Flat Bar Vs. Drop Bar: Features, Pros and Cons

Bikes can come with either a flat or a drop handlebar. Learn the differences between both and which is best for your cycling needs.
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Last updatedLast updated: March 26, 2022
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Love for cycling is more than the thrill of the breeze through your hair when you ride. It’s also about your bike and its components. Talking about the type of bike (road bike, gravel, or mountain bike), the gears, tires, brakes, handlebar, seat, and stability, speed, balance, and so on are also involved. And when it comes to gravel bikes, flat bar vs. drop bar is a common debate. Most riders prefer the drop bar handlebar over the flat bar, while others prefer the latter over the former, and they have their different reasons why. But for those that might be new to riding or you are simply interested in what type of handlebar suits you best, then you have clicked the right article. In this article, or at least by the end of this guide, you would have understood the meaning and the whole idea behind the two different handlebars, as well as the differences between them. You would also be able to decide which is best for your riding with the guideline provided. So without any more story, let’s begin.

What is a flat bar?

Flat Bar Vs. Drop Bar: Features, Pros and Cons

A flat bar, as you should have observed, is a variation of a bike handlebar. It is named flat bar because of the way it looks.

It is a straight horizontal handlebar that goes across the front of the bike. And it is best for level steering. Note that a flat bar, like the Aurnoet MTB flat handlebar, is perfectly straight and not bent towards or away from the rider.

Although some variations can have tiny amounts of angling to allow the cyclist to ride in a comfortable position or to provide a better grip, this is the best handlebar for riding within cities and towns because it promotes leveled riding.
 It is all super great for those that want to ride short distances or ride alongside other cyclists for fun. A flat-bar has good control and has enough space to mount other bike accessories that you might want to add. It is also easy to clean since there are no bends or tight angles for the dust to get trapped in. Some people might not like this handlebar, though, because it is difficult to use only one hand to ride the bike, and though it is comfortable and widely spaced, it can be slow. That’s why we have drop bars for those that want a different option.

What is a drop bar?

Flat Bar Vs. Drop Bar: Features, Pros and Cons

Drop bars are the other type of bike handlebar we have, and some people (as we have out-rightly mentioned before) prefer this type to flat bars.

Drop bars are also named based on their design. It is a flat horizontal area in the middle, but the two ends on either side are bent. Now they can be bent downwards like the REDSHIFT Kitchen Sink Bike Drop Bar or upwards. Bikes with a drop bar have their brakes attached to each drop (or rise as the case may be). This is different for a flat bar where the brakes are parallel to the bar. Drop bars also have many sophisticated designs with variations at the top, the drops, and the hood. Though they are normally narrower than flat bars, you can find a drop bar that is about 18 inches wide. Drop bars allow for versatility with hand positioning and are best for climbing hills because they provide leverage for pedaling. However, they don’t allow for good control, so they aren’t the best option for beginners and new bike riders. They are also technical to maintain because drop bike handlebars’ mechanical components are unique and special to every bike. So they can be slightly hard to find and sometimes pricey.

What’s the difference?

Now that you have background knowledge of a flat bar and a drop bar, you should be able to beat your chest now and say you know about two to three differences. But in case you missed it in the body of the definitions above, here are six (6) differences between the two handlebars.

Hand position

Flat Bar Vs. Drop Bar: Features, Pros and Cons

Recall when we mentioned something about this? Yeah, some riders love to switch between hands while riding.

Others (especially if you are already a pro at riding) love versatility when it comes to hand positioning. Moving from the hood, the top, to the ends of the handlebar is only possible on a drop bar. Tension is decreased, and despite its narrowness, you can stretch your hands easily while cruising on your bike.

Flat bars, on the other hand, allow for only one hand position and so you cannot be able to flex your hands while riding.
However, this is best for new riders so that they can focus on other parts of riding, like pedaling. But for pros, this can be boring and can cause strain for your hands. Some riders who love other things about flat bars install bar ends to provide more space and prevent numbness while riding.

Posture

Flat Bar Vs. Drop Bar: Features, Pros and Cons

Many gravel bike riders prefer this type of handlebar because it allows them to be in the best position to navigate through the gravel.

When it comes to riding, you need to be in a comfortable position. These differences in position also determine the level of speed you can attain while riding. Bikes with flat bar handlebars allow you to be more upright and comfortable. You don’t need too much flexibility with this bike, and you can carry a backpack too. It is the best fit for school kids (by the way). Bikes with drop-bar handlebars allow you to lean forward instead of sitting upright. This position is the best fit for those that want to speed things up, climb hills, or reach more flexibility.

Speed

This is another difference between drop bars and flat bars. You’ll notice that flat bars are the most common type of handlebars on road bikes, city bikes, and other cruise bikes. That’s because flat bars don’t support speed. It is best for those that ride short distances or ride only for fun. Bikes with drop bars can move faster on both straight roads and even in bends too. Since the bike allows you to sit lower, the center of gravity is lower, so you can navigate better during bends. So if you are looking for a fast bike – go for one with a drop bar handlebar.

Versatility

Versatility refers to the state of variety, and when it comes to riding, versatility is what makes riding fun and enjoyable (combined with the other benefits of cycling Trusted Source Cycling - health benefits - Better Health Channel Cycling can help to protect you from serious diseases such as stroke, heart attack, some cancers, depression, diabetes, obesity and arthritis. www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au ). As you must have already guessed also, bikes with drop handlebars offer better versatility when compared with flat bars. Drop-bar bikes let you hold the handlebar in three different positions – the drop, hood, and top. It also allows you to change hand position (as we have mentioned in the first point).

A flat-bar has less versatility and gives the rider only one option for hand positioning. That’s why it is better for those that ride short distances because your hands can get weary or strained from just one position for a long time.

Maneuverability

For some riders, this is a big deal. If you ride gravel bikes and you do a lot of cornering, or you use a road bike and want a great bike to corner through traffic or urban areas, you would need a good bike that can make excellent cornering around obstacles and/or traffic. Drop-bar bikes are better with control and maneuvering when moving at fast speeds, while flat bar bikes are better when moving at a slower pace. However, if we were to remove the speed factor and rate both bikes generally, bikes with flat handlebars are easier to control and hence can make the best corner rides.

Balance

This is the sixth difference between the two handlebars. Balance is key for riders Trusted Source Uncomfortable on Bike? Check Handlebars People who spend a lot of time on bicycles or in indoor cycling class often complain of genital numbness, and now a new study in women suggests that low handlebars may be at least partly to blame. www.webmd.com , especially those that ride bikes on bumpy or slippery roads like mountain roads, gravel, loose sand, forest route, and so on. And balance is a sum of stability, good sitting posture, and maneuverability. Between the two bikes, the flat bar is more stable because the handle is wide, and it provides better balance and leveling. That’s why electric bikes or mountain bikes have flat-bar handlebars. However, the drop bar provides a better grip which helps fast riders maintain stability and balance while riding. That’s why gravel bikes and some city bikes have drop bars so that the riders can remain balanced even on speed.

Pros and cons of both

It is already obvious that both bikes have both advantages and disadvantages. Here are the pros and cons of both handlebars.

Pro of flat bars

  • This is the best bike for newbies or those that are still learning how to ride a bike.
  • It gives better visibility because of the upright sitting position
  • The flat bar provides more space for bike accessories, including a GPS, baskets, bells, lights, and so on.
  • It is easier to maintain since its parts are easily available and cheap
  • Has better steering control

Cons of flat bars

  • The slow speed makes it unfit for long-distance cycling
  • It can be too wide, making it hard to pass through narrow bike routes.
  • Only one hand positioning
  • The body position does not allow you to apply pressure on the pedal, making it harder to climb hills.

Pros of drop bars

  • It’s fast and can be ridden for long distances.
  • It is more narrow, which makes it easier to pass through narrow routes or between traffic.
  • Can climb hills better.
  • Multiple hand positioning and better versatility
  • Great for professional riders

Cons of drop bars

  • Newbies or learners are not advised to ride with these handlebars
  • Does not provide good visibility since the riders are seated in a lower horizontal position
  • No space to add other accessories
  • The parts of a drop bar are expensive and harder to find
  • More effort is needed to control it

FAQs

Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions.

Who should use drop bars?

Drop bars should be used by bike riders that want more speed and versatility because these are the main highlights of a drop bar. However, if you are using this handlebar, there won’t be space to add fancy bike accessories.

Which cyclists should settle for flat bars?

Flat bars are best for those that prioritize control and better handling over speed. With a flat bar handlebar, you can easily navigate through busy streets, and a plus is that you can carry extra cargo like a bag pack.

Which handlebar is the most comfortable?

The most comfortable handlebar is a flat bar because of three reasons. First, it allows you to sit uprightly. It also allows you easier access to your brakes and the design of the handlebar provides balance and better leveling.

Final thoughts

Though the difference between a flat bar and a drop bar, there is no one overall best handlebar for all riders. The one you choose depends on your preferences as a rider. Do you prefer speed over balance? Do you want to switch hand positions often while riding, or do you want to carry extra items of luggage on your rides? The answer to these questions will tell you which one you should opt for. However, the answer to flat bar vs. drop bar is pretty straightforward for new cyclists. They need bikes that are easier to navigate, control, and maintain. They also don’t need to prioritize speed over other aspects. So this makes flat bar bikes the better option for newbies and children that ride bikes for fun or to go to school.

References

1.
Cycling - health benefits - Better Health Channel
Cycling can help to protect you from serious diseases such as stroke, heart attack, some cancers, depression, diabetes, obesity and arthritis.
2.
Uncomfortable on Bike? Check Handlebars
People who spend a lot of time on bicycles or in indoor cycling class often complain of genital numbness, and now a new study in women suggests that low handlebars may be at least partly to blame.
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