Can You Avoid The Perils Of Integrated Handlebars?

Matt Phillips just became my hero for writing the article pictured above.

It’s that time of year when the big brands are launching their latest and greatest. The big ‘S’ just launched their Tarmac SL8 Speed Sniffer, quickly followed by the new Canyon Endurace CFR (Canyon Factory Racing).

There’s no doubt these are both beautiful, well made, high performing machines (I love the new Canyon top tube “sausage smuggler” internal storage compartment!)

But as a bike fitter I am acutely aware of the, often perilous, approach manufacturers take with integrated handlebars…

As a fitter integrated and proprietary components are always front of mind.

On a daily basis, I either have to take on a difficult decision on behalf of my customers in choosing the right integrated cockpit for them…

… or have the difficult conversation that their current integrated handlebar is not going to work for them… unless they develop the flexibility of an Olympic gymnast

What is particular concerning, as Matt Phillips points out, is that offering integrated handlebars as a standard piece of equipment, on a stock bike, creates a much greater burden of responsibility on both manufacturer and consumer.

There’s a very simple reason why bikes have always been offered with adjustable cockpits until now… people are different…

Humans come in a lot of different shapes, sizes, and flexibility!

Bikes need to be adjustable so they can be tailored to their rider… but you knew this already…

What manufacturers are telling us when they go down the integration route is that they are prioritising aerodynamics and aesthetics over humans.

Of course they do, they are selling you a dream… and boy, I want that dream too, I want my bike to look slick, aero and sexy… I want to feel like Pogačar when I’m hitting the chain gang…

I just wish they could put as much thought into their integrated cockpits as their top tube tools storage.

Integrated top tube tool box – well thought out “sausage smuggler”

If I was being optimistic, I’d say that Canyon are trying…

Their integrated cockpit does have easily adjustable bar width options (but still limited) and easy height adjustment (only 15mm). However, if the stock stem length the bike ships with is not right for you…

Then it is a very expensive (£250 min) and time consuming trip to your local mechanic to un-cable and re-bleed the entire cockpit and fit the right new stem… assuming you can get the right new stem… and how do you figure out want you need anyway?!? err… get a bike fit 😉

There isn’t even an option on the Canyon website when ordering the bike to specify a different cockpit with a different stem length…

This simply is not good enough for a major manufacturer and a bike that costs upward of £9000.

The first thing that popped up on the bike fit network page when the CFR was released

If you are going to offer a integrated cockpit option on your bike, you need to do what Specialized have done…

Offer 15 different cockpit sizes, ship the bike to a shop without the cockpit installed so it can be changed easily and also offer the option to change back to an adjustable two piece stem and handlebar setup. 

The new SL8 is offered with a slick fully integrated cockpit…
…but you can also install a two piece cockpit, with plenty of spacers and practical cabling. 

Bike manufacturers have a habit of shooting themselves in the foot…

Proprietary integration without adjustment options is going to bite you in the ass at some point. 

When riders realise that their £9000 bike is uncomfortable and they’re not getting the dream ride they were sold… that’s a loss for the sport…

On the flip side, the continuing demand for integrated cockpits from consumers also needs to be tempered with knowledge and responsibility. Riders need to do their homework…

And we all need to get better at calling out the manufacturers to do better. 

Ep 28: PART 1 – More Torke: How & Why You Should Be More Fussy About Your Cycling Shoe Fit Cycling Demystified – Bike Fit, Mechanics and Soft Issues

PART 1 of 2: CYCLING SHOES & INSOLES What should you really be looking for from an ideal fitting cycling shoe? Wei goes deep with master bike fitter, Tony Corke about cycling shoes (racing slippers!) They delve into how to find the best fit, force transfer, cleat position, toe spring, heels retention, common mistakes, Lore 3D printed shoes, why Bont spent £40,000 on a redundant foot scanner and why stock shoes are actually made for no one… Find out why shoe fit goes way beyond measuring length, width and depth if you want to establish the key foundations for your cycling comfort and performance. Although we recorded this episode second (and before we changed the show name!) It made sense to release this episode about shoes first, to set the scene. Then next week you'll learn all about the importance of insoles, footbeds and arch (ticklers) support! Lake Cycling Shoes: https://www.lakecycling.com/ Lore Cycling Shoes: https://lore.cc/ Online bike fit assessment: ⁠https://form.jotform.com/Foundationbikefit/online⁠ If you have any questions for us, join the conversation at:⁠⁠ ⁠⁠https://www.instagram.com/cyclingdemystified/⁠⁠ Are you 'bike-fit curious'? Go to ⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠www.foundation.fit⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠ to book in for a session and get your fit dialled in at London's premier bike fit studio. Looking for a custom bike, a hand-built custom wheelset or other upgrades? Visit ⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠www.frequencycycleworks.com⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠ for more info and for pro-level servicing.
  1. Ep 28: PART 1 – More Torke: How & Why You Should Be More Fussy About Your Cycling Shoe Fit
  2. Ep 27: The Essential 10 Step Process For An Effective Bike Fit: Masterclass Replay
  3. Ep 26: The Albion & Petrichor Projects Interview – The Hidden Art of Garment Design
  4. Ep 25: AI Is Coming To Bike Fit – Everything You Need To Know & Should You Trust It?
  5. Ep 24: The Philosophy of Bike Servicing: Are You Being Served In The Right Way?

We discuss integration & bike industry bloopers in our recent podcast:


The truth is, if you want certainty or clarity about your choices for a new bike you, getting a bike fit BEFORE you buy a bike is the best way to go.

I’m biased, of course, but I truly believe in what we do.

As fitters we have the ability and knowledge to help riders navigate this tricky landscape of bike buying. (Mainly because we’ve made all the mistakes ourselves already!)

I urge riders to counter the emotional, marketing driven, online ease, consumerist itch with education, understanding and objective testing. 

Bike fitting is not sexy… it’s hard work… it’s learning… it’s reality… but it will make the dream happen…

So if you know someone who is looking for a new bike and could benefit from this kind of knowledge. Help them out!

Tell them about the choices that are available to them.

And if they need help figuring all this out, tell them to consult an expert – tell them to get a bike fit!


Words by: Wei

We’re on a mission to educate riders and so you have clarity and certainty when you’re buying a new bike! If you have any questions about integrated components please do shoot us an email: info@foundation.fit


The 5 Most Costly Mistakes Cyclists Make When Choosing A New High-End Bike

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