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Old 07-19-07, 06:50 PM   #1
alexdrozd
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Flat Bars vs Drops

I am looking to buy a "fitness" bike. Every manufacturer calls it something different. Examples are the Giant FCR2, Cannondale Road Warrior, Trek FX, etc.

The reason I am looking is to sit up a little straighter in the saddle, but I still have the need for speed. I took a couple of these out for a test ride at my LBS and for the short ride I took they did feel comfortable. My question is, are they comfortable after a long ride? Say 60 miles.

Any comments would be appreciated.
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Old 07-19-07, 06:57 PM   #2
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alexdrozd, this has been discussed, debated, argued, defended, pouted over, crystal balled many times here. But, of course, the issue is fresh to you. Begin with a thread search while others ready their experiences and observations and biomechanical info. You've asked a classic question.

Personally, I wouldn't want to go more than 10 miles on flatbars....but others here happily and speedily cruise some heavy miles.
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Old 07-19-07, 07:29 PM   #3
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I had flatbars on my bikes and then I put barends on and then I put trekking bars on and I know I can go 67 miles. If there was more daylight probably farther. As far as the bike, I'm sure Tom will be around, to give you some good details.
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Old 07-19-07, 07:32 PM   #4
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I have a 2006 Cannondale Road Warrior 1000 which is essentially an aluminum road bike with a compact crank, carbon fork and flat bars. I like it a lot...a lot. It is my 2nd bike (the LeMond Buenos Aires is numero uno) and I have ridden centuries with it with no problem--original equipment seat, by the way. It is very, very fast and comfortable...oh, and white.....
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Old 07-19-07, 07:33 PM   #5
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I have four bikes w/3 different bar setups. Define the type of riding you will mostly do and what suits that type of riding.
I can't get groceries on my road bike, but I can get them on my Breezer..........
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Old 07-19-07, 07:35 PM   #6
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As with most things "fit" or "comfort" related for bikes..........You test ride as many as possible and go with the one you like best. Fitness bikes come in many flavors. If you don't like it after you buy it then you will not ride it and that will not get you fit.
If you like biking and stick with it then after a while you will want something other than a fitness bike. By then you will have a much better idea whether flat bar or drop bar is your cup of tea.
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Old 07-19-07, 07:38 PM   #7
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As CC says above +1....................................................
But I have a question and not an argument: We all know what long distance road bikers use. We also know (I think I know?) that MTB use flat bars. My Question: Is that because the flat bars provide better control for shocks?
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Old 07-19-07, 07:44 PM   #8
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As CC says above +1....................................................
But I have a question and not an argument: We all know what long distance road bikers use. We also know (I think I know?) that MTB use flat bars. My Question: Is that because the flat bars provide better control for shocks?
MTB's started from modified road bikes with drop bars but soon went to flats for more leverage. MTB can hook roots, rocks ruts and will try to yank the bar out of your hands. Lots of cross country flat bars are relatively short by MTB standards to fit between trees. MTB riders also move aroung on the saddle more like hanging the but off the back of the saddle to add more weight to the rear tire on nasty downhills. The dropbar does little to aid this situation as it is designed primarily for reduction of wind resistance.
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Old 07-19-07, 07:52 PM   #9
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. The dropbar does little to aid this situation as it is designed primarily for reduction of wind resistance.
Not to mention multiple hand, wrist positions as well as changing the angle of your back.
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Old 07-19-07, 08:34 PM   #10
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It's not the type of handlebar that gives you comfort, it's the general setup of the bike for you and the kind of riding you do, including where the handlebars are. A drop bar road bike can be as comfortable as any hybrid or fitness bike if you size it and set it up for that. But look, it's not a once in a lifetime purchase. If you want the "fitness bike", get it, and if once you are fit, you want more, you can always get a moderately-priced road bike later on. It can take a bit of effort to find the right road bike that can be fitted for both comfort and efficiency (and usually a fair amount of knowledgeable tinkering with position), but you're more likely to get that right off the bat with an off-the-shelf performance hybrid with flat bars. I've been a road bike person (sensible road bike, that is) since before most on here were even born, but I have owned a number of hybrids in the past as well, which I used for riding trails in wooded areas where I used to live. They do have their uses, and some are very nice bikes. These fitness or performance hybrids are not a new thing, by the way. That's the way most hybrids were in the early 90's. If necessary, get rid of the riser bar, put on a flat bar, and add some L-shaped bar-ends for more hand positions and for stretching out a bit when you want to.

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Old 07-19-07, 08:48 PM   #11
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+1 to Longfemur's comments.

While there appears to be evidence that most longer distance riders are more comfortable on drop bar bikes, there certainly are many who have gotten like results with flat, or at least, flatter bar bikes.

Flat bar bikes can be modified a lot to better fit your specific needs. Personally, I'm not in love with really flat handlebars with little sweep. Especially if they have no bar ends or alternate hand positions. But once you get the height and position of the bars where you want them, with comfortable grips, a little sweep to achieve a more natural wrist position, and some type of add-on, like a bar end, to give you a 2nd hand position, I find them quite comfortable.

I recently rode for about 5.5 hours over the space of a day, on my Trek hybrid. I read in these forums all the time about how hybrids are not good for long distance riding, but at the end of the day, my hands and arms were fine.

One member of this forum rides his Specialized Sirrus Comp flat-bar bike on long rides. Another has riden a flat-bar Jamis on a century and reported that his hands were comfortable.

So it can be done, although it might take a little tweaking to get it right for you.
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Old 07-19-07, 08:59 PM   #12
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It's largely personal I think. I have four bikes, two with drops, two with flats.

On the mtb, the flat bars are wonderful when I'm doing true mountain bike stuff, but once back on the track, they're dreadful. Similarly, the wide, flat bars on my horrible hybrid give excellent leverage when my daughter is leaping around on her tag-along and I'm trying to steer the whole aparatus where I think it should go.

Flat bars lock your wrist, hand and elbows into one position, and for this little black duck, it is not a very nice position. I get sore wrists very quickly. Fitting bar ends sort of aids a little but it's just whacking a bandaid on an open wound.

Trekking bars or drop bars both alleviate this by allowing a wide variety of hand, wrist and elbow positions. A lot of the changes are subtle and so are overlooked in commenataries like this but it is those subtleties that make the difference.

For some, flat bars are comfortable. This is where it gets personal, and a quick test ride isn't going to tell you, but 5km on a flat bar bike has me searching for alternative positions and cursing the flat bars.

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Old 07-19-07, 09:04 PM   #13
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It's really intereating. Lot's of people do multi-day tours on MT bikes with flat bars without a second thought. I'd hate to think of riding more than a couple of hours with flat bars. I like moving my hands around. But as this thread shows, that's what makes horse races.
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Old 07-19-07, 09:16 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by alexdrozd View Post
The reason I am looking is to sit up a little straighter in the saddle, but I still have the need for speed.
I rode a lot of miles plus a metric or two on the road on my mountain bike last summer, but I also had the need for speed and greater distances. I took the plunge and got a drop-bar road bike. It's a Fuji Newest, which is similar in geometry to the Giant OCR3 and Specialized Sequoia. Mine has an adjustable stem, so my bars are just slightly lower than the saddle. I can sit reasonably upright, or bend down just a little and ride the hoods,or I can ride in the drops as need be. In my experience, the business about the benefit multiple hand positions with drop bars is true. I've done 65-, 71-, 73-, and 75-mile rides and a century so far this summer with no issues. So far so good. I was hesitant about going with drop bars because the steering "twitchy" compared to my mountain bike, but I've pretty much gotten over that. Test ride as many as you can. Good luck. It's probably easier to choose a car than a bike!
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Old 07-19-07, 09:42 PM   #15
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Speaking as a person who has made a hybrid "work" for longer rides, and as someone who is shopping for a flat bar bike, I still recommend that you should check out comfort geometry road bikes before you make a final decision. My take is that most people are happier with a road bike when riding longer distances. Given that, there's a good chance that you will be too.

If you get a chance to ride a Trek Pilot, Giant OCR, Raleigh Cadent, Specialized Sequoia, et al, then take one for a ride. Probably better to try a couple of rides, just to give yourself a chance to accommodate the differences on a second ride.
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Old 07-19-07, 10:06 PM   #16
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MTB's started from modified road bikes with drop bars but soon went to flats for more leverage. MTB can hook roots, rocks ruts and will try to yank the bar out of your hands. Lots of cross country flat bars are relatively short by MTB standards to fit between trees. MTB riders also move aroung on the saddle more like hanging the but off the back of the saddle to add more weight to the rear tire on nasty downhills. The dropbar does little to aid this situation as it is designed primarily for reduction of wind resistance.
Thanks for this education. I appreciate it.
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Old 07-20-07, 06:07 AM   #17
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I will try some more drop down bikes first. But on the Giant FCR it did have bar ends already installed and you are all right, changing hand positions is key. I really liked the power going uphill holding on to those bar ends! I was pulling up on them and it seemed to make a big difference. Thanks for the info and if anyone else has some more tips, chime in.
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Old 07-20-07, 07:10 AM   #18
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The only problem I have with a flat bar is riding against the wind, it slows you down a bit but otherwise comfortable to the back. I have ridden several 50+ miles on a flat bar with no problem.
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Old 07-20-07, 07:35 AM   #19
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The only problem I have with a flat bar is riding against the wind, it slows you down a bit but otherwise comfortable to the back. I have ridden several 50+ miles on a flat bar with no problem.
I have done and will be doing many centuries with flat bars. The reason is bumpy Limestone trails make a road bike iffy. A big sustained rainfall will do you in with narrow tires. A Cyclocross would be ideal but I have to buy that first.
I set up my Hybrid with the straight bars below saddle level and forward. I also installed aerobars. The bike now feels like a road bike except for weight and that is significant. The R to T have only 3% grades. Therefore it will not be too bad.
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Old 07-20-07, 08:04 AM   #20
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I will try some more drop down bikes first. But on the Giant FCR it did have bar ends already installed and you are all right, changing hand positions is key. I really liked the power going uphill holding on to those bar ends! I was pulling up on them and it seemed to make a big difference. Thanks for the info and if anyone else has some more tips, chime in.
That power climbing position with the bar ends is similar to climbing on the hoods of a drop bar. Go with what you like. I had severe numbness from extensive road riding with flat bars early in my riding days. Bar ends helped, but drops were a big improvement. I can ride flat bars with 12 degrees or more sweep for a while, but for distance I'll choose drops every time. I'd be more likely to ride drop bars offroad than flat bars on the road.
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Old 07-20-07, 08:04 AM   #21
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I will try some more drop down bikes first. But on the Giant FCR it did have bar ends already installed and you are all right, changing hand positions is key. I really liked the power going uphill holding on to those bar ends! I was pulling up on them and it seemed to make a big difference. Thanks for the info and if anyone else has some more tips, chime in.
If you like the bar ends of a flat bar, you'll probably love the "hoods" of a brifter-equipped drop bar. Same reach, but you have the shifters at your fingertips if you need to shift while standing.
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Old 07-20-07, 03:52 PM   #22
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It amazes me how many riders I see on roadsters who seem to think that they "must" ride with their hands "in the drops". You see folks struggling up hills, all bent over, and looking mighty uncomfortable....

The advantage of standard road bars is the multiple hand positions they afford.

For my police bike, I use a rather upright position with a slightly "pulled-back" bar. This is very back-friendly and affords a comfortable hand position for the sort of slow patrol riding we do.
It's certainly not a setup for going fast!
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Old 07-21-07, 01:30 AM   #23
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Not to mention multiple hand, wrist positions as well as changing the angle of your back.
Last year I changed to a road bike with drop bars after 16 years of flat bars. I had a few concerns over being able to control the bike and Body comfort but Providing you are not going to be riding on too many gravell paths- or any unmade tracks- control is not a problem.
Now as to body comfort- the drop bars are better for me than straight bars on a Road ride. The multiple positions mean that I never get discomfort.
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Old 07-21-07, 07:12 AM   #24
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I don't really see gravel paths, dirt roads or even some mild trails as a reason not to have drop bars on a bike. Most cyclocross racers use drop bars and there have been a few drop bar MTBs over the years. Most notably the early Bridgestone MB-1 and the bikes Jacquie Phelan won MTB championships on in the 80s.
Not to say that drop bars are the best choice for riding on rough terrain, but that it can be done safely and effectively. I've done some tight singletrack on the 3rd bike below and it wasn't that bad.


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Old 07-21-07, 06:16 PM   #25
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I can tolerate flat mountain bike bars only by adding extensions, to provide a much-needed grip position with a neutral "handshake" forearm orientation. I have this setup on the mountain bikes, conventional drops on the road bikes.
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