I like the handlebar height lower than the average road bikes I see in my city. Am wondering if I am putting myself in more risk.

  • 4
    Yes. You are less visible and you can see less.
    – kifli
    May 24, 2016 at 15:14
  • @kifli, but once you're down below the cars' rooflines, it doesn't make much difference. It might even make things better if you're at window height rather than roof height, though cars are probably too variable for this. I don't get on with road bikes in traffic (where most of my riding happens), and prefer flat bars for seeing over cars.
    – Chris H
    May 24, 2016 at 15:20
  • @ChrisH so you are agree or disagree with me ? I can see over cars too going aero will make it harder for sure and cicliste absolutely need his advantage of having a better vision radius in urban environment.
    – kifli
    May 24, 2016 at 15:33
  • Agree/disagree? Both/neither. I think you're right but it's not as clear cut as you say. My limited experience of urban riding on the hoods of a borrowed bike (and I'm tall) leads me to think that drop bars would only be a good idea with interrupter levers on the tops.
    – Chris H
    May 24, 2016 at 15:44
  • 2
    A couple mm of extra drop is not going to make a difference. If the driver doesn't see you, they don't see you, and you better make sure you do what you can to avoid them without putting yourself in a compromising position. Good question though. Possibly related bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/31494/…
    – ebrohman
    May 24, 2016 at 16:11

2 Answers 2


Being seen - the higher you are, the more likely you will be seen over a roof top. Clearly some cars are too high or too low for it to make a difference, but the odd car is at a height the difference might be significant.

Seeing - in an aero position, its harder to see as much as in an upright. It can be done by actively looking around, but its harder - you have to force yourself to do it.

Speed/efficeny - when I go into the aero position, its because I want to go faster or ride more efficiently. My concentration moves towards my riding technique than observing the road. However, it is entirely possible to sit upright and not concentrate on the road (e.g. Focus on music, sending text messages, last nights hot date....etc), so I believe upright is safer with the proviso you are concentrating the same amount on riding.

Manoeuvrability - when on aeros your ability to change speed and directions is restricted. If aero position did not compromise agility, XC MTBers would have drop bars.

So overall, I would suggest that Aero position is less safe than upright. Quantifying how much difference it made would be harder...

  • 1
    XC bikes definitely have drop bars. Also, I don't think the OP was asking about riding on aero bars, but riding drop bars that are slammed.
    – ebrohman
    May 25, 2016 at 1:16
  • 1
    When it comes to urban riding, I find upright riding is safer because, as stated before, it allows a better view of the surroundings which is important in stop and go traffic, and its also more relaxed and comfortable. May 25, 2016 at 1:58
  • 1
    @ebrohman XC bikes have flat bars. I think you were thinking of CX bikes
    – BSO rider
    May 26, 2016 at 1:43
  • disagree with most of this answer. Firstly its no harder looking round on drop bars. Rather than needing to twist your neck you can just look down. Secondly re manouverability - there is a reason road racers decend on the drops - it improves the ability to turn corners and accelerate/decelerate. Re. being more visible i think it makes next to no difference. One thing it does help is going fast, and that can help in traffic. The smaller the speed differential between you and the passing traffic the safer you are. May 26, 2016 at 13:28
  • 1
    @robjwilkins the question was not about visibility of the rider to traffic but more so about manouverability and visibility of traffic for the rider... if you know what i mean. And also how fast the rider is able to react to road conditions... if you disagree with the answer please answer the question
    – nolawi
    May 26, 2016 at 16:17

Yes - visibility is everything for both the rider and the surrounding things.

Here's an example of a road bike in traffic.

The effect is exaggerated because camera is on handlebars, but even at head height I didn't see her till the camera did. You can see my body position by the shadow on the left side. Its New Zealand so we go on the left side of the road, and that's a "marked cycle lane" The road there is a three lane each way, with a posted speed limit of 50 km/h. However its 0830 traffic. I was doing "low 30s" according to strava.

So had I been on a flat bar my head would have been 10cm (4 inches) higher. Whether the obstacle looked anyway, I don't know.

Downside from being on a MTB or hybrid, your handlebars are much wider, so it far easier to whack a side mirror or a stanchion/bollard or even another cyclist.

Also, you're slower on an upright than a road bike.

  • 1
    In the video ... I slow down whenever riding by stopped traffic, for the reason the vid illustrates (and to watch for opening doors, cut-through traffic and last-second turns by drivers). In my opinion, this rider is moving much faster than safe for those conditions.
    – user26225
    May 26, 2016 at 13:12
  • 2
    I like how you refer to "the obstacle" as opposed to "she" or "the person". :) My guess is that the obstacle didn't look at all.
    – FreeMan
    May 26, 2016 at 16:38
  • @freeman I didn't want to bring any sort of group-name into it. Could have said "self-propelled obstacle" as opposed to a stationery one.
    – Criggie
    May 27, 2016 at 23:05

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