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Looking for some advice. A little background: Admittedly, I am new and just taking up biking (or trying to). I am undecided on which type of bike to buy - a flat bar or a drop style. I realize this has more to do with where and what purpose I ride. I'd like to reserve the ability to leisurely ride some trails, but most rides will be on pavement and I've found that perhaps a hybrid or fitness bike is where I should be looking. So, for as long as I can remember, biking has caused ischial bone pain for me. After lots of research, I am finding that my problem is likely geometry and bike setup, so please know that I will be fit at a bike shop before I purchase.

Last night I took my daughter's fitness bike - an xs and I will likely fit a medium - and experienced the same bone pain. I know the bike is too small for me, but when I tried to adjust my seating position, the most comfortable position was for me to lean forward in a more aggressive way - I rested my forearms on the flat bar and this took all the pain away. My question is this: Could this be indicative that my body prefers this more aerodynamic position? Should I be seeking a drop bar instead of a flat bar? I know there are lots of factors here, seating position, length of seat to handlebars, my weight, etc (or so I've read) but I'm really questioning the front handlebars now.

I'd love to hear your experience and advice. Please be gentle, I'm new to this, would love to get into it, am willing to spend some money to get a decent starter bike ($1100 maybe?) but I want to ensure I'm getting the right kind of bike. Again, I realize there are lots of factors going on here, but is there any value to what I experience last night...that my body might prefer to be more forward?

Thanks, Kris

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First, about flat bars...

Flat bar - one hand position, all of them uncomfortable. It isn't about the type of bars. It's about your posture on the bike. Drop bars provide a lot of different hand positions, and that's really very useful on longer rides. Flat bars don't. Imagine doing a 5-6 hour ride with only one way to put your hands on the bars. If you don't like being bent over, there are drop bar bikes that have you in an upright posture just like you'd be on a straight bar bike.

As for this:

I rested my forearms on the flat bar and this took all the pain away. My question is this: Could this be indicative that my body prefers this more aerodynamic position?

Probably not. That probably just means leaning forward and resting your forearms on the handlebar put less weight on your sit bones, both by rotating your hips forward and putting more weight on other parts of your nether regions and allowing your arms to also take some weight. Your arms/shoulders and those "other parts" might not feel so good when you're in that position for a long time while riding.

So you won't really know if you'd be more comfortable in that position until you've actually been riding for a while.

And when you first start riding, there will be things that are painful because your body simply isn't used to doing that.

Your bottom will hurt for a week or two no matter what your posture is. Don't go out and buy some big, thick, gooey "gel" saddle to "fix" that, or anything else. It will go away. Probably. There's a reason why almost no one who rides bicycles for long distances or long periods of time rides anything but saddles that to the uninitiated look too hard and too small: they're actually the most comfortable once your body is used to it. Such saddles don't move when you pedal. Big, soft saddles will move around under you when you ride. Movement means friction. Friction over hours means holes in shorts and holes in skin... Any padding comes from your shorts, and with good shorts that pad does not move against your skin at all.

Because saddles are like shoes - they either "fit" and you can ride them, or they don't. And everyone is different. Unlike shoes, however, you can't tell for certain until you've actually ridden them for a good while. Multiple hours, probably. At least after the initial "OMG! I've never ridden a bicycle a long time before!" pains subside.

The good thing is most people can ride any decent saddle for a good bit, so you won't likely have to play "musical saddles", trying different saddle after different saddle to get the one that works for you until you've started doing multiple-hour-long rides.

Don't overthink it - most people can ride a pretty wide range of bikes for a decent amount of time without any problems. There is no "one right bike" or "one right way to ride".

Just make sure you get a bike you want to ride. Getting something cheaper that you don't like and therefore don't want to ride is a waste of money. Just note one thing: there are a lot of people who buy flat-bar/hybrid bikes who wind up riding a lot who then go out and buy a "faster" drop bar bike. Almost no one who rides a lot and who started out buying a drop bar bike then goes out and buys a flat bar/hybrid bike.

Be sure, though, to have enough budget to address problems that may arise. If you blow your entire budget on your bike, then find out you need to swap saddles around or get better shoes because your feet start hurting an hour into your rides, you need to be able to address that.

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  • Excellent answer that really helps to guide me. I appreciate you taking the time to write it out. I'm leaning toward the drop bar now - I like what you said about the folks who start on a flat bar and end up getting a drop, not vice versa. Thank you! By the way, you referred to bikes that have a drop bar with an upright posture. Would that be a hybrid or fitness bike? Thanks, again! – K B May 6 '20 at 16:12

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