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Gravel Bike - What kind of bars do I want?

Old 03-07-23, 10:07 PM
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wayold
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Gravel Bike - What kind of bars do I want?

I'm thinking of buying (or more likely building) a gravel bike and am trying to choose the most appropriate handlebars. As I mentioned in another thread, I've found that I go faster (and hence can go further) on my road bike with drop bars than on my flat bar bikes, and that's something I'd like to preserve on a gravel build. A complicating factor, though, is that I'm an old guy with cervical disc issues and can't really ride with my neck craned up anymore. So I have a 25 degree riser stem on my road bike and pretty much never ride in the drops anymore. I basically ride on the hoods when I'm trying to go fast and on the top of the bar when I'm relaxing and letting my neck recover.

So my question is: If I'm never in the drops (but still like to ride on the hoods) do I need a drop bar? And if not, what alternatives should I consider? I've looked at some of the 'alterna-bars' out there and I'm not convinced they'll do much for me compared to a conventional drop bar, but maybe I haven't been looking at the right ones so I'm open to suggestions.

I should mention that for me a gravel bike will basically be used on a mixture of pavement and 'reasonably smooth' dirt roads (i.e. possibly ruts and washboard, but nothing like rocky singletrack. I have a FS MTB for that kind of terrain).
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Old 03-07-23, 10:32 PM
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My gravel bike is set up so the drops are about the same level as the hoods on my road bike, and the tops are about the same as the bars in my MTB. For me, itís a combination that works well across a wide variety of terrain. My gravel bars are Whisky Spanos, and I like them a lot. However, I donít have flexibility issues, and the tops on all of my bikes are below saddle level.

Based on your specific needs/preferences, my first thought is a ďbullhornĒ type bar.
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Old 03-09-23, 09:18 AM
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Originally Posted by wayold View Post
A complicating factor, though, is that I'm an old guy with cervical disc issues and can't really ride with my neck craned up anymore. So I have a 25 degree riser stem on my road bike and pretty much never ride in the drops anymore. I basically ride on the hoods when I'm trying to go fast and on the top of the bar when I'm relaxing and letting my neck recover.
If you get that much change going from hoods to bars then I suspect you might have some old style drops or at least have drops with a long reach. Many of the newer bikes come with short reach shallow drop bars. I've found I really like them compared to the drops of my old bikes that had a long reach and a large amount of drop.

So possibly short reach shallow drop's will let you adjust the height of the bar to have somewhat the position change going from drop to hoods as you describe going from hoods to bar.

So my question is: If I'm never in the drops (but still like to ride on the hoods) do I need a drop bar? And if not, what alternatives should I consider?
I haven't looked, but they are out there and allow use of STI's. However they might cost more than drops since they'll be a niche market product. So why not just get the drops.
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Old 03-09-23, 09:34 AM
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If you're happy with the set-up on your road bike you could start with that position and adjust up as needed. As Iride01 said, there are short reach shallow drop bars. I use them on my road bike with good results. I can stay in the drops whenever I need to and the tops are right where I need them.

For gravel and cyclocross bikes there are flared bars with different amounts of flare. The theory is that if you are in the drops your wrists won't bump into the bar on rough ground.
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Old 03-10-23, 06:04 AM
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Originally Posted by big john View Post
If you're happy with the set-up on your road bike you could start with that position and adjust up as needed. As Iride01 said, there are short reach shallow drop bars. I use them on my road bike with good results. I can stay in the drops whenever I need to and the tops are right where I need them.

For gravel and cyclocross bikes there are flared bars with different amounts of flare. The theory is that if you are in the drops your wrists won't bump into the bar on rough ground.
I'm not the most flexible persion either. Bad back, getting older... I like the short reach, shallow drop type bars as well. I can ride in all positions comfortably.

I like both the tops and the drops to be parallel with the ground.

My CX bike has the flared bars. Great for control - but I can't get the parallel setup that I like. One or the other is level. I keep the tops level, but the drops are angled/pointing towards the ground. I also find it difficult to get the hoods in the correct position with the compound curve of the flared bars.
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Old 03-10-23, 07:05 AM
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These are Soma Oxfords (Nitto Albatross clone) and I like them very much. I usually put bigger wheels on this and ride gravel all the time. It gives you the "weight forward" position that you get in the drops for better control, but also more upright when you want it. The middle position is great for climbing. These are really just mustache bars with longer ends, so you might look at other mustache bars.


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Old 03-13-23, 07:04 AM
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When I built a gravel bike I used Easton AX 70 bars. I elected carbon bars for both a little lighter weight plus some additional vibration dampening from the rougher terrain. The drops are more flared and also more shallow than traditional road drop bars. I also went with a wider bar (46 cm) for more stability on the descents. I think I also positioned the bars higher than normal as I wasn’t as concerned about being as aero. If you took a similar approach you could probably get the drops on the gravel build pretty close to the height of your hoods on your current road bike setup……relative height to your saddle. Be careful and not mount the bars too high on the steerer tube, especially if the steerer tube is carbon. I think most manufacturers recommend no more than 30-35 mm in spacers on the steerer…..from memory. This is not a photo of my bike but one I found on the internet of the bars that shows the flare of the drops. I think Salsa Cowbell bars might be similar.


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Old 03-13-23, 05:29 PM
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I'm 61 years old,and after 42 years in the restaurant business, I have some neck/shoulder issues.
On my Salsa Warbird, I went with Burley Truckstop bars and use a Redshift Stopshock stem. I rode last season with this combination and it has been great for my neck and comfort. The Stopshock stem soaks up enough vibration to be noticeable, but still feels firm in handling



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Old 03-14-23, 08:25 AM
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Itís ok to have drop bars and not use the drops.

Alternatively, the Albatross style bar gives you a rearward grip about at (or rearward of ) the steering axis. This lets you shift your weight back in a way that drop bars donít allow, and you can put your brake levers in the more typical place where braking is done from that point. Typically these bars are used with a long stem, since they mostly come back, not forward.

OTOH, you donít get a drop position and the equivalent reach of bar tops is going to be just forward of the typical brake lever position, so itís out wide on the bars, not in the center. The center can be used but with the usual longer stem, itís a bit more of a reach.

With a longer stem, the forward bend ends up about at the same reach as typical drop bar hoods and is a good grip for hard pedaling work.

Hereís another example. Sunlite Elson Roadster on a vintage MTB with a 140mm stem.





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Last edited by ofajen; 03-14-23 at 09:03 AM.
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Old 03-14-23, 12:01 PM
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One thing you will notice on the factory gravel bikes is that the drops stick out at the bottom from the top section. They also have a shallower bend in the drop section. I would also expect the brake levers to be slightly different as well. Some have a drop seat post and the necessary cable to activate it with a control on the handlebar.

When the Specialized Diverge E5 gravel bike sells for $1300 it makes little sense to put one together yourself unless you are bored.
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Old 03-14-23, 06:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Calsun View Post
When the Specialized Diverge E5 gravel bike sells for $1300 it makes little sense to put one together yourself unless you are bored.



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Old 03-14-23, 07:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Calsun View Post
When the Specialized Diverge E5 gravel bike sells for $1300 it makes little sense to put one together yourself unless you are bored.
...or want something that is a better spec. Shimano Claris 8sp and Tektro mech discs doesn't excite me very much. That said, that's what the price point gets you (for a new bike), and it probably fits for many people.
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