When it comes to bike handlebars, you have two main options; flat bar vs. drop bar. Which one is better? Well, the answer varies based on the riding terrain and the rider’s personal preferences.
For beginners, flat bars are more comfortable as they are easy to maneuver and handle. The drop bars, on the other hand, provide better palm comfort. Moreover, with flat bars, you will have an upright riding position, and with drop bars, you will give an aerodynamic advantage.
Let’s dive deep and see in detail which one between the flat vs. drop bars will fit right for your everyday riding.
Table of Contents
What Is a Flat Bar?
As the name says, flat bars are simple straight handlebars without curved edges. They are lightweight and mostly made of aluminum or steel. You ride a flat bar cycle in an upright position which is quite comfortable.
What Is a Drop Bar?
Drop bars have curved handles which are bent downwards. The main advantage of drop bars is they allow versatile hand positions and give an aerodynamic advantage when you ride at high speed.
Flat Bar Vs. Drop Bar: 5 Primary Differences
The design is the primary difference that separates the two types. The flat bar has a more simple and straight design, whereas the drop bar is curved, allowing you to have different ways of holding the handlebar.
Apart from these, there are other dimensions that set the two apart. Let’s check out the five major differences between drop handlebars vs. flat ones.
The first difference we can notice between a flat bar vs. drop bar is the riding posture. With a flat bar, you will have an upright riding posture. It does not require much flexibility and is more comfortable. Especially if you are carrying a backpack or your sports gear, a flat bar handle will be better for you.
The drop-bar will require you to lean forward while riding. You will be in a horizontal position offering you more aerodynamics which is better for riding at a faster speed. Riding a drop-bar bike is best for pro riders since they are comfortable with bending and leaning for an extended time.
Verdict- if you need a comfortable posture go for the flat bars. If you care more about the aerodynamic advantage, drop bars are the ideal choice for you.
The difference in holding position
This goes unsaid as hand position is the first thing one will notice between flat bars vs. drops bars. You can hold the flat bar in just one way, but the drop bar allows you to hold it in three different ways.
The drop-bar lets you hold it in the hood, drop, or top positions. Hence, a rider gets more variety while riding, and it’s better for maneuvering.
Verdict– For riders seeking versatile hand positions, drop bars are for you. If you are fine with a single-hand position, a flat bar will work perfectly for you.
But you can use attach bar extensions like the Profile Designs Boxer Bar End on your flat bar to get the same versatile hand positions as drop bars.
The difference in balance and stability
If your riding sessions include more bumpy roads, a flat bar will be an ideal choice for you. Flat bars are wider, which is best for stability. However, drop bars provide better stability in speed riding. You can use the Ergon GP1 handlebar grips for a better grasp.
You will never see a drop handlebar in mountain bikes as they can’t provide the stability and balance you require in such terrains.
Moreover, flat bars are wider so they have enough space to mount things but this is not the same in the case of drop bars. But thanks to handlebar extensions like Yizhet Bike Handlebar Extender you can attach it on your drop bar and mount necessary things like GPS, torch, phone, etc.
Verdict: Urban commuters should go for flat bar bikes and riders more interested in racing or high-speed biking should get drop-bar bicycles.
Between the two, the drop offers more speed solely for the reason that you can go much lower in such bikes, which gives more aerodynamics. Riding in the hoods or drops means that you will catch less wind allowing you to ride at a faster pace using less energy.
However, the aerodynamic advantage will be prominent only when you ride at 15.5 mph or faster. Drop bars also give you better maneuverability at high speed. But if you use the bike for everyday commuting, a flat bar would be better. The wide handles provide more stability in traffic or maneuver around obstacles.
Verdict: Drop bars are best for experienced riders seeking optimum speed. If speed is secondary and you need one for everyday commuting, flat bars will be best for you.
You can’t hold a flat handlebar with versatile positions. Hence, even if your arms get a bit tired after a tedious ride, you’ll have to bear with it. This is not the case with drop bars, as it lets you change between three holding positions.
Verdict: For beginners who don’t have much experience riding with different hand positions, a flat bar will be your ideal choice.
If you can’t ride with a single position for long, pick a drop-bar handle. You can also use clip-on aero bars like the Profile Design Legacy II Aerobars for a more relaxed riding experience.
Flat Bars And Drop Bars: Pros And Cons
From the above pointers, you must have understood the difference between the two. If you are still not sure which one will fit best for your needs, here are some pros and cons of flat bars and drop bars. Check these out to make a final decision.
Pros and Cons of Flat Bar
|Flat bars are wider hence providing a more controlled grip||Allows only one hand position. This may be uncomfortable during long rides.|
|Brake livers are easy to reach||Due to its wider structure, passing through the narrow lanes may be difficult.|
|Flat bars are positioned higher, so you don’t have to bend while riding.||You face a lot of wind resistance.|
|Flat bar components are cheaper and easily available||Not suitable for riding in elevated terrains.|
|There is a lot of space to mount things.|
|You get better visibility because of the upright riding position in flat bars.|
|Flat bars are easy to repair and less costly as well.|
Pros and Cons of Drop Bars
|You get versatile hand positions, so long rides are easier and more comfortable.||Drop bars are difficult to maneuver at a slow speed.|
|Gives you an aerodynamic advantage; therefore, these are comfortable for riding at high speed.||Brake livers are difficult to reach. You’ll have to change your hand position to reach the brakes.|
|You can cover more distance using less energy||Drop bars are expensive and complicated to repair|
|Drop bars are narrower than flat bars meaning passing through narrow lanes won’t be an issue.||There isn’t enough space to mount things on drop bars.|
Are Aero Drop Bars More Comfortable Than Flat Bars?
Aero drop bars allow different hand positions, which is better for long rides. But you have to lean forward riding a drop bar cycle which is not very comfortable for slow and new riders.
What Is A Flat Handlebar?
As the name says, a flat handlebar is a straight handlebar without any bends. These have a slight back sweep angle to provide a better grip.
Can I Change My Drop Handlebars To Straight Ones?
Yes, you can change your drop handlebars to straight ones. There are some hybrid bike models which allow modifications.
Why Do Bikes Have Curved Handlebars?
Bikes have curved handlebars to allow versatile hand positions. With a curved handlebar, you can switch between three positions- hood, drop, and top position.
Flat Bar Vs Drop Bar Summary
Both drop bar and flat bar gravel bikes have their own advantages and disadvantages. Which one you pick depends on your riding style, comfort, and the average distance you cover regularly. Hopefully, this extensive guide helps you come to a conclusion and get your hands on your favorite handlebars.