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Why drop bars?

Old 04-01-23, 11:52 PM
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Why drop bars?

Hi, I've been a member here for quite some time now but I've mostly just been looking and reading.
I started commuting a year ago on my Cube (Nuroad Pro) but I recently decided to sell it and get something less sportier.

I've been looking at many of your commuting bikes and started wondering, why most of them have drop bars.

My commute (about 9 miles), has become a lot healthier and I'm just 2-3 minutes slower since I started to use my old steel bike with a more upright riding position.
Half of my commute is in the city with many mostly red lights and even more chaotic people on e-scooters, (e-)bikes, pedestrians and of course cars. I found that having a more upright position helps get a better overview of my surroundings and with that makes life on the bike a lot more relaxing and safe.
Also compared to the "old steel truck" the Cube sometimes felt like a rocket and I tended to go faster than I should, seeing that I don't have access to a shower in my office. When I arrive at the office now, I'm a lot less stressed (physically and psychologically) but that may also come down to my age. I'm getting old... only a few good months left before I turn 30.

My question is why so many here commute with drop bars. Do you use the lower position of the bars a lot? Do you see a difference in riding in urban an rural areas? I know, it comes down to several different and mostly individual choices and preferences, but I'm interested to hear about your experiences with different choices of bars and riding positions. I'm just trying to figure out how I can get bike commuting to be a part of my life for many more years without destroying parts of my body.
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Old 04-02-23, 05:13 AM
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Yes, I use drop bars, yes I spend time in the drops.

I don't understand what you mean about your commute being healthier because you're sitting upright?
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Old 04-02-23, 05:20 AM
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I think it's just a matter of personal preference. Most, but certainly not all of us of us that commute by bike also ride bikes that are meant for the open road and ride "road bikes" with drop bars, so it's natural to ride our commuter bikes with drops.
And 30 is "old"!!!?? I'm 78 and still cranking the peds to work (:
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Old 04-02-23, 06:15 AM
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I used a flat bar for about 12 years until the aluminum frame cracked and I changed to a drop bar steel tourer.

The drop bar is much less maneuverable, but better for wind resistance.

Since my commute is primarily straight-line roads with few stops, the drop bar works better for me. However if I was in urban traffic and MUPís, I would prefer a flat bar.
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Old 04-02-23, 06:38 AM
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I've been bike commuting for 30 years. At 61 my hands are no longer comfortable on straight bars. And my back and butt are happier in a mild racing position, but my neck no longer likes a real down-low tucked position (which is not great for situational awareness in traffic). For a long long time I had only one bike, a straight bar mountain bike which I kept modifying to a more road like position with bar ends. Then I acquired an old 12-speed with drop bars. Then I bought a drop-bar, semi-touring bike for commuting. Three years ago I converted my old mountain bike/commuter to drop bars. two years ago I bought a 20" folding bike and tried to use its straight bars but ended up replacing them with "bull bars" which are like riding on the hoods on a drop bar bike.

Another advantage of drop bars for me is they provide many different hand positions, and I can move my hands to the straight bar part, or the drops or anywhere to help alleviate cramping. Changing hand positions also slightly change my posture.

Since converting the MTB to drops I have practically no hand pain on the bikes anymore.

As far as situational awareness, I can see side to side just fine, and I use a take-a-look glasses mount mirror which gives me an exceptionally wide rear view with minimal head movement. In fact, even if I were sitting upright, my neck and upper body are no longer limber enough to easily look behind me without a mirror.

Everyone is different. And from what I read it seems most people have discomfort with in in-line hand positions as they age and prefer perpendicular hand positions...but not me.

The bottom line is one size does not fit all. Do what makes you happy and ride the bike (or bikes) that feel good.
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Old 04-02-23, 07:43 AM
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I have 4 bikes, one with a flat bar and the others with drops. The flat bar bike is the newest edition to my collection and I do like it in traffic, but it is slower due to the more upright position. I find dropts are similar to using bullhorns but this really depends on the brifters... I changed out the low end brakes and stem shifters and put on microshift shifters / brakes which makes riding the hoods better and more comfortable. I rarely use the drops but if the wind warrants it, I will use them for short intervals.
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Old 04-02-23, 06:09 PM
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I find flat bars and an upright position uncomfortable, sometimes painful, and tiring and inefficient and frustrating. I just bought a gravel bike (Cannondale Topstone) and had to lower the handlebar, otherwise it was too hard to pedal, and the bumps went right up the bike through me. With lowered handlebars the bike floats and flies like a regular road bike should.
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Old 04-02-23, 06:29 PM
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Multiple hand positions.
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Old 04-02-23, 06:41 PM
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I haven't had to commute by bike for work for a while but for all the years I did I always preferred using a drop bar. Flats can be nice but when maneuvering through traffic I liked the narrower profile of the drop bar. 44cm wide drop vs a 75cm flat or riser bar might mean easily fitting between parked cars and stopped traffic without hitting a mirror or scratching a car. Here on LI I sometimes use the bike but since most of my meetings end around 9pm or I have to move between locations without enough time to ride, I usually drive, however, when I can ride I find there's plenty of space when riding compared to downtown Albany or Rochester and the handlebars don't really matter.
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Old 04-03-23, 08:27 AM
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My commute/touring bikes have dropped bars, but the bars are about the same height as my saddle, so I'm a bit more upright than some with a more performance-oriented setup. Since my "sit-up" bike had buzzy MTB tires, I appreciate the way the tourer rolls, even with flat-resistant tires. I try to find commute routes that have fewer traffic lights and stop signs, though I'm not sure that would make a difference in the bars I prefer. Because of my bar position, I don't feel like I'm limited as far as visibility goes; I can check behind me before I change lanes without a problem. We don't usually have high winds (15 mph/25 kph or more), but when I have to commute 10 miles into a headwind, I appreciate being able to get down into the drops. On those days I may reroute to find more sheltered routes through neighborhoods, or even take a single pannier and leave shoes at home.

All that being said about my preferences, your preferences may vary and I'll respect them even though I may disagree with them.
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Old 04-03-23, 01:27 PM
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Originally Posted by SebWGer
but that may also come down to my age. I'm getting old... only a few good months left before I turn 30.
Yeah, you're definitely on the cusp of your twilight years... rather than worrying about what the rest of us ride (drops), I would just focus on being comfortable and at peace with your life.
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Old 04-03-23, 01:27 PM
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like with all things itís just preference
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Old 04-03-23, 01:31 PM
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Originally Posted by caloso
Multiple hand positions.
Me too.
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Old 04-03-23, 02:23 PM
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I'm retired but spent many years commuting. Switched to drop bars when I was 12 and never looked back. For many years could do the racer look back and ride straight but too many crashes put and end to me being able to twist my neck that much so I've been using a mirror for years.

I love the aero for the big upwinds (storms do happen on week days, not just weekends), the hoods for climbing the 500 feet every time I ride home and drops when the going gets iffy and I might have to do a crash stop. And one of my city bikes also sports the in-line levers, also called CX levers that tallow full braking power from the tops. (They have absolutely no down side beyond weight and windage. Regular braking isn't affected at all.

I also love that drop bars can be skinnier than me so any gap between cars I fit through, I can make. (And with slow moving traffic, a brush with say my elbow probably isn't more than a mild bruise but hitting my handlebar could be bad. I grew up outside Boston and rode in frequently. The concept of riding in traffic being akin to combat and sometimes being a contact sport is deeply rooted.)
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Old 04-03-23, 03:50 PM
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I try drop bars from time to time. Not right now though. They are definitely way more aero and position you to extract power. The reason you need so many hand positions is they all suck.
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Old 04-03-23, 04:07 PM
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I'm getting old... only a few good months left before I turn 30.


Years ago while working in a bike shop, there were two customers in the store at the same time - a 'middle aged' man and an older woman. The man was looking at bikes and said 'I don't need a bike that is too racy - I'm almost fifty and not getting any younger'

The woman was 85 and on the last leg of her around the world bike trip.

My point is, you might be getting old as you approach 30, but that's entirely your own decision and has nothing to do with the specific amount of time that has elapsed since you were born.
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Old 04-03-23, 04:08 PM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott
Yeah, you're definitely on the cusp of your twilight years... rather than worrying about what the rest of us ride (drops), I would just focus on being comfortable and at peace with your life.
Drop bars will allow him to ride a bit faster so he has more time to get his affairs in order.
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Old 04-03-23, 05:32 PM
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My commute is over 15 miles one-way. It's too long to sit upright and catch wind, or get low and hurt my wrists on flat bars. I've ridden it with flat bars and the only thing better was how slow and in control it felt to go downhill in a narrow bike lane because I was so unaerodynamic. But since I've commuted on that route hundreds of times, that's not really a trade off that's worth making.
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Old 04-03-23, 11:30 PM
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I like flat bars or townie bars if it's a short ride, if I'm riding in the city, or if I've got to fight the wind. If it's a longer ride or if it's more than a casual ride I like drop bars. I don't like fighting wind or hills on flat bars.
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Old 04-04-23, 09:53 AM
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I've got nothing new to add, but I'll chime in just as another voice...

For many years (I'm nearing 50) I insisted upon drop bars for essentially all of my bikes, largely for the reasons given by others:
  1. Hand-Position Options; and
  2. (Occasionally) Aerodynamic Positioning (in a hurry, perceived or otherwise or, perhaps, just wanting to reduce my profile when facing headwind).
However, about a year ago I wanted to pare down the bikes in my garage and decided to buy a more or less complete commuter bike. Initially I was turned off by how many more flat-bar equipped options there were, but ultimately I decided to not worry about it and got a Priority Continuum Onyx (it has flat bars).

I did indeed find that my wrists quickly started to feel uncomfortable, even over just a few miles, and I briefly regretted the switch to flat bars due to the reduced options for hand positions. But, I then adopted the common solution of simply adding on some bar ends, and those provided immediate relief. I spend most of my time holding onto those, but just as a with my drop-bar equipped bikes, I find I'm most comfortable when I change my hand position fairly frequently. Given that I use the bar ends most of the time, the only downside I've found is that it's slightly less convenient to reach the brake levers on my flat-bar bike.

For all-day riding I'd still be inclined to go with drop bars, but for my commutes of two to five miles at a time, the transition to flat bars has been quite easy.

All of that said, I still seems as though the bikes most prone to catch my eye for admiration do indeed have drop bars.
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Old 04-06-23, 06:12 AM
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Multiple hand positions.
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Old 04-06-23, 05:55 PM
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Flat bars can help give a better view, but that’s by way of sitting up a bit. That’s doable with drop bars, too. At this point, though, I’ve been riding in a low, racing-oriented position for so long that I feel comfortable with my situational awareness in that position. I do feel a bit more comfortable on my more upright cyclocross bikes than the road bike, but that’s more to do with wearing a backpack, which gets more uncomfortable the more leaned over I am and the more weight I’m carrying.

I happen to prefer drop bars, though I spend most of my time by far on the hoods. Flat bars feel quite slow and awkward to me on the road, and of course I can always sit up and ride the tops if I want to chill out a bit. My commute has been 8-10 miles each way for a good 8 years now depending on the job, and isn’t likely to get shorter than that, so I want it to feel reasonably quick. I did have a flat bar commuter for a bit and it was definitely slower and less fun. When I’m not riding drops, I’m most often riding swept back upright bars, either on my e-cargo bike or on my wife’s upright city bike for short cruises around the neighborhood with the 3 y-o.

I’m not sure I follow this idea of flat bars being healthier. I’m really not clear on how riding drops would lead you to “destroy parts of your body.” I’m almost 38 and while I’m a bit thicker around the middle than I was when I was just under 30, I’m in better physical condition than I was then in most respects. My advice on keeping yourself healthy would be to find some way of building and/or maintaining strength. In my case having a baby helped a lot but that’s obviously good for a limited time… establishing a core strength and weight lifting routine is a very good idea, has more long-term utility and reliability, and doesn’t require all of the various other prerequisites of becoming a parent. Relying on sitting up and riding on flat bars to stay healthy is pretty dubious imo.

For what it’s worth while drop bars are popular on this board, I don’t think they’re an overwhelming majority here. And in the real world, most of the commuter cyclists I see are riding flats or other upright bars. So most people do share your preference. For whatever that’s worth.
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Old 04-08-23, 12:34 AM
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Thank you for all your answers. That's exactly what I was hoping for. I know that it comes down to personal preference.
And I know that 30 doesn't mean old. I often joke about getting 30 because it is the end of the youth where you are free of commitments and worries (idealised). Real life starts at 30. Also the "destroy the body" thing wasn't meant to be taken too seriously even if a badly fitted bike can do more harm than one might think.

About the bars:
I used to have a 30km (19 mile) commute up until a year ago which I rode by bike twice a week dring the summer. Back then, I loved the lower position drop bars offer. Especially on my way back home where I always had headwinds. I noticed during my "new" commute, that I didn't use the lower position anymore so I swapped bikes for a while and found it way more comfortable with a cruiser style bar.

Commuting here in Germany is a little different from commuting in the big cities in the states, I suppose. We have mostly well planned and paved bike paths. Riding on the road and using space between cars (narrower bars) isn't really a part of commuting here. At least not in a small town (100k inhabitants) like where I live. I found the gravel bike with aluminium frame to be too stiff for paved bike paths and city riding (curbs/potholes/...).
The speed factor also doesn't count anymore since there are red lights every few hundred meters. Most times it's safer to ride with the (slower) flow on the bike path than to overtake everyone and meet them again at the next red light. I'm just talking about my experience here. A steel frame (more flex) with cruiser bars is just a lot more comfortable for me in this new kind of riding.

I didn't mean to denounce anyone for their personal choice seeing that those always are based on individual experiences, routes and riding conditions. I just wanted to hear about those experiences because I don't see many drop bar commuters here in my city but quite a few in this forum.
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Old 04-11-23, 08:12 AM
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Just to add my .02 - My commute is 35 miles RT, mostly flat, through farmland and suburban neighborhoods. It usually takes me about 1:05 to get in to work, 1:15 to get home. I don't particularly like flat bars because of the angle they force your wrist into. I also don't like drops because, even with a wide one, they're too narrow. I find them uncomfortable and when riding on the hoods my fingers begin to tingle and go numb. So I switched from flat bars to a swept back riser bar. About 30, 35 degrees sweep and about level with the saddle. The sweep puts my wrists in a very natural position. I do this on a 700c hybrid style bike mostly, but I also have an old Panasonic mountain bike set up with the same bars that I trade off with for some variety. When I did ride this on a road bike with drops, my time was not significantly faster, and the mountain bike (with slick tires) is not at all slower. The more upright position of the hybrid (and the mountain bike) accommodates my 51 year old joints as they stiffen up over the years. I'm certainly in no hurry to get to work, and do so very much enjoy seeing the turtles in the ditch along the way home, so I tend to slow down in the afternoons for that. Interestingly, headwind days are not much more than a few extra minutes longer so for me the comfort and enhanced visibility is a tradeoff I'm willing to make. YMMV, as always.
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Old 04-11-23, 09:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Smokinapankake
Just to add my .02 - My commute is 35 miles RT, mostly flat, through farmland and suburban neighborhoods. It usually takes me about 1:05 to get in to work, 1:15 to get home. I don't particularly like flat bars because of the angle they force your wrist into. I also don't like drops because, even with a wide one, they're too narrow. I find them uncomfortable and when riding on the hoods my fingers begin to tingle and go numb. So I switched from flat bars to a swept back riser bar. About 30, 35 degrees sweep and about level with the saddle. The sweep puts my wrists in a very natural position. I do this on a 700c hybrid style bike mostly, but I also have an old Panasonic mountain bike set up with the same bars that I trade off with for some variety. When I did ride this on a road bike with drops, my time was not significantly faster, and the mountain bike (with slick tires) is not at all slower. The more upright position of the hybrid (and the mountain bike) accommodates my 51 year old joints as they stiffen up over the years. I'm certainly in no hurry to get to work, and do so very much enjoy seeing the turtles in the ditch along the way home, so I tend to slow down in the afternoons for that. Interestingly, headwind days are not much more than a few extra minutes longer so for me the comfort and enhanced visibility is a tradeoff I'm willing to make. YMMV, as always.
I'm in a similar boat with swept bars, although a slightly shorter commute at 26 miles RT.

I am also lucky to enjoy a scenic commute, and am in no rush to get to work (when I leave on time).
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