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Drop bar vs flat bar tire clearance

Old 01-09-23, 01:54 PM
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amazinmets73
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Drop bar vs flat bar tire clearance

In recent years there's been an increase in tire clearance for drop bar bikes. I've always viewed these massive clearances as somewhat unnecessary, because there's a tipping point where you're simply better off with a flat bar bike due to the improved handling a flat bar provides.

My question: What is the tipping point in regards to tire width where you're better off using flat bars?
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Old 01-09-23, 01:59 PM
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IMO, one is never better off using flat bars! So no tipping point. Just a personal preference of the individual for how they fit to their bike for their bar choice.

All that is going on with the widening of tires is that the benefits of skinny tires aren't as they were once thought to be. So now frames are being made to accept wider tires. Also riding habits are changing and many are riding gravel on what is essentially a road bike, but more special made for the purpose.
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Old 01-09-23, 02:13 PM
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Originally Posted by amazinmets73 View Post
In recent years there's been an increase in tire clearance for drop bar bikes. I've always viewed these massive clearances as somewhat unnecessary, because there's a tipping point where you're simply better off with a flat bar bike due to the improved handling a flat bar provides.

My question: What is the tipping point in regards to tire width where you're better off using flat bars?
Your 'question' is predicated on a massive and unsupportable unargued assumption. I'm quite sure that was intentional.

That said, for what it's worth: I'm a dedicated "flat bar" road cyclist and I don't for one moment believe that flat bars provide inherently "improved handling" relative to drop bars, and certainly not for road cycling. Nor, again for what it's worth, do I believe the converse. The choice, for recreational (i.e. non-competitive) road cycling is simply down to individual preference.
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Old 01-09-23, 02:31 PM
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Originally Posted by badger1 View Post
Your 'question' is predicated on a massive and unsupportable unargued assumption. I'm quite sure that was intentional.

That said, for what it's worth: I'm a dedicated "flat bar" road cyclist and I don't for one moment believe that flat bars provide inherently "improved handling" relative to drop bars, and certainly not for road cycling. Nor, again for what it's worth, do I believe the converse. The choice, for recreational (i.e. non-competitive) road cycling is simply down to individual preference.
Uh, what would lead you to believe I was insinuating flat bars provide superior handling for road cycling? I was referring to off-road riding on rough terrain.
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Old 01-09-23, 02:34 PM
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Originally Posted by amazinmets73 View Post
Uh, what would lead you to believe I was insinuating flat bars provide superior handling for road cycling? I was referring to off-road riding on rough terrain.
You didn't refer to anything in your OP.

Flat bars are usually much wider than drop bars. So they might be favored for rough off-road terrain as the extra width give you leverage advantage over the bumps that are trying to make the wheel go where you don't want it to go.

But I don't see where tire width is going to favor one bar type over the other. Terrain, maybe. But have you watched cyclocross?

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Old 01-09-23, 02:35 PM
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Originally Posted by amazinmets73 View Post
Uh, what would lead you to believe I was insinuating flat bars provide superior handling for road cycling? I was referring to off-road riding on rough terrain.
No, you weren't "referring to off-road riding on rough terrain". Re-read your own post.
But never mind, enough. I'm pretty sure this thread will reach multiple pages (so, well done!!) but I'm out.
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Old 01-09-23, 02:42 PM
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Originally Posted by badger1 View Post
No, you weren't "referring to off-road riding on rough terrain". Re-read your own post.
But never mind, enough. I'm pretty sure this thread will reach multiple pages (so, well done!!) but I'm out.
Use some common sense. Any bike that would potentially reach the tipping point would obviously be ridden off-road. No reasonable person would assume I was referring to a road bike with 32mm tires. I'm referring to gravel bikes with clearances of 45mm+. I didn't think I needed to specify that, but apparently I did...
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Old 01-09-23, 02:49 PM
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Originally Posted by amazinmets73 View Post
Use some common sense. Any bike that would potentially reach the tipping point would obviously be ridden off-road. No reasonable person would assume I was referring to a road bike with 32mm tires. I'm referring to gravel bikes with clearances of 45mm+. I didn't think I needed to specify that, but apparently I did...
You need to do a better job of describing what ever it is you are attempting to describe. Common sense should have told you that your lack of sufficient reference and example in your OP would derail your thread from the very start.

Perhaps you thought you were in here.... Mountain Biking or maybe here... Hybrid Bicycles

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Old 01-09-23, 03:10 PM
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OP's opening sentence (in General Cycling, mind you): "In recent years there's been an increase in tire clearance for drop bar bikes."

Show of hands: who immediately concluded the reference was to the recent increase of tire clearance for conventional (i.e., drop-bar) road bikes (and that the comparison was to flat-bar road bikes)? [Answer: everyone so far, and likely all or almost all to come.]

Who assumed the reference was to off-road bikes?

[Crickets. . . . ]

FWIW, "flat bar" is almost exclusively used in referring to road bikes that are configured as such. I don't think I've seen the term used to categorize off-road bikes.

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Old 01-09-23, 03:12 PM
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Originally Posted by amazinmets73 View Post
Use some common sense. Any bike that would potentially reach the tipping point would obviously be ridden off-road. No reasonable person would assume I was referring to a road bike with 32mm tires. I'm referring to gravel bikes with clearances of 45mm+. I didn't think I needed to specify that, but apparently I did...
You might have had better luck getting the kind of responses you wanted by posting in the Cyclocross and Gravel Biking section. "No reasonable person would assume..." - LOL. This is BF. Good luck with that.

Regarding your topic...

I don't know that you can draw a hard line between when a flat bar is better as it relates to tire width. "Better" is tremendously subjective, and varies a lot with terrain, as well. There is also the fact that some people enjoy the challenge of riding a less-than-ideal bike in conditions that push the limits of what it is capable of.

Last edited by Eric F; 01-09-23 at 03:15 PM.
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Old 01-09-23, 03:19 PM
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OP is bizarre. No matter how big my tires get (or how much room is around them), I never find myself wishing for flat bars.
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Old 01-09-23, 03:35 PM
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But common sense should dictate that at some point you won't want the drop bars on your mountain bike....... <grin>
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Old 01-09-23, 03:36 PM
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Observation here. Drop bar bikes are just returning to the clearances used in the past. We had several decades of clearance dropping as roads improved and road races rarely saw non-pavement. But prior? Say pre-WW2? Much bigger tires and much more clearance on pure road bikes. And around 1900, when many roads weren't graded for cars, let alone paved, still more clearance and bigger tires. Granted in 1900 the drop bar shape was still evolving but by the '20s and '30s the shape was what we know now.
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Old 01-09-23, 03:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
But common sense should dictate that at some point you won't want the drop bars on your mountain bike....... <grin>
A certain mountain biker by the name Ned Overend did OK using drop bars on his mountain bikes. Won a couple of races I believe.
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Old 01-09-23, 03:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Eric F View Post
I don't know that you can draw a hard line between when a flat bar is better as it relates to tire width. "Better" is tremendously subjective, and varies a lot with terrain, as well. There is also the fact that some people enjoy the challenge of riding a less-than-ideal bike in conditions that push the limits of what it is capable of.
Additionally...

Part of the equation is industry fashion trends, too. Currently, 650 x 50+, drop bar bikes is a subset of the gravel bike category. Some people refer to these as "monstercross" bikes, among other made-up, mostly-meaningless terms. Would a regular flat-bar, hardtail MTB be better. Maybe, or maybe not. That goes back to what "better" means, and how the individual defines it. On a practical level, maybe the conditions are such where a wider tire gives the kind of performance desired over a specific type/mix of terrain, but a lower, narrower body position, with more options for hands positions is also favorable.

My overall point is that making rigid judgements about how bikes should be one way or another way - or should fit into specific boxes - is usually a mistake. From what I've seen, there are ALWAYS counter-examples with reasonable and practical justifications for why it suits the rider's needs. I got my eyes opened to this very issue on a recent thread about hybrids.
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Old 01-09-23, 03:44 PM
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
A certain mountain biker by the name Ned Overend did OK using drop bars on his mountain bikes. Won a couple of races I believe.
Maybe if we knew the width of his tires we could make some assumptions about what the OP is apparently asking.

Though we'd have to decide if his tire widths were the tipping point or were they optimum size for a drop bar over a flat bar?
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Old 01-09-23, 03:44 PM
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
A certain mountain biker by the name Ned Overend did OK using drop bars on his mountain bikes. Won a couple of races I believe.
He wasn't the only one...
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Old 01-09-23, 03:44 PM
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Use whatever you like.

#nolimits

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Old 01-09-23, 03:47 PM
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I don't recall Ned running drops BITD, several folks did though.

Ned did rock these badass Profile bars though

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Old 01-09-23, 04:07 PM
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I have both flat bars and drop bars, several of both, and for maximum control I'd always rather have drop bars. When we are out riding the hardpack dirt/gravel roads and come to a stretch where there's washboard, ruts, potholes, loose gravel, whatever, I sometimes wish I were riding drops instead of the flat bars that I usually ride on these roads. You can get more even weight distribution front-to-rear, it gives you a lower center of gravity on the bike, and your grip on the handlebars is more secure and natural. Dirt drops are popular for a reason.
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Old 01-09-23, 04:11 PM
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Originally Posted by amazinmets73 View Post
What is the tipping point in regards to tire width where you're better off using flat bars?
I see no correlation between tire width and handlebar shape; I could ride drops with 2.8" tires or flat bars with 25mm. It all depends on the terrain and riding surface, and thereís no tipping point.

Last edited by Rolla; 01-09-23 at 04:39 PM.
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Old 01-09-23, 04:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Rolla View Post
I could ride drops with 2.8" tires or flat bars with 25mm. It all depends on the terrain and riding surface, and there's no tipping point.
Agree. I have had drop bars on my big-tire MTB, and skinny tires on my flat-bar upright "Townie".

I have a strong preference for drop bars if I need maximum control - I just feel more secure on the bike riding the drops. Same reason that when I need maximum control, I get off the hoods and down into the drops. Don't most people do that? You're riding along on the hoods or the ramps enjoying the ride and all of a sudden you see something up ahead that makes you go "Uh-oh." And you know you're going to need a combination of good bike handling and possibly powerful braking. Don't you drop down?
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Old 01-09-23, 04:44 PM
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Use whatever bars you want and whatever width tires you want. Up to a point wider tires are better on the road and generally fat bike tires are going to be really slow and sluggish till you hit soft and loose stuff like sand and snow.

I say bring on more tire clearance on all bikes and bring on more road and gravel tires in wider widths and also more fun handlebars. Koga Denhams, Velo Orange Crazy Bars, Surly Molokos, ultra wide gravel drop bars, Scott Drop Ins, whatever just bring us more fun stuff with different hand positions.
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Old 01-09-23, 04:54 PM
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
Observation here. Drop bar bikes are just returning to the clearances used in the past. We had several decades of clearance dropping as roads improved and road races rarely saw non-pavement. But prior? Say pre-WW2? Much bigger tires and much more clearance on pure road bikes. And around 1900, when many roads weren't graded for cars, let alone paved, still more clearance and bigger tires. Granted in 1900 the drop bar shape was still evolving but by the '20s and '30s the shape was what we know now.
I purchased a (I think, zero braze-ons and twin plate crown) 1974 Masi Gran Criterium brand new in 1975 (750 bucks), a top of the line racing bike back then. I still have it. It can fit 32x622 tires on it with lots of clearance to spare. I watched (in amusement and amazement) in the late eighties and beyond as the clearances got tighter and tighter. Now I look at those bikes and consider them almost useless (not really, but sorta) as the last thing I want to do is bounce around on our (sometimes horrible) roads with 23-622 tires (or skinnier) at 120 psi.

It is interesting to be around long enough to see the pendulum swing from generous tire clearances to ultra, ultra tight back to generous.
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Old 01-09-23, 05:00 PM
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Originally Posted by HelpSingularity View Post
I purchased a (I think, zero braze-ons and twin plate crown) 1974 Masi Gran Criterium brand new in 1975 (750 bucks), a top of the line racing bike back then. I still have it. It can fit 32x622 tires on it with lots of clearance to spare. I watched (in amusement and amazement) in the late eighties and beyond as the clearances got tighter and tighter. Now I look at those bikes and consider them almost useless (not really, but sorta) as the last thing I want to do is bounce around on our (sometimes horrible) roads with 23-622 tires (or skinnier) at 120 psi.

It is interesting to be around long enough to see the pendulum swing from generous tire clearances to ultra, ultra tight back to generous.
I donít know much about SD.
But I definitely want bigger tires around most working class LA neighborhoods.

PV? Beverly Hills? Probably get away with wrapping your rim in electrical tape.
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