Flat Bar or Drops - Which is safer ?

Beardy10
Beardy10 Posts: 115
edited March 2008 in Commuting chat
I am about to get a bike that I want to use for commuting but also doing some longer rides at weekends. Most of my recent cycling has been on a mountain bike but my formative years were spent cycling on a bike with drops.

Whilst I know that drops are better for the weekend rides my paramount concern is safety when communing in London. I know I can get a bike set up so that I can have a relatively upright position with drops (which I want) but it seems to me that with a flat bar the brakes will always be instantly to hand whereas with drops there can be a momentary delay depending on hand position or slightly less leverage too.

I could always get bar ends on the flat bars to give me another riding position for longer rides.

Obviously the best safety is through riding well and anticipating dangerous situations but every now and again there are always moments you just cannot anticipate.

Would appreciate people's thoughts.
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Comments

  • BentMikey
    BentMikey Posts: 4,895
    I think there's no safety issue at all - when I ride drops I'm on the hoods, covering the brakes anyway most of the time. I can also lock up the rear wheel and endo on the front brake in that position, so there's no issue with leverage.

    Whilst flats are nice and relaxed, I much prefer drops because they're narrow for filtering through traffic, and they have more hand positions so are more comfortable.
  • Ditto - have used both, prefer drops....
  • TheBoyBilly
    TheBoyBilly Posts: 749
    Another vote for drops here :)
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  • SamWise72
    SamWise72 Posts: 453
    edited March 2008
    If you're worried about brake access, put a pair of cross-top levers on. That way you can brake from the drops OR the flats, no problem.

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  • alfablue
    alfablue Posts: 8,497
    I prefer drops, but I think flat bars may have a safety advantage, firstly a possible (but not necessarily) higher head position for an easier view of traffic, and secondly, having come off hitting a pothole when drops were yanked from my hands, I think the flat bar position would have made this less likely as the palms of my hands would be braced against the twisting bars. I still prefer drops though.
  • niblue
    niblue Posts: 1,387
    I've used both and prefer drops, however my new commuter is a cross bike which has a slightly higher riding position than my road bike (which I find helps when looking behind) plus it also has the additional top brake levers.

    I ride 99% of the time on the hoods though so even on the road bike, without the additional levers, I've usually got finders on the brake levers.
  • Beardy10
    Beardy10 Posts: 115
    Sounds like drops with an upright riding position is the way to go!

    Thanks
  • dazzawazza
    dazzawazza Posts: 462
    There's nothing like commuting on the drops during a long stretch of road, or a strong head wind.
    I think it all depends on what the road conditions are. If your entire commute is stop-start, traffic lights and pedestrians crossing without looking (because there's no engine sound), then ride flat bars. However, if there's any situation in your commute where you can ride uninterrupted then ride drops.
    I mostly commute on my slicked MTB, only because I have to park it at the gym 3 mornings a week in a dodgy area or have to fill my panniers with stuff.
    However, every time I ride the MTB I always wish that I was on the road bike with the option of riding the drops.
  • BentMikey
    BentMikey Posts: 4,895
    Filtering through traffic is also much harder with flat bars, because they're wider than a wide person.
  • dazzawazza
    dazzawazza Posts: 462
    BentMikey wrote:
    Filtering through traffic is also much harder with flat bars, because they're wider than a wide person.

    Unless you're a wider than drop bars person so this isn't an issue. :wink:
  • dazzawazza
    dazzawazza Posts: 462
    ‘Cross-top levers’
    When I purchased my first road bike I couldn't believe these levers weren't on every road bike.
    However, I can now see that there's absolutely no need for them during a commute or long rides. The only time I use the tops is when really tired / sore (riding slow), or going up a really steep hill. Never during a commute.
    I guess they have their name for a reason.
  • SamWise72
    SamWise72 Posts: 453
    They were designed for cyclo-cross. Thing about them is, in the 70's and 80's, everyone had drop bars, but few people rode them. Hence they were fitted with those god-awful suicide levers that never worked, and prevented the hoods being any use (by removing the possibility for HAVING hoods). These do the same job, but they work, and don't impede brake performance. I would put them on a tourer or audax bike - anything I was gonna ride for hours at a time.
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  • tardington
    tardington Posts: 1,379
    I think I'm going to get a TriCross Sport (after havering about the Edin Courier) - they have the extra levers on... Btw, apparently the Tricross Sport comes with V-Brakes, not cantis even though it's got drop bars?
  • Beardy10
    Beardy10 Posts: 115
    My commute is all in Central London and is only about three miles...however my route takes me through Regents Park so my intention is to do two or three circuits of the Outer Circle to and from work. It's quite a popular road for cyclists as it's very wide and only has two or three sets of lights on it which given it's about three miles long gives you a chance to at least get some kind of rhythm.
  • snooks
    snooks Posts: 1,521
    BentMikey wrote:
    Filtering through traffic is also much harder with flat bars, because they're wider than a wide person.

    Not if you take a hacksaw to each end and trim them off. :wink:
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  • BentMikey
    BentMikey Posts: 4,895
    Well doh!
  • niblue
    niblue Posts: 1,387
    tardie wrote:
    I think I'm going to get a TriCross Sport (after havering about the Edin Courier) - they have the extra levers on... Btw, apparently the Tricross Sport comes with V-Brakes, not cantis even though it's got drop bars?

    I just picked up my Tricross Sport at the weekend and it does indeed have V-brakes (which seem excellent BTW). I did my first commute on it this morning - it's perhaps not quite as fast as my road bike but it didn't feel far off.
  • Teuchter
    Teuchter Posts: 102
    I just switched from drops to flats on my old 80's roadie over the weekend - so this morning was their first use in anger.

    I had been considering just getting a higher stem and keeping the drops as my main reason to change was to raise the ride position but the access to braking in heavy traffic was also an issue. The bike had the afore-mentioned 'suicide levers' on the tops and they just didn't work as well for hard braking as the 'proper' levers, which could only be used from the drops (this was especially a problem on some of the steep downhill junctions in Glasgow city centre). I mostly rode on the drops or the hoods (from where I couldn't access any brake levers) so it just didn't seem safe to me. To get best brake performance I had to use the drops which I found uncomfortable.

    A bike with modern drops and brake levers sounds like it wouldn't have this issue though.

    I just put some flat bars and raised stem on from my old mtb that's not being used. Yes, it's wider (think I'll hacksaw off a couple of inches) but having the brakes right there is great in traffic. I also found climbs easier, which surprised me a lot.

    An unfashionable view but I think I'll be sticking with the flats.
  • secretsam
    secretsam Posts: 5,117
    Drops on one commuting bike, flats on the other, sometimes the more upright view from flats would be good, but generally it's down to individual preference. Given a choice, I'd go for drops, if only because I can then hunker down when it's windy

    It's just a hill. Get over it.
  • cupofteacp
    cupofteacp Posts: 578
    I was going to stay out of this and I know I'll get shouted down, but hey ho

    I know a lot of people here are saying drop bars, but if you're going to be riding in heavy traffic (central London) I'd suggest flats.

    There I've said it

    As to filtering it appears that the drop bars don't provide you confidence. I seem to always end up stuck behind a road bike in the middle.

    If your commute only has a little traffic, or your not doing it during the rush hour, or you're only going to commute during the summer, go for drops.
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  • dav1
    dav1 Posts: 1,298
    I have taken a liking to drops, they just let you get your head down and pust the bike forard through the wind and give a good wide variaty of positions.

    I would say flats are probably safer though as they are more stable then drops, however for an experianced cyclist who knows how to handle a bike this point becomes virtually moot.
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  • BentMikey
    BentMikey Posts: 4,895
    cupofteacp wrote:
    As to filtering it appears that the drop bars don't provide you confidence. I seem to always end up stuck behind a road bike in the middle..

    OTOH I'm always getting stuck behind MTB riders who think they can't fit through a gap. I don't think the bars have much to do with confidence, because you'll either have confidence or you won't, regardless of the bars.
  • Belv
    Belv Posts: 866
    I don't see the choice as a safety issue - pick based on commuting requirements (eg. distance to travel), comfort and experience/confidence - that fraction of a second closer that the brakes are on a flat bar is not likely to be the deciding factor in an accident. And what if your hands were on the bar ends at that vital moment anyway?
  • Clever Pun
    Clever Pun Posts: 6,778
    dazzawazza wrote:
    BentMikey wrote:
    Filtering through traffic is also much harder with flat bars, because they're wider than a wide person.

    Unless you're a wider than drop bars person so this isn't an issue. :wink:

    are you talking about @rse or shoulders?

    @rse... yeah fair point... but that's only temporay right?

    Shoulders are above wing mirrors so no problems
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  • DavidTQ
    DavidTQ Posts: 943
    Clever Pun wrote:
    dazzawazza wrote:
    BentMikey wrote:
    Filtering through traffic is also much harder with flat bars, because they're wider than a wide person.

    Unless you're a wider than drop bars person so this isn't an issue. :wink:

    are you talking about @rse or shoulders?

    @rse... yeah fair point... but that's only temporay right?

    Shoulders are above wing mirrors so no problems

    Filtering where I can only get through because my shoulders are above wing mirrors really isnt something I would want to do...
  • simon_e
    simon_e Posts: 1,706
    tardie wrote:
    apparently the Tricross Sport comes with V-Brakes, not cantis even though it's got drop bars?
    Are you sure? Googling the spec finds canti brakes listed. All 'cross bikes have canti brakes as standard.
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  • Clever Pun
    Clever Pun Posts: 6,778
    DavidTQ wrote:
    Clever Pun wrote:
    dazzawazza wrote:
    BentMikey wrote:
    Filtering through traffic is also much harder with flat bars, because they're wider than a wide person.

    Unless you're a wider than drop bars person so this isn't an issue. :wink:

    are you talking about @rse or shoulders?

    @rse... yeah fair point... but that's only temporay right?

    Shoulders are above wing mirrors so no problems

    Filtering where I can only get through because my shoulders are above wing mirrors really isnt something I would want to do...

    Dazzawazza was implying a part of his body was too wide... if my handlebars can fit I'm going through... I've clipped my finger once... it sucked but no damage done
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  • niblue
    niblue Posts: 1,387
    Simon E wrote:
    tardie wrote:
    apparently the Tricross Sport comes with V-Brakes, not cantis even though it's got drop bars?
    Are you sure? Googling the spec finds canti brakes listed. All 'cross bikes have canti brakes as standard.

    I picked mine up on Saturday and it definitely had V-brakes, not cantis. I noticed it straight away as I had to take the front wheel off to fit the bike into the car.

    You can just about make out that V's are fitted in this picture of my bike:

    original.jpg
  • pw1brown
    pw1brown Posts: 243
    I prefer flat bars for town riding and drops for the country. Braking definitely is stronger from flat bars because of the leverage from the typical hand position and because they tend to fit at least V-brakes if not disc brakes with flat bars.

    On the other hand that Tricross looks GOOD!
  • BentMikey
    BentMikey Posts: 4,895
    pw1brown wrote:
    Braking definitely is stronger from flat bars because of the leverage from the typical hand position and because they tend to fit at least V-brakes if not disc brakes with flat bars. !

    I suspect what you really mean is that it takes less finger pressure to brake. All else being the same, braking power isn't affected by the brake or lever type.

    Having V-brakes or disc brakes isn't going to make you stop more quickly.