The Ultimate Guide to Dirt Bike Handlebars

The Ultimate Guide to Dirt Bike Handlebars main image

Handlebars are one of the most critical pieces of equipment on your dirt bike being the main point of contact between yourself and your motorcycle, so it's important to have a set of bars that suit your preferences as much as possible. Various designs and bends offer some wildly different options when it comes to choosing the handlebar that's right for you, so we're here to help guide you in the right direction.

How do I choose the right handlebars for me?

MX handlebars come in various heights and bends, and there's a lot to choose from. As a general rule, riders who are between 170-180cm would be better suited with a low bend bar and rotated slightly towards the rider. Taller riders are typically better suited to a higher bend bar rotated slightly away from the rider.

It simply comes down to personal rider preference based on the kind of the riding you're doing and the style you like to ride with.

Handlebar bends are typically measured with six different dimensions, as shown in the diagram below. Some brands will use slightly different measuring techniques and methods, so ensure you check the brands specific measuring chart when you're looking into a new set of handlebars. The height and width area of the bars will usually come down to your body type, while the sweep and rise of the bars are where your personal preferences will really come into play.

What's the difference between 7/8" and 1 1/8" bars?

7/8" bars are generally not as strong as a 1 1/8" bar, which simply comes down to the size. The added size or thickness of the 1 1/8" bar in the clamp area and throughout the bends offers greater strength over the smaller size handlebar.

Both bars have the same thickness where you actually hold onto, meaning your controls and grips will fit both.

For any dirt bike 125cc and above, the standard handlebar width is approximately 800mm, if a set of bars has the word Mini in the title, it has been designed to fit 65cc, 85cc, 100cc and 150cc four-strokes (mini race bikes) - these have an overall bar width of around 775mm.

Providing you have the matching bar clamp sizing you can put wide bars on a mini bike and also mini bars on a full-sized bike if you are desperate to go for a ride and can't find the bars you would normally run. Just bear in mind the geometry and ergonomics of the bike will be slightly off and may feel awkward for the rider.

What's the difference between crossbar handlebars and tapered handlebars?

There are two types of dirt bike handlebars - handlebars with a crossbar, and handlebars without a crossbar - often known as tapered, Fatbars (which is actually a model by Renthal) or oversized handlebars.

Handlebars with a crossbar offer a stiffer, more rigid feeling, and they obviously look different by having a 'bar' across the bar. There are several different offerings of crossbar-style handlebars, such as the ODI CFT model, which offers great flex than a completely rigid crossbar. Crossbar handlebars typically come in the 7/8" size, while many handlebar manufacturers make their premium model available in the 'Fatbar' 1 1/8" size, such as the Renthal Twinwall bar.

A tapered handlebar provides more flex than a crossbar model and is much more forgiving. Most manufacturers typically fit their bikes with this style of bar and it's a really popular option amongst riders. Tapered bars are only made in the 1 1/8" size.

The Renthal Twinwall handlebars offer the best of both worlds, albeit at a slightly higher price. The Twinwall is made up of two tubes fused together, with an outer tube offering extreme resistance to mechanical damage, and an inner tube designed specifically to resist throttle tube wear and increase fatigue life.

How do I check the size of my handlebars and bar clamps?

Dirt bike handlebars come in two sizes: 7/8", and 1 1/8". The larger 1 1/8" size is what is typically found on most dirt bikes 125cc and up, however if you're bike is fitted with 7/8" bars and you want to upgrade to 1 1/8", all you need is 1 1/8" mounts or adapters.

To measure the size of your bars, you simply need to use a ruler or measuring tape on the centre of the bars in the clamp area, measuring from top to bottom of the tubing. It's the same with your clamps, where you'll measure inside the clamps from top to bottom.

How do I change my handlebars?

Changing handlebars is one of the simplest tasks you can do on a dirt bike, and it starts with removing your hand controls, grips, and old handlebars. Your handlebars will be secured by four bolts across the two clamps, so it's a case of undoing them.

To install your new set of bars, centre the bars up in the clamps (the bars will have a centreline marking), and semi-tighten the bolts on the clamps. You'll come back to tighten them to the correct torque, although first you'll want to reinstall your grips and controls.

Once you've done that, you can now set the position of your bars and hand controls to your liking. When you secure the bars inside the clamps, and if your top clamp is one piece, tighten the bolts in a diagonal pattern to ensure the bolts are torqued evenly. Now it's time to wrap the bar pad on and rip some motos!

How do I pick the right bar mounts and risers?

When it comes to bar mounts, there are several different types, including handlebar risers. The main types of bar mounts are solid mounted and rubber-mounted bar mounts. Solid mounted bar mounts are typically stronger, and deliver a firmer feeling through the handlebars. Most motocross and off-road bikes come with solid mounts as standard.

The rubber-mounted style essentially has rubber cones that go into the top triple clamp, which provides a more forgiving feeling through the handlebars while also absorbing vibrations.

Bar risers essentially lift the bars up, and can be an alternative over getting bars with more rise. Bar risers are available in different heights to suit your preference.

When should I replace my handlebars?

There are two times when you want to replace your handlebars: After a crash where they've been bent, or if you have steel bars. A bent set of bars will not only make riding your bike uncomfortable, but the bend will actually damage the structural integrity of the handlebars.

A lot of mini bikes will come fitted with steel bars as standard, and it's always recommended to change them out with an aftermarket aluminium bar if you're racing or riding more seriously, as steel bars tend to be quite weak in comparison.

Do I need to use a bar pad?

Absolutely! Every new handlebar includes with a round bar pad if it's a crossbar or a square bar pad if it's a tapered bar. Bar pads are designed to prevent injuries to our chest and face (yes, your face and chin can hit the bars in some impacts!), so it's incredibly important to always have a bar pad fitted.

What brands should I look for?

Renthal, Pro Taper, ODI, Neken, RHK, and TAG Metals are brands used by the best motocross and enduro riders in the world.

Your choice of handlebar comes down to personal preference - two people could be exactly the same height yet feel comfortable with completely different handlebars. It all comes to down to how you want to feel on your bike. Check out our comprehensive range of Dirt Bike Handlebars and filter between Brand, Design, and Colour, then choose the bend that is right for you! No matter what bars you are after, MXstore has got you covered.


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