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Newbie: Flat bar vs. traditional curved bar road bike seating position

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Newbie: Flat bar vs. traditional curved bar road bike seating position

Old 12-26-12, 11:48 AM
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trigger1911
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Newbie: Flat bar vs. traditional curved bar road bike seating position

If everything is the same, is riding with a traditional bar with hands riding on the straight part of the bars the same as a flat bar road bike?
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Old 12-26-12, 11:58 AM
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Originally Posted by trigger1911 View Post
If everything is the same, is riding with a traditional bar with hands riding on the straight part of the bars the same as a flat bar road bike?
Mostly no. The flats on a drop bar bike are much narrower than a flat-bar road bike, and the brake and shift levers will be different.

(Be careful, there are many here who will say that there is no such thing as a "flat bar road bike"... the flat bars automatically make the bike a hybrid.)

Last edited by TampaRaleigh; 12-26-12 at 11:58 AM. Reason: typo
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Old 12-26-12, 12:59 PM
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I was more concerned about the geometry differences. Why buy the flat bar only if you can buy a standard curved bar bike and put your hands on the straight surface when you need it. my main concern is being bent over. I have lumbar and cervical vertebrae issues and I just like to have options
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Old 12-26-12, 03:10 PM
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You can theoretically set up a flat bar road bike to have any position you want, within the limitations posed by the frame.
The problem with flat bars is there is only one hand position. That gets tiring after a while. Better to use a modern road bar and set it up to fit your back issues. Some back problems are really core strength problems, and a stronger core won't make other back problems worse. So do core work if you're not already.
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Old 12-26-12, 03:26 PM
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Originally Posted by ericm979 View Post
You can theoretically set up a flat bar road bike to have any position you want, within the limitations posed by the frame.
The problem with flat bars is there is only one hand position. That gets tiring after a while. Better to use a modern road bar and set it up to fit your back issues. Some back problems are really core strength problems, and a stronger core won't make other back problems worse. So do core work if you're not already.
This ^^^. I'll add the some back problems are aided by having the bars lower rather than higher.
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Old 12-26-12, 03:28 PM
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Originally Posted by trigger1911 View Post
I was more concerned about the geometry differences. Why buy the flat bar only if you can buy a standard curved bar bike and put your hands on the straight surface when you need it. my main concern is being bent over. I have lumbar and cervical vertebrae issues and I just like to have options
It's funny that you should bring this up. (Well... not FUNNY... coincidental.)

My wife has cervical spine issues as well. Herniated discs between c4-c5-c6. She wanted a road bike, as we don't do any off-roading... but riding in the drops for her was out of the question, as neck extension was far too painful. Even riding on the hoods was a bit painful, since she was reaching far forward. The only comfortable position was on the flats. So... she has a flat-bar road bike. I even swapped out the bars for a pair with a slight rise and more sweep. It's in no way "aerodynamic", but she's not a racer. She just wanted the benefits of the road bike, without the drops that she can't use anyway.
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Old 12-26-12, 03:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Looigi View Post
This ^^^. I'll add the some back problems are aided by having the bars lower rather than higher.
Pain from cervical disc herniations can be aggravated by the greater angle of neck extension needed when in the drops.
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Old 12-26-12, 04:28 PM
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Originally Posted by trigger1911 View Post
I was more concerned about the geometry differences. Why buy the flat bar only if you can buy a standard curved bar bike and put your hands on the straight surface when you need it. my main concern is being bent over. I have lumbar and cervical vertebrae issues and I just like to have options
There are many misconceptions comparing a drop bar to a flat bar bike. Generally for the same cockpit a flat bar bike has a 30-50mm longer cockpit..mine differ by 40mm.
Typically a flat bar bike will be set up with a slightly higher handlebar. The equation should be made between grips of the flat bar versus hoods on a drop bar...not the tops. Tops will be closer positioned on a drop bar road bike.

The last misconception is that a higher and closer in handlebar will be more comfortable for those with spine issues. Not neccesarily so. A more upright handlebar position places the spine in greater compression and this many times aggravates neck and back issues for those predisposed. So it is a balance between minimizing spine compression but not approaching maximum back lumbar flexion and neck extension aka neck angle. This takes practice and working on your posture on the bike.
The only way to learn about the best position in particular for a sensitive person with spine issues is to try every permutation of fit. This isn't cheap and takes quite a commitment of time. You won't arrive to this point by a single professional fitting. There really isn't a short cut to becoming the best and most comfortable rider you can be. Many if not most quit before they achieve this...or settle on a substandard position. But for those with the tenacity and resolve, they are rewarded with more smiles per mile and greater efficiency/speed.
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Old 12-26-12, 05:08 PM
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Originally Posted by TampaRaleigh View Post
Pain from cervical disc herniations can be aggravated by the greater angle of neck extension needed when in the drops.
Interestingly I also have a herniated cervical disc, but riding the bike seems to not aggravate it. YYMV, of course.
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Old 12-27-12, 09:07 PM
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Originally Posted by ZmanKC View Post
Interestingly I also have a herniated cervical disc, but riding the bike seems to not aggravate it. YYMV, of course.
A lot of people ride road bikes with varying degrees of back and neck health. Key is to find a position that won't aggravate existing problems. Me personally, my neck doesn't like a lot of drop. My back is bit more robust. So I ride with a bit higher bar position but my bar well out in front which creates an average 45 degree torso position on the hoods. This is the most comfortable position for me and makes the drops a lot more usable. If I ride with either more drop or bar closer in, I am less comfortable.

Last edited by Campag4life; 12-27-12 at 09:21 PM.
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Old 12-28-12, 11:20 AM
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Is riding in the "Drops" the lowest portion of a drop handle bar or riding on top of the Brake/shifter assembly?
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Old 12-28-12, 11:27 AM
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riding on the "Brake/shifter assembly" is riding on the hoods. Riding on the "lowest portion of a drop handle bar" is riding on the drops.
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Old 12-29-12, 09:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Campag4life View Post
There are many misconceptions comparing a drop bar to a flat bar bike. Generally for the same cockpit a flat bar bike has a 30-50mm longer cockpit..mine differ by 40mm.
Typically a flat bar bike will be set up with a slightly higher handlebar. The equation should be made between grips of the flat bar versus hoods on a drop bar...not the tops. Tops will be closer positioned on a drop bar road bike.

The last misconception is that a higher and closer in handlebar will be more comfortable for those with spine issues. Not neccesarily so. A more upright handlebar position places the spine in greater compression and this many times aggravates neck and back issues for those predisposed. So it is a balance between minimizing spine compression but not approaching maximum back lumbar flexion and neck extension aka neck angle. This takes practice and working on your posture on the bike.
The only way to learn about the best position in particular for a sensitive person with spine issues is to try every permutation of fit. This isn't cheap and takes quite a commitment of time. You won't arrive to this point by a single professional fitting. There really isn't a short cut to becoming the best and most comfortable rider you can be. Many if not most quit before they achieve this...or settle on a substandard position. But for those with the tenacity and resolve, they are rewarded with more smiles per mile and greater efficiency/speed.
Excellent post...I agree 100%. Ive had significant lower back surgery and of course while the symptoms are different from upper back/neck pain, I have NO difficulty riding a road bike and love the drops. I believe that for people with any range of back pain that the road bike design with drop bars offers significant advantages but you must be willing to try different positions and fits.
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Old 06-10-14, 10:58 AM
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First off, thanks for all the replies. It truly means a lot to a newbie like myself. I took the examples listed above and tried something out that really worked well for me. Here is what I ended up doing. I went to my local bike shop and had them set me up on a new bike.

I went with a TREK 7.1 entry level flat bar road bike(has no shocks) because I didnt know what would happen or if I could even ride.

The cost was inexpensive so I had less to lose.

I had them install an adjustable neck for more variations and it was only $30 and they installed it for me. That was a great move! It gives you many variations to accommodate for neck and back problems.

I had them replace the grips with a grip that has a large surface area to lay your palms flat on. It disperses the load bearing area of your hands instead of just the round grips.


This is an entry level bike but it is soo smooth shifting and riding that I may never need more than this.........maybe.

I added the bar end handles to change up my riding position even more and a bar end mirror.


I LOVE this bike. I really enjoy riding on my paved trail here and I may be ready to move on to a full-on road bike! The additional 2 water bottle holders and quick release rear fender and it was still less than $600 with every accessory I added.

I just wanted to thank the guys at BikeLine of Allentown PA for taking their time and being patient with my questions. They are definetly a class act and will always have my business.
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Old 06-10-14, 11:35 AM
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In general, the riding on "the hoods" is typically lower than a flat-bar bike. The top, would be similar to a flat bar bike (although potentially slightly lower), with a slight handling disadvantage due to the narrow width.

On a flat bar bike, the handle bars are typically set for a riding position similar to the tops. This is generally based on rider preference, so there's no reason you couldn't match the typical hood position. Bar-ends shown above, add a 2nd significantly more upright position.

Traditionally, flat bar bikes have been heavy with wide slow tires. Newer models really blur the line by offering flat bars on carbon frame bikes with narrow road tires.
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Old 06-10-14, 11:43 AM
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Congratulations on the new bike!

My wife loves her Trek FX. It's plenty fast and she likes the more upright position. I put barends on her bike for the extra hand position, too.

Years ago, there was a young guy that would join our group rides on his FX. He was a very fast rider who had no trouble at all staying with us; he could have dropped all of us, I'm sure.
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Old 06-10-14, 12:10 PM
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The flat back, tucked in position is appropriate for a racer - a pro doesn't spend much time in the saddle. Its all about aerodynamics to maximize power and to cut down on time for a win. Speed is the priority for a pro athlete and a competition road bike is designed and built with it in mind.

Most people - folks who just ride - want comfort and not pure speed so today's consumer level road bikes are set up to allow a heads up position even when riding drop bars. This is good not only for one's back, arms and hands but also allows one to look in all directions, an important safety benefit in an urban environment. The idea is if one isn't going to race, a road bike should be built to let you have fun and take in the views no matter your fitness level or where you intend to ride.
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Old 06-10-14, 12:23 PM
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I have those ergon grips on my fx 7.2 as well and they are awesome, best $30 upgrade. However I decided to go full on road bike since I am doing 20+ miles, want more hand positions, gears etc.. That bike will serve you well, enjoy!
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Old 06-10-14, 12:49 PM
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Originally Posted by NormanF View Post
The flat back, tucked in position is appropriate for a racer - a pro doesn't spend much time in the saddle. Its all about aerodynamics to maximize power and to cut down on time for a win. Speed is the priority for a pro athlete and a competition road bike is designed and built with it in mind.

Most people - folks who just ride - want comfort and not pure speed so today's consumer level road bikes are set up to allow a heads up position even when riding drop bars. This is good not only for one's back, arms and hands but also allows one to look in all directions, an important safety benefit in an urban environment. The idea is if one isn't going to race, a road bike should be built to let you have fun and take in the views no matter your fitness level or where you intend to ride.
That has got to be in the top 5 most absurd things I've read on BF.

So... a few 2,000+ mile stage races, even more 800-1,000 mile races, hundreds of thousands of feet of climbing, and training year round isn't a lot of time in the saddle?
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Old 06-10-14, 12:58 PM
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Originally Posted by kv501 View Post
That has got to be in the top 5 most absurd things I've read on BF.

So... a few 2,000+ mile stage races, even more 800-1,000 mile races, hundreds of thousands of feet of climbing, and training year round isn't a lot of time in the saddle?
Road bike saddles are thin and not meant to support the sit bones. Pro racers spend little time seated. They usually get up and try to get as much power from spinning than they do from actual riding. There is no such constraint on most cyclists who ride on normal bike saddles.
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Old 06-10-14, 02:39 PM
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I have a flatbar road bike and have it set up so the bar is about halfway between where the tops of drop bars and drops would be. So it's not as upright as sitting on the tops and not as low as in the drops. It's about the same as on the hoods in terms of seating position, but it's a little closer in.

The main reason I don't ride it much is that the shifters aren't that great and there aren't that many to choose from. The flatbar market is dominated by hybrids (which use mtb groupsets).
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Old 06-10-14, 02:45 PM
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Originally Posted by trigger1911 View Post
First off, thanks for all the replies. It truly means a lot to a newbie like myself. I took the examples listed above and tried something out that really worked well for me. Here is what I ended up doing. I went to my local bike shop and had them set me up on a new bike.

I went with a TREK 7.1 entry level flat bar road bike(has no shocks) because I didnt know what would happen or if I could even ride.

The cost was inexpensive so I had less to lose.

I had them install an adjustable neck for more variations and it was only $30 and they installed it for me. That was a great move! It gives you many variations to accommodate for neck and back problems.

I had them replace the grips with a grip that has a large surface area to lay your palms flat on. It disperses the load bearing area of your hands instead of just the round grips.


This is an entry level bike but it is soo smooth shifting and riding that I may never need more than this.........maybe.

I added the bar end handles to change up my riding position even more and a bar end mirror.


I LOVE this bike. I really enjoy riding on my paved trail here and I may be ready to move on to a full-on road bike! The additional 2 water bottle holders and quick release rear fender and it was still less than $600 with every accessory I added.

I just wanted to thank the guys at BikeLine of Allentown PA for taking their time and being patient with my questions. They are definetly a class act and will always have my business.
Maybe just nit picking but, the 7.1 is a hybrid. Now, the FX 7.7, for example, is a flat bar road bike.
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Old 06-10-14, 02:47 PM
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As someone who came from mountain bikes in my younger days to road bikes with drop bars and a few fixies with risers bars, bullhorns and drops I find that having drop bars with brake hoods is the best option simply because it gives you the most hand positions. Why limit yourself to one position when you can have 3 or 5 or more depending on where you move your hands on the bars.

Drop bars doesn't automatically equal bent over aero racing bike position. Many people have road and touring bikes with upright positions by having a stack of spacers and upward angled stems:

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Old 06-10-14, 03:06 PM
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OP, congrats.

Others, please stop saying flat bars have one hand position. OP's bike clearly has bar ends.

Oh, and mid to high end MTB shifters shift as well or better than mid range road. I would pick my SRAM X9 over my 105 every day of the week, and twice on Sundays.
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Old 06-10-14, 03:22 PM
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Originally Posted by RollCNY View Post
OP, congrats.

Others, please stop saying flat bars have one hand position. OP's bike clearly has bar ends.

Oh, and mid to high end MTB shifters shift as well or better than mid range road. I would pick my SRAM X9 over my 105 every day of the week, and twice on Sundays.
That's what happens when you don't read the entire thread. Yes bar ends give you another position, yes Trek 7.1 is a nice bike and yes there is such a thing as a flat bar road bike.
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