Are you trying to find a handlebar for your bike? It starts with first comparing the flat bar vs drop bar and choosing between them.
We’re going to look at what they are, who they suit, and their key differences in this post. Additionally, we’ll look at their pros and cons as well as the conversion from a flat bar to a drop bar.
Flat Bar Vs Drop Bar – What Are They?
What’s A Flat Bar?
From the name, a flat bar is a type of bicycle handlebar with a flat design. The handlebar doesn’t bend and requires you to ride in an upright position.
So, it’s generally excellent when riding over a short distance. Also, a flat bar is comfortable to manoeuver, and so it suits newbie riders.
But still, its ability to encourage upright cycling makes it also suitable for off-road riders. So, get a flat bar gravel bike if you are an off-road biker.
What’s A Drop Bar?
As a result, drop bars suit long-distance on-road cyclists.
Drop bars are generally popular with high-end bikes, and so they tend to be more expensive than flat bars.
Also Read: Best Cup Holder For Bike Handlebars
Comparing The Two Handlebars
Let’s examine the two handlebars under the following factors:
- Hand Position
Flat bars generally have a one-hand position, which is irrefutably their biggest drawback. The problem with a one-hand position is that you are likely to suffer hand numbness and wrist paid if you cycle for long.
Unlike flat bars, drop bars have a three-hand position. You can hold the handlebar on its hood, drops, and the main bar. That reduces the risk of hand numbness and wrist paid when cycling long distances.
Most standard drop bar handlebars are about 40-60 cm wide compared to flat bars, which are roughly 58-60 cm wide. That makes drop bars about 20 cm narrower, and that counts for something.
If, for example, you want to ride on a narrow path, you may have an easy time with a bike drop bar than a flat bar. That’s more important if you commute to work and you have to negotiate heavy traffic.
- Bike Control
Given that drop bars are narrower, you don’t have the flexibility of turning as quickly as you would shift a flat bar.
The other issue is that you lean forward, placing a part of your weight on the bar, and that makes a drop bar less maneuverable.
So, unless you ride slow, you cannot have better bike control with a drop bar as you would with a flat bar.
There’ll always be some form of air resistance when riding fast. Typically, the quicker you go, the more the air resistance.
However, the two handlebars respond differently to air resistance. Overall, the shape of a drop bar makes it more aerodynamic than a flat bar.
What it means is that bike drop bars are likelier to resist air drag to help bikers ride at high speed. The experience is more evident when riding downhill against the strong wind.
- Accessory Mounting
Unfortunately, you don’t have such an advantage with a drop bar. A drop bar only allows you to attach a few accessories because it’s narrower.
The good news, though, is that you can fix the issue with a handlebar extender like this one by Yizhet.
- Road Visibility
Given that your body tends to shift forward when riding a drop handlebar bike, there is always the danger of focusing downward instead of the front. So, your road visibility can be interfered with easily.
With a flat bar, however, you assume an upright cycling position, which means you always look ahead. As a result, it becomes easy to see the road clearly and avoid crashes.
- Ground Cover
The aerodynamic advantage of a drop bar allows you to cover more ground while spending less energy than someone riding a flat-bar bike.
So, if you are looking to cycle for long-distance and save on energy, then you should switch to a drop bar.
- Brake Leveler Accessibility
If you are to make an emergency stop, you may have a hard time on a drop-bar bike than a flat-bar bike. That’s because the brake levelers, unfortunately, are not easily accessible on a drop bar like a flat bar.
You may also find the brake leveler positioning on drop handlebars to be uncomfortable, especially when you are a newbie. You can, however, fix the issue by mounting the brake leveler on the drop bar’s front part.
- Hill Climbing
Riding uphill is never easy. You have to shift forward and slightly lean on the handlebar. Luckily, a drop bar allows you to do just that but with an advantage.
As you lean forward, you gain more pedal leverage. So, it becomes easy to concentrate more power on your foot to enable you to conquer hills.
Unfortunately for flat pedals, you don’t have that much leverage. So, you are likely to burn out by the time you get at the top of a hill.
- Price and Availability
Price-wise, flat handlebars are cheaper than drop bars. It could be because flat bars are associated with high-end bikes.
Pros and Cons
Let’s now highlight the advantages and disadvantages of each handlebar.
Pros and Cons of a Flat Bar
- Generally cheaper than a drop bar
- Replacements parts are also readily available
- Brake levelers are more accessible on a flat bar handlebar
- You enjoy better bike control because of the bar’s broader dimension
- A flat-bar gives you more room for mounting biking accessories
- Allows you to ride upright and that improves your road visibility
- The cable housing is exposed, which means cable changing is easy
- Given that you ride in a flat handlebar road bike in an upright position, the bar doesn’t put much strain on the back
- Limited to a one-hand position, which can be uncomfortable when riding long distance
- Less aerodynamic than a drop bar
- Slightly wider thus not convenient on narrow strips
- Doesn’t allow you to cover as much ground as a drop down handlebar
- Doesn’t give you as much leverage as a drop bar when it comes to riding uphill
- The handlebar may not look at cool as a drop bar, thus associated with low-end cycles
Pros and Cons of a Drop Bar
- Provides you with three-hand positions, therefore flexible when riding long distance
- Gives you more leverage when riding uphill as you quickly shift your body forward
- More aerodynamic, which means you can cycle with minimal resistance against the strong wind
- Narrower, thus more suited to thin riding spots
- A drop bar mountain bike or road bike allows you to cover more ground
- Riding is more energy-efficient because of the aerodynamic advantage
- The curvy appearance of drop bars give them a ‘high-end bike cool’ appearance
- More expensive than flat bike handlebars
- Replacement parts are also slightly harder to find than those of a flat bar
- Brake levelers are less accessible
- You don’t have better control of the bike
- There’s limited space to attach biking accessories
- You may have poor road visibility because of taking a leaning cycling position
Flat Bar to Drop Bar Conversion
Do you have a flat-bar bike that you would want to convert into a drop bars bicycle? Well, that’s possible with a few adjustments.
Here are the things you’ll need to make the conversion:
- New brake levelers
- Bar tape
- New drop bars
- Bar-end shifters
- New stem
It’s important to note that converting a flat bar to a drop bar is a technical job, better suited to bike experts. The same goes for bicycle drop bars to flat bars conversion.
The Verdict – Which Handlebar is the Best?
There are so many things to like about both handlebars. So, deciding between a flat bar vs drop bar boils down to personal preference and type of cycling.
If you are a newbie rider or an off-road cyclist, you’ll find a flat bar to be a better pick. That’s because it allows you to ride in an upright position and gives you better bike control.
Also, bike levelers are easily accessible, and you have more room to mount accessories.
However, given that flat bars are limited to one-hand positions and are less aerodynamic, they are not suited to long-distance on-road cyclists. Such cyclists should instead go for drop bars.
Drop bars are not multi-positional and aerodynamic, but they are also energy-efficient and give you more leverage uphill and over a long distance.
To sum up, the decision about whether to go for a drop bar or a flat bar depends on what suits you most. You can refer to the flat bar vs drop bar pros and cons part when making the decision.
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