The skinniest bars in the pro peloton

Van Schip runs 32cm Japanese handlebars as a track carryover

At 194cm / 6ft 4in, Jan-Willem van Schip isn’t a small man, but his handlebars are tiny. Measuring a mere 32cm center-to-center, van Schip’s bars exemplify the ‘narrow is aero’ mentality to the extreme.

Van Schip and his Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij squad were racing Wednesday at Scheldeprijs, the Belgian midweek sprinter’s race falling between the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

While a few riders historically have used the event as a last chance to race-test cobbles equipment ahead of Roubaix, other teams who aren’t racing the Hell of the North come with full aero equipment to contest the dead-flat, often-windy Scheldeprijs.

For contrast, this is the 38cm bar of Kenny Dehaes (WB Aqua Protect VeranClassic). And this bar is narrower than most riders use
For contrast, this is the 38cm bar of Kenny Dehaes (WB Aqua Protect VeranClassic). And this bar is narrower than most riders use

Most riders had aero wheels and aero bikes, and a few, like Kenny Dehaes of WB Aqua Protect VeranClassic, had relatively narrow bars of 38cm.

But 32cm? That’s pretty much unheard of for road racers.

If you measure van Schip's alloy bars at the apex of the bend on the tops, they are only 30cm wide.

Measured at the apex, the Japanese alloy bars are even skinnier
Measured at the apex, the Japanese alloy bars are even skinnier

The drops flare out quite a bit. But even then, the ends of the drops are only 38cm center-to-center.

“He’s from the track,” said team director Michael Boogerd, a longtime elite rider himself. “He says it’s not more comfortable, but it’s more aero.”

Jan-Willem van Schip stands 194cm / 6ft 4in, but his bars measure 32cm center-to-center at the hoods
Jan-Willem van Schip stands 194cm / 6ft 4in, but his bars measure 32cm center-to-center at the hoods

While Boogerd declined to specify the bars — they certainly are not team-sponsor Ritchey product — they appear to be a Nitto randonneur model. 

“People think the bar is something new and special, but it’s just an old bar from a touring bike,” Boogerd said.

For reference, a stock bike that fits the tall Van Schip would come with at least a 44cm-wide handlebar. Some sprinters like Dehaes often use narrower bars, but in the 38-40cm range. Most riders have 40-42cm bars in the pro peloton.

Van Schip is a track rider who is racing on the road for Roompot
Van Schip is a track rider who is racing on the road for Roompot

Ben Delaney

US Editor-in-Chief
Ben has been writing about bikes since 2000, covering everything from the Tour de France to Asian manufacturing to kids' bikes. The former editor-in-chief of VeloNews, he began racing in college while getting a journalism degree at the University of New Mexico. Based in the cycling-crazed city of Boulder, Colorado, with his wife and two kids, Ben enjoys riding most every day.
  • Discipline: Road (paved or otherwise), cyclocross and sometimes mountain. His tri-curious phase seems to have passed, thankfully
  • Preferred Terrain: Quiet mountain roads leading to places unknown
  • Current Bikes: Scott Foil Team Issue, Specialized S-Works Tarmac, Priority Eight city bike... and a constant rotation of test bikes
  • Dream Bike: A BMC Teammachine SLR01 with disc brakes and clearance for 30mm tires (doesn't yet exist)
  • Beer of Choice: Saison Dupont
  • Location: Boulder, CO, USA

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