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Old 09-03-08, 12:31 PM   #1
Dheorl
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Drop Bars

So I rode with these for the first time ever a few days back on a specialized tricross and I do have to admit, they were very nice to ride with, but I did find then a bit twitchy when i had to dodge puddles or when I clipped stones. I was just wondering if this is something that I'd get used to and would go away with time or if everyone has this problem.

The reason I'm wondering is because I am hoping to buy a bike for touring. I will be using about 50% rough gravel track and 50% road and although the drop bars will obviously be good for the road section I'm wondering if I'll ever be able to ride them for long periods over rough gravel. Being able to do a bit of single track would also be nice.

If drops aren't a possibilty then is there any way to get a similar position whilst still maintaining the option of flat wider bars?
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Old 09-03-08, 12:35 PM   #2
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It's not the drop bars that cause a bike to feel twitchy. It's the design of the frame, and to some extent, your setup on the bike. What feels like twitchiness to someone new may be a desirable characteristic to someone else. After all, you want to be able to quickly dodge things, or to maneuver quickly in traffic or wherever. Some of those bikes also get very stable at higher speeds. But I wouldn't worry about the drop bars. It's not what will make any bike twitchy. A touring road bike is generally less twitchy than a road racing bike.
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Old 09-03-08, 12:46 PM   #3
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Well it was a cyclocross bike so it should have been reasonably solid feeling I would have thought.

I've always understood that because drop bars are narrower it can be harder to control and was wondering if after time I would get comfortable enough using them that I would be able to take it over rough gravel or whether thats just not a possibilty on a drop bar bike.
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Old 09-03-08, 02:21 PM   #4
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Flat bars are held at wider points, so you have better leverage over your steering. This lets you steer with less effort and greater control, so you can have more precise input. This is why I prefer them for commuting. I dart and weave around obstacles, and flat bars are more comfortable for this.

Drop bars are perfectly fine for most dodging. You'll just have to get used to the narrower hand positions and less efficient leverage. Once you do, the muscle memory will take over and you'll be just fine.

I just prefer flat bars because the maneuverability advantage is more important to me than the aerodynamic disadvantage. Of course, preferences change, and mine could change next month or next week.
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Old 09-03-08, 02:45 PM   #5
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You get used to drop bars if you ride them regularly but another option is "trekking" or "butterfly" handlebars.

Hope this helps.
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Old 09-03-08, 03:57 PM   #6
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Just to muddy things up more...

To me, wide, flat bars feel less maneuverable. Even though I don't consciously turn the bars with my hands, wide bars feel like they're pulling my hands around a wider arc, farther away from my body on the outside and tucking inwards on the inside.

I don't think that mountain bikes got wider bars for better leverage in turning the front to steer, I think that they provide better leverage to keep the wheel straight while it bangs against roots, rocks and ruts. Rotating a bike's handlebars doesn't take much effort at all, honestly; but when the terrain tries to knock it sideways, the extra leverage of a long bar is nice.

Like I said, though, I don't consciously steer with my hands, especially not on the road bike. When I'm going slow, such as transitioning from the street to the sidewalk in front of my building, I just look where I want to go and lead the bike there. If it gets rough, I don't grip any tighter, I just get out of the saddle and lightly hold the bars, making sure that the front mostly stays forward (just the same as on my flat bar bikes, actually).

To answer the original question, I'd say that it's just something that you'd get used to. I've seen chopped bars on fixed gear bikes used in bike polo, and they were barely as wide as my 15" laptop -- so those riders are obviously used to riding very short bars.
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Old 09-03-08, 05:09 PM   #7
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Drop bars are fine for what it sounds like you want to do once you are used to them. I disagree with the guy who said the the twitchiness isn't the bars. It is but just until you get used to them.
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Old 09-03-08, 05:30 PM   #8
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You get used to the responsive handling after a while.
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Old 09-03-08, 05:43 PM   #9
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Twitchness has nothing to do with drop handlebars its the fork trail. The larger the trail the more stable the ride. The trail is the horizontal distance between the center of the tire contact point and the intersection of the steering axis with the ground.
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Old 09-03-08, 08:29 PM   #10
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Well, let me correct one misconception. If you're steering with your hands, that's appropriate for muscling a slow moving mountain bike on the trails, but it's not how you should be steering on the road except if you happen to be going very slow and you are maneuvering through stopped cars or pesky pedestrians. But if you really must have wide bars, there are some wide drop bars too. A lot of early mountain bike had drop bars.

Last edited by Longfemur; 09-03-08 at 09:14 PM.
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Old 09-04-08, 03:46 AM   #11
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So if I use them for long enough I'll eventually be as happy on a rough single track with drops as I will with flats? If it's something I'm going to be on all day I don't want my heart to be going into overdrive every time I clip a stone.

Also how much difference to speed do the position that drop bars give actually make. Compared to my old clunky mountain bike when I got on the cyclocross I could effortlessly go from standing to spinning frantically in top gear in no time at all, and comfortably carry on doing that. Is that because of my position or just because it was a hugely better bike?
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Old 09-04-08, 07:54 AM   #12
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For the speed, it's partly the aero position and partly the narrower (and lighter) wheels & tires.
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Old 09-04-08, 08:48 AM   #13
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For me, riding with drop bars came natural. I'm told that this isn't always the case. I don't mind riding flat bars, but I do prefer the drops to the flats. Take some time and practice with it, I bet (like others have mentioned) that you'll find that it gets better over time.

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Also how much difference to speed do the position that drop bars give actually make. Compared to my old clunky mountain bike when I got on the cyclocross I could effortlessly go from standing to spinning frantically in top gear in no time at all, and comfortably carry on doing that. Is that because of my position or just because it was a hugely better bike?
Its likely due to a number of factors, but my own experience is that the drop position is a mental thing for me. I can tool along on the tops or in the hoods all I want, but as soon as I get into the drops I just feel like I want to grind away and never stop (the muscles, on the other hand do want to stop so often I concede defeat in that respect). I do hammer when riding on the hoods sometimes, but rarely do I feel like doing that when I'm riding on the tops. For me, its likely the position and mental game that contribute to it.

But, the skinnier tires (50% skinnier than my MTB, actually) at a higher pressure and a better riding position contribute quite a bit to the speed as well.
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Old 09-04-08, 08:53 AM   #14
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BarracksSI and Longfemur are right that you don't generally turn the bar to steer on the road.
I do because I'm immature and like to go into tight spaces and off-road spots that I don't belong. I should have mentioned that before giving advice based on my preference. Most of my road riding is indeed more of a lean-to-turn deal. But I have a lot of fun goofing around, and prefer a flat bar to be able to get into those situations.

I had the pleasure of riding my friend's Cannondale R5 yesterday for a few miles. It was nice to duck out of the wind at speed and be able to change to several different hand positions. But it was worrisome to not have the brakes instantly at my finger tips. Something I hadn't considered about many new road bikes is that you can only shift and brake from the drop (edit - or hoods...Thanks BarracksSI). I'm used to my old Panasonic, which has multiple brake levers on the bars as well as shifters on the stem, so it doesn't really matter if I'm in the drop or not.

The steering was not much of an issue since it was just a long MUP ride. I didn't want to be a hooligan on someone else's bike, so I didn't really get into hairy situations where I needed to "steer." On my Panasonic, I've learned to not be stupid. On my mtb and Raleigh, I am afforded a little more forgiveness.

All in all, the R5 was an awesome ride, but 700x23c tires on a feather-light bike just don't seem to fit my riding personality. I get more speed than I need from the Raleigh hybrid, which is pretty much a "flat bar road bike" style of hybrid. Any roadie phases I go through are satisfied by the Panasonic.

I am, however, wanting a Kona Jake more and more as time passes. Go figure.

Last edited by Big M; 09-04-08 at 09:36 AM.
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Old 09-04-08, 09:01 AM   #15
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46cm wide drop bars are the bomb. Great handling and super comfortable.

And then there are moustache bars which are like drop bars that got run over by a truck.
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Old 09-04-08, 09:11 AM   #16
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But it was worrisome to not have the brakes instantly at my finger tips. Something I hadn't considered about many new road bikes is that you can only shift and brake from the drop. I'm used to my old Panasonic, which has multiple brake levers on the bars as well as shifters on the stem, so it doesn't really matter if I'm in the drop or not.
Actually, I ride on the brifter hoods about 90% of the time, and almost always do my shifting & braking from there. Usually, when I'm in the drops, I'm just spinning along and don't bother with the shifters or brakes. I also had a cyclocross/interrupter/inline brake lever added so that I could ride on the flats and still have brake access.

I really like being able to shift and brake without having to take a hand off the bars. I never had an older road bike with stem or downtube shifters, but that's partly because those shifters never really appealed to me.
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Old 09-04-08, 09:42 AM   #17
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Yes, you're right about shifting/braking from the hoods. That part slipped my mind because I was comparing it to my Panasonic, on which I can't use the hoods for hand placement.

Come to think of it, the hoods were actually pretty comfortable. Wouldn't take much time to get used to using them instead of the flat part of the drop bars. It was all new to me last night because I'd never ridden with brifters or hoods before.

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Old 09-04-08, 11:24 AM   #18
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Actually, I ride on the brifter hoods about 90% of the time, and almost always do my shifting & braking from there. Usually, when I'm in the drops, I'm just spinning along and don't bother with the shifters or brakes. I also had a cyclocross/interrupter/inline brake lever added so that I could ride on the flats and still have brake access.

I really like being able to shift and brake without having to take a hand off the bars. I never had an older road bike with stem or downtube shifters, but that's partly because those shifters never really appealed to me.
I agree, I rarely shift or brake from the drops. I use the hoods for that. I did not buy it, but the Tricross was the first drop bar bike I tried since getting back in to riding. The entire feel of the Tricross was wonderful start to finish. I bought a used Trek 520 instead because of finances but I still consider the Tricross from time to time. It felt quick yet durable. I would use it for commuting and touring. I know I could tour on it I am just not sure if I would want to.
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Old 09-04-08, 11:58 AM   #19
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This may be getting a bit complicated now but because I want to do a bit of single track on the same bike and won't have the option to change setups would I be able to do single track on drops and if not, if I got some custom bars made so there was room, would it be possible to fit drop brake levers/gear shifts on the same bar as flat brakes/gear shifts?
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Old 09-04-08, 01:52 PM   #20
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ok twitchy is a result of the rake of the fork, the shorter the rake the twicher the bike making it easier to turn (extreme rake also causes this but for different reasons) the difference in short and long handle bars are leverage, the longer the bar the easier the turn, but larger radius of the handle bar, slows down the rate of turn to apparent bar movement, reverse that for narrow bars. try this grab your bars next to the stem and turn then at the end of the bar and turn.
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Old 09-04-08, 02:57 PM   #21
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Read up on countersteering, may help with the "twitchy" feeling.

Also, you could put bar ends on the end of your flat bars, they obviously won't give you the same position as drop bars, but at least would provide you with more hand positioning options.
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Old 09-04-08, 05:13 PM   #22
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Drop bars are fine on singletrack. I prefer wider ones as someone mention earlier, I run 44cm bars on my Cross Check and can ride any of the mountain bike trails around here with it. I run Dirt Drops on my Monocog 29er,(actually the cheap imitations) and think they may be the most perfect handlebar ever.
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Old 09-04-08, 05:35 PM   #23
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Would you be able to comfortably ride single track all day long? As said this will be for touring, half of which will be off road so I need something that I can comfortably do all day, not something that will get my heart going so much that I'd have to stop after a while.

If it's possible to get to that stage of comfort with drops them I'll prob buy a cheap second hand bike and try to get used to them.

Also how hard is it to fit a second set of brake levers (and gear change although I geuss thats probably more tricky) on the centre of the bars?
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Old 09-04-08, 05:42 PM   #24
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Also how hard is it to fit a second set of brake levers (and gear change although I geuss thats probably more tricky) on the centre of the bars?
Not hard at all. I have a cross bike that came with them (they even work on BB7 disc brakes), and I like them so much that I had one installed on my CAAD8. I only asked the shop to do it because I didn't have a good cutter for the cable housing and hadn't routed cables before (plus, the guy gave me the lever and offered to install it for free ).

http://www.parktool.com/repair/readhowto.asp?id=146
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Old 09-04-08, 05:53 PM   #25
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ok twitchy is a result of the rake of the fork, the shorter the rake the twicher the bike making it easier to turn (extreme rake also causes this but for different reasons) the difference in short and long handle bars are leverage, the longer the bar the easier the turn, but larger radius of the handle bar, slows down the rate of turn to apparent bar movement, reverse that for narrow bars. try this grab your bars next to the stem and turn then at the end of the bar and turn.
Like I said ten posts ago....
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