Just switched from flat to drop bars which are narrower that the original flats.

Also, to compensate the "depth" of the riding position, I took a shorter stem (60mm instead of 105mm).

Because of these changes:

  1. The riding hands position is different (which was the purpose, but I am not used to it yet): the hands are "vertical" when riding on the "safe" positions (on hoods and on drops) and are when in the "unsafe" position (around stem), they are very close to the stem which is unusual for me as well
  2. The bars are narrower, so in any position, the hands are close to the center of the bars which feel very different
  3. The shorter stem also affect the feel of the direction

As a result, in my tests, I did not have any problem per se, but my starts have showed to be a little "wobbly" (not riding completely straight on the 1 meter or 2) and on a general level I don't feel as safe as I used to.

I am sure a big part of that needs just getting used to, but still, any tips?

  • 1
    Note that the angle of the bar can make a big difference, as can how far forward the brake hoods are placed. Commented Mar 11, 2013 at 15:26
  • Did you switch bikes from one that has flats to one that has drops? Or did you switch the bars on the bike you had? This is important, because the head tube angle on bikes made for flat bars tends to be more slack than the headtube angle on bikes made for drops. A road bike will generally be somewhere between 70 and 74 degrees while a mountain bike might be between 65 and 72 degrees. The head tube angle has a big effect on the steering and stability of the bike. That doesn't mean you can't switch, but it's something to consider. Commented Mar 12, 2013 at 21:43

4 Answers 4


I think one possible issue is that you changed your stem.

Drop bars are "supposed" to put you in a more aerodynamic position. From what I have seen, most drop bars go WAY front relative to the rest of the bike. That way, you have two forwarded positions (the safe ones), and one "resting", taller position that you sould use only when actually 'giving a break' to your body.

Also, a longer stem adds more stability to the ride, because the weight of your torso, and the direction it is applied over the bars, tend to "self-center" the steering, thus reducing the perceived wobbliness of a narrower handlebar.

I have assembled a flat-bar road bike recently, with a quite narrow (55cm) bar, and "by the numbers", I should use a 90mm stem. It was terribly wobbly, and everything felt much better after I switched to a 120mm stem: the added "frontal leverage" provided by my body weight over the more forwarded stem made the bike much more stable going over and around obstacles on the road. With a minor saddle foreaft adjustment, the bike became even more comfortable, too.

At last, try to research (oldschool bike shop owners might be of some help) what's the philosophy of drop-bars positioning, because I am sure you are supposed to use each one of them preferrably in some specific moments of the ride (which I don't know by the way).

Hope this helps!


A big part of your problem is purely what you are used to and comfortable with, however wide, flat handle bars are used on comfort bikes and mountain bikes as they tend to offer more stability (at least, more perception of stability) than drops. I never feel as stable on my roadie on drops as I do on my MTB with relatively wide flats - although on the roadie I never screamed down bumpy technical single track at insane speed, so do not consider the relative instability of drops. However, hard to know if this is purely down to the bars, or the different the riding position, bike geometry etc.


Conventional wisdom says that your hands ought to be the same width apart as you shoulder bones, although personal preference should trump this. I've also read that, strangely, stem length can affect whether bars feel too narrow or not.

It's a shame that for most of us it's not economical/convenient to get various combinations and try them out for comfort. You can try different sizes in a shop, but other aspects of the bike may also change.

As a reference point, there's some discussion of handlebar size and how to measure your shoulders, here.

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Unless you're way off the recommendation, though, you should spend some time trying to get used to the new set up as you suggest. I'm sure you'll get more control as time goes on.

  • 1
    A cheap stem costs $10-$15 - not really a hindrance. A decent LBS can often be talked into letting you try different sizes, and will often have a range of second hand parts for this purpose. A really good LBS will do a bike fitting for you for a reasonable fee.
    – mattnz
    Commented Mar 11, 2013 at 23:13

Agree with last answer - some of it is just getting used to the narrower hand position. You could always set off with your hands dropped down, so wider and more stable for those wobbly 2-3 initial metres.

i have tri bars on my bike - I have to remember to move my hands back to main handle bars, and never to turn to look behind me when I using tri bars, as very unstable!

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