The handlebars of a BMX bike are a critical piece of the bike. The style and quality of handlebar impact the entire riding experience. In a basic sense, there are only two main design styles of BMX handlebars. These two designs are the two-piece and four-piece.
A two-piece handlebar is what most stock bikes will come equipped with. True to their name, a two-piece handlebar is comprised of two different tubes. The main tube is bent drastically in multiple places to create the base. The second tube is welded horizontally to the main tube to create support and strength.
A four-piece handlebar is built with two vertical shaped bars that bend up to form the handlebars. The other two bars connect the verticals together, forming the full handlebar. There are very few differences between the two styles of a handlebar. The main difference is simply aesthetics.
No matter which style of the handlebar, there are four main factors that should be taken into account. These are the upsweep, backsweep, rise, and width.
The upsweep is the degree in which the grips rise from the crossbar. This can also be described as the degree that the bars bend upwards from the top bend to the outside of the bars. This factor can be felt strongly in the wrists when biking. Even a few degrees of change can be the difference between comfort and pain.
The backsweep is the factor that describes how much the bars bend backward from the center of the handlebar. Backsweep helps with control of the bike as well as determining how far behind the bars you sit.
Rise is used to describe the length between the bottom of the bars where the knurling is up to the highest point available on the bars. Rise is largely a matter of personal preference. For example, a taller rider may prefer a larger rise to prevent hunching over the handlebars.
Width may be the easiest factor to understand. The width is simply the length of one end of a handlebar to the other end. The most common widths in the current market are 28” and 30”. Traditionally, the width of the handlebars will be equivalent to that of the rider’s shoulders. Oftentimes, 28” is often accurate. Some riders will trim their handlebars down to personalize the width. In some situations, buying a wider handlebar may be a good idea. It is always easier to trim than it is to add.
These are the most basic features of understanding BMX handlebars. Understanding these is a great jumping off point when developing a basic understanding of BMX bikes.