I worked in a bike shop for a few years and one of the most common questions, particularly from female riders was “Should I buy a flat bar road bike and a drop bar road bike?”. So I thought it would be useful to talk about the pros and cons of both types of road bike.
Firstly I need to be upfront and tell you that I ride a drop bar road bike and love it, so I won’t be changing to a flat bar any time soon, but I can see some merit in them, and for some riders they are definitely the best option. I find that women particularly are a little intimidated by drop handle bars, and think they are for ‘professional or serious’ riders so steer well away from them, but I want to reassure you that road bikes are for any rider.
If you’re wondering why I don’t call them hybrid bikes it’s because they are not hybrids. A hybrid by definition is a blend of two things. A flat bar road bike is not a blend, it is simply a road bike with flat handle bars.
Flat Bar Road Bike
They are great for short to medium length rides and very popular for people who want to get fit, and they are often used by commuters. They have a plenty of good points and a few detractions as well.
- The riding position is more upright which may be beneficial to those with back problems
- The upright position is also makes it easier to keep a good eye on your surroundings like other road or path users
- They also often come with bolts for racks for those who wish to commute with panniers
- They are generally cheaper than road bikes because they are fitted with cheaper components.
- Lack of hand positions which may lead to sore wrists on longer rides (although they can be fitted with bar ends to alleviate this issue)
- The rider position is not as aerodynamic as drop bar road bike which can slow you down
- They are usually supplied with lower end parts making them heavier. Although this can also be advantage because they are lower cost.
From my experience they are very popular and range in price from about $500 for a basic alloy frame bike right up to several thousand dollars for a beautiful carbon model.
The standard road bike with drop handlebars, is made to be lightweight and for spending long days in the saddle. It is built for speed and those who love to compete, and comes in many different levels from very beginner to competing in the Tour de France level.
It can be used for all types of riding from commuting to group riding to competing. Traditionally road bikes have been for everything except go off road, but more recently manufacturers have introduced ‘gravel’ road bikes which are designed for off-road use as well.
- More hand positions – on the hoods, on the bars, and in the drops
- They are generally lighter
- Drops offer an aerodynamic advantage and aerodynamics play a major role in your speed and energy use while cycling
- They are better for climbing hills because they allow you to shift your weight forward making climbing easier
- Drops can fit through more narrow spots because on average, drop bars are around 20 cm narrower than flat bars
- They are popular with cycling groups
- Drop bars look cool.
- They cost more to purchase and parts also cost more
- You need to wear special clothing
- Some people find the riding position difficult if they have back problems or similar
- There is less opportunity to mount accessories like rear racks
Ultimately it’s a personal choice. I recommend you do plenty of research by visiting your local bike shop and reading online articles like this one.
I will tell you that I have a few friends who initially rode flat bar road bikes but soon upgraded when they joined a cycling group because most of the riders had road bikes which were faster. So don’t be left behind if you’re planning to join a local riding group.