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  1. #1
    Newbie JimBobJr's Avatar
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    Flat Bar vs. Drop Bar (Forgive me!)

    Hi...newbie here.

    Just getting back into cycling after a long absence. Currently riding a neighbor's hybrid until I get my own bike. I live in an urban area, and most of my rides are on city streets (meaning, lots of traffic signals and stop signs).

    I've lurked here for a while, and read what I can find on flat bars vs. drop bars, but i have a specific quesiton if you don't mind. Would a flat bar be a better fit for me, given the amount of stops I make on a given ride? I don't do many hills, and i don't ride out in the countryside, and i don't anticipate doing much of that anyway. I'm happy doing 5-25 mile rides.

    I've heard the argument about more hand positions, but is that argument relevent to someone with my riding habits? I like the hybrid I'm on, like the upright position, etc. but -- if a relaxed geometry road bike with drop bars is a better idea, then I'll go that way.

    I guess the question is whether a flat bar is a better choice for a short-to-medium distance urban rider with the usual bad back problems of someone our age!

    thanks in advance!

    JimBob Jr.

  2. #2
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    its a question thats come up for me too many times...but for the type of asphalt riding i do, 45km daily commutes and weekend rides in cow country, i've done away with my drop bars...a few hours locked into a cramped position, with my nose pointing at my front wheel was no fun

    ...so both my wife and i have hybridized our vintage roadies, we both ride comfort hybrids, and both have flat hybrids for the country roads

    but then, i've taken a lot of flack from friends for doing this, but in the end, its my ride and i'll ride what i want

    so there

  3. #3
    OnTheRoad or AtTheBeach stonecrd's Avatar
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    Your in S. CA so I expect you have to deal with the wind. For me having the ability to go into the drops in the wind makes all of the difference. Also I found that I had elbow pain problems when riding distances on my mtb with flat bars that I did not have happen with drop bars on my road bike.
    The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard and the shallow end is much too large

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  4. #4
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    I am a mountain biker- recently trying and enjoying a road bike. Never thought I would enjoy the drops but a couple of months in- I have found them pretty comfortable to use and on windy days, quite an asset. Still ride on the flat bit of the bars and on the hoods more than I do with my head between my knees, but on rides, I have found drop bars more comfortable and suitable. Only one draw back I have found and that is braking. On a mountain bike I always cover the brake levers. This is not always possible on the road bike, but I am getting more adept at braking from the hood position.
    How long was I in the army? Five foot seven.


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  5. #5
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    I just got a new bike, a trek 7.5 fx, I specificly wanted a flat bar road bike. I just didn't enjoy riding on the drops any more. Most of the time was on the tops or hoods anyway. My advice would be to try a few bikes. And ask yourself what kind of riding you want to do, be honest with your self.
    The wind is an issue with a head wind, but I'm not racing, so I don't care if I have to go slower or work harder. The hand position is really not that big of an issue.
    Test ride. And get what you want, and the h3ll with what anybody else thinks.

  6. #6
    Senior Member guybierhaus's Avatar
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    I too prefer the upright position and a flat bar. I'm a recreational biker, so if it's windy, I stay home. Ditto for rain, snow, heat and humidity. I did pick up a Trek 1000 road bike and tried to ride it stock. My overweight body crushing down on my hands was too much. I added a stem extension and raised the bars. Tried all three hand positions and found them undesireable. I converted bike to a flat bar. To achieve some more hand positions I added bar ends and an aero bar. Bar ends were good, I do ride alot with hands at the corners, where flat bar and bar ends meet. The aero bar proved to be uncomfortable. Mostly from the twitchie handling, and quite frankly I ride slow. Don't know what I was thinking. Trying to get more aero so I could ride at 16 mph instead of 12? I also wasn't too happy with the STI shifters and brake handles beyond my finger reach. I guess I've ridden my hybrid too long, I wanted the steering control and easy brake access of that bike. Now I have that, but with the faster skinnie tyres and 7 pounds less bike weight. I have no doubt spent as much money on playing around with this used Trek 1000 as I could have bought a Trek Pilot 1.2 flat-bar. But lesson learned.
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  7. #7
    Banned wagathon's Avatar
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    It probably would not be a big deal except that, my feeling is, if someone has had a poor experience with drop bars, it may have been because their bike was not sized correctly, e.g., the bike would not accommodate their riding preferences. For example, their riding position--even for riding on the tops of the bars--may have been too aggresive and if so, that would make the drop positon useless.

    To be sized "right" for the rider may have something to do too with stem length: riding comfortably with your hands behind the hoods is one position and the newest Shimano levers are made so that you can rest your hands on the tops of the hoods (and that probably would be an even higher postion than any flat bar would provide).

    If sized "right" for a particular rider, in addition to more hand positions, you also will have more body postions. Being able to ride in a more aerodynamic position can be important if you find yourself riding for 10-20 miles against a stiff wind.


  8. #8
    Senior Member dauphin's Avatar
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    Some road bikes like the Specialized Sequoia and some Cyclocross bikes come with top mounted brake levers as well. The LBS can install these on most any drop bar bike, or so I'm told. (image courtesy of sheldonbrown.com)
    Last edited by dauphin; 08-28-07 at 11:09 AM.

  9. #9
    Around now and then DnvrFox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dauphin
    Some road bikes like the Specialized Sequoia and some Cyclocross bikes come with top mounted brake levers as well. The LBS can install these on most any drop bar bike, or so I'm told.
    I have "in-line" brakes on both of my roadies. They work great. About $60 for a pair installed.

    I'm a recreational biker, so if it's windy, I stay home
    Around here I would never ride if I stayed home in the wind.
    DnvrFox - still bicycling, swimming, walking and weight lifting at 74yo is participating a bit in BFN 50+.

  10. #10
    Senior Member dauphin's Avatar
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    Dnvr, my wife was thinking about having those put on her new Bianchi. It kind of freaks her out going down steep hills.

  11. #11
    Around now and then DnvrFox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dauphin
    Dnvr, my wife was thinking about having those put on her new Bianchi. It kind of freaks her out going down steep hills.
    I love them. It gives me better control, considering I no longer go in the drops much. Also, on a loonngg downhill, using the STI brakes, my hands and wrists can get awfully tired. This provides an alternative braking hand position, and also for my tired body.
    DnvrFox - still bicycling, swimming, walking and weight lifting at 74yo is participating a bit in BFN 50+.

  12. #12
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    JIMBOB JR:

    I WAS IN YOUR POSITION ABOUT 2-1/2 YEARS AGO. I KNEW I WOULD ONLY BE HAPPY WITH FLAT BARS AND I WANTED A MOUNTAIN BIKE. I BOUGHT A TREK 4500. AFTER ABOUT A YEAR, I STARTED RIDING MORE ON COUNTY ROADS AND DECIDED THE LIGHTER FLAT BAR ROAD BIKE WOULD BE BETTER. THIS LED TO A FUJI SILHOUETTE WHICH MY WIFE NOW RIDES. I LIKED THE GEARING AND EFFICIENCY OF THE ROAD BIKE. NEXT I STARTED READING THE FORUMS AND BEGAN THINKING ABOUT THE DROP BARS. HOWEVER, I LIKE THE MORE UPRIGHT POSITION YOU MENTION.

    ANOTHER 6 MONTHS PASSED AND I FOUND A DEAL ON A NEW, YEAR OLD, BIANCHI EROS WITH DROP BARS. I HAD DONE A LOT OF READING, INCLUDING THE ADVICE ON THE RIVENDELL WEB SITE ON SIZING THE BIKE LARGER THAN IS USUALLY RECOMMENDED. MOST OF THE 20 YEAR OLD SALES PEOPLE TRY TO POSITION YOUR "ARSE" ABOUT 8 INCHES ABOVE YOUR HANDS, SAYING THIS IS MORE AERODYNAMIC FOR RACING. THAT BOAT SAILED AND SANK ABOUT 40 YEARS AGO. THE LARGER FRAME I BOUGHT RESULTED IN A LOWER SEAT POSITION IN RELATION TO THE BARS WHEN ADJUSTED FOR PROPER HEIGHT. IN ADDITION TO THIS, I PUT A STEM EXTENDER UNDER THE BARS AND A SHORTER STEM. THIS GIVES ME A VERY UPRIGHT POSITION WHICH I FIND MORE COMFORTABLE FOR LEISURE RIDING. I LIKE THE CAMPY ERGO SHIFTERS VERY MUCH. THIS REMAINS MY FAVORITE SETUP. AS jm01 SAID, I TOO TAKE SOME FLAK FOR MY SETUP, BUT UNTIL SOMEONE ELSE OFFERS TO PAY FOR MY BIKES, I'LL DO IT MY WAY.

    I GUESS MY POINT, AFTER ALL THIS IS, YOU CAN HAVE THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS IF YOU LIKE THE MULTIPLE POSITIONS THE DROP BARS OFFER.

    TEST RIDE A LOT OF BIKES AND DO WHAT FEELS BEST FOR YOU. YOU'RE OPINION IS THE ONLY ONE THAT MATTERS.

  13. #13
    Senior Member dauphin's Avatar
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    Old Grandad wrote, "TEST RIDE A LOT OF BIKES AND DO WHAT FEELS BEST FOR YOU. YOU'RE OPINION IS THE ONLY ONE THAT MATTERS."

    +1

  14. #14
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    I ride flat bars w/ barends

    My converted MTB has been re-sized for my comfort with all kinds of padding & wrapping on the flat bars & up around the barends. I've also adjusted the barend angle so that it is as close to 'neutral' as I can get & I ride a lot in that position (without access to my brakes or gear shift). But I move my hands around all the time, stand every 5 or 10 minutes, really wiggle a lot while I ride. And my position is pretty upright since that is most comfortable for an hour or two. Yes, the wind is a factor but I ride for fitness so wind resistance can be counted as part of that.

    If anyone else thinks my bike looks 'weird' for its admittedly bizarre configuration, then they can kiss my rear tire as they watch me crank right on by...

    I've looked at the Nitto handlebars in various configurations and thought that their drop bars might be comfortable IF I got the proper width so they are even with my shoulders and IF the hoods could be brought up even with my seat. The flat bars are NOT an ergonomically neutral position - there's no way they can be. The drop bars have their optimum neutral position on the hoods. Nitto makes bars that have neutral positions in all kinds of ways & that makes them interesting for me to contemplate.

    Like others have suggested, ya just gotta try 'em til ya find what ya like...
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  15. #15
    Senior Curmudgeon
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    Think of it this way - a drop-bar bike is a flat-bar bike with options. You don't have to use the other hand positions on the drop bars, but they're there if you ever want them. On the other hand, your money, your choice and if you've been riding the flat bar hybrid and find it fine, why change?

  16. #16
    Geezer Member Grampy™'s Avatar
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    Ok, forget all that hand position stuff..... drop bars are cooool.
    Carpe who?

  17. #17
    Senior Member turtleguy54's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Grampy™
    Ok, forget all that hand position stuff..... drop bars are cooool.
    Yes, and as they say on a couple of the other forums, "Flip It".

    Really, there are so many options out there it's like picking a saddle. The neat thing about bikes is that you can customize and change things for reletively little money. Try several different bars. As you ride more (which you will) you will come to know what works best for you. That is one of my joys of bicycling. I can actually tweak my ride and if it doesn't work go back to what did. It is fun!

  18. #18
    Senior Member jp173's Avatar
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    Check out my response to the post "Trek Pilot". I've tried the transition to the drop bars and am not happy. I'm going back to the flat bar.

  19. #19
    Newbie JimBobJr's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the responses so far. You've given me a lot to think about! I guess my main idea prompting me to bring this up was whether the flat or drop bar is a better solution to urban riding, with lots of stops and goes, etc. Maybe it's six of one, a half dozen of the other, but it seems to me the flat bar is more suitable for this kind of riding. Then again, I liked that idea of having two sets of brakes on drop bars. I've ridden a couple of bikes with drop bars, and my hands always hurt from squeezing the brakes. Maybe that's just something I'd get used to?

    I like what I see on Trek's website about the 7.x series. But then again, Pilots look good too! Ah...they're all good!

  20. #20
    I need more cowbell. Digital Gee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JimBobJr
    Thanks for all the responses so far. You've given me a lot to think about! I guess my main idea prompting me to bring this up was whether the flat or drop bar is a better solution to urban riding, with lots of stops and goes, etc. Maybe it's six of one, a half dozen of the other, but it seems to me the flat bar is more suitable for this kind of riding. Then again, I liked that idea of having two sets of brakes on drop bars. I've ridden a couple of bikes with drop bars, and my hands always hurt from squeezing the brakes. Maybe that's just something I'd get used to?

    I like what I see on Trek's website about the 7.x series. But then again, Pilots look good too! Ah...they're all good!
    I think there's a Pilot 1.2? that comes either as a flat bar or with drops. Tough choice -- I go back and forth on it myself!
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  21. #21
    Bike Junkie roccobike's Avatar
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    I kept the drop bars on my Cannondale. I just don't like the look of flat bars on a road bike. I've added an adjustable stem that lifts the drop bars and pulls them back to a less aggresive position. I've adjusted the bars so that the STI shifters are in a more comfortable position. But, I still like to go to the drops when I'm reaching for higher speeds. I also have a flat bar hybrid. I just don't like the flat bar on a road type bike. I'm probably going to sell that hybrid. As was said earlier, with brake handles added to the flat part of the drop bars, there's no reason to go to flat bars.
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  22. #22
    Senior Member Dchiefransom's Avatar
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    I brought the drop bars on my Trek up about 3 inches, and back almost 4 inches. The drops aren't as low as a racing configuration would usually put them, and the tops of the bars are comfy.....for me. Try riding bikes with both styles of bars, and get the one that feels best for you. Make sure the tops on the drop bars are in the same position as the flat bar.
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  23. #23
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    I put a 100mm 15+ stem on both my road bikes and sit in an upright position. With herniations at L4-L5 and L5-S1 and 56 years, the classic road bike setup is not good for me, but in the current configuration, I feel like I have the best of both worlds and really like the drops occaissionally. Just my experience for what it is worth.

  24. #24
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    Every cm of increased height or reduced forward reach can make a HUGE difference in riding comfort. Because the 57cm frame is too large for me, I had to put a minimum-reach stem on my PKN-10 to make it comfortable.
    "Early to bed, early to rise. Work like hell, and advertise." -- George Stahlman
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  25. #25
    Senior Member dagna's Avatar
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    I've got the cyclocross brakes on my drop-bar touring bike, and I love them. It's always a bit of a transition to go back to my road bike and realize they're not there. I'm seriously considering having them installed. I ride with MTB shoes/pedals and a Camelbak, so it's not like I could possibly fall lower in the roadie poseur pecking order, anyway.

    Saw a great name for those brakes on a cyclocross list, too--wasn't 'fraidy cat brakes', wasn't 'panic brakes', and wasn't 'oh sh*t' brakes, but it was something like that. Oh, yeah...it was 'chicken brakes' !! I asked for them by that name at the LBS and they knew exactly what I was talking about.

    Dagna

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