Drop Bars vs Flat Bars For Commuting – Which Is Better?

When you buy a bike for your daily commute, you need to carefully consider whether or not you are going for flat bars or drop bars. The reason for this is while you can change the type of handlebars you have on your bike, it can become rather technical and inconvenient. So, you might be stuck with the handlebars that you get with the bike. That begs the question, which is better: flat bars or drop bars?

As a general rule, if you struggle with hand and arm comfort on your daily commute, then drop bars are the best option for you. You’ll also be in a more aerodynamic position. If you notice that your shoulders or back gets a little bit sore, then flat bars are your best option as it keeps you in a more comfortable position.

In this article, we want to examine whether or not drop bars or flat bars are the best options for you. We will do this by walking through which handlebars are best suited to certain situations because not every commute is the same. I highly recommend that you put some thought into what your commute might look like as you read this article. With that said, let’s get into it.

Morning Bike Commute

Drop Bars vs Flat Bars: Key Considerations

Which Is More Comfortable?

If you commute to and from work, you want your ride to be as comfortable as possible, but the longer your ride to and from your destination, the more important comfort becomes. However, the problem with this question is flat bars and drop bars offer comfort in some areas. So, let’s take a look at that.

Drop bars offer a variety of hand positions. This means that you can find the most comfortable position for your hands; this extends to your arms. For example, if your forearms start getting tired, you can change your hand position, and at the same time, if your elbows start to become uncomfortable, just change your hand position.

You might be wondering whether or not you can just use drop bars as flat bars. Well, the problem is the part of the drop bars that is flat is relatively small; this might put your shoulders in an uncomfortable position, especially on long commutes.

Flat bars allow you to sit upright, which is a more natural position. When you go on longer rides, let’s say 7 to 10 miles, flat bars offer the best overall comfort as they help keep your body in that upright position.

So to try and answer this question, the comfort aspect depends on what you value the most. If your back hurts with drop bars, you should try flat bars, and if your hands and your forearms constantly hurt with flat bars, you want to try drop bars. There is no other definite answer to this question, unfortunately it really depends on the individual!

Which Is Best In Traffic?

While reading through this section, I want you to think about how much traffic there is on the road and, more importantly, how you navigate through the traffic. If you are lucky enough to live in a city with multiple bike lanes, this point isn’t as important, especially if you ride on secluded roads. However, if you need to weave through daily traffic, then keep reading.

Drop bars are often a lot narrower than flat bars. This makes navigating through traffic a lot easier. Yes, this applies if you are going in between cars, but it also applies if you are riding in bike lanes in congested areas such as New York City or London.

Flat bars are wider than drop bars but not by much; however, you want to consider all the times you’ve had close calls. Those could have been avoided if your bars were slightly narrower, so I’ll say that drop bars are best for this section.

Which Is Best For Off Road Shortcuts?

For some of us, our daily commute involves quite a lot of shortcuts. Now, these shortcuts are essential to consider because it is where you put your bike through its ultimate test. Some don’t really have these shortcuts and can safely stick to a bike lane or road, and therefore, can continuously have a relatively smooth surface to ride on.

If your daily commute involves many shortcuts, especially in more rugged terrain, it would be best to go with flat bars. When you hit rough terrain, you want the stability that flat bars offer. You also want your body to be positioned upright as this gives you more freedom to shift your body weight when you need to.

So, I can comfortably say that flat bars win this section.

Bike Commuter Riding Along Tram

Are Drop Bars More Dangerous Than Flat Bars For Commuting?

Drop bars are not more dangerous than flat bars and vice versa. In terms of safety, it doesn’t really matter what type of handlebars you have. All that matters is that they are attached to the bike properly, they are of good quality, and they give you complete control over the bike.

When talking about traffic, as we have already done, you could make the case that drop bars are slightly safer. However, not everyone rides bikes in the city, and we need to consider everyone’s situation. So, for this section, the type of handlebars that you have do not play a role in how safe you are.

Are Drop Bars Faster For Commuting?

This is a tricky question to answer. It all boils down to how hard you pedal and the terrain! Remember, if you don’t go the maximum speed, then drop bars will not make you faster. Instead, you will most probably ride at the same speed that you always do.

In terms of acceleration instead of top speed, there is an argument that drop bars can make you slightly faster because of aerodynamics. However, the difference is so insignificant that you won’t notice it unless you are in a race.

Finally, if you usually ride at your top speed, then yes, drop bars can increase this slightly. At this point, I would like to say that safety should always be a priority, and going top speed while commuting isn’t always the best option 😉. Remember, you are not in a race to work (maybe you are? 🤷‍♂️).

Commuter On A Road Bike In The Rain

Should You Get Drop Bars Or Flat Bars For Commuting?

If you live in a heavily populated city, then having drop bars can be beneficial when trying to avoid traffic. However, they aren’t convenient for how you need to shift your body weight in some situations. You will find that with drop bars, you are usually leaning forward. For a lot of people who commute long-distance, this can take a toll on your back.

If you have been using flat bars and have not had any problems, I recommend sticking with what works for you. However, if you notice that your hands start to hurt while on your commute or your forearms start to become stiff, looking at drop bars could be your best option.

Below is a summary of the pros and cons of each.

Flat Bars

Pros
  • Better for the upper and lower back
  • Excellent for shoulder comfort
  • The more budget-friendly option
  • Adds more control of the bike
Cons
  • Not the best option for traffic
  • When your hands get sore, there is not much you can do

Drop Bars

Pros
  • Added comfort for your arms and hands
  • Aerodynamics adds a little bit of speed
  • Lowers your center of gravity
  • Easier navigation through traffic
Cons
  • Not very budget-friendly
  • You have less control of the bike

Conclusion

That brings us to the end of this article. Hopefully, you now know whether you should get drop bars or flat bars. To say which is best would be disingenuous. Each type of handlebars has its pros and cons!

Looking for some rides to get to work? Check out the best hybrid bikes under $500 or best road bikes under $1,000!

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