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Drop bars or straights?

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Drop bars or straights?

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Old 07-08-18, 09:25 AM
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Morango
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Drop bars or straights?

In a new job and am able to commute by bike again. Have been going a bit over a year on my 1991 rockhopper from college and its getting old (no pun intended there). Time to upgrade. I am trying to decide whether to just get a new commuter at a decent price and keep my existing road bike (Cannondale synapse 105) OR sell both and get one of the new “adventure” road bikes that can do it all.

I have test ridden a ton of bikes and am still a bit stuck. I am experienced and comfortable with drop bars from road riding, but I am feeling like straight bars give better handling, maneuverability, and reaction time. My commute is 8 - 12 miles depending on the day and the route.

Another factor - I may want to use this bike for possible light touring (2 to 4 nights), something I have done in the past but not in the last few years, so any hybrid considered has to a pretty decent road bike.

Here’s a list of some of the bikes I have already test ridden and am considering.

Hybrids: Fuji Absolute 1.1 and Cannondale Quick 1. The others all had me too upright.

Adventure Road: Fuji Jari, Salsa Journeyman, Trek Checkpoint, Trek Crossrip 2

Any ideas or suggestions are appreciated.
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Old 07-08-18, 09:34 AM
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Why can't you use your current bike for commuting? Is 8-12 miles roundtrip or one-way? If RT, you're probably overthinking needing a dedicated commuter bike.
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Old 07-08-18, 10:33 AM
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After about 12 years of daily commuting my aluminum frame flat-bar hybrid cracked at the bottom bracket and I replaced it with a steel touring bike with drop bars and bar end shifters. (I'd like to do some touring when I retire.) My commute is about 8 miles on roads requiring very limited maneuverability, very little elevation change, though I occassionally ride a gravel path and some backwoods dirt trails on the way home.

Observations on the switch with respect to handlebars:

1. I prefer riding on the drops; it is comfortable and has less air resistance.
2. The drop bar has substantially less real estate available for mounting lights and accessories. I solved this by using a handlebar extender.
3. I intentionally went with bar end shifters for the simplicity and durability, and find them easy to operate. However, I lost any way of mounting handlebar mirror and am relying solely on my helmet-mount mirror.
4. Maneuverablity is more challenging which I notice when I'm on the dirt tracks in the woods. I ride on the hoods but the reduced leverage and the hand position seem to make it more difficult to make sudden moves. (However, I've done it very little and with practice I'll improve.)
5. Though not specifically a handlebar issue, the headset has rotation limits so I can't turn as sharp a radius.
6. I've changed my shifting habits. I use the triple chain ring for start/stop shifts and the cassette for fine-tuning... essentially a three-speed that I can trim. It is working quite well for me.

Since my commute is more heavily weighted toward long straight stretches, the drop bar is working well for my specific application. Of all the changes I had to make, the most difficult for me is the loss of my handlebar mirror.
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Old 07-08-18, 11:15 AM
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Drops
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Old 07-08-18, 11:16 AM
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I went with flat bar over drops for these reasons; affordability, adaptability and real-estate.


I really like quick fire indexed shifting but the expense of brifters over trigger shifters couldn't be squared and since Franken-Fritz has gone through many surgeries and "upgrades" I wanted a set-up that allowed me be as cheap and adaptable as possible without looking too wonky.


For example:

When I changed my crank from a double to a triple, I transitioned to a basic friction thumb shifter I found while keeping the quick fire on the rear. If I had use brifters I'd be looking for a new braking mechanism as well...

When I transitioned to a hornless saddle, I found that my aero-bars while also providing aero dynamic benefit gave me extra riding positions that off-loaded my wrists.

When I started adding lights and a phone cradle, I found the extra wide (and they are) handlebars VERY accommodating to any number of add-ons.


Can the same things I mentioned be done with drops? Certainly!!! It was personal preference and a desire for affordability that drove my piece-meal decision making. Also, I was afraid that if I made too many changes all at once, they'd be rejected and Fritz might die, he didn't. He's alive! HE'S ALIIIVE!!!!
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Old 07-08-18, 11:18 AM
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Originally Posted by surak View Post
Why can't you use your current bike for commuting? Is 8-12 miles roundtrip or one-way? If RT, you're probably overthinking needing a dedicated commuter bike.
Good point about the distance. It is 8 x 12 miles each way (16 to 25 per day) depending on the day, as mentioned.

I do do tend to overthink things, but my old rockhopper is a beast and it is breaking down, and I have been rigging some temporary repairs. Is it worth a new wheel set, bottom bracket, rear derailleur, shifters, etc?

Last edited by Morango; 07-08-18 at 11:23 AM.
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Old 07-08-18, 06:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Morango View Post
Good point about the distance. It is 8 x 12 miles each way (16 to 25 per day) depending on the day, as mentioned.

I do do tend to overthink things, but my old rockhopper is a beast and it is breaking down, and I have been rigging some temporary repairs. Is it worth a new wheel set, bottom bracket, rear derailleur, shifters, etc?
Ah, I was actually asking whether you could use your Synapse. What kind of conditions will your commute be? If it's flat or not too hilly, and not off-road, you shouldn't need to do much to the Synapse to make it work as a commuter. Maybe wider tires if the frame can take them, a rack or good bag (or seat pack). I use my road bike for a 31-mile round-trip commute, which has a bit of elevation and no off-road sections.
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Old 07-08-18, 08:27 PM
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Flat bars are good for slow short flat rides, which is what many commutes are like. They are really more maneuverable than drop bars only at very slow speeds.
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Old 07-08-18, 09:46 PM
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Drop! More places to shift hands positions and you be glad you have it on a stiff wind! But in reality do what’s more comfortable for you. I prefer drops on all roads, touring or gravel roads. Only straight on mountain bikes.
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Old 07-09-18, 12:57 AM
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I tried a flat bar bike for commuting; hated it. It was too upright and the handlebars were way, way wide. Also the gearing on the rear cassette was so wide, shifting from one gear to the next often felt like two or three gears on the road bike.

If you want to do touring, make sure you purchase a bike that allows for a rack and/or panniers. Traditional road bikes will not have good rack mounts. Gravel/adventure bike sounds like it would be a good choice for touring.

I think the decision of drops vs flat bars has a large personal component. YMMV.
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Old 07-09-18, 07:10 AM
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I had been commuting on a flat bar MTB (with a wide bar, inboard bar ends and an aero bar) and on an old drop bar road bike. Three years I bought a drop bar "adventure" bike (which I think of as semi-touring) and I have been very happy. That being said, every year my hands are less happy with straight bars so for me, drop bars were a must.

I agree that wide flat bars make for better maneuverability, but, as was pointed out above, mostly at slow speeds, so they're no big help to me....EXCEPT they are perfect in the winter when there is snow, ice and especially frozen tire ruts, and then my wide-bar MTB commuter is perfect!
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Old 07-09-18, 07:56 AM
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I decided on flat bars to make it easier on my back. I have no regrets. I think you will be fine either way with 8-12 miles. However, sometimes I wouldn't mind having a salsa vaya or something similar for cross country tours or gravel riding.
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Old 07-09-18, 09:22 AM
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Flat bar is my vote. Reason: flat bar lever is much stronger in stopping power.

Drop bar has hood brake, which somebody once said is only 75% effective in braking power.
To get 100% braking performance from a drop bar...you need to be riding in the hook...but who is lymber enough to ride in the drop/hook during commuting in traffic?

To me...touring and commuting are too far difference in its mission requirements.
Touring is about comfort and carrying heavy load on highways mostly going straight.
Commuting is about maximum control and safety in street traffic weaving in and out, dodging traffic.
And you need to have a fingers close to a brake lever all the time...so trekking bar or bar-ends are not safe enough for commuting.

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Old 07-09-18, 09:36 AM
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3rd door , figure 8 bend trekking bars , you can keep* all the control levers on your rock hopper.. offers another multiple hand position variety.. *saves money

Jones bars another pop thing for MTB.

I have straight bars and Ergon Grip/bar ends on a couple bikes too...




...

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Old 07-09-18, 10:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Morango View Post
In a new job and am able to commute by bike again. Have been going a bit over a year on my 1991 rockhopper from college and its getting old (no pun intended there). Time to upgrade. I am trying to decide whether to just get a new commuter at a decent price and keep my existing road bike (Cannondale synapse 105) OR sell both and get one of the new “adventure” road bikes that can do it all.
Nothing wrong with a '91 rockhopper. As long as you got some slickish tires that would make an ideal commuter. I assume it also has points for mounting at least a rear rack, for light touring.

BUT, I expect the period cantilever brakes and drivetrain are pretty crusty, you would probably enjoy a modern bike. Flats vs Drops is I think the right first question to ask, as the answer drives a whole lot of other drivetrain choices, and if you find you made the wrong choice, you might as well sell the bike and buy another, rather than paying to swap parts out.

Sounds like you like flat, no reason not to stick with it. I think trigger-style shifters are the bee's knees. For extra comfort (since you don't have as many hand position as drops), consider oddball bars like 'Trekking bars' or the Jones H Loop bar.
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Old 07-09-18, 10:38 AM
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Originally Posted by mtb_addict View Post
Commuting is about maximum control and safety in street traffic weaving in and out, dodging traffic.
And weaving in and out of traffic (on wide-ass flat bars!) such that your sole, overriding concern is emergency braking is a typical commute?

Again, OP really needs to explain what kind of conditions their commute is before people state a bar choice as a given.
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Old 07-09-18, 11:12 AM
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Drops for me. I ride in downtown traffic, then more residential areas. It's a small city but a city nonetheless with cars, buses, light rail, salmon, and clueless pedestrians. More hand positions, more comfort. Braking is not an issue with modern levers, calipers, and quality brake pads. I can lock up both wheels from the hoods on my road bike (Ultegra 6800 brakes and Kool-Stop pads), so that's not a limiting factor.
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Old 07-09-18, 01:33 PM
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As others have mentioned, it really depends on what you prefer. I've owned bikes with both types of bars - a Felt F5C (drop bar) and a Specialized Sirrus Sport (flat bar). I prefer a flat-bar bike. On my Felt, very rarely did I ride in the "drops" position. I found myself mostly using the same hand positions that can be found on a flat-bar bike with bar ends. In fact, one could argue that a Jones bar, trekking bar, or similar alt-bar provides more hand positions than a drop bar.

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Old 07-09-18, 01:40 PM
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Originally Posted by BobbyG View Post

I agree that wide flat bars make for better maneuverability, but, as was pointed out above, mostly at slow speeds, so they're no big help to me....EXCEPT they are perfect in the winter when there is snow, ice and especially frozen tire ruts, and then my wide-bar MTB commuter is perfect!
+1

My personal preference is drop bars - I just find them much more comfortable, especially on longer routes. EXCEPT in winter conditions! I, too, use a flat bar MTB for snow and bumpy ice.
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Old 07-10-18, 07:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Morango View Post
In a new job and am able to commute by bike again. Have been going a bit over a year on my 1991 rockhopper from college and its getting old (no pun intended there). Time to upgrade. I am trying to decide whether to just get a new commuter at a decent price and keep my existing road bike (Cannondale synapse 105) OR sell both and get one of the new “adventure” road bikes that can do it all.

I have test ridden a ton of bikes and am still a bit stuck. I am experienced and comfortable with drop bars from road riding, but I am feeling like straight bars give better handling, maneuverability, and reaction time. My commute is 8 - 12 miles depending on the day and the route.

Another factor - I may want to use this bike for possible light touring (2 to 4 nights), something I have done in the past but not in the last few years, so any hybrid considered has to a pretty decent road bike.

Here’s a list of some of the bikes I have already test ridden and am considering.

Hybrids: Fuji Absolute 1.1 and Cannondale Quick 1. The others all had me too upright.

Adventure Road: Fuji Jari, Salsa Journeyman, Trek Checkpoint, Trek Crossrip 2

Any ideas or suggestions are appreciated.
I have toured on my commuter (cyclocross) but it is limited because there is no front rack. My next bike will have many mounts for rack, cages etc to bike tour. I will also have drop bars because I like the variety of hand positions. I have ridden a Fuji Jari at AdventureFest and it was a nice bike! It would work for commuting and occasional touring. my previous bike was a flat bar bike and I have never regretted getting ride of it. The cyclocross is a good bike to split the difference between road and off road. I would not mind a bit more upright ride of the adventure bike now a days versus the pretty low when in the drops ride of cyclocross. ( I guess I am getting older)
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Old 07-10-18, 07:49 AM
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Drop bars for me, on all my bikes. I honestly did try to get a flat bar road bike - single speed actually - just for the varied experience and for going slow but it wasn't in the cards. The online retailer sent me a different bike than I ordered, with drops after all. I just bow to fate and accept that I'm riding on hoods or in the drops for the foreseeable future.
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Old 07-10-18, 08:25 AM
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what kind of traffic you gonna ride in? urban streets? then a straight bar would be safer, I think
if the ride is more rural, or suburban, then drops might eat up those miles a little faster

+1 on the N+1 idea even tho I've been known to write: "ride wut you got"
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Old 07-10-18, 09:38 AM
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100% personal preference, and also quite adjustable. Drop bars can be set high, and flat bars low. The "upright", non aero, or SLOW attributed to flat bars is not always going to be true.

I like flat bars set up relatively low and narrow, with ergon style grips. Leaves me in the same position as most riders I see on the hoods, except my hands are more comfortable than they ever are anywhere on drop bars. Everyone just has to find what works best for them.
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Old 07-10-18, 09:42 AM
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Originally Posted by mtb_addict View Post
Flat bar is my vote. Reason: flat bar lever is much stronger in stopping power.

Drop bar has hood brake, which somebody once said is only 75% effective in braking power.
To get 100% braking performance from a drop bar...you need to be riding in the hook...but who is lymber enough to ride in the drop/hook during commuting in traffic?
Someone told you wrong. You should try out a drop bar before you make up your mind what it can't do.


I like drops for city riding because it makes the bike no wider than shoulder width, which can be important if you are riding around pedestrians.
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Old 07-10-18, 09:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Kontact View Post
I like drops for city riding because it makes the bike no wider than shoulder width, which can be important if you are riding around pedestrians.
Flat bars don't have to be any wider than shoulder width either.

The important thing around peds (and cars/trucks and everything else) is giving them lots of room. If a few inches of bar length makes a difference you're too close.
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