I come from a mountain biking background but I've also done a lot of cycle touring but I chose to go with flat bars and bar-ends vs drop bars.

I've also seen bikes that are designed for 'bike packing' such as the Salsa Fargo sporting drop bars.

Recently I've done more road biking but I still don't fully understand the reasons behind drop bars. Can you tell me what the benefits area?


The main advantage is more hand positions. With a regular flat bar, you hold your hands at the grips (with possibly about one more hand position available if you have bar ends).

With drop bars, you can hold at:

  • The brake hoods (on top of the brake levers)
  • The drops (the bottom part of the bar)
  • The tops (on the left and right of the stem)
  • That place between the hoods and the tops
  • Possibly others (or less of these, depending on who you ask).

For long rides, this makes a difference due to hand fatigue.

A secondary advantage is you can also change how aerodynamic you are and your body geometry with respect to the bike by shifting around and using different hand positions relatively easily. For example, when you're in the drops, you're in a more aerodynamic shape versus sitting straight up with your hands on the tops.

Drop bars aren't for everyone and do require proper setup (as do all bikes) and acknowledgement of the geometry of the bike. In particular, racers will likely set their bike up differently than tourers will (e.g. higher bars than racers), where its primarily a comfort thing. If you like doing long rides with flat bars and bar ends, more power to you. But for most people, the same bike won't work well with drop bars and flat bars because changing the bar changes the riding geometry.

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    Also I would say that riding in the drops gives a huge increase in descending ability, maybe due to better centre of gravity or maybe its just imaginary, but there are definitely some descents I would never tackle on just the hoods. – Harvey Jun 2 '16 at 16:14
  • @Harvey - conversely, I never do a descent on the drops, but then I'm pretty conservative on descents, and like the extra wind resistance I get from riding on the hoods to help keep my speed down. – Johnny Jun 2 '16 at 16:23
  • @Johnny that's true, maybe it is personal choice as to whether or not it does help. For me I feel like I can hold the breaks with much more control when in the drops. – Harvey Jun 2 '16 at 18:04
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    @Harvey this is my experience too: when in the drops I have a much greater ability to apply the brakes at 100% without torquing my hands too much (like if I were just on the hoods) – Brad Jun 2 '16 at 19:12
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    Also, the "most common" drops position, on brake hoods, leaves the hands in the more relaxed/natural position of back-of-hand outwards. Flat bars force your hands to make the 90° inwards rotation to thumbs down, if you want brakes, which gets tiring after 4 hours. – Nigel Touch Jun 2 '16 at 20:49

Additional point in favour of drop bars on the road - they take up less width and will fit through tight spaces in traffic better.

I put some new grips on my MTB, which added 10mm to the end of the bars. Next ride I clipped a car wing mirror. Drop bars are about as wide as your knees/hips/shoulders while riding, so a narrower profile.

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    Bike messengers in places like NYC / SF do sometimes have flat bars which are stupidly narrow, as in probably as wide as my hands. In any case, I think if your handlebars are close to being the constraint on fitting through places (esp. in traffic), you may need to take a closer look at how you're riding. – Batman Jun 1 '16 at 22:43
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    All the vids Criggie posts show he may need to take a closer look at how [he's] riding :-) – andy256 Jun 2 '16 at 1:08
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    Intended in a kind, collegiate kind of been there done that way, of course :-) – andy256 Jun 2 '16 at 1:10
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    Lol. I thought I was stretching the limits of good manners already. As I said, been there done that. Many of us can be a bit Gung Ho at times. The main thing is to learn from situations if they go wrong, and keep developing and practising skills. – andy256 Jun 2 '16 at 10:21
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    The narrow bar trend is thankfully reversing to wide bars that can be used as a lever when climbing (useful for single speed / fixed) but then again, some people take it to the extreme where it's just as stupid as the "two fist" wide bars – gaurwraith Jun 7 '16 at 23:09

I ride a flat bar with straight handlebar and a road bike with drop bar. I experience far less pain and numbness in my wrists with the drop bar where my hand position is similar to a handshake.

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  • Try some different stryles of grips, and try out different rotations too. – Criggie Jun 8 '16 at 0:01

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