Pros and Cons » Flat Bar vs. Drop Bar in Cycling
There are different types of handlebars available on bikes, but flat bars and drop bars tend to be riders’ all-time favorites. Choosing between the two is a tad difficult because they’re both equally efficient in different ways.
In bikes, Drop bars offer more leverage for hand positions which results in palm comfort. They even provide a swifter ride compared to flat bars. The flat bars, however, are easier to handle and offer a better, upright riding position to the rider.
In this article, I’m going to outline the pros and cons of both flat and drop handlebars for you, so you may have an easy time deciding the one for your bike.
What Is a Flat Bar?
As the name suggests, a flat bar is flat in shape and is only slightly bent at a certain angle to provide a firm grip. It is quite easy to ride in towns and cities and for a short distance — preferably from home to the grocery store and back.
The flat bars are super easy to maneuver and are preferred for everyday cycling. Additionally, they offer more balance and control in high-speed situations because they’re easy to handle.
They are wider and straighter than drop bars, which is why they offer a more upright riding position for cyclists.
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What Is a Drop Bar?
Drop bars have a more curly or bent look. They’re narrower and flat from the center and let the rider hold the curly bits. Since they’re curled downwards, a rider has to bend forward to have a better grip on the handles.
This forward bent position offers a swifter ride, making the cyclists travel at high speeds. They resemble the classic look of a road bike, making the riders appear all sporty.
Compared to flat bars, drop bars are not as comfortable and easy to handle.
Difference Between a Flat Bar And a Drop Bar
|Flat Bars||Drop Bars|
|Offer a single-hand position, and the rider has to maintain an upright posture.||Offer three hand positions: drops, hoods, and tops, making the rider crouch down in a forward-bending position.|
|The parts are readily available all over the world, and the repair work is cheaper.||The parts are expensive, prone to wear and tear, and are not readily available, which makes maintenance difficult.|
|Offer more control and stability because they are wider and easier to grip.||They are difficult to control because they are narrower and not so easy to grip.|
|Difficult to fit through narrow spots because they are quite wide.||Easy to fit through congested spaces because they are quite narrow.|
|Riding them in an upright position reduces aerodynamic leverage and increases wind drag.||Riding them in a crouched position gives more aerodynamic advantage and reduces wind drag.|
This table shows the difference between flat bars and drop bars in bicycles.
Which is Better: Flat Bar or Drop Bar?
Flat bars are easier to handle at high speeds and offer better control while maintaining an upright position for the rider. Drop bars, however, offer more hand positions: drops, hoods, and tops, but you need to bend forward to drive them, which is uncomfortable.
Comfort is subjective to each rider, so the final decision depends on personal preference.
If riding at high speeds is your thing, then drop bars will certainly fit the bill for you, but if you need to ride a bike for daily commuting, then flat bars should be your first choice.
Flat bars are also suitable for riding on rocky terrains because they offer better control and stability, resembling mountain bikes.
However, drop bars are more versatile and provide more palm comfort. You can always change hand positions if you get tired of riding in a single position over long commutes.
What Are the Pros of Flat Bars?
Next, I’ll discuss some pros of flat bars. Here are some of them:
#1 Better Control
As I’ve already mentioned a few times, flat bars offer better control and stability as they are easier to grip, and since they are wider than drop bars, there’s more leverage to navigate in high-traffic areas at slow speeds.
Most MTBs have flat bars because they make it easier to steer through different terrains and speed ranges.
#2 More Comfort and Upright Position
Flat handlebars are perfect for traveling long commutes because they are easy on the palms.
They are generally placed higher than drop bars, which makes the rider sit upright on the saddle. This makes them put more pressure on their rear instead of their hands.
In this position, not only do your hands feel comfortable, but your neck, back, and arms also feel at ease.
The flat bars have a firmer grip, which makes them easier to hold for long periods, and your hands stay in a more natural position this way.
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#3 Better Visibility
You have a better vision of the road and traffic ahead of you while sitting in an upright position on a bike with a flat handlebar.
In addition, you do not have to bend your back or look downward to ride your bike, which offers enhanced visibility and better control.
Not only do you have a clearer vision with flat bars, but you also get to ride more safely.
#4 Better for New Riders
With enhanced control, easier maneuverability, and better safety, flat handlebars are a preferred choice among new cycling enthusiasts.
For those of you who have recently ventured into bike riding, flat bars are a great option to have a fun and safe cycling experience.
#5 Cheap Components and Easy Availability
Flat bars are the most hassle-free handlebars. They are up for purchase at affordable prices and are readily available in all parts of the world. Even the durability isn’t compromised by the price as much.
You can fit in whatever manufacturing brand’s part you find, and it will most definitely work for your mountain bike.
If you’re in a different part of the world, where you’re unaware of good repair shops, even then, you can grab a component easily, so that’s the cherry on top.
#6 Better Safety With Easily Accessible Brake Levers
The flat bars offer great safety with their easy-to-reach brake levers. If you’re in a tight traffic situation, you can easily press the brakes without having to move your hand.
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What Are the Cons of Flat Bars?
#1 Single-Hand Position
Cycling for long distances can get tiring, and riders may want to shift their hand positions to rest their palms and arms.
The flat bars are limiting in this aspect as they only have a single-hand position, which tires a cyclist easily.
This is the biggest reason why riders refrain from purchasing bikes with flat bars.
#2 Less Speed
The flat bars don’t allow riders to bend down in a forward-facing position. Compared to the drop bars, they do not offer a great aerodynamic range.
Once you’ve driven both bikes, you’ll feel a significant difference in both their speeds.
The upright position creates a lot of drag for riders and makes them move at slower speeds.
#3 Not Suitable for Climbing Hills
With a flat bar, you can push through only so much, and that limits the effort in climbing on hills. With a drop bar, you can put your weight on the handlebars and exert more pressure to climb uphills.
But that is not feasible with flat bars because they require you to sit in an upright position which reduces pedal leverage.
#4 Difficult to Pass Through Narrow Gaps
Since flat bars are 200 mm wider than drop bars, it is relatively difficult to move them through high-traffic areas, congested streets, or places where there’s not much space available.
This is limiting at times and can be frustrating for the rider to move out of tiny spaces.
#5 Not Aesthetically Pleasing
Drop bars are generally cooler looking and pleasing to the eyes. There’s more oomph to them than flat bars, and people who are big on aesthetics may not find flat bars appealing.
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What Are the Pros of Drop Bars?
#1 More Hand Positions
Drop bars provide three hand positions: drops, hoods, and tops. Once you’ve ridden the bike for a long time in a single-hand position, you can easily shift to a different position to rest your palms.
Multiple hand position is one of the biggest selling points of drop bars.
#2 More Aerodynamic Range
Drop bars give you an option to crouch down on the handlebars and drive at high speeds, reducing the wind drag.
This position offers more leverage and cuts down on the energy required to move at high speed, eventually increasing the aerodynamic advantage.
#3 Easier to Fit Through Congested Spots
The drop bars are narrower than flat bars, which makes them ideal for fitting through narrow alleys and tight traffic areas.
It is easier to pull them out of congested spots, reducing a rider’s frustration, which in my opinion, is a great advantage.
#4 Better to Climb Hills
When you aim to climb hills, you have to put your weight forward on the handlebars to exert more energy. The drop bars give you an edge to crouch down and push forward to climb upwards.
Flat bars, on the other hand, only offer an upright position which hinders the process.
After leaning forward, you get better leverage for pedaling, which further facilitates the uphill climbing endeavor.
#5 Cover More Distance in Less Time
As I’ve mentioned earlier, drops allow you to travel at higher speeds than flats. You get to cover more ground with the same effort that you would put into moving a flat bar bike.
They have a more aerodynamic advantage and lesser drag, which pushes a rider farther and faster than a flat bar would.
#6 Look Cool
If you’re someone who falls for looks when it comes to buying bikes, then drop bars are your thing. They are super cool and look even more aesthetically pleasing with their dropped handles.
What Are the Cons of Drop Bars?
#1 Expensive Parts
The cool looks come with the price of having to purchase more expensive parts. Compared to flat bar bikes, drop bar bikes employ different shifters and brakes.
In general, drop bar shifters and brake levers are more expensive than flat bar parts.
Certain pieces of equipment can cost up to three times as much. My best assumption for why this is the case: since drop bar bikes are more expensive on average, component prices may be higher.
#2 Brake Lever Is Harder to Reach
You might need to adjust your hand position on the handlebars if you have to use the brakes rapidly in an emergency.
For instance, if a car pulls out in front of you while you are riding with your hands on the top of the handlebars, you will need to rapidly drop your hands down the bars to grab the brakes.
With flat bars, this additional motion would not be required. When there is an emergency, every second counts.
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Additionally, some cyclists just dislike how drop bars position their brakes, and it affects safety too.
There are possible fixes for this issue, but they will cost you bucks. Brake levers, for instance, can be mounted on the flat part of the bars. You can also purchase brake lever extenders or dual brake levers.
#3 Lesser Control and Stability
Given their narrower shape, drop bars are difficult to maneuver and control. As a result, they offer less stability and leverage to control the bike in heavy traffic areas or while riding at high speeds.
Additionally, the hard-to-reach brakes also become a headache for riders. They have to put in extra effort to press the brake levers in town traffic, where they need to slow down frequently.
#4 More Fragile
Not only are the drops expensive, but they’re also prone to wear and tear. Compared to flats, they’re more fragile and break easily.
If you are using STI or integrated levers, they are much more fragile and break apart easily.
This is not only frustrating but also heavy on the pocket.
#5 Less Comfortable With Casual Clothing
Believe it or not, but to have an optimal riding experience with drops, you need to wear proper bike riding gear.
Casual clothes, office wear or any informal clothing will give you a hard time riding on a drop handlebar.
This means you need to invest time to get ready before setting off on your journey for a bike ride.
#6 Less Visibility
Another downside to riding drops is that you have to keep your face downward.
With a crouching position, you can’t help but look more toward the ground than look at the traffic ahead of you. This factor puts rider safety at risk and hampers control in high-traffic situations.
This was all about the pros and cons of flat bars and drop bars. I have tried to cover all the possible aspects in this blog to help you choose the best handlebar for yourself when you go bike shopping.