In the biking world, the handlebars you use make a difference. Drop bars are more frequently seen on road bicycles, while flat bars are often used in mountain bikes. What are the advantages of each? How do you tell the difference, and which one is right for you?
|#1. Drop Bar
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|#2. Flat Bar
#1. Drop Bar
A drop bar is designed with multiple different hand positions. If you ride a lot, or you ride for long periods of time, it’s important to have a variety of different places where you can grip the bars. This helps to keep your hands from becoming fatigued. For those who commute to and from work, the multiple hand positions of a drop bar can be very helpful.
There are three hand positions on a pair of drop bars. You can grip the drops, the bars themselves, or the hoods.
A drop bar is also more aerodynamically designed. If you prefer to hit high speeds with an advantage, you’ll appreciate the extra help that the drop bar gives you with accelerating and maintaining fast speeds. Once you get to speeds of sixteen miles per hour or higher, the drop bar’s aerodynamic design begins offering a distinct advantage by preventing drag against the bike.
The aerodynamic design also makes a difference for long distance bikers. With a drop bar, if you’re at the top of a descent, you can often coast to the bottom without needing to pedal because the drag doesn’t slow the bike down. If you bike several miles at a time, or you often climb tough terrain with a lot of hills, a drop bar can be vital to saving your energy.
There are other advantages that make a drop bar good for tough terrain, too. They tend to be good for climbing steep ascents. If you’re pedaling up a rough hill or mountain, you can increase your leverage by shifting your hands to the hoods or the drops instead of the bars. Doing this positions your body in such a way that you can transfer additional power to your pedals. The new body position is also more aerodynamic than the typical seated position, meaning you’ll face less wind resistance during the climb.
A drop bar is also significantly more narrow in design than a flat bar. This means that you can squeeze through tighter spots on a trail or in traffic. Drop bars conserve energy overall, which means that you can ride for longer distances with the same amount of energy you’d use for a flat bar.
#2. Flat Bar
A flat bar is a great option for short distance riders or those who want to have an increased degree of control. Though they don’t conserve energy as well as a drop bar, they offer a significant increase in your overall control of the bike. If you’re riding off road, the wider handlebar design allows you to get more leverage and maintain your balance over rough terrain. It’s also easier to control your front wheel.
Flat bars tend to be standard fare on mountain bikes. Because they don’t have the same aerodynamic advantage, they’re also more affordable. The trade off in aerodynamics is worth it if you don’t bike a lot or race. Mountain biking gear tends to be much cheaper than road biking, since road bikes are typically designed for performance racing.
Regardless of where you go throughout the world, you can always find parts that will work with a flat bar. Every basic bike shop and sporting store with bike components will have brake levers, cables, and other equipment that’s compatible. Though these might not have the same quality as the parts made by the flat bar manufacturer, they do cut down on the costs of having official parts shipped overseas.
Flat bars also have much easier maintenance requirements than drop bars. Since you don’t have to work with any bar tape, it’s easy to change the cables even if you don’t have a mechanical background. In addition, a flat bar gives you immediate access to the brake lever. You don’t have to move your hands if there’s an emergency that requires fast braking.
Another thing to keep in mind is whether you want to mount any equipment onto the handlebars. With a flat bar, you have significantly more space for your accessories. You might want a reflector, mirror, light, harness, basket, and even computer technology. A drop bar would force you to pick and choose, but a flat bar can hold all of those accessories.
With a flat bar, you also ride in a more upright position. This reduces the amount of stress on your neck, arms, and back. The bar also tends to offer greater comfort for your hands, especially if you add ergonomic grips. All of this means that a flat bar is a superior option for a more casual rider.
A flat bar can also make you more visible to the average driver or pedestrian. With a drop bar, you tend to bend over. A flat bar has a more upright position, so you can look around.
Flat bars and drop bars both have distinct advantages. The right one for you really depends on your needs.
If your main focus is on performance and speed, then the drop bar has aerodynamic advantages that can’t be beaten. It’s great for performance cyclers, racers, and long distance bikers.
On the other hand, if you’re a more casual biker who prefers comfort and traditional styling, a flat bar will give you everything you need. Flat bars also offer a higher degree of control over the bike, making them superior in offroading and mountain biking challenges.