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For my new job I'll have to commute about 10 - 20km (6 - 12mi) each day (one trip) in flat terrain. Right now, I'm commuting 6km/4mi each day, with an elevation gain of 160m uphill to work.

I'm riding a hybrid bicycle with a gear hub (only one gear lever) and a straight handle bar.

I assume that for my new route, a more aerodynamic position would be nice and I'm pondering about a better handlebar choice -- drop handlebars or tri bars as addition to my straight handlebar? Is it just a matter of personal preference, or are there general pros and cons?

The route will be mostly on a seperate bike lane next to a road with little traffic.

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    You'll want a different bike if you change the handlebar type most likely -- your riding geometry will change a good amount by switching to drops (and you'll have some work to deal with the IGH shifter on drops). And you're not racing (making tri-bars silly), just having a short commute so a flat bar is pretty fine. It's personal preference, you'll likely find your existing bike fine for a short ride like this. – Batman Jun 26 '15 at 22:56
  • Well, I wouldn't consider 2x20km daily a short ride, and I'm already getting annoyed by wind resistance if I'm driving on a flat route with this bike... – Jasper Jun 27 '15 at 0:20
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    Well, try the bike for a bit, maybe with some bar ends. If it doesn't work out, you can always get a drop bar bike (not designed for racing -- you don't want to arrive at work drenched in sweat). Tri-bars are pretty much only useful for races, so they should be out. – Batman Jun 27 '15 at 0:53
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    Putting yourself in a more aerodynamically position sure helps, and you will notice a good difference, so give them a try. Be careful though that this might be expensive as you will have to change brake and shifter levers and possibly even the whole brake system. And the most important thing, never forget that ultimately the best set up is the one you feel comfortable in. – super Jun 27 '15 at 19:55
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When spending more time on your bike, it's good to be able to vary your position. For that reason alone I would advice a drop bar or butterfly bar. It'll prevent all kind of small complaints about wrists, shoulders and back.

Getting in better shape because of the extra daily exercise, you'll gradually feel more comfortable in a more sportive (aerodynamic) position.

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I'd start off just riding your bike and noticing what you like (and don't like about your position). Mostly I'd worry about the bars being too low and not having enough options (get low to get out of the wind, sit up straight when your back or neck needs a break, and on and on...). The important thing is that you're comfortable – and as long as the bike comes reasonably close to fitting you you'll be able to make adjustments that will make it very comfortable.

But back to your question. There are three general bar options:

  1. Flat bars like you've got and their variants (mustache bars, albatross bars, hershey bars, all sorts of fun to be had here). If you don't ride hard and like an upright posture, this would be where to start looking if you need more variety in your position.
  2. Trekking or butterfly bars, these are basically flat bars with a larger range of positions. The forward position is a way to "drop down" a bit to avoid wind drag.
  3. Dropped or road bars. These are my favorites. I like the range of positions and I'm used to them. But, really big but, they are close to useless if you can't get them up high enough. I run mine with the top of the bars about level with my seat, so riding on the tops of the bars my posture is pretty much the same as it would be with flat bars. However, I can also lean a bit forward, riding with my hands on the hoods of the brake levers, or if there's a headwind or I'm trying to look cool and fast I can drop down onto the bottom of the bars. But most of the time I ride on the top of the bars or on the hoods. So I think you don't need to be in any rush to buy new bars.

One last thing, it isn't the length of the ride that dictates when aerodynamics comes into play, it's more the speed (either your speed or the speed of a headwind). At 15-20 kph I don't feel like I'm working too hard against the wind, but up around 25 kph I definitely notice it (but not enough to make this old man want to spend much time of the drops), up past 30 kph the drops are looking very attractive.

  • My future commute will be longer and faster due to the flat terrain, and I'm aiming for the 25km/h+ range. I'll check if I "can get them up high enough" and what my new riding positions would be. – Jasper Jun 28 '15 at 16:16
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It’s not only a matter of handlebar type. You can already try to get into a more aerodynamic position with your straight handlebar. A shorter straight handlebar can be quite aerodynamic. On a road bike the drops are mostly used for descents, normaly one uses the “hoods” or the tops which aren’t all that “aggressive” or overly aerodynamic. See also http://lovelybike.blogspot.co.at/2012/06/drop-bar-hand-positions-introduction.html for all the positions.

The internal gear hub will be a problem for drop bars since there are no shifters available and you’d have to use one of the makeshift solutions.

You could try adding time trial bar clips, but it can be hard to find a good position on a normal bicycle with them.

Some pictures of your bicycle and seating position would help. You shouldn’t underestimate the impact of floppy clothing either.

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    This "the internal gear hub will be a problem for drop bars since there are no shifters available and you’d have to use one of the makeshift solutions" got me thinking – I was sure I'd seen tandems with drop bars and internal gear hubs – look what I found Shifters & Internal Gears and 21 Ways to Run Rohloff Shifters with Road Drop Handlebars seems like the standard for "makeshift" is improving :-) – dlu Jun 28 '15 at 17:25
  • @dlu: Yes, I’m aware of those solutions. But they are all on the top or drops. So you can’t use them while on the “hoods” and you can’t brake and shift in quick succession without moving your hands. STIs are – despite their price – predominant for a reason and I’m not aware of any STI-style solution for gear hubs. – Michael Jun 29 '15 at 14:14
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Drop bars are possible, but you need to measure the effective top tube of your frame and the "reach" of a new drop bar you want to purchase. You didn't tell what hybrid bike you have but I assume the effective top tube on your bike is longer than ones on road bikes. Another consideration is that drop bars have additional reach forward (70-80mm). There's high a possibility that you'll need a shorter stem (< 100 mm), however, the handling might be funny (Although I've never tried this).

Additionally, I assume you want to be faster. have you considered to purchase slicker/narrower tires? This solution might be less hassle and way cheaper. Being in aero position is nice but tire selection is much bigger factor to get faster, IMO.

  • He won’t be able to use the gear hub with STI brake/shift leavers. – Michael Jun 28 '15 at 7:12
  • Thanks for the suggestion on tires, but since this is my only bike, I'm afraid to go too slick :) – Jasper Jun 28 '15 at 16:08
  • What are your concerns about slicks? Coming from the world of car tires they can be a bit counterintuitive. On bike tires hydroplaning is a non-issue (the contact patch is round(ish) so a water wedge doesn't form between the patch and the road), and on hard surfaces the greater surface are of the solid rubber slick improves traction. On loose surfaces it's a whole different ball game, that's why off-road bikes have the knobby tires. – dlu Jun 28 '15 at 17:11
  • Edited my answer, I meant slicker/narrower tires are pretty good for commuting. There are several bombproof slick/narrow tires e.g. people seem recommend gatorskins. – azer89 Jun 28 '15 at 17:28

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