They’re ubiquitous, and easy to forget about, but bar end plugs play an important role in your safety while riding and the long-term health of your handlebars.
As a safety mechanism, the little piece of plastic or metal in your handlebar can be a real life-saver! In the event of a crash, handlebars with open ends are much more dangerous, as they can puncture your skin more easily than a flat, solid handlebar end. If you’re involved in a high-speed crash, your bar end plugs can make the difference between a nasty bruise and a serious medical emergency.
Your bar end plugs also prevent your handlebars from eroding from the inside out! Plugging up your handlebars prevents water and dirt from entering the handlebars, ensuring that your bike isn’t susceptible to rust and wear internally. While this may be a small consideration in dry and smooth riding zones, it’s well worth spending the (usually low) money to insulate your bike if you live in wet or rugged areas.
So, it’s clear that bar end plugs are a worthy investment! But how can you be sure the plugs on sale at your local shop are the right ones for you? Read on as we consider all the factors that go into selecting the best bar end plug for your needs.
Are bar end plugs universal?
It can be easy to believe that all bar end plugs are created equally: after all, they’re a pretty basic component for your bike!
You’d be forgiven for thinking that way, but there are some differences within the category.
First and foremost, there are two different diameter sizes that are commonly found for bar end plugs: 22.2 mm and 23.8 mm. 22.2 mm bar end plugs are commonly used for mountain bikes, which have longer and slightly skinnier handlebars. Conversely, 23.8 mm plugs are mostly seen on road bikes.
While it’s worth checking to see if the bar end plugs in your shopping cart are mountain or road bike specific, most bar end plugs will fit a range of handlebar diameters, usually through some sort of expanding mechanism. There are some specialty bar end plugs that buck this trend though: more on that later!
Are All Handlebar Plugs the Same Size?
Definitely not! In addition to the two different diameters of the bar end plugs discussed earlier, there’s different kinds of bar end plugs that come in all shapes and sizes. Some plugs will fit inside the handlebar, while others are designed to fit over the handlebar. Some others will even extend past the end of the handlebar, giving you more room or a different position to use while riding. While most bar end plugs are universal, there’s lots of room to customize, so keep looking for an end plug that works perfectly for your needs!
Road Bike Bar End Plugs
Bar end plugs for road bikes fulfill the same purpose, but there are some variations and measurement changes to consider. Most road bike bar end plugs will have a 23.8mm diameter, so be sure to get a road-specific end plug, or an adjustable size.
Bar end plugs can also help you keep your bar tape secure, avoiding constantly re-taping your bars over the life of your handlebars.
In addition, there are road-specific bar end plugs that will offer you some additional drop on your handlebars, for riders who want to get as low as possible for a smooth and fast downhill descent. Extender plugs are helpful for drop-bar handlebars that don’t quite reach low enough, or don’t allow you to tuck in your elbows fully. If you don’t want to shell out the money for new handlebars, consider trying extender plugs first.
MTB Bar End Plugs
Mountain bike end plugs are a slightly smaller size, with a diameter of 22.2mm. These end plugs are usually made in a “push-in” style, using an expandable material or tightening mechanism to secure the end plug into the handlebar.
However, mountain bikes are also known for using bar end caps, which fit over the end of the handlebar instead of inside it. Usually secured with a screw, they provide a slightly thicker end of the handlebar and more opportunity for color and other flair.
Mountain bikes can also be fitted with extender plugs to widen your handlebars. Wider handlebars provide a better feel in the shoulders for broad-chested riders, better handling, and more room on the handlebars for all your various accessories. Extender plugs are great if you need just a bit more reach, or a slight boost to your turning power.
Specialized Bar End Plugs
While bar end plugs are mostly just used to cover the open hole created by your handlebars, there have been some companies that create accessories that fill that gap with creativity and utility.
Many mountain bike handlebars are flat, with no ability to switch grips and give your hands a rest. Some companies have given you the option of adding on vertical bar ends that allow you to raise your chest and give your wrists a chance to overcome the numbness and pain that can nag you on longer rides.
By the same token, there are drop bar ends that can give your road bike the drop bar position you’ve been dreaming of, without switching handlebars. Even more of a game changer than extender plugs, these bar ends give you a new riding position for a much lower cost than installing new drop bars.
Even more creatively than most bar ends, there are mirrors for your bike that mount inside the handlebar, covering the hole in the handlebar and giving you more visibility for fast-paced, urban riding. These mirrors are easy to install, often employing an expanding locking mechanism, and help you stay safe as you ride. Although they aren’t standard on most bikes, having a rear-view mirror is a big safety upgrade, and something you should consider if you ride in areas with lots of cars.
Alex Mwangi is the creator of Outdoor Right and an outdoor enthusiast. During his free time he enjoys riding his road bike or traveling the world looking for his next adventure.