QUESTION: Are drop bars better? I want to start riding again, but I’m thinking about buying a flat bar hybrid bike instead because it seems easier and more comfortable. What do you think? – Thomas P
ANSWER: Flat bar hybrid road bikes can be very appealing to riders who are just starting out or coming back to riding a bicycle after a long time away. You generally get a more upright position, and it’s very straightforward to just hold the handlebars where the grips are, putting your hands right next to the brake levers, which feels very stable. So there’s nothing wrong with flat bars.
Even so, there’s a reason why road bikes (and most gravel bikes) tend to have drop bars. And some of it is directly related to comfort, which you mention. Where a flat bar only gives you that one position with your hand on the grips, a drop bar gives you many potential positions. You can ride with your hands on the tops of the handlebars, resting on the brake hoods, or down in the drops. On longer rides, having the option to alternate between different positions is often more comfortable than being stuck in a single hand position as with flat bars.
Riding drop bars can give you an aerodynamic benefit as well, particularly in the drops or with your hands on the brake hoods. So if you’re riding with others, it might be easier to keep up. And if you’re riding alone and want to keep a faster average speed, drop bars will help you there too.
If you plan to ride more than 20 miles at a time, then you should at least consider drop bars.
I suggest test riding both types of bikes at your local bike shop before you make a final decision.
Drop bares are great and I have ridden them for 58 years. About 2 years ago I discovered that, due to arthritis, it was extremely painful to squeeze the brake lever, especially on a long twisty decent. I could not safely ride hills any more. I decided to try a flat bar and had my LBS make the switch. I am now back to riding and do not experience pain while braking. For me flat bars have a place on road bikes.
Road Bike Rider says
Great point that I had not considered! Thanks for the comment.
Bar ends can be attached to flat bar bikes to allow more hand positions.
I have two bikes. My dirt (off road) bike has flat bars because that’s the way it came. My road bike has drop bars. Both bars have the same height relative to the saddle so I don’t experience discomfort on either bike in that respect. However, when riding the dirt bike there is only one hand position and I find it tiring not to be able to move my hands around as I do on the road bike.
After riding drop bars for MANY years, I rented a flat bar bike while on vacation one year, Fortunately, it was only for a few hours.
The things mentioned in your article are true, The different hand positions on drop bars make them my preference for sure.
Si little says
The Jones bar and some of Rivendell’s offer different hand positions. No personal experience as I tour and ride with drops, just set to match saddle height.