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Handlebar position - Flat Bar vs. Drop Bar

adebisiadebisi Posts: 52
edited May 2012 in Commuting general
Let's assume that you're swapping a flat bar for a drop bar while the frame remains the same. Let's further assume that you had found a comfortable yet sporty riding position on your flat bar ride. Does anyone have an idea on how the stem length should be adjusted in this change? Or do you just use a stem of equal length and have to adapt to the increased reach?

In other words, how does the saddle to handlebar distance compare between a drop bar road bike and a flat bar road bike? I presume, that in order to operate gears most of the drop bar riders will have their hands on the brake handles instead of the crossbar or the low position most of the time. I also have a hunch that having the knuckles in a east-west position is more comfortable in the long run than to north-north.


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Posts

  • u33dbu33db Posts: 68
    Generally if you're running a flat bar the bar will be quite a distance below your saddle.

    For drop bars the top of the bar shouldn't be as low (because once you're in the drops you'll be even lower) so you'd need to move your stem upwards somehow (this will depend on stem type - if its a fixed clamp on type you'll need to buy a new one unless you have an adjustable stem, if its an old quill stem extend it upwards).

    If you're current riding position is ok i wouldn't say you'd need to mess with the stem length though.

    For riding with drops you're correct that you'll have you're hands resting on the hoods of the brakes so you can operate the brakes/gears most of the time, in the drops going downhill (or in wind) and on the crossbar climbing.

    The most comfortable position is a matter of preference.
  • corshamjimcorshamjim Posts: 234
    I would think that for the drop bars, the stem needs to be a little bit shorter, but I wouldn't rush out to buy a new stem until you've tried it with your existing one.

    This is what I'm using on the commuter at the moment.

    pashley-shifter.jpg

    As you can see, the stem is very short (not sporty at all) and very high. Commuting I like an upright riding position so I can see well around me and so I can be seen better too. I'm always experimenting with this setup - I expect I'll put more conventional brake levers for the drop bars on it soon, as the on-the-sides hand position with this one isn't as comfortable as I'd hoped although braking is very positive.
  • rolf_frolf_f Posts: 16,015
    u33db wrote:
    For drop bars the top of the bar shouldn't be as low (because once you're in the drops you'll be even lower)

    Sort of defeats the point of having drops in the first place!

    I'd say start by just changing the bars and leaving stem height and reach the same. Top of drops is equivalent to the straight bar position and I can't see a reason to change it. Hoods and drops give progressively more aerodynamic postions which is the point of drops - if the drop is too low then probably you need more compact drops. The only counter is if you don't tend to ride on the tops in which case you might want to raise the bars a little to give a less stretched position on the hoods. Not sure how good an idea that would be though.

    As for braking - that is most effective from the drops but you can still brake very well from the hoods. I use all three positions varying for comfort mainly. I'll use the drops specifically for descents and headwinds but otherwise I use all positions in climbing, descending and on the flat.
    Faster than a tent.......
  • Godders1Godders1 Posts: 750
    I think your hunch is incorrect (although I accept we’re all different). If walking with our hands by our sides the “natural” position is for the palms of the hands to be facing into the body. As such riding on the hoods is actually very comfortable, more so than being on the tops in my experience.

    If like me you found being on the hoods to be your favoured position then a slightly shorter stem would make up for the slight increase in reach although as others have said I’d leave it initially and just see how it feels.
  • supersonicsupersonic Posts: 82,708 Lives Here
    The flat bar will be a lot wider (generally) - 580mm is considered short in MTB terms! Also the sweep will be different. I don't think you will be able to replicate the position.
  • MichaelWMichaelW Posts: 2,226
    There are no rules as to how bars should be setup.
    Generally, if you have a favourite cruising position, this is where you want your hands to be, either on the grips of your flat bars or the hoods of your drop bars.
    In this position, drop bars will give you an additional more upright position on the tops and a more aero position on the drops.

    If you have a comfortable position of the flat abar and want to replicate it on the hood of a drop bar, then you may need to use a shorter stem. You will have to measure from saddle nose to the grip (web of the hand) position. This is much easier if you live in Norfolk.
  • jomojjomoj Posts: 777
    if its any help I ran a flat bar for a while and used a 130mm stem to try and get a morestretched out position but it still wasn't comfortable over much more than 15 miles so swapped to drops and a 100mm stem which is much, much better. Typically you might have about 80mm reach on a drop bar but with your hands on the hoods its probably about half that added to the stem length if you want to try and find a comparison.

    As well as the variation in grip that drops offer, having your hands palms inward is a more natural alignment and puts less tension on your arms and shoulders so it's less tiring over distance.
  • adebisiadebisi Posts: 52
    corshamjim wrote:
    This is what I'm using on the commuter at the moment.

    pashley-shifter.jpg

    As you can see, the stem is very short (not sporty at all) and very high. Commuting I like an upright riding position so I can see well around me and so I can be seen better too. I'm always experimenting with this setup - I expect I'll put more conventional brake levers for the drop bars on it soon, as the on-the-sides hand position with this one isn't as comfortable as I'd hoped although braking is very positive.

    That looks original enough =) Beats any monster bike I've seen so far.

    In my experience, swapping a flat bar to a drop bar requires you to shorten the stem. I just didn't say it in my opening post so that my opinion wouldn't affect the answers. I once tried to switch the steering into a drop bar without changing the stem. This resulted in a geometry in which having the hands resting on the crossbar felt comfortable (naturally) but on the hoods I felt too stretched. I've ridden bikes with drops a few times before and always felt at home, so I do not think that the sensation was caused by moving to an unfamiliar territory.

    After a few days of commuting I changed back to my old faithful flat. My gut feeling is that I would've needed a stem that was at least 20mm shorter. Never got to test it though because I didn't want to spend too much money on experimenting.
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