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Old 01-19-11, 06:26 PM   #1
Nightshade
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Handlebar design

Can someone please explain why so many bicycles have a straight piece of pipe for handlebars?

As far as the human body goes this is all wrong in that these bars twist the arms 90deg. out of natural normal position. This places pressure from the shoulders to the hands with the wrist taking a real beating.

It goes without saying I won't/don't ride any bike with a straight bar but millions do considering how popular the various recreational bikes & dirt bikes are sold every year.

Don't people get that these cheap azz bars are going to become uncomfortable after a short ride????????
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Old 01-19-11, 06:38 PM   #2
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Perhaps you prefer having the straight piece of pipe sticking up from your saddle, but I will leave mine on the front of my bike.

And I don't know about you, but when I hold my hands out in front of me and make two fists, they are pretty much exactly the shape of a straight mtb handlebar. Also, most bars are not completely straight, but have a 3 - 10 degree bend back toward the rider. Perhaps you are more ape-like and prefer the under-the-seat handlebars on a recumbent?
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Old 01-19-11, 07:13 PM   #3
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Perhaps you prefer having the straight piece of pipe sticking up from your saddle, but I will leave mine on the front of my bike.

And I don't know about you, but when I hold my hands out in front of me and make two fists, they are pretty much exactly the shape of a straight mtb handlebar. Also, most bars are not completely straight, but have a 3 - 10 degree bend back toward the rider. Perhaps you are more ape-like and prefer the under-the-seat handlebars on a recumbent?
"Straight" is the euphemism I used to describe bars common on most Rec & dirt bikes. I did not use the term in the literal sense.
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Steel: nearly a thousand years of metallurgical development
Aluminum: barely a hundred, which one would you rather have under your butt at 30mph?
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Old 01-19-11, 07:25 PM   #4
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Flat bars are there because they seem to be popular. But anyone who doesn't like them can sure change them. There are riser bars, pull-back bars, moustache bars, and of course a plethora of aftermarket bar-ends. ("Plethora" sounds like a flock of birds going past, doesn't it?) I ride some crazy butt-draggers like in my avatar, and on those I prefer V-Bars.
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Old 01-20-11, 12:22 AM   #5
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I don't like flat bars either. If I were to ride a flat bar I'd get something with a good amount of sweep like the On-One Mary. The ideal bar that achieves the neutral natural hand position is a 3-speed cruiser type bar, but these have limitations. I find that the handling is only good for sitting upright. You can't get aero on these things and standing up while peddling is awkward. Flat handlebars though uncomfortable for me has better all-around handling characteristics vs. the 3-speed bars. Randonneuring road bars is the tops in my book for comfort and multiple hand positions. Moustache bars is a good compromise because you get the neutral 3-speed hand position when held by the ends and a more aggressive road-like position at the bend. The only thing that it lacks is a drop like road bars so you can't get too aero for headwind.

One of the things that's keeping me from getting a folding bike is the fact that most of the lower priced ones come with flat bars and you can't switch them out. I was looking into the Xootr Swift, but the top tube is 56cm which rules out road bars entirely for me. Flat bars with little to no sweep suck.

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Old 01-20-11, 07:43 AM   #6
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I WAS gonna make a snarky comment about armchair engineers, but I'll just leave it alone. I'll just say this: if it gets uncomfortable for the ignorant, they'll just quit riding. If it gets uncomfortable for the truly committed, they know where the LBS is.

The choices for rise/no rise, sweep, length, etc., is almost infinite, and few are expensive. Don't make a big deal out of it.
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Old 01-20-11, 09:42 AM   #7
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My bike came with a standard MTB style flat bar but the position is far from neutral and resulted in wrist and shoulder pain. I switched to On-One Mary for a more swoopy design and that solved the problem.
To see what "neutral" looks like in your wrists is not simple. You can easily hold your hands out and say "look no bend" but you really need to study biomechanics or some practical application such as martial arts to fully understand the issue.
There are plenty of good example of grip shape and geometry from tools (inc stone age tools), weapons, military/ergonomic studies etc but plenty of consumer goods still come with crappy grips.
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Old 01-20-11, 09:50 AM   #8
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One of the things that I used to do was industrial ergonomics for a workers compensation insurance carrier.

Anything that says it was "ergonomically designed" is only partially true. The actual usage and the person using it affects ergonomics.

"Don't people get that these cheap azzs bars are going to become uncomfortable after a short ride????????" Maybe not. If, for example, short rides is all they do, a bar that you'd find terrible may suit another person to a tee. Personally, I've never liked bars that were too wide or had too much sweep back.

I'm just glad that we have so many handlebar choices today and that they are so easily accessible.
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Old 01-20-11, 10:41 AM   #9
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I swapped my patrol bike's handlebars for a slight pull-back (and slight rise) model years ago and find this much more comfortable....The disadvantage being that I must move my knee slightly when making sharp turns.... Tends to hit.
There was quite a movement for "30 degree" ergonomic things some years ago; all sorts of things you hold and grip were promoted as being more comfortable and more efficient if the handle was "bent" to that figure. However, it doesn't seem to have caught on save in a very few cases.
Everyone's a bit different. Back when big, angled bar-ends were pretty common, I saw a lot of riders who turned them so that they were vertical and used them for an alternate grip position. This was popular enough that someone marketed an accessory brake extender (not unlike the old road-bike "suicide levers") that let you work the brakes from there.... Strange.
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Old 01-20-11, 12:05 PM   #10
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Bikes have a wide variety of uses and users,

and there is a vast variety of ways to set them up.

buying a new bike , not in a big box store, but a real bikeshop,

handlebars are one of the things that can be changed at the point of sale.

sweep angles vary even on upright 'flat' bars .. as does rise, amount .

In place of mtb bars I like Trekking bars, bend is like a figure 8.
so far from straight, but the same controls swap over directly.

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Old 01-20-11, 12:41 PM   #11
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I always loved the “multiple hand positions” chant of the parishioners of the church of drop bars. Are drops really so uncomfortable that you need to keep moving your hands around to new positions just to avoid pain?

Most of my mileage the last few years has been on a flat bar road bike with bar ends. I practically never use the ends, and would even take ‘em off if they were not integrated with the Ergon grips. It seems that when it is set up properly (for me), one position is all I need.

That being said, I finally bought a bike with drop bars and integrated brake levers/shifters to see how I’ll like it. Who knows, if it works out well maybe you'll start seeing me in drop bar church on Sundays!
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Old 01-20-11, 12:55 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Nightshade View Post
Can someone please explain why so many bicycles have a straight piece of pipe for handlebars?
Why so many? I dunno, maybe cuz they're cheaper to make. Must've been a hay day for the big bike companies when flat bars were really big. Then all the big shot MTBers had to get back into risers in the late 90s so the bike marketers had to start putting risers on all their bikes.

I've ridden drops on mellow trail rides even some technical sections, but the rough stuff is 1,000,000 times better on a flat bar. I did some offroad action with my Nitto Promenade bars and bent them upon landing a small jump.

I remember back in the day there was even a company that made a completely flat bar, that's right 0 degrees of sweep. I wish those were still around.

But yeah, after about 1.5 miles of road riding on a flat bar bike and I'm ready to throw my bike into the bushes and sit on the side of the road crying like a baby.
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Old 01-20-11, 12:56 PM   #13
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I always loved the “multiple hand positions” chant of the parishioners of the church of drop bars. Are drops really so uncomfortable that you need to keep moving your hands around to new positions just to avoid pain?
i don't think it's the drops themselves that are uncomfortable, it's about how low you ride and how much weight you put on your hands. i like to ride in a down position and put a significant amount of wieght on my hands. on both my my road bike with drop bars and my hybrid with flat bars, the bar is a good 4" lower than my saddle. i do find that the flat bar bike is too limited in hand positions. i used to have bar ends and i switched to them all the time to save my hands, but a recent wreck damaged them and they had to come off. now riding my 15 mile one way commute with just one hand position is super annoying. i guess i could raise the bar to take some weight off my hands, but i really hate the added air resistance of a more upright posture, so instead i ordered some bullhorn bars to put on the hybrid to give at least a good 3 different hand positions, while still allowing me to ride relatively low.

i'll report back after the switch to bullhorns, but i suspect that they will be much better than just a regular old 1 position flat bar.
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Old 01-20-11, 01:02 PM   #14
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Hey, I dug up a pic. Nitto Promenade B-617. Not good for small jumps (maybe 18" air):

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Old 01-20-11, 01:15 PM   #15
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Flat bars are easier to ship. You could ship 6 or 7 flat bars in a box that holds 1 of the Promenade 617 bars. You could probably get a dozen into the shipping box a Northroads came out of.
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Old 01-20-11, 01:38 PM   #16
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I always loved the “multiple hand positions” chant of the parishioners of the church of drop bars. Are drops really so uncomfortable that you need to keep moving your hands around to new positions just to avoid pain?
Basic hand position for drop handlebars is on the brake hoods and that's where most cyclists using them spend 90% of their time. The other positions mostly come into play with different riding conditions, such as using the flat part of the bar when going uphill or the drops when riding into a headwind.

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Most of my mileage the last few years has been on a flat bar road bike with bar ends. I practically never use the ends, and would even take ‘em off if they were not integrated with the Ergon grips. It seems that when it is set up properly (for me), one position is all I need.
What mileage would that be, and how many miles in a typical ride?
And what does "set up properly" mean? If you had a drop bar, maybe you could set it up to be even more efficient, at the cost of having to change your hand position from time to time. Of course, you probably don't need to be more efficient, but that's why there are all the different handlebar designs.

For my personal needs and riding style, drop bar works best, and I don't ride a road bike. I simply prefer the palms inward position over the palms down one, and the ability to get down in the drops is just a bonus.
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Old 01-20-11, 03:28 PM   #17
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What suits one person- Will not suit everyone. I ride offroad and road- Those straight bars work--Offroad. Not comfortable for long road rides but they do work.

But if straight bars are not to your liking- then there are plenty of other shapes to try. But go offroad and there is a reason for those straight bars- or the variation in riser bars with varying degrees of sweep back. They work.
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Old 01-20-11, 03:47 PM   #18
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I always loved the “multiple hand positions” chant of the parishioners of the church of drop bars. Are drops really so uncomfortable that you need to keep moving your hands around to new positions just to avoid pain?
Standard road bars are just the best. All other bars dream about multiple hand positions.
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Old 01-20-11, 04:03 PM   #19
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This discussion most definitely falls under the "PERSONAL PREFERENCES" category.

There are many here who don't like flat bars, but don't for a minute think there aren't people out there who prefer flat bars.

I've ridden both drop and flat bar road bikes, and I much prefer flat bar. The only way I will ride drop bars is if someone holds a gun to my head. I've done centuries on my flat-bar road bike, and I spend 90% of the time with my hands gripping the bar ends from the side, which feels natural and comfortable for me:



Let's all agree to respect other peoples' preferences.
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Old 01-20-11, 04:08 PM   #20
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and I spend 90% of the time with my hands gripping the bar ends from the side, which feels natural and comfortable for me:
I also wind up in that position when I get on long road rides on the MTB. Just think, if you had road bars you could shift and brake from practically that same position also.
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Old 01-20-11, 04:18 PM   #21
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Not an advantage for me. I much prefer flat-bar brake levers than drop bar brake levers. Maybe because I got shorter fingers and I can't seem to get enough leverage on drop-bar brake levers.

As I said, there are people who don't like drop bars, and I'm one of them. But unlike the OP, just because I don't like drop bars doesn't mean I think drop bars must suck for everyone.

I'd hate to see the OP get into a Coke vs. Pepsi argument.. Or a Ford vs. Chevy discussion.. Or a filet mignon vs. porterhouse, or...
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Old 01-20-11, 04:21 PM   #22
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I had my Mongoose set up like this for a while. It was a pretty sweet setup. More comfy hand position than flats, but a position somewhat like barends with easy control access.



Mongoose is back in trail riding flat bar mode now. Trek is to be the new designated road rider I think.
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Old 01-20-11, 04:45 PM   #23
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What mileage would that be, and how many miles in a typical ride?
And what does "set up properly" mean? If you had a drop bar, maybe you could set it up to be even more efficient, at the cost of having to change your hand position from time to time. Of course, you probably don't need to be more efficient, but that's why there are all the different handlebar designs.
Over 3000 miles a year with most of that coming from my work commute at 45-55 minutes at a time. “Properly set up” for me means bars about even with the saddle height regardless of type, and the stem length chosen for a comfortable reach. I rode drop bars exclusively in the late 70’s and throughout the 80’s, and even after fiddling with the height, angle and stem lengths I found nothing magical about them. I always had mild hand pain and the need to shake out my hands every so often.

Then I bought my first hybrid in 93 which gave me indexed shifters at my fingertips without leaving the bars/brakes. This made it quite easy for me to say goodbye to drop bars and down tube shifters even though I still sometimes had mild hand pain just about as often. Installing Ergon grips helped and sealed the deal.

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For my personal needs and riding style, drop bar works best, and I don't ride a road bike. I simply prefer the palms inward position over the palms down one, and the ability to get down in the drops is just a bonus.
Right. What I don’t understand is how so many can assume that what works best for them must also be best for everyone else. And it almost always seems to be the drop bar fanatics doing the preaching.

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