How to hold your handlebars like a pro

Getting your grip and position right is more important than you might think

Clock09:00, Wednesday 31st January 2024

Holding your handlebars. It might not seem like rocket science, but there is a big difference between the way a beginner holds their bars and the way a seasoned rider does. The way you hold your bars can alter your position on the bike, your comfort, and of course the amount of control you have.

Here are our tips for how to hold your handlebars like a pro. We'll cover how to adapt your grip and position on the bars to adjust to different roads, terrains and gradients, and even in varying (and often unpredictable) weather conditions. Knowing how to hold your bars is a vital part of mastering the mix of conditions and terrains you'll meet out on the roads.

Read more:

Puppy paws: it might be aero, but it's dangerous

Avoid dangerous hand positions

Avoid resting your forearms on the top of the handlebars (commonly referred to as ‘puppy paws’). This is a highly risky position to adopt and you can easily lose control and crash if you hit an unexpected pothole or other obstacle.

Sitting on the top tube is also incredibly dangerous, especially when riding on open roads or in traffic. This position puts a lot of weight on the front of the bike and, if you lose control, can result in a very heavy crash.

Remember, safety always comes first.

Contact between your index finger and thumb is enough

Don't grip too hard

Ideally, you need a firm grip which you won’t lose if you hit any unexpected potholes or stones in the road. Anything can happen when riding so don’t ride too relaxed, as you may end up crashing if you lose your grip on the bars.

On the other hand, don’t grip the bars too hard. This will only cause the rest of your body to tighten up, creating unnecessary muscle tightness and discomfort.

A good tip is to keep your thumb and forefinger tight together, so that if your hands do get thrown off the bars, you won’t lose your grip completely.

Keep your front end low to cut through the air

Stay aerodynamic

For many, aerodynamics is the name of the game. If speed is your thing, riding with your hands on the drops is a great way to stay more aerodynamic, saving you energy during hard, fast efforts. It’ll also help you save energy when you’re riding behind someone as you’ll be able to get down low and shelter from the wind.

It can be hard to ride on the drops for long periods at first, so we recommend doing it for five minutes at a time to help you get used to it. Do this a handful of times every time you ride and you’ll soon become comfortable in the position.

For an even more aero position, put your hands on the hoods and bend your elbow to 90 degrees. It'll get you nice and low, without your forearms adding to your frontal area.

The hoods are where you'll find yourself most of the time

Climb on the tops or the hoods

While some mountain goats can ride endlessly out of the saddle, flying up dizzying gradients without sitting back down once, most of us can’t.

That’s why, on long climbs when aerodynamics aren't as important, it’s best to ride in a more relaxed position with your hands on top of the handlebars. It’s a less aggressive position which will keep you more comfortable over an extended effort.

It also helps to mix the riding position up. Don’t be afraid to get out of the saddle and ride with your hands in different positions on the handlebars. Keep comfortable and you’ll go further and faster.

The drops are secure and aerodynamic, perfect for sprinting

Sprint in the drops

Sometimes, our competitiveness takes over. A street sign slowly creeps into view and, before you know it, you’re in a lung-busting race to get there first. While speed may be your main priority in the moment, staying in control of the bike is also important.

When sprinting, it’s always best to hold the drops. You’ll have a better grip on the handlebars which equals better control of the bike as you put out that leg-burning power. It also results in better power transfer to the pedals, meaning more speed.

Not to mention that it’s the most aerodynamic position to sprint in, helping you cut through the wind and hopefully win the race to the street sign.

Bend your knees and elbows and let the bike move underneath you

Stay in control on gravel or sand

The more adventurous among us may sometimes venture beyond smooth tarmac and find themselves riding through sand and gravel, which offers new challenges with regards to gripping the bars.

The key to mastering these surfaces is to maintain a firm grip on the handlebars while keeping the upper body relaxed. Allow the bike to move through the surface as it wants to but don’t force the bars in any one direction, simply try to guide them.

Essentially, you’ll need to maintain a firm grip while relaxing everything else. Just go with the flow, but make sure you don’t get too relaxed and lose your grip on the bars entirely!

Jargon Buster

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