Everything You Need To Know About Moustache Handlebars (epic bike guide)

What Are Moustache Handlebars?

Mustache handlebars get their name from their shape resembling a curved “retro” mustache. To the untrained eye, they might appear identical to comfort handlebars, but this isn’t the case.

Mustache handlebars’ ends are curved towards the rear wheel way more aggressively. They also have a very pronounced forward sweep.

The Advantages of Moustache Handlebars

Multiple Hand Positions

One of mustache handlebars’ (MH) strongest points is that they give the rider a multitude of distinct hand positions and a few that are in between the main ones.

Mustache handlebars hand positions

More hand placements reduce the chance of numbness and joint pain on long trips.

When the rider is forced to keep their hands in the same position for a long time, the connective tissues of the wrists are stressed from the same angle over and over again.

The repetitive strain results in trigger spots. In some cases, the nerves in the wrists get compressed and radiate significant pain toward the elbows and even the shoulders.

For that reason, touring cyclists often rely on handlebars with multiple hand positions. In the West, drop bars hold the throne whereas butterfly bars are more popular in Europe.

That said, mustache handlebars are seen on touring bikes too. Their properties as touring bars will be analyzed later in the article.


Note: Some people put a set of dummy brake hoods near the stem for an extra hand position, but this isn’t recommended practice for two reasons – it’s unstable and unsightly.

Compatible With Multiple Brake Levers

Road Bike Brake Levers

Mustache Handlebars with Road Bike Brake Levers (the most common setup)

Mustache handlebars can be used with many brake levers. The most common choice is a set of road bike brake levers on the curves. The levers are positioned horizontally with the ends pointing to the sides so that the rider can effectively squeeze the brakes.

The downside of this approach is that you can’t use brake-shifters such as STI because it’s not possible to operate the shifting lever. Thus, this combination is more common for people who have downtube or bar-end shifters.

Reverse Brake Levers

Reverse brake levers are installed on the bar ends and point away from the rider (hence the name). They give the rider a lot of control when riding in the upright position, but are inaccessible when riding in the drops. For that reason, they are not recommended when riding more aggressively.

Reverse Brake Levers

Reverse brake levers are also known as “Porteur” brake levers as they are common for “Porteur” bikes.

(FAQ: What is a porteur bike? A commuter bike with a massive front rack and handlebars resembling mustache models but with less pronounced curves and drops. In France, porteur bikes were used to distribute newspapers. There were even competitions.)

Note: If you have mustache handlebars with ends that point to the sides, that brake lever style could be uncomfortable because of the extra width. Normally, reverse brake levers are used when the handlebar ends point directly toward the rider.

This style is not suitable for reverse brake levers

Standard Levers On the Flat Part

Some people install short brake levers on the flattest part of the bars near the stem. This approach saves weight and resembles standard flat handlebars. The downside is that the levers are not accessible when riding in the “aero position”.

Vintage Aesthetics

Mustache handlebars are considered a niche retro product and thus fit the bill when going for a vintage bicycle.

Less Stressful On The Back

Mustache handlebars have a slight downward sweep allowing the rider to assume a more aerodynamic position. The position, however, is not nearly as extreme as that offered by classic drop bars.

As a result, the rider gains a “semi-aero” stance with low back stress.

Suspension Effect

Mustache handlebars have a decent amount of flex when holding the ends pointing toward the rear tire. The longer those are, the more springy the bars will feel.

Some people consider this property beneficial because it reduces the stress reaching the joints when riding on less-than-ideal terrain.

Better For Front Racks

If you want to run a front rack, mustache handlebars are a better choice than drop bars thanks to the clearance.

The drops on drops bars limit the size of the cargo that you can put on the rack. Since mustache bars swipe back and have a much smaller drop, they don’t interfere with the cargo nearly as much.

Furthermore, when holding the bar ends, the rider assumes a position similar to that of a “porteur bike”. The result is gained leverage over the rack and respectively the load.

This characteristic makes mustache bars a good choice even for town commuters.

Bar End Shifters Can Be Operated Out of the Saddle

Since the ends of mustache handlebars do not drop very low, it’s possible to operate a set of bar end shifters even when riding outside of the saddle.

Standard drop bars do not offer that option because the level of the drops is much closer to the ground and thus the shifters are inaccessible when standing.


The Disadvantages of Moustache Handlebars

Weird

Some people find mustache handlebars somewhat weird and uncomfortable regardless of the setup. This outcome isn’t unexpected because mustache bars are a model that’s in between drop bars and comfort handlebars.

As such they fall into a grey area that people either love or hate most of the time.

Hard To Find

The demand for mustache handlebars is very low. Most cyclists don’t even know such bars exist. As a result, you can’t find them in your average bike shop.

Meanwhile, drop bars, butterfly bars, and comfort bars are much more common and thus available in greater variety and quantities.

Incompatible With Brake-Shifters

As mentioned earlier, mustache handlebars require the brake levers to be horizontal. As a result, it’s not possible to use the common brake-shifters found on modern road bikes because the shifting lever cannot be operated properly in that orientation.

For that reason, mustache handlebars setups rely on one of the following shifting options:

  • Thumb levers near the mid-curves
  • Bar-end shifters
  • Downtube shifters

Not That Aero

Mustache handlebars are much more “aero” than comfort handlebars, but they can’t match the aggressiveness of standard drop bars.

Comparison Between Drop Bars and Mustache Handlebars (Table)

Moustache Handlebars
Drop Bar Hand Positions
Drop BarsMoustache Handlebars
Number of Hand Positions44
Braking and shifting simultaneouslyYesNo
Aero Position YesYes
Aero Drop LargeSmall
Back StressHigh (in the aero position)Low
Front Rack ClearanceSmallLarge
AvailabilityVery highLow
Looks/StyleModern and vintageVintage
Width approx. 440mmapprox. 520mm
Sprinting/Aggressive ridingHighModerate
Comparison Between Moustache Handlebars and Drop Bars

Comparison Between Drop Bars and Riser Handlebars (Table)

Riser Bars
Center-to-center Bar Width

Weight and Width Analysis

The table below contains the width and weight of popular mustache handlebar models.

ModelWidthMaterialWeight In GramsWeight In Ounces
Nitto RM-016515mmAluminum341g12.03oz
BLB Fubar Bar 25.4 Moustache Handleb480mmAluminum 239g8.43oz
Nitto B352AA550mmAluminum360g12.7oz
Soma 3SPD505mmAluminum320g11.29oz
Origin8 Tiki515mmAluminum328g11.57oz
CrMo Moustache Bar – UrbanVelo540mmCrMo
Nitto Albastache55mmAluminum325g11.46oz
Weight and Width of Popular Mustache Handlebars

Are Moustache Handlebars Good For Touring?

Mustache handlebars can certainly be used for touring thanks to the following qualities:

  • Multiple hand placements (reduce joint fatigue)
  • A small aero drop that decreases drag but doesn’t stress the lower back significantly
  • Compatible with multiple brake levers
  • Compatible with a front rack

That said, some touring cyclists may pick another set of bars for the following reasons:

  • The forward sweep of mustache handlebars makes them incompatible with some of the large handlebar bags.
  • Moustache handlebars aren’t compatible with standard brake-shifters and thus do not allow simultaneous shifting and braking.
  • Alternative bars such as butterfly models offer more hand placements.
  • Drop bars are more aero and thus better for “speed touring”.

Personal Experience

A long time ago, I met a cyclist on the street with a set of mustache handlebars on what appeared to be a retro Peugeot. His brake lever setup was the most common option – retro brake levers near the curves and downtube shifters. I asked him about the bars, and he gave me the following observations:

  • Sometimes the bar ends hit him in the legs during more extreme maneuvers.
  • The bars are too wide for aggressive riding through traffic.
  • They are not as aero as drop bars but come with a significant forward lean in comparison to his previous townie bars.
  • Wrapping them with tape is easier than wrapping a set of drop bars.
  • Many cyclists look at his bars with interest. Thus, if you want attention mustache handlebars are a good choice.

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