Drop bars have been the go-to handlebars for road bikes for years. Their history dates back over a century, with the first iteration of the drop bar being introduced on the comically large-wheeled penny farthings.
The first bikes that had the approximate shape of modern bicycles were referred to as safety bicycles, and they debuted in the early 1890s. These safety bicycles featured drop bars reminiscent of today’s road bike handlebars.
Drop bars may seem uncomfortable at first. However, drop bars offer multiple hand positions, increased aerodynamics, and more customizable ergonomics.
Are Drop Bars More Comfortable Than Flat Bars?
Drop bars, also known as road bike handlebars, are popular among cyclists due to their aerodynamic benefits and multiple hand positions. However, some riders find them uncomfortable compared to flat bars, commonly found on mountain and hybrid bikes.
Comfort is subjective, and what feels comfortable for one rider may not be for another.
Drop bars generally offer a more aggressive riding position, which can put more pressure on the rider’s hands, wrists, and arms.
Although gravel bikes have drop bars, too, because of the more relaxed geometry, you’ll notice much less pressure on the hands as you’ll ride in a much more upright position. So, at the end of the day, how comfortable a drop bar is, isn’t only a question of the handlebars but also the frame.
Drop bars offer multiple hand positions, including the tops, the hoods, and the drops. This variety can reduce discomfort by allowing the rider to change positions frequently. Furthermore, the drop position allows the rider to get aerodynamic and minimize wind resistance, providing a more efficient riding experience.
For casual or short road rides, flat bars are an excellent choice. Riding a flat bar bike doesn’t require a whole lot of getting used to. However, if you’re spending a lot of time in the saddle on a road bike, you may consider drop bars.
I ride bikes that have both drop bars and flat bars. I spend hours in the saddle on my road bike with drop bars, and I’m very glad it has that style of bars. My mountain bike has nice wide flat bars that allow for excellent control of the front of the bike.
How Can I Make Drop Bars More Comfortable?
There are several ways to make drop bars more comfortable, the first of which is to adjust your bike fit. Ensure your bike is correctly fitted to your body. A proper bike fit can help reduce discomfort and prevent injuries.
Use or change your bar tape. Bar tape is a material that wraps around the handlebars, providing a cushion between your hands and the handlebars. There are many different types of bar tape available, including cork, foam, and gel.
I have gone through many brands and types of bar tape until I found one that is right for me. Some riders prefer more cushy tape, while others prefer a less padded option. I prefer the look and feel of cork bar tape.
Use gloves. Gloves can reduce pressure on your hands and wrists. Much like bar tape, there are several options out there. I like a glove that doesn’t have a lot of padding. I use my bike in all weather and riding conditions, so the extra grip helps on rainy days and when my hands get sweaty.
Adjust your brake lever position. This is a big one and goes along with having a proper bike fit. Make sure your brake levers are in a comfortable place. Some riders find it more comfortable to have the levers closer to the drops.
Experiment with different hand positions. Try using different hand positions, including the tops, hoods, and drops. There are a few other positions you can place your hands to add spice and variety to your ride.
My favorite for long rides is the ramps, sometimes called the shoulders. It’s when you place your hands just short of the hoods, giving you an upright riding position that relaxes the wrist.
Are Drop Bars Hard on Your Neck, Wrist, and Muscles?
Drop bars can put more pressure on your neck, wrist, and muscles compared to flat bars. The aggressive riding position can cause strain on these areas, especially if the rider is not fitted correctly on the bike or is not used to this type of riding.
It is essential to adjust your bike fit and experiment with different hand positions to reduce strain on your neck, wrist, and muscles. Additionally, taking frequent breaks and stretching during longer rides is important to reduce strain on your body.
When I got into bicycling as an adult, I started on a flat bar road bike as this was most similar to the type of bike I grew up riding.
I switched over after a while to a drop bar road bike and was not used to the different riding position. I found myself experiencing soreness after the switch that quickly went away after a few rides.
If you’re experiencing continued soreness following your riding, that likely means your bicycle fit is off, and you should correct it as soon as possible.
Is It Difficult To Get Used To Drop Bars After Having Used Flat Bars?
It can take some time to get used to drop bars because of the aggressive riding position and because the brakes and shifters are positioned differently. However, with practice and patience, most riders are able to adjust to drop bars without issue.
It is also important to note that drop bars are generally found on road and gravel bikes, both built for speed and efficiency, one on paved roads and the other (gravel bike), to do something similar but off-road. Flat bars are found on mountain bikes and hybrids, built for stability and control.
It is also essential to keep in mind that riding any bike takes time to get used to, especially if you are new to the sport. It’s best to start with shorter rides and gradually increase the distance and difficulty as you become more comfortable.
No matter what you’re riding, what’s important is that you are riding. Getting out there on your bicycle is the most important thing.