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Bike with Flat or Drop Down Bars, talk to me please

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Bike with Flat or Drop Down Bars, talk to me please

Old 09-06-08, 04:12 PM
  #1  
Mr_Christopher
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Bike with Flat or Drop Down Bars, talk to me please

I own two bikes with mountain bike style (flat) handle bars, one with 26" tires and one with 700s.

I have never owned a bike with drop down handlebars yet more and more I'm intrigued by them. I assume that riding position results in a faster experience but could you shed some light on the advantages and disadvantages of drop down bars for a newb?

Thanks

Chris
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Old 09-06-08, 04:42 PM
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To ME it's all about COMFORT. Not speed. Then again, I'm 50 now. LOL! Drop bars MAY aid in speed but I'm more interested in comfort. Go try some locally at the bike shops! I have a road bike with drops and spend all my time on the hoods (tops). I probably should have bought a comfort or commuter bike. Lesson learned.
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Old 09-06-08, 04:43 PM
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If you are looking for speed, yes, low-mounted drops will get you in an aggressive, aero position. But that's not the whole story. I'll cut and paste Sheldon cause I agree with him:

The main advantage of drop handlebars is that they offer several different hand positions. For longer rides, the ability to change positions is very desirable. Riding for a long time in any one position tends to be uncomfortable.

People who think they don't like drop handlebars are often actually objecting to the position of the bars on the drop-bar bikes they have tried.

Bikes with drop bars often have the bars mounted rather low and far forward, so that the rider has to lean forward quite a lot to reach the bars, especially the lower "drop " position. If these people tried a bike where the drop bars were placed higher, and closer to the saddle, they might find they really liked them.


I've the top of my drops 1/2" below my seat and my drops are shallow, so this is not really a racer-style but still more aero than most flatbar setups. I ride 90% of the time in my drops - I just love the feeling of this position. On longer trips I'll get up on my hoods or corners for relief. This is my commuter/long distance/do everything bike. Oh, and STI shifters are the greatest thing ever.

Disadvantages are that STI shifter cost a bundle.
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Old 09-06-08, 05:56 PM
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Like myself, I have read that 80% of the riding is done on the hoods. Usually the drops are for hammering or cheating a windy condition. I have never understood those that claim flatbars are more comfy, with ONE hand position. Add barends for an extra postion on flat bars and you've got the same postition as riding on hoods!

I asked the shop to leave my sterrer tube uncut on my last roadie purchase which results in a not so low hb position. Very comfy and easy to reach all areas of the drop bars!
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Old 09-06-08, 06:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Mr_Christopher View Post
I own two bikes with mountain bike style (flat) handle bars, one with 26" tires and one with 700s.

I have never owned a bike with drop down handlebars yet more and more I'm intrigued by them. I assume that riding position results in a faster experience but could you shed some light on the advantages and disadvantages of drop down bars for a newb?

Thanks

Chris
I'm an old roadie, so you'll have to take my comments with a grain of salt, but drop bars are more versatile, period. If I want to toodle along at a leisurely pace I can position my hands on the top bar or hoods. If I want to ride fast I can go into the drops. The whole "comfort" argument for straight bars is nonsensical from my viewpoint. On recovery rides I've often ridden many miles in an upright position with drop bars. But I've never been able to assume a decently aerodynamic position with straight bars.

So if you want versatility, learn to use drops.
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Old 09-06-08, 06:13 PM
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I see many riders who ride around with their hands apparently welded into "the drops". I guess they feel that's what you're supposed to do.... Most of 'em look mighty uncomfortable.

I always recommend that folks watch just an hour or so of pro road racing. Hours in the peloton with hand position comfortably "on the hoods", drops only used for sprinting or wind-cheating.
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Old 09-06-08, 06:21 PM
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To each his own.

I personally don't like flat bars because of the way they position my hands and wrist. I much prefer hand positions where the backs of my hands face outward, not upward (though I will hold the flat part of my drops for a brief change of hand position/variety).

I rode for a long time with flat bars not knowing that other hand positions would be much more comfortable for me. But everyone's different, so YMMV.
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Old 09-06-08, 06:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Bikewer View Post
I see many riders who ride around with their hands apparently welded into "the drops". I guess they feel that's what you're supposed to do.... Most of 'em look mighty uncomfortable.

I always recommend that folks watch just an hour or so of pro road racing. Hours in the peloton with hand position comfortably "on the hoods", drops only used for sprinting or wind-cheating.
True, but the fellow asked about drop bars versus straight bars. If your bike has straight bars there's really only one position possible. If you have drop bars you have many different possible positions (including the one that straight bar advocates feel is the most comfortable).
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Old 09-06-08, 06:34 PM
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Originally Posted by larryfeltonj View Post
True, but the fellow asked about drop bars versus straight bars. If your bike has straight bars there's really only one position possible. If you have drop bars you have many different possible positions (including the one that straight bar advocates feel is the most comfortable).
Well... not quite. If you're riding on the straight part of drop bars, you're hands will be closer together than on traditional flat bars, and it's a little harder to control that way.
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Old 09-06-08, 08:43 PM
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Two years ago (after 20 + years of only occational bicycle riding) I got more serious about cycling. I chose a flat-bar road-bike because I assumed I'd never use the drops position. I also liked the look of a flat-bar bicycle (I guess it makes me think of a motorcycle, sort of). Though I had no extreme issues with the flatbar bike, I did get some slight numbness in one hand/arm and did experience some noticeable stress/soreness in my back and arms.

A few months after getting the flatbar bike (which had an aluminum frame) I wanted to try a bike with a chromoly frame. I got an '86 Schwinn Traveler (which had a chromoly frame) with dropbars. Right away it seemed that I was more comfortable on the dropbar roadbike and had less soreness after riding. Though, for the most part I still road it like a flatbar, I would change hand positons from time to time (because I had just read that this was a good idea), maybe being in the drops for only 10-20 seconds every five minutes, or spending quite a bit of time with my palms facing each other on the "curves" between the "flatbar" section and the brake levers. At first I thought frame material (aluminum vs. chromoly steel) might be a factor, but I've since ridden an aluminum dropbar bike and found it to be quite comfortable.

I still occationally ride my flatbar bike and I don't experience the numbness/soreness issues so much, I guess I am more adapted to riding in general now, and I have made it a habit to rest my hands/arms from time to time by taking one arm off the handlebars and shaking it a bit and/or letting it just hang to my side for a few seconds. Sometimes if I'm in a low-traffic setting I will even hold the very end of my handlebars (with my palms facing inward toward one another) for a few seconds. I take the flatbar on my shorter rides and I still like the flatbar look, but I think the extra positions available on the dropbar (even if used very little) go a long way in making a more comfortable ride for me.

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Old 09-07-08, 01:04 AM
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I have found truely straight MTB style bars to be uncomfortable for anything but short rides. For many decades, bicycles that occupied the same market niche as the flat bar road bikes of today used a bar that curved back to put your hands at a more anatomically correct and comfortable angle (called North Road bars). Those bikes went out of style in the 70's when the drop bar "10-speed" was all the rage and when they resurfaced, MTB's ruled the cycling world and the straight bars were adopted from them. For a city bike/commuter, the modern version of a North Road bar is probably ideal. For anything more serious drop bars would be recommended. There are many styles or drop bars, some intended for racing, some for touring, and everything inbetween. They come in different widths and bends and drop distances so it isn't really just a question of straight vs. drop. I've never understood the idea that drop bars make a bike harder to control. Yes a wider bar will give you more leverage but it's not exactly like steering a bike takes much effort in the first place. It's not an old Ford pickup with no power steering after all.

There are North Road bars:

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Old 09-07-08, 07:36 AM
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Thanks everyone, this has been very informative.

Amazing, ask questions get answers make informed decisions. Glad I found this forum!

Chris
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Old 09-08-08, 09:55 AM
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I just got my first bike with drop handlebars. I got it for commuting (40 km/day) and long distance rides (~100 km). I appreciate the multiple possibilities of hand positions. I can be straighter or more leaned over than on a straight bar with bar ends. The only thing is that you need to get used to the new handling (shifting and braking) of a bike with drop handlebars.
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Old 09-08-08, 10:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Tommyr View Post
I have a road bike with drops and spend all my time on the hoods (tops). I probably should have bought a comfort or commuter bike. Lesson learned.
I don't get it... What lesson did you learn? The fact that you don't use the drops isn't really all that relevant. Drop bars are more comfortable and more versatile for most riding styles even if you never use the drops. You have by my count 4 hand positions without using the drops and two of them are much more comfortable to me than a flat bar.

Comfort becomes more important as the length of the ride increases and on a multi-month multi-thousand mile tour I wouldn't consider anything else. Ditto for longish day rides like centuries.

That said everyone is different.

PS: Since you mention age... I'm 57.
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Old 09-08-08, 10:33 AM
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I like all the hand positions on my drop bars, even if I haven't ever used the drops. I am able to move around a lot for different terrain and for comfort. It's much better than the single position I get on my MTB (at least for road riding).
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Old 09-08-08, 01:02 PM
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Hi! I just bought a drop bar road bike after thinking about it for several months and reading about them on this website. I spent a lot of time in bike shops testing both types of bikes and finally got comfortable with the dropbars. Just take lots of test rides over a period of time. Mine are adjusted higher and my bicycle (Specialized Dolce) also had the Granny Brakes so it is easy to ride more upright. I'm 52 and I'm enjoying the easier pedaling and going faster then I could with my hybrid.
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Old 09-08-08, 01:16 PM
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Moustache bars ftw!

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Old 09-08-08, 03:45 PM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
I don't get it... What lesson did you learn? The fact that you don't use the drops isn't really all that relevant. Drop bars are more comfortable and more versatile for most riding styles even if you never use the drops. You have by my count 4 hand positions without using the drops and two of them are much more comfortable to me than a flat bar.

Comfort becomes more important as the length of the ride increases and on a multi-month multi-thousand mile tour I wouldn't consider anything else. Ditto for longish day rides like centuries.

That said everyone is different.

PS: Since you mention age... I'm 57.

Maybe I should have worded it differently. I hardly (if ever) use the drops. Other than that I like my road bike. Maybe the bullhorn shaped handlebars would be a better choice.
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Old 09-08-08, 03:58 PM
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I find traditional (not "ergo") drops to be far more comfortable and versatile than flat bars. For all riding situations, including commuting and off-road.
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Old 09-08-08, 04:16 PM
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Originally Posted by apricissimus View Post
Well... not quite. If you're riding on the straight part of drop bars, you're hands will be closer together than on traditional flat bars, and it's a little harder to control that way.
The equivalent positions are a bit different, but I've never had any trouble controlling a bike in the comfort positions on traditional drop bars. And I think learning the various positions and their strengths is a very good exercise for cyclists. I don't really care whether any given cyclist uses straight or drop bars, but in my experience most cyclists who advocate for straight bars have never bothered to learn to use drop bars. Grip position isn't rocket science, but it is a learned technique. Before someone can ride on the tops, hoods, drops, or bottoms, they have to know that those grip positions exist, and under what circumstances they're useful.

When a person chooses straight bars they do lose the speed, but that isn't the main problem in my experience. It's the loss of versatility and loss of the range of possible hand and body positions on the bike. This isn't a problem if the bicycle is only being used for very short utility rides (I have a 1969 Raleigh Twenty with the original utility handlebars which is fun to ride around the neighborhood -- but I don't take it on distances further than a few miles).
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Old 09-08-08, 04:40 PM
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The ******* problem with flat bars is your ******* hands only have one position. Drop bars are ******* great because you have many hand positions and you can hunker down and get out of the ******* wind.
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Old 09-09-08, 06:03 AM
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Originally Posted by Tommyr View Post
Maybe I should have worded it differently. I hardly (if ever) use the drops. Other than that I like my road bike. Maybe the bullhorn shaped handlebars would be a better choice.
I still don't get it... What don't you like about drop bars? You don't really say. Do you use the various possible hand positions and not find them comfortable (there are at least 4 even without using the drops)? What do bullhorns offer that you think will be better? I find the shape of the ones that I have tried to offer fewer comfortable hand positions and I find that they don't quite duplicate the one I use most (on the hoods).
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Old 09-09-08, 07:38 AM
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I chose drop bars for my commuter-specific bike for many of the advantages listed above. For me, one disadvantage with my current setup, though, is the relative awkwardness of HARD braking from either the hoods or the drop position.

If I position the brakes for easy access from the hoods, then it's difficult to access from the drops and vice versa.

I didn't have this problem with my last drop-bar bike (many years ago), so it may be a brake lever reach / design issue rather than drop bar issue per se. I'll have to investigate more...

That said, I really like the instant brake access afforded by straight bars, but the need for more hand positions pointed to the alternatives.

A moustache bar may be in my future--looks like more hand positions plus easy brake access plus cool looks at least in my opinion.
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Old 09-09-08, 08:40 AM
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I have drop bars on my road bike, and find that 99% of my riding is done on the tops of the bars or on the hoods. The only time I ride in the drops is when bucking a stiff headwind, or if I just want a change of position for comfort. But I do find myself shifting my hands around to different places on the bars for hand comfort and avoiding numbness in my hands.

I have a mountain bike that originally had flat bars, of course. I found that the lack of hand positions there really limited my riding time due to hand numbness issues. I recently swapped my flat bars for Nashbar Trekking Bars - total cost of about $25.00 - and find that the additional hand positions really improve the use of this bike.



If for some reason you don't like riding in the drops and prefer a more upright position - maybe back issues or something - you may find these worthwhile.
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Old 09-09-08, 10:51 AM
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Can we please get it clear that the shape of the bar has absolutely nothing to do with the height of the bar?

It is possible, even preferable if you like, to put the top of drop bars higher than flat bars. Conversely, you could get a negative rise track stem and put flat bars below top of the head tube (it would be stupid, but you could do it).
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