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I am looking for the best handlebars for climbing long steep hills (around 22km).

As part of the challenge I will be riding a fixed gear so drop bars with hoods are not an option.

I can't find definitive advice on whether wide flat bars, bull horns or other type of handlebars are better?

Strava segment details: https://www.strava.com/segments/18559326 Average incline is 6.3%. I don't think this is doable on the saddle on a fixed gear.

There are no restrictions on the use of drop bars, it's that I have never seen one with hoods on a fixed gear. I plan to use only one brake on the front.

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    Can you provide an elevation profile of the climb and an estimated rider weight and power output? Our advise is going to be totally different for a rider at 2W/kg on a 10% climb vs 5W/kg on a 5% climb. Typical wind conditions for the area would also be useful if you have them
    – Andy P
    Aug 8, 2022 at 10:41
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    Fixed gear bikes with normal drop bars are very common. I'd also say they are the best option for this particular climb unless you are VERY strong. You can certainly ride fixed gear in the saddle - you just need a smaller gear ratio. Are you free to configure bike specifically for the climb, or is the climb only part of the challenge?
    – Andy P
    Aug 8, 2022 at 14:02
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    You could use drop bars with brake levers that weren’t hooked up to brakes, or with tandem stoker dummy levers.
    – Adam Rice
    Aug 8, 2022 at 14:04
  • I can’t go lighter than 45/22 as it is hard to find smaller chainrings and bigger sprockets. I’ve never seen road cyclists climbing on the drops. They seem to climb on the hoods, either sitting down or standing up.
    – dmz73
    Aug 8, 2022 at 14:35
  • Those dummy levers are quite expensive 44 euros on bike24!
    – dmz73
    Aug 8, 2022 at 14:35

2 Answers 2

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A long solid climb is a steady-state. You will be seated most of the climb.

So the best bar is the one that gives you the most comfortable and upright position so that your lungs can breathe optimally while spinning.

I see there are ramps of 11% gradient and a kilometre of downward slope. So aiming for 6.3% is a bit optimistic. You should aim for a higher grade on average because the downslope skews the numbers.

https://www.bikecalc.com/ and http://bikecalculator.com/ can be handy for trying to figure out your numbers, from a formulaeic point of view. Presuming you can maintain an output of 150W etc you'll take 217 minutes to do 20 km at 10% and it will be at 5.5 km/h

enter image description here http://bikecalculator.com/

So if we target 6 km/h at 80 RPM then your fixed gear needs 29 tooth chainring with a 49 tooth rear cog.

Bonus is that you get 49 skid patches out of this combination, which is a lot.

enter image description here http://bikecalc.com/

These numbers are just examples you need to poke in your own values and see what's possible.
the minimumum chainring size and maximum rear cog size will be hard limits.

Finally also consider you have to come back down the mountain. The climbing ratio will be awful for a fixed-gear descent, so you'll either get a ride down in a car or end up with your feet out of the pedals for the descent leaving you with only one braking solution and poor connection to the bike.

Personally I'd prefer a rear freewheel that can coast, AND to equip two conventional brakes without depending on the chain as a braking solution.

Or walk down the hill (what a waste of a downhill!!)


As a test, I took a local climb at https://www.strava.com/segments/3682303 which is 2.15km long with an elevation gain of 165m and an average grade of 7.3%

My time was 10 min 33 sec, I'm 95 kg on a 12 kg bike.

Fiddling the power number gives me 10.52 minutes at 303 watts at 12.26 km/h

To do that speed on a fixie at 70 RPM (I don't spin very well) I'd need 37 tooth chainring and 27 tooth gear, which gives 27 skid patches.

At 80 RPM I'd need 36 tooth chainring and 30 tooth cog.

Differences here is that it was a tenth as long as your climb, and I was pushing hard - 300 W is well above my FTP. OP will likely be doing between 100 W and 200 W for the whole duration of the climb.

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    5.5 kph is awfully slow - it's going to be mentally draining to stay upright for 3 1/2 hours at that speed. And that bikecalculator.com calorie burned estimate is, umm, somewhat optimistic. I want to know how I can burn 7800 cal in 3 1/2 hours at 150W - my quick off-the-cuff estimate of 3 1/2 hours at a steady 150W would be somewhat above 1500 cal. Aug 9, 2022 at 0:48
  • @AndrewHenle I didn't want to over-estimate OP's power, so I went with the calculator's default of 150 watts. Agreed 5.5 km/h is slow, and getting down to "basement" or minimum-viable speeds. OP should try with their own values and compare to reality after the ride... One moment !
    – Criggie
    Aug 9, 2022 at 2:33
  • @AndrewHenle I've added a kind-of backwards example, going from a known effort to what gearing it would take to make a comfortable cadence at that same speed. OP would need to know their time up some kind of longish consistent climb.
    – Criggie
    Aug 9, 2022 at 3:03
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If you stay in the saddle I don’t think the type of handlebar matters much, as long as it’s wide (but not too wide) and high enough to allow you to breath freely. I.e. don’t go low and narrow. When climbing you won’t have much weight on your hands so hand comfort (e.g. multiple hand positions possible) is secondary.

If you go out of the saddle I think it’s easier for your arms and wrists if you have something like a bullhorn bar instead of a flat bar.

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