Lee, Stevo here, woodacre, California. I’ve recently discovered and am using some new bars by SQ labs in Germany. these 740mm wide mid rise bars have a 16deg backsweep that has helped my shoulders, and elbows greatly. Not to mention better trail manners. Check em out!


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