I bought a Surly Long Haul Trucker a couple years ago, and it has the stock handlebars. My hands don't really fit in the drops, and I sometimes would like a lower handlebar position where I can still reach the brake levers. For windy days, going down a hill real fast, going faster for the heck of it, etc. Having my "go fast" hand position be one I can't reach the brakes is kinda scary. My girlfriend recently got a Trek 520 (this year's model) and seems like with her handlebars my hands would actually fit in the drops.

What's my best option for getting that extra hand position?

If the answer is "buy new handlebars", what should I look for in those handlebars? There's a lot of options with "traditional bends", "ergo bend", "variable radius bend", flare, etc. and it's not really clear to me.

It's a "touring" bike but I have it outfitted as a commuter. I believe the handlebars are "PMT" which turns out to be nearly impossible to google usefully for. The drops appear to be directly beneath the ramps (no flaring). The classic older 26mm (?) clamp diameter. I'd say a small reach and a small amount of drop, but not quite sure how to measure. Width measure (center to center) came out to about 44cm.

Either way, handlebar tape is about due for replacement anyways.

I spend maybe 75%-90% of my time riding "on the hoods", a small amount of time on the top flat part, and even less on the drops.


(click for bigger view. And yes, it's the wrong hand but it was easier to take photos that way. )

I can ride with my hand somewhat like this:

hand on back of drop

But my hands don't really fit forward in the drops where I can reach the brakes. Unless I rotate out and/or squish my hand up a bit; neither of which isn't comfortable:

hand too big see, hand doesn't fit definitely doesn't fit

Handlebar setup pics:

handlebar side view handlebar top view handlebar back view

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    Thanks for the detailed pictures, makes it very easy to see the problem.
    – Мסž
    Commented May 2, 2011 at 1:42
  • 2
    It looks to me like the brake levers are positioned too high on the bars. But then I wouldn't like those bars either -- not enough U bend. Unfortunately, it's hard to find a source for handlebars that carries a good variety. Even if you see another bar you like, you likely can't find a place to buy it. Commented Jun 6, 2011 at 7:18

5 Answers 5


It looks like you're treating it as four positions: tops, hoods, vertical part of drops, horizontal part of drops.

Compared to my bike, your bars seem to be rotated forward, and the levers seem high up the bars. It strikes me that you might be able to try rotating your bars back and move the levers further forward. This would make the hood part of your bar flatter, in the photo when you're holding the hoods, the bar there seems to be going down-hill, and the hoods are going up-hill, but with by rotating the bar and moving the levers, that area would be flatter.

And, you'd end up with one 'in the drops' position where the bar would be angled at about 35/40 degrees, and you might well be able to both fit your hand there nicely and be able to reach the brakes from that one position.

I'm not sure if this Surly has the same handlebars, but whatever they are, they definitely seem to be rotated back more as I described. The ends of the bars seem to be vertically under the tops: http://lockouttoout.blogspot.com/2010/11/surly-long-haul-trucker-54cm-bike-black.html

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    I think I'm going to try this handlebar rotation thing before I try replacing the handlebars. Cheaper, and easy enough I think I can do it myself.
    – freiheit
    Commented May 7, 2011 at 21:53

Your hand does look rather cramped in those bars... There are a wide variety of bars available... You have "ergonomic" bars, bars with extra-deep drops... Fairly annoying to experiment, however. Replacing roadster bars is a bit of work; much more involved than say, MTB bars which can be swapped out in few minutes with modern components. Consider getting a "fitting"? It might be worth while to have your position analyzed and then you'd have a better notion as to which way to go with the bars.


One thing that might help is adjusting the reach on the brake levers. This is apparently not a common feature on drop bar brake levers despite being on most flat bar levers.

There's a reference here to Dia Compe short-reach brake levers (BL-24C) that is one example. Or you get shims that have the same effect

If it's any consolation I have big hands and still have this issue on some drop bars. I assume the people who own those bikes don't use the brakes from the drops.


Commenting on the first picture: You will never be able to reach levers with that hand position on 'classical shaped' drop bars (they are just designed this way)

You have a strange drops, upper curve of he bars is very short and does not allow to change the position of the brake levers, with your big hands you will always be uncomfortable riding those.

I would recommend to change your bars, either to classical ones or (if you dont like big differences in position when switching hand position) something like this http://www.wiggle.co.uk/fsa-omega-compact-road-handlebar/ (I use those, and I also am equipped with large hands ;) )


You probably won't like this, but if you set up the bars and brakes on that bike that way on purpose, then the bike frame likely is the wrong size for you.

Without seeing you on the bike, it's really hard to say. My guess is that the bars would work better for you if they were closer and lower to your center of mass. As a rough rule of thumb the tops of the bars should be "flattish" and the lower end of the bar should point at the rear axle.

There are no hard and fast rules, but generally that's where you start on a road bike. Bars with the "level" lower grip are generally only seen on bikes for track racing where you almost always are using the lower bar.

Bars come in a wide variety of shapes, key numbers are drop and reach. Drop is roughly the distance from top to bottom and reach is the measurement from the flat part at the back to the tip of the bend.

Those bars look pretty "compact" already. But there are lot's of others to try. If just rotating doesn't fix the problem, my next suggestion would be a shorter stem.

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