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More Confidence with Flat Bars - Anyone Else?

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More Confidence with Flat Bars - Anyone Else?

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Old 03-07-18, 10:40 AM
  #1  
michaelm101
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More Confidence with Flat Bars - Anyone Else?

Having a childhood and adolescent background in BMX and mountain biking, I feel much more confident on my flat bar touring bike, overall, compared to my drop bar bikes. I did ride a drop bar in high school, but it was my dad’s Schwinn Varsity where I turned the drop bars upside-down to make “wheelie” riding easier.

Most particularly on fast descents, rough terrain, and in urban warfare (sidewalks, driveways, road shoulder, car dodging, etc), flat bars just seem more suited to the task, due to the brakes being at hand, and having more leverage to lift the front wheel when needed. Honestly, I feel more like Evel Knievel on a flat bar bike!

On the cager-less bike path, however, the smooth sailing screams drop bars all the way, however I'm still am comfortable with flat bars on high-speed descents. I do love the traditional and classic look of the drop bars...

Since my recent hit & run crash that left me with a permanent neck injury, I’m having serious thoughts of converting all my drop bar bikes to flat bar, with the addition of the awesome Ergon Bar-end grips that I discovered via this great discussion forum.

Has anyone out there had similar thoughts?

Thanks for reading!
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Old 03-07-18, 12:55 PM
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I must say I have never thought of converting any of your bikes to flat bars.
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Old 03-07-18, 01:10 PM
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I've had similar challenges and experiences. A 2001 car wreck busted up my back and neck. The C2 vertebra is permanently damaged and I have chronic neck pain. Some days are better than others.

When I resumed cycling in 2015 after many years off the bike I started with a comfort hybrid. Stretched out frame, suspension fork, padded saddle, upright bars well above saddle height. After the first month I went to larger, softer riding tires. I rode that bike for a full year. The main limitation was climbing hills and riding into headwinds -- the upright position was about as non-aero as it gets, and made poor use of the adductor muscles in the thighs/hips.

After a year I got a good used flat bar hybrid with the bar right at saddle height. It was still too uncomfortable with my neck pain so I swapped handlebars with the comfort hybrid. The riser bar from the comfort hybrid was now only slightly above saddle height on the other hybrid. And the flat bar better suited the comfort hybrid.

I'm still using that configuration on both bikes. However I may sell the comfort hybrid soon. And I may swap the other hybrid to a flat arc or albatross type bar, to lower the position just a little and reduce the reach a little. Might be a better compromise for rides into headwinds, or longer, steeper hill climbs. We'll see.

The hybrid with riser handlebar is basically fine as-is now. However on longer rides the lack of hand positions leads to some wrist and hand pain. I use ergonomic grips but the real problem is having only one hand position. I'll shift my grip around a little but after 20-30 miles my hands and wrists feel a bit uncomfortable.

But if I rode mostly 20 miles or less, at a casual pace, I'd be satisfied with the hybrid with flat or slight riser bars. It's a good position for riding in traffic too -- easier to check my surroundings at a glance.

But I felt my progress in fitness had stalled so I wanted another challenge.

After two years I got a road bike, last June. First road bike I'd tried since the 1980s. Adapting to the bike was very difficult but I was determined to make it work. In retrospect I should have chosen a touring frame, but I snagged a good deal on a 1989 racing frame bike so that's what I bought.

Lots of little adjustments and modifications helped: raising the stem and riding it that way for awhile. Thicker handlebar tape to reduce vibration. Better tires that can be safely ridden at lower pressure without pinch flats (700x23 or 700x25 -- the bike was originally fitted with very skinny 700x18 or x19 tires). Better saddle with less padding that's actually more comfortable than the heavily padded saddle it came with -- less pressure on the perineum.

I also had to work on my whole body, regaining strength and flexibility in my core and arms that had been lost due to years of disability and inactivity after the car wreck (I walked with a cane from 2001-2014). So it was a long, slow recovery process and I'm still working on it.

After about 9 months on the road bike, I usually prefer it for fitness rides of 20-40 miles. Beyond that the neck pain kicks in and it's not fun. That will always be a problem.

But for those rides I appreciate the variety of hand positions, and back/neck positions. My hands seldom give me any problems now. I vary often from the hoods to tops of the bar to the drops. Depends on whether I'm climbing or going downhill, if there's any wind, traffic (I always keep my hands near the brakes if there's any traffic within a hundred yards), etc.

Overall if I had to choose one bike it would probably be similar to what I see many folks over age 50 riding in my area: drop bar at or near saddle height, with longer and more comfortable hoods in the incorporated brakes/shifters. My older bike has those minimalist hooks and downtube shifters. The newer drop bars have flatter tops, which look ergonomically friendly. The drops are still available for a more aero position when needed, but overall the riding posture looks comfortable and efficient.
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Old 03-07-18, 03:41 PM
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
The hybrid with riser handlebar is basically fine as-is now. However on longer rides the lack of hand positions leads to some wrist and hand pain. I use ergonomic grips but the real problem is having only one hand position. I'll shift my grip around a little but after 20-30 miles my hands and wrists feel a bit uncomfortable.
Sorry to hear about your predicament, but glad to know you're back in the saddle!
I use these on my tourer/do-all aka 'The Tank' and I love them (there is also a shorter bar-end version, the GP3):

https://www.amazon.com/Ergon-GP5-L-B...70_&dpSrc=srch

GOOD ARTICLE:

https://pedalpowertouring.com/gear/g...tb-handlebars/
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Old 03-08-18, 09:40 PM
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I have converted an older road bike ('86 Cannondale) to a flat bar bike for an urban/commuter. It actually was an improvement in handling, but that SR model had relatively slow steering. I think the bars are around 600mm wide, which is narrow for current mountain bike standards.

The obvious disadvantage is wind drag. Handlebar setup was easy since I used the top of the drop bars as a guide for comfort.

John
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Old 03-08-18, 09:57 PM
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Due to having surgery on my elbow last fall I purchased a flatbar road bike a few months back. A thread I started when contemplating this acquisition is here: Thoughts/Input on a flatbar road bike

IMO, the flatbar is more nimble and generally more comfortable, however, the decrease in available hand positions will ultimately cause most riders some eventual discomfort to the hands/arms on longer rides. For me this usually occurred around 40 miles or so. The other disadvantage is the loss of a more aero efficient position which will be noticed at faster speeds. I really notice it when riding over 17 mph.

I was able to overcome most of these obstacles with the use of end bars but mounted in the mid-bar position. I tried on the bar ends initially, which helped slightly with arm discomfort but ultimately produced even more drag by further opening up the arms and chest to catch more air. When mounting at a mid-bar position, however, not only did I find a greater variety of natural hand placements, but also that most of these positions keep your elbows straight (as opposed to being bent outward) giving a more aero profile. I have done 3 imperial centuries in the last 6 weeks using this bike and have had no hand/arm pain since adding these "mid-bars".

Even though I have been medically cleared to ride as normal I have yet to get back on my drop bar roadie. I find this new bike to be a lot of fun to ride. Plus the crisp responsiveness of a brand new drive along with 11 speeds over the 10 on my dropbar ride keeps me coming back for more. However, as I continue to buildup my conditioning after a long hiatus I know that the desire for increased speed will require a more aero ride position which will ultimately put me back on by other machine. In the mean time, however, I will continue to ride the flat bar for the pure pleasure it provides while smiling all the way. Also, I have to admit, I somewhat enjoy the looks of disapproval I get from some of the road riding purists while be able to "hang" with good lot of them on my "hybrid" or "comfort" bike.

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Old 03-09-18, 09:28 AM
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I definately prefer a flat bar for off-road riding, I like the control on rough spots and the occasional surprise. But it's road bars for longer rides. I've had the stem adjusted to put me more upright because of neck issues.
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Old 03-09-18, 09:32 AM
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caloso
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I have always preferred drops over flat bars, even with bar-ends.
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Old 03-09-18, 09:48 AM
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I have several types of bars on various bikes .. because the grip shifters are for 22.2, aka 7/8" tube, I have straight bars

on my bikes with Rohloff hub,** ... Sram i-9, and the bars on my Brompton are also using Ergon grips, only for that bar size..

** The other has trekking bars , they are compatible with all the straight bar levers..


But I have a road bike, had several over the decades, and a derailleur touring bike, they have drop bars, FWIW.




...
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Old 03-09-18, 10:06 AM
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I discovered flat bars when I bought a used bike. I had always used drops. What a revelation. I loved them. I converted a road bike with drops to one with a flat bar. I prefer this bike whenever I am riding a lot in town and with traffic. I want to be sitting more upright. I also have a drop bar bike and it's a nice bike but the flat bar is more comfortable on long rides. I know the argument about aerodynamics, but 90 percent of the riders I see who use drops bars are riding on the tops or the hoods - not the drops. I don't understand why gravel and cross and bikes don't use flat bars. Seems like you would want the greater stability. Oh well...
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Old 03-09-18, 10:09 AM
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I have different bikes and setups depending the bike. As I get older I find I'm more about comfort than anything else. I want to enjoy riding.
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Old 03-09-18, 11:26 AM
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Bar shape ≠ bar height.

You can set drop bars above your saddle; you can set flat bars below.
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Old 03-09-18, 11:56 AM
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I just recently added wider drop bars with a 16 degree flare to my gravel bike. The difference in handling is dramatic.
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Old 03-09-18, 12:55 PM
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I find flat bars and flat pedals more fun ... I'm pro fun.
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Old 03-09-18, 02:34 PM
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Not a confidence issue here -- I just prefer 'em (narrowish flat bars w/Ergon grips/bar ends) for all my riding. I prefer the aesthetics of drop bars on road bikes, as it happens, but am just more comfortable with my set up. Caveat: I'm old (66), and don't ride competitively.

I don't find it 'limiting' in any way at all, and my arms still haven't fallen off due to the alleged lack of variation in hand positions. Short rides, long rides; city, country roads; centuries (done a few) -- works for me.

Current ride. If I replace, it'll be with an up-to-date (discs; thru-axles; crabon; etc.) version of the same thing.
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Old 03-09-18, 02:48 PM
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Ride whatever is comfortable. A neck injury may define what you ride as much as anything else.

I've ridden almost exclusively drop bars for eons, so anything else just feels odd. Urban, traffic, paths, rural, etc... all drop bars, and they're comfortable.

I have one 26" MTB ==> drop bar 700c Road conversion that I ride, and just converted a 700c Hybrid ==> drop bar Road/Cross conversion recently. Still experimenting a bit with the new build, but so far so good.

Perhaps we should swap... pulled flat bar parts for good drop bar parts.

Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of good MTB stuff
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Old 03-09-18, 08:18 PM
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As far as confidence, I prefer straight bars for dirt trails and I feel as confident with drop bars or straight bars for paved trails and roads. Overall I prefer drop bars, they are more comfortable for long rides, I need the ability to change hand positions.
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Old 03-09-18, 09:25 PM
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You need plenty of hand positions when none of them are all that comfortable.

I've tried over and over, but have not been able to be comfortable with drop bars.

I do well with shortish flat bars and ergon grips. I can set them up lower than I can any drop bar, and when I look across at my riding buds on the "hoods", we are both just as aero. I had bar ends once upon a time, but almost never used them, so they're long gone.

Everyone should experiment and ride what works for them. Frankly, I kinda like being different from the crowd.
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Old 03-09-18, 09:32 PM
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It's all about proper setup.
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Old 03-09-18, 09:41 PM
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Originally Posted by BluesDawg View Post
It's all about proper setup.
What if you've tried plenty of "setups" on plenty of different bikes, with lots of different stems and bars, (because everyone assures you that drop bars are somehow magical) but you still can't get comfortable with 'em? It happens.

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Old 03-09-18, 09:53 PM
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Originally Posted by AlmostTrick View Post
What if you've tried plenty of "setups" on plenty of different bikes, with lots of different stems and bars, (because everyone assure you that drop bars are somehow magical) but you still can't get comfortable with 'em? It happens.
Yep. That was my experience.
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Old 03-10-18, 12:26 AM
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Flat bars do allow more control. That's why mountain bikers use them.

when i am on my road bike with drop bars and when i need control - like to do a tight turn, i find i control my bike better if i go down to the drops rather than be on the hoods.
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Old 03-10-18, 08:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Machoman121 View Post
Flat bars do allow more control. That's why mountain bikers use them.

when i am on my road bike with drop bars and when i need control - like to do a tight turn, i find i control my bike better if i go down to the drops rather than be on the hoods.
I have kept the stock Ritchey flat bars on my mountain bike, but I added the extensions mentioned earlier in this thread, to provide the neutral axial forearm rotation position afforded by drops. Without these, I hated flat bars, because they limited me to a single hand position.

I use drops exclusively on my road bikes, and I probably spend more time down in the drops than most people do. I agree with Machoman that this provides great control.
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Old 03-10-18, 08:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Machoman121 View Post
Flat bars do allow more control. That's why mountain bikers use them.

when i am on my road bike with drop bars and when i need control - like to do a tight turn, i find i control my bike better if i go down to the drops rather than be on the hoods.
John Tomac used to use drops on his mtb and I think Jaquie Phelan did as well.
These days it's unheard of, mtb riders don't need the aero position of the drops and many mtb bars are 800mm in width, something you'd never see on a road bike. The wide bars give leverage for rowdy riding.

When I ride my mtb on a pavement section I wish for drops, especially if it's windy. I couldn't handle a road bike with a flat bar but I have seen people do it and go reasonably fast.
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Old 03-10-18, 09:57 PM
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Never had flat bars, never felt a need or desire for 'em. I did borrow someone's bike once with flat bar and I found the lack of hand positions annoying. I've ridden drops on single track, and the problem for me was getting enough hand pressure on the brakes. I think some of those aux / CX brake levers would solve that problem.

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