Drop vs Straight handlebars – your advice please

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Drop vs Straight handlebars – your advice please

Postby bigphil » 22 Jan 2007, 1:59pm

I’m getting a bike built for myself. I’ve had it specked out to be suitable for fully loaded touring and strong enough to go on trails. But first and foremost it will be used on the road.

I’ve got the option of having straight handle bars with bar ends or drop handlebars. I’ve never had a drop handle bar bike and I’m not sure if I’ll get on with them. The chap that’s building it is a road bike enthusiast and suggests drop handlebars as you have more positions. However I’ve always got on with straight handlebars.

Anyone care to share their experiences?

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Postby Si » 22 Jan 2007, 2:31pm

There is the old adage about drop bars having more positions. However, it isn't as straight forward as this.

For instance, on my drop barred bike the positions that I use for 90% of riding are: 1) on the hoods, 2) on the tops, 3) on the top corners of the bars (just behind the hoods), and for the other 10% 4) on the drops.

On my old flat barred (with 'L' bar-ends) tourer: 1) on the grips, 2) on the angle between bar and bar-end, 3) on side of bar-end, 4) on the front extension of bar-end with wrist on grip.

So that's 4-4 but one of the positions on the drop bars doesn't get used that often. Another point against drops is that the position that gives most control and best braking is the least comfortable position, whereas on the flat barrred bike the position with most control and best braking is a very comfortable position.

But drops can offer a more aero position, even if it isn't as comfie.

Another thing to consider: has the frame already been built? If so then putting the wrong bars on could make the reach wrong as flat barred frames tend to have a longer TT than drops (for the same desired reach).

But overall, I think that it just depends on what you have gotten used to over time - crusty old roadies will swear by drops, people who've started via the MTB/hybrid/city bike route will have more liking for flats. I use both in equal measure. I prefer drops on my faster bikes and flats on my more touring type of bikes (esp if they are used to take in off road bits).


Nose to the road

Postby Hugo » 22 Jan 2007, 4:50pm

I aleways found with drops that my nose was always closer to the road, so I was always trying to use it up that much more quickly.

When I decided not to challenge myself to speed and distance combined,
I got straights and I have never looked back to drop handle bars again.

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Postby thirdcrank » 22 Jan 2007, 5:03pm


I tend to echo what si says. I was a drop handlebars only man for years but now I have both. Bar ends certainly make a big difference in allowing a change of position. Climbing style can have an effect on this. If you are a sit and twiddle climber, then you may do a lot of your climbing with hands in the middle of the bars. Standing on the pedals needs a more forward position and bar ends are a help with straight bars. I have heard it said that bar ends are never fitted as original equipment on bikes for sale in the US to avoid litigation.

I think that part of the reason there are so many drop bar diehards in the UK is that years ago people rode the same bike for racing and club riding. It was common to ride to a race using everyday wheels with the wheels for the race carried on either side of the front wheel. Drops have become something of a tradition.

Finally, some mtb flat bars seem unnecessarily wide for road use. I have heard it said that wide bars give better control off-road. I have no idea about that but they can be a nuisance on road. I have a Cannondale with them and I sawed quite a bit off each end.

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Postby horizon » 22 Jan 2007, 5:42pm

bigphil: this might be pure speculation but I am sure I have seen it mentioned somewhere! The hand position for drops is thumbs up, that for straight bars is thumbs horizontal. The latter involves a twist (I think!) and then another lateral twist if the straight bar slightly bends towards you. I definitely prefer drops and am always pleased to get back to them after riding our tandem (straights) or my MTB (straights). Whether this has anything to do with the above I am not sure. I also carry full touring weight on all bikes with the same results.

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Postby Simon L6 » 22 Jan 2007, 6:00pm

I'm a convinced drop handlebar man for all but short trips.

Straights have the advantage in town. The control is better and the visibility is better - and you overlook, at your peril, that riding through strange towns is a constituent part of touring. That said - for carefree pootling along byways for mile after mile you can't beat the more relaxed, top of the hoods grip that you get with drops.

I'm not sure that your choice of forks (steel bad, carbon good) isn't as important though...

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Postby PH » 22 Jan 2007, 8:58pm

I have a set of Morphe Randonneur drop bars, the only ones I’ve ever used. By adding cyclo cross bar top levers I have all the positions I’d have on narrow straight bars, plus the drops. The only advantage I can see of straights is better brake choice and Rohloff shifters…

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Postby pwward » 22 Jan 2007, 10:06pm

I only have one bike. When I'm out in Northumbria on a country ride I am glad of my drops. When I'm commuting through Tyneside I keep wishing I'd opted for straight handlebars. I miss the precise control, decent brakes and faster gearshifting straight handlebars allow...but then I have another long ride and change my mind.

But my next bike will be have a rohloff hub and straights because mostly I'm a utility cyclist.


Postby reohn2 » 22 Jan 2007, 10:23pm

Its whatever strums your particular string, go with what you like,after all its you who'll be riding it.Whatever you do don't do what you think you should do,do what YOU want to do.

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Postby hubgearfreak » 22 Jan 2007, 10:30pm

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Postby bigphil » 23 Jan 2007, 9:47am

Hi Everyone

Thanks for all your advice.

I'm very tempted by the Midge bars, seems like the best of both worlds.


I'll do some further research on them later today and make my mind up.


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Postby Jac » 23 Jan 2007, 12:31pm

Bigphil - Have you considered some of the 'ergo' bars around.
I used to have drops on my touring bike but had more or less straight bars on my new bike which I found uncomfortable on long rides.
After looking around on the continent found these which give a range of positions and very comfortable for long distance and towns.

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Postby julk » 23 Jan 2007, 6:52pm

Those ergo bars look very comfy and offer many hand positions.
Which brand/model are they?
How easy was it to get the Rohloff twistshifter into position round all those bends?

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Postby Gavsdad » 23 Jan 2007, 7:47pm

Why have I got drops on my bikes?
I only ever use the tops/hoods, cannot remember when I last went down on the drops. Why don't I just cut the drops off and save the weight? (sounds like a nose-job on a cold day).

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Postby Si » 24 Jan 2007, 9:40am

Gavsdad wrote:Why have I got drops on my bikes?
I only ever use the tops/hoods, cannot remember when I last went down on the drops. Why don't I just cut the drops off and save the weight? (sounds like a nose-job on a cold day).

Well, in my case, if I cut the drops off I'd have nowhere to hang the bags of shopping :wink: