The problems with “gravel” versions of drop handlebars and some better solutions

Last modified: May 23, 2021

There is a major recent trend for gravel bikes to be equipped with non-standard shapes of drop handlebars: flared bars, riser bars, and dual-level bars. The bike brands emphasize how their special bar design improves comfort or other criteria, but it’s also just an effort by the brands to better differentiate gravel bikes from road bikes and to make their gravel bike stand out from the crowd.

I explain why I wouldn’t recommend any of these odd handlebar shapes over using a standard drop handlebar of the preferred width and an appropriate-height stem. I instead give better solutions for how to achieve each of the goals of these oddly-shaped bars (improving control, position and comfort) while using standard drop handlebars (which look better and are more practical).

Flared bars – Wider gives more control

This is the most common non-standard shape of drop handlebar. The drops flare out wider than the hoods, sometimes subtly and sometimes extremely. The idea is that it gives a wider, more stable position when descending technical unpaved sections and gives more room for bar bags. Here’s a list of things that I dislike about flared bars:

  1. A lot of people keep their hands on the top of the brake lever hoods when they get into technical sections, which are the same width as normal, so the flared drops give them no advantage.
  2. The drops should be the most aerodynamic riding position, but making the drops wider has a big negative effect on aerodynamics. Therefore, the drops shouldn’t be any wider than the hoods position.
  3. The flared drops makes the brake lever hoods point outwards at the angle of the flare, which puts them at a less ergonomic angle for the hands. One or two brands make flared bars that don’t flare out until below the lever clamp, but this is not the case for most flared bars. The angled lever hoods can actually make the position of riding on the hoods be narrower than it would on a bar with a non-flared bar of the same width, which totally defeats the point.
  4. Handlebar bags or rolls still don’t fit well because the width of the hoods and hands are normally the limiting factor.

Better solution: If you want a wider riding position or more space for a bag then use a non-flared handlebar that is wider at both the hoods and the drops.

Personally, I ride 52 and 54 cm frames and use a standard 40 cm drop handelbar on most of my bikes except that I use a 42 cm non-flared bar on my gravel bike. 2 cm of extra width is all that I need and I don’t find I’m lacking in control on technical sections.

Riser bars – Higher is more comfortable

Specialized equip their popular gravel bike the Diverge with a “Hover bar” that rises up just after leaving the stem. The biggest disadvantage is the prime space for mounting accessories is lost, but it’s also quite ugly.

The riser bar is supposed to give a slightly higher riding position which is more comfortable and gives more control, but the same position could easily be achieved with a stem that has less drop. The stem could even be flipped upwards or it might be possible to put more spacers underneath it. People will complain that these solutions look less cool, but to me I think the riser/Hover bar looks far less attractive and is certainly less practical for accessory mounting.

I’m a big fan of the Diverge gravel bikes and ride one myself and often recommend them to friends, but I always recommend requesting that the shop fits a standard bar instead of that unpractical and ugly Hover bar.

Dual-layer bars – Vertical flex is comfortable

Canyon’s Grail carbon gravel bike has a bar with two levels, with the stem integrated into the lower level and you hold the upper section. This should add some vertical flex to make the ride more comfortable, but there are major disadvantages:

  1. The geometry and how the frame is measured is non-standard so buying the correct frame size is more complicated than normal. This can be a serious problem due to Canyon being an online store with no personalized sizing advice and it’s quite complicated/expensive to change the frame size if it’s wrong.
  2. The possibility of modifying the position is extremely limited due to the integrated stem and bar and it would be expensive to buy a different model, meaning people are less likely to have an appropriate riding position. Again this wouldn’t be as much of a problem if the bike was sold by a local shop that could make sure your bike was delivered with parts that fit you properly, but Canyon can’t do that.
  3. Again, that’s a super-ugly looking bar that I wouldn’t want on my bike.

Canyon make some decent bikes for very good prices and I have no problem recommending their aluminum gravel bike to some people, which uses a standard bar and stem. However, I wouldn’t recommend the carbon bike to anyone simply due to the handlebar and the fitting issues that it can create. I’d be far less hesitant if buying the bike from a knowledgeable local shop with a stock of bar/stem sizes, but that isn’t the case.

RedShift ShockStop Stem

Better solution: You can greatly improve front-end comfort by switching your rigid stem for one with integrated suspension, like the RedShift ShockStop stem (see image). I’ve used one for a couple of years and find it to be fantastic (see my review). The Specialized Diverge is also an excellent bike with integrated front suspension (which I also reviewed). There are also some shortened MTB forks now sold for gravel bikes, but they change the bike’s geometry and aesthetics and are often overkill.

Summary of better solutions

In summary, if you want more control in technical sections then fit a wider bar, but choose one that is wider at the hoods as well as the drops instead of a flared bar that is only wider in the drops.

If you want a more upright riding position then change your stem, flip your stem, or move the spacers around. Only if none of these options are possible should you consider a riser drop bar.

If you want more front-end comfort then add it to any bike by using a RedShift ShockStop stem or get a gravel bike that has integrated front suspension like a Specialized Diverge. Avoid the fitting and aesthetics issues caused by Canyon’s carbon Grail.

51 thoughts on “The problems with “gravel” versions of drop handlebars and some better solutions”

  1. Yes, you nailed it. Couldn‘t agree more. In addition also to the missing real estate to mount things I‘d like to mention of important bit of such things are aerobars. That‘s also a main disadvantage of Canyons ugly solution for the Grail. You may have even a second bar to mount things on, but you couldn’t. Because the shape and function won‘t lend itself for most clamps and fastening methods in the first place and the structure forbids adding a load like that from aerobars. And given the system integration you simply can‘t exchange the handlebar for a normal one at all. A classic case of trying to be unique and polarize for the pure sake of advertising purposes to the detriment of the potential customer.

    1. Erm, sorry but this is merely an opinion piece and entirely subjective. On the drops, you get the most leverage on the brakes (like the End of a lever) and so I always descend on the drops. Flare drops I personally find incredible in this regard, with loads more control over the front wheel. This is also probably a matter of core flexibility, so stack height should always be considered! Buy the bike that puts you in a comfortable position in the drops, aero is also largely not a consideration of the average gravel rider, racing I can understand.

      1. I agree, it’s opinion and subjective. How can handlebar choice be anything else?
        My gravel rides also include lots of roads, so having the option of a proper aerodynamic riding position is important. If someone is using a gravel bike as a MTB replacement then maybe they have different needs. I want my gravel bike to be a road bike that can handle some unpaved/dirt exploration. Everyone has different needs, but I don’t like the fact that bike brands are turning gravel bikes more and more into pseudo-MTBs and further and further away from road bikes.

        1. Handlebar choice is opinion/subjective, but stating things as “problems” as a matter of fact is plain incorrect.

          Gravel bikes span a wide range of backroad through to backcountry type roads. The “problem” with his piece is it’s from the perspective of a pure road rider (I suspect what you call “technical” wouldn’t be sniffed at by most proper MTBers). If you’d ridden any proper technical roads/singletrack then the flare and extra leverage on the brake levers is a godsend.

          Could have summarized this entire article as “I’m a roadie. I want my gravel bike to ride the same as a road bike so I put road bike parts on it”.

          A handlebar is one of the easiest things to switch out, it’s like writing a long winded article complaining about how the tires that came on MTBs are too knobby because you like riding them on pavement.

          1. My problem is not with the flare per se, it’s more questioning why the hoods aren’t put at a wider position and why only the drops are wider. Plus, my point about the hover bar is completely valid – just put a positive rise stem on and leave the central section of the bars straight so people can mount accessories.
            I live in Switzerland. Most of my riding is in the mountains, I frequently pass hikers who look at me as if I’m crazy to be riding something that isn’t a mountain bike on such trails. I know what technical gravel riding is about, thanks.

          2. @LL Agree with most of what you said, except changing handlebars is not easy. If you don’t have the right amount of cable slack now you are heading into a big project, changing cables, adjusting derailleurs, brakes ect.

      2. Most bike riders are never going to be professionals. Some of them dress like they are and even spend thousands of dollars on their bikes. But for the other 80% of amateur riders like myself, we want comfort and stability. Which means we don’t like gravel bikes, with touring Handlebars! We want a flat bar like a mountain bike. Why? Because we have better control of the bike and it’s more comfortable. To manufactures I say this, make bikes that are designed for comfort and control for people that love to bike. We’re not professionals and never will be, so stop designing bikes for us that will make us feel like we could be in the Tour de France! The majority of people buying your bikes are older and more realistic about there biking abilities. So start designing your bikes around us!

        1. I totally agree that people shouldn’t try to mimic what professional cyclists do. However, I’ve always found flat bars to be far less comfortable than drop bars for rides of more than 1 hour – flat bars put too much pressure on the palms of my hands, they force an unnatural twist in the wrists and they offer far fewer options to move your hands around, even with bars ends installed. I’m pleased flat bars work well for you, but I struggle to use them comfortably for anything but the shortest rides.

    2. Bull.

      Like the pea brained author, you hypostatize your personal preference.

      I never use drops with standard bars, very uncomfortable.

      Does it dawn on you putzes that ones forearms touch the bars when one uses standard drops?

      That does not happen with flares!

      Flares are great. Ignore the author and this doofus.

      1. Thanks for the input. No, I’ve never had my forearms touch the bars when in the drops, maybe that’s because I don’t have my bars excessively low, my elbows are slightly bent to be shock absorbers, and modern compact drop bars don’t have as much reach as more traditional shapes did. To avoid the possibility of forearm interference, 3T road bars for 10+ years have had a very minor flare with the drops being 2cm wider than the hoods, which is so marginal that most people aren’t aware of it, but apparently it’s enough to avoid forearm interference; that was the case WELL before gravel bikes and flared bars became a thing and is why you need to be careful when buying 3T bars to make sure you’re getting the size you want (because a ’42cm’ 3T road bar only measures 40cm at the hoods).

        1. Or maybe the fact that some people need a narrow bar because they have narrow shoulders, but then when in drops their knees interfere with their elbows. Absolutely nothing to do with bar height, and everything to do with the individuals alignment on their bike.

          1. I would think that a pretty minor amount of bar flare would be sufficient to solve that problem. An alternative solution might be shorter cranks – crank length is not proportional to bike size / saddle height, and instead is almost fixed to be within a very narrow range, so small bikes have relatively much longer cranks than larger bikes, which would make knee/elbow interference far more likely.

    3. This guy is giving his completely subjective opinions. His biggest complaint is gravel bars are ugly. It seems like he hasn’t even tried them. I have the new Redshift bars and they’re awesome.

    4. Curve Cycling’s Flared Ultra Wide Walmer Bars are simply game changing for ultra endurance, bike packing and gravel riding. Not a gimmick at all. If you haven’t tried them you should and if you think standard drops are even remotely comparable I’d argue that you simply haven’t had enough experience to know any better. The pros far out weigh the cons for their intended purpose.

  2. I’m a fan of flared bars, the Ritchey Venture Max in particular. Regarding the positioning of the levers I find that angling them to match the flare of the bars is actually a lot more comfortable and leaves my wrists and hands in a far more natural position riding on the hoods with less ulnar flexion which helps with pressure on the ulnar nerve, a common cause of numb hands.

    I use the 46cm version of the bars so it also gives a wider stance on the hoods than a conventional 38 or 40cm drop bar would. Riding on the drops descending on anything other than badly broken surfaces is also more comfortable for me and gives more control and confidence. The position again is more natural for the wrists and makes reaching the levers easier as well.

    The aero impact is going to be minimal and the most aero position for long distances is going to be on aero bars not on the drops anyway.

  3. For road riding I agree, wide flared bars don’t have a point really, but they do have their place.

    The hoods at a slight angle put your wrist in a comfortable position, when the bar is a bit wider than your typical road bar, wider than your shoulders. On rougher gravel, I also like to put my palms firmly on the hoods, instead of just the base of my thumbs while most of the palm is hanging on the side closer to the levers like on a more traditional drop bar. The levers at an angle are easier to reach with a good grip this way. And it’s not about the reach adjustment of the levers and my hands are average or large in size.

    The drops have other functions than being aero on road too, the having your hands slightly further back and wider feels stable and relaxed on rougher ground or when your tyres loose some traction. It gives more options on grip width. On narrow bars, slipping front or rear tyre is more difficult to control, while the wider stance is stable like you were on all fours and can control the slide better.

    The difference is not that huge though and sure I’ve been happy on narrower bars too.

    I’d probably take a narrower bar for something like TCR and everything more road oriented in the future too, but enjoy the wide flared drops for mixed use now. I’ve used mostly 40 and 42 cm bars for the past years and now have one with the hoods at 46 and drops 53.

  4. I converted my mtb to a gravel bike as the condition of country lanes made it impractical to use my road bike. I just love the set up of the tour devide bikes so modelled it on those. I retained the rock shocks forks and fitted Richie venturmax and aero bars. I know it’s not trendy but I kept the 26 inch wheels and fitted schwalbe 50mm tour tyres. The cassette is 9 speed 11-34 with a triple on the front. I fitted second hand shimano tiagra brake/shifters £40.It’s the most comfortable ride ever and it can go anywhere. I don’t use my road bike anymore. The total cost including the bike was under £600! I am 72 and have been riding bikes since I was 9 and also rode time trials on my now vintage Raleigh 531c.

  5. I recently fitted a Humpert Comfort ‘butterfly style’ bar. They extend out to about 55cm, then forward maybe 8cm them back toward the centre where I’ve added two bullhorns to provide an aero tuck position. Very different, definitely not sexy looking, but pretty effective! I get said aero position, a hoods like position (though I use the standard mtb brake / shifters), a full wide position and even a full upright position too. They’ve been a revelation.

  6. Additional important disadvantage to Canyon Grail two-level handlebar: interferes with thumb and hand placement in the drops, reducing control and increasing discomfort.

  7. There should be more internet content with these observations about gravel and handlebars. Bravo Chris
    One tip: look at the bar set-ups used for long-distance events and see the trend as they have been worked out. In the Tour Divide the majority of the front runners are now using traditional mountain bars with add-ons (aero and bar ends) Bailey Newbrey has done a great job on the “bikesordeath” podcast Ep. 48 -34 min describing why this set-up is best compared to drop bars.
    I will point anyone attempting a thoughtful bike build to read this post and listen to the advice of Mr. Newbrey.

  8. Absolutely right approach. I ride long steep gravel 4 to 5 days a week and have done a few thousand kilometers on my Giant Revolt. After many tried approaches the flared bars have been replaced with standard shape with short drop and reach. The stem has been replaced with a red shift. Your reasoning is correct on every point. The flared bars thing is more limiting rather than liberating.. not a useful marketing ploy. Redshirt stem is a huge enabler allowing you to tackle more diverse gravel roads.

  9. Fortunately, Specialized dropped the “Hover Bar” for 2021. I have the Pro and I like the flared bars and tilted hoods, they’re quite comfy. The shape of the Diverge drop bars are quite a bit different than my road bike bars. I have the two setup very close. Seat to bar centers are the same but reach to the hoods is 1cm shorter on the Diverge. The drops project less forward making the hand position 3cm shorter than the road bike when in the drops. Seat to bar height difference is also less on the Diverge.

    Road bike bars are designed to stretch you out and drop your shoulders when in the hooks. Gravel bars give you more comfort and control at the expense of aero, but they don’t abandon it all together. I like my roadie on the road and gravel on some roads but also everywhere else. I think the Diverge drop bars enhance the off road capabilities without abandoning the road altogether.

    1. That’s interesting, it appears that Specialized are now selling the Pro and S-Works Diverge without the Hover Bar, but the other versions of the Diverge still get the Hove Bar. I bought a 2021 Diverge Sport Carbon for my wife as soon as it was released (in Spring 2020) from the shop where I used to work; that definitely came with the Hover Bar, but I immediately changed that as well as most of the other parts (she got GRX Di2 with super-wide range gearing, handbuilt wheels, etc.).
      Maybe Specialized decided that S-Works and Pro riders would appreciate a lower and more aggressive position than people buying the other models, or maybe they agree with me that the Hover Bar makes the bike look silly and you shouldn’t have something that ugly on such expensive bikes.

  10. You are correct. It is more marketing hype at making bars that apparently function for one part of the market. The truth is they end up ruining the basic functionality that one needs.

  11. Does anybody use 40cm for gravel? My new “city gravel bike” (pre-equipped with lights&rear rack) has 44cm + flare which feels too wide. I have narrow shoulders, my road bike has 40cm. I don’t do much offroad, >90% is city commuting. Would 42cm be a better choice to be slightly more flexible with bags and maybe steer safer when it’s slippery/snowy? Or would i regret the slight aero penalty the additional 2cm bring?

    1. Personally, I ride a 40cm on my road bike and have used both a 40 and 42 cm wide, non-flared bar on my gravel bike. I’m happy using either – if I do many consecutive days on one bike and then switch to the other then I notice the slight change in hand width, but the difference in handling is not really noticeable to me, so I wouldn’t make a change unless you have a specific need/goal.

      1. Isn’t it bike dependent? Some bikes with slacker head tube and longer top tube (so shorter stem to preserve the reach) would behave better with wider handlebar hence the need for flared ones. I do feel a difference especially on cornering. Besides on very long day, having too wide handlebar makes the position on the hoods not very comfortable (wrists); it is my personal experience though but I like hoods to be on narrow side. Anyway, I wish the bike could talk and tell all of us what is actually better…

  12. I feel this article misses one important thing re. flared bars and gravel bikes: most people aren’t racing them and don’t care about the small aero penalty of flared bars. If I was racing the TCR then yes, sure, I would fit normal drop bars. However, I find the drops of moderately flared (16 deg) bars so much comfier for steep off road riding, that for me, the aero penalty is absolutely worth it.

    1. I also wouldn’t use my gravel bike for the TCR. But even so, when using my gravel bike, there are always some fast paved sections when I want to be fast and efficient. I think the problem is that gravel bikes are becoming replacements for mountain bikes rather than being road bikes that can tackle more interesting terrain.

    1. I’d prefer to call it opinion rather than bias. If you want opinion-free reporting then there are lots of mainstream sites that care more about their advertisers than their readers that you can visit instead.

  13. If you can descend on the hoods, it isn’t technical.

    I’ve got two gravel bikes. I’ve been swapping back and forth between them. Newest one (Hakka MX- riding about a year) has flared Enve carbon bars. Old one has a Thomson carbon road bar. Initially, the Enve felt too wide. Now after a couple thousand miles, it feels normal and I appreciate the flare to widen the bar/gain leverage and slow down the steering when dropping in to steep rooty, rocky sections. The traditional Thomson drops now feel too twitchy on single track sections and almost feels like it has negative flare. I have to negotiate tech more cautiously with the Thomson bars. The Thomson is nice for tucking in the shoulders/elbows on road descents or when in a fast paceline. I’m now looking for an intermediate flare bar to replace the traditional Thomson.

    The super trendy gravel marketing now has some absurd looking bars. But it’s great for the consumer. My next bar will be somewhere between the Enve and Thomson flares. I certainly appreciate the wide range of bars available now. And the industry trend for slacker geometry. Back in the 90s we all rode twitchy CX bikes with nearly vertical head tube angles and thought 32mm tires were the bomb. We didn’t know then that “gravel” would be all the rage 20 years later. Sure don’t miss sew ups and canti brakes.

    1. I totally agree, riding in the drops give far more control than the hoods. Unfortunately, many less competent people don’t realize this and rarely use the drops for anything (I’ve seen so many people doing this, and I’m sure you have too). Such people would benefit from having the hoods wider, not only the drops, which is partly why I don’t really get flared bars.

  14. Well I built my first gravel bike back in 1988 and run 46cm wide handlebars for comfort and control riding offroad (green lanes and early MTB tracks) in the United Kingdom.
    Loved riding the great gravel roads once home in New Zealand in 1989 and only stopped because my friends were riding mountain bikes.
    Now I’m back riding gravel and loving that at long last we have options of wider flared handlebars, do I ride drop handlebars to be more aero? NO. do I ride them for looks or to fit around a bikepacking bag? NO.
    I ride them because I’m comfortable, enjoy riding more, and have always felt an handlebar 44cm or narrower are unsafe to ride.
    But if it’s aero you’re after go for it.
    I’ll stick with my Ritchey Barcon 46cm bars and just smile when I go riding tomorrow morning.
    Happy cycling all.

  15. that was, without a doubt, the stupidest list of ridiculously formulated opinions I’ve ever read. cherry on top was the suspension stem! lol. I really thought the article may have been meant as a joke at that point. — might even be funnier that it was not!

    1. I don’t mind criticism, but it would be more helpful if you were more specific and gave an opposing viewpoint with reasoning behind it rather than simply calling everything stupid.

  16. This is a super insightful post that I totally agree with. I think 5-10 degrees flare can be helpful and it doesn’t generally seem to affect comfort on the hoods (for me). But having recently swapped to a 46cm wide 30 degree flare on my gravel bike – the width is amazing but the flare has killed the ergonomics of my shifter hoods.

  17. I like the overview but you missed one important alternative: a flat bar. It seems the gravel (not to mention the roadie) community is enamored with drop bars. Sure, if you’re racing or you’re spending many hours on the bike, drop bars offer different hand positions and provide better aerodynamics. But if you’re not looking to cover 50 miles every day or racing, and just want to go out for a 1-2 hr road/gravel ride and still cover a lot of ground at speed, flat bar gravel bikes have many advantages. They will be comfortable, have better visibility, put less strain on your neck, and last but not least: will be easier to control on all surfaces, including single track. I know a lot of people will tell me that would just be a rigid mountain bike! But if a drop bar is the only thing that differentiates a gravel bike from a mountain bike, then every gravel cyclist is riding a mountain bike and doesn’t even know it.

    1. You’re totally correct, the distinction between gravel bikes and mountain bikes is certainly primarily determined by bar style. Modern gravel bikes are pretty similar to early MTBs from the 1990s in terms of what terrain they can be ridden on, although the components have been vastly improved.

      It’s a shame that the English language ended up using the misleading term “MTB” when “ATB”, All Terrain Bike, also existed in the early days. In French, they stuck with the equivalent of ATB (MTB = VTT = vélo tout terrain), which is more appropriate because it’s not mountains that MTBs are specifically designed for, it’s a wider variety of terrains, the similarity of the names could then highlight the similarities of the bikes.

  18. I guess it depends on where you come from. As a road / CX rider I tried, but cannot grow to like the flared bars that came on my new gravel bike. Largely for the reasons in the original post.

  19. Wow! Nice piece Debbie Downer. Companies like to innovate to provide consumers multiple options. What works for one person may be uncomfortable for another. As a 43 year old that has sustained a lot of injuries from mountain biking and skateboarding, I have a tough time getting comfy on drop bars when I’m bike packing and just going on longer rides. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the different approaches companies are taking to be unconventional.

  20. Interesting opinion piece, couple of things spring to mind.

    If you’re really concerned with aero-gains, then the drops is probably not where you want to be. Tucked up in the hoods with the forearms parallel to the ground seems offer less drag than in the drops, all other things considered equal, in the data that i’ve seen public data for. Worth checking out if that really is of interest to you.

    If you doing big miles, especially if it’s the competitive end of the stick e.g. TCR, RAAM, then you’ll more than likely be sporting some sort of aero-bar or bar extension anyway – partly for getting out of the wind, very definitely for the extra body and hand positions they offer. Even the cheapest set of clip-ons would probably provide more aero gain than hoods or drops unless you decided to use them as bar-ends.

    As a number of people have mentioned, if you’re off-road and descending on the hoods then it’s probably not technical. Wide flare on the drops can offer a lot more control without doubt (honestly, read anything from anyone who spends any amount of time off-road) – be that steering or braking – and you’re far less prone to losing grip over the hoods on the rough stuff when you’re hands are stuffed in the bar bend.

    Regarding ‘why not just make the hoods further apart’ – well, as you know, you can do that as well… it’s not an either-or. The bars available these days have a huge range of widths, back- and out-sweeps, drop lengths, flare and so on – a number take care to reduce the tilt of the shifters, some have them almost flat, but the great thing is that for each you’ll find someone who prefers one over the other… Choice, it rocks.

  21. As a boomer I hate saying this, but, OK boomer! I come from MTB and my Ritchey Beacon with 36 flair, short reach, shallow drop, and more importantly, 4 backsweep is close to perfect!!
    Try it.

  22. While I’m not a fan of a dramatically flared bar, it’s worth noting that the drops is definitely not the most aerodynamic position for the vast majority of riders–it’s on the hoods, with the forearms parallel to the ground. Legions of aero nerds like myself have extensively tested this on the road and in the tunnel, and this is universally true for almost all riders. That’s actually why like a bar that is more narrow at the hoods and a little wider on the drops.

    I ride a bar that’s 38 on my road bike (with a small amount of outward flare) and 40 on my gravel bike. Like you, that’s all the difference I want or need. But a small amount of flare on the gravel bar helps–and in technical situations and descents I find myself in the drops, not the hoods. If you can’t ride the drops on a technical descent, your bars are probably too high…

    TL/DR, I think there’s definitely a place for some flare. I also think the Canyon bar looks badass, and has a nice “max aero” position grabbing the lower bar!

    1. I agree, holding the hoods with the elbows very bent is often the most aerodynamic position, but it’s not so sustainable for many people who don’t have great core and arm strength. I find the drops to be a much more sustainable while reasonably aero’ position. Holding the hoods with bent elbows is also not a good position for descending, where you want proper control of the brakes and a solid grip on the bars, while also being aerodynamic for speed. So I still can’t see when I would want the drops to be any more than 2cm wider than the hoods (the 2cm gives comfortable wrist space, like on 3T road bars).

  23. Thank you for this article. Sorry for all the people that think the way they like things must be the “right” way and can’t stand to hear other opinions. I would like to know which manufacturers make bars that flare only below the brake lever, as I can’t imagine riding with my levers at such a strange angle.

    Thank you

    1. I’m glad you appreciated the article. I’ve seen a few bars launched over the past few years that only flare below the lever clamps, but my searches are now not revealing much. There are some photos of Salsa Woodchipper bars setup like that, but others showing the levers being flared outwards, so it may depend on positioning. Maybe other readers can contribute with options:

  24. You missed the obvious alternative. If you feel you need the characteristics supposedly offered by these bars, better off just buying a mountain bike!

  25. Just because people stay on the hoods when things get dicey doesn’t mean flared drops are bad. Wider drops slows down steering and gives more control on unstable surfaces. If a rider chooses to not use that, then that’s their issue.

    Drops should be aero…on a road bike. Flared drop bars were designed for different riding and initially the intent was higher bars for the drops to be the main hand location. That has since changed, but the point remains- drops don’t need to be the most aero location.
    Spoiler- riding the hoods can get you in the same position as drops.

    If a handlebar bag doesn’t fit, that isn’t the fault of flared drop bars. Your solution that people should just ride wider bars is terrible. If they like a width, then that’s the width they should ride. Suggesting the ride wider makes no sense.

    STI controls that are canted at a slight angle due to bar sweep is comfortable for me. You may not like it, but I know many who do. Again- weak reason.

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