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  1. #1
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    Road bars vs. MTB bars

    what would be YOUR argument for each?

    I'm about to do a buildup and I don't have parts for either, so each way would cost relatively the same.I have been battling over this dilemma for a while.

    your thoughts???
    "It's not about the bike"

  2. #2
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    In general, the same frame won't fit someone well with both drop and flat bars. Frames designed for drop bars have shorter top tubes, to make up for how much further forward of the head tube the rider's hands are most of the time. Of course if the frame's the wrong size or has funky geometry, all bets are off.

    Intended use is also important - most people who race 'cross choose to use drop bars. I really want to try some flared compact drops on that bike - love 'em on my road bike - but I'm resisting throwing money at that bike until I either upgrade past Cat. 4 or I have too much money for my own good.

    My 'cross bike has drop bars. I do some singletrack on it, mainly for practice or novelty, but I'm definitely happier on my MTB with wider, flat bars for real off-road days. I mostly use it for racing, and training to race, on much mellower terrain than where I choose to ride my mountain bike. The drops position is good for maximum efforts, both in and out of the saddle, and descending. But it's not really better for descending than a flat handlebar would be - it's just better than descending on the hoods. IMO, the flat part of a drop bar is a really stupid part to use on a descent, or any technical handling situation.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frenzzy View Post
    what would be YOUR argument for each?

    I'm about to do a buildup and I don't have parts for either, so each way would cost relatively the same.I have been battling over this dilemma for a while.

    your thoughts???
    I use On-One Midge off road dropbars. Short reach shallow drop and flared. After 25 years of using these and similar drops in the dirt both road drops and straight bars are awkward.
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  4. #4
    lgh
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    I have Midge bars on my SS CX, urban beater, and road bikes. Although I haven't done a CX race yet, I have been using them for at least 5 years on the other bikes and like them a lot. They are extremely comfortable, stable, and utilitarian. As opposed to std road bars, you actually use the drops quite a bit. I do not use them on my mtb for a variety of reasons, one of which is the cost of switching.

    Larry

  5. #5
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    Having ridden both, I've stuck with the risers. Here's why (for me):

    I come from a freestyle BMX background, and off-road with road drops doesn't feel "right" for me. There was one race last year where I was battling it out for "King of Back-of-the-Pack" and the course ran through a single track which opened up onto a spectacular hard packed slight downhill with insane rollers. I took them like a pump track and was able to gain an incredible amount of distance.

    Not to say you couldn't do this with a drop bar, but it just felt great, being able to "pump" and gain speed without exerting energy.

    There are some times, though, where I wish I had a drop bar - like during long fire road descents and I want to keep the front end more planted.

    With a drop bar on a 'cross bike, I had a 110mm stem. When I switched to a riser bar (low riser), not only did I have to go with a 130mm stem, but I needed to slam it to the head tube and make it low and long as much as possible to replicate the drop bar stance. Also, I ride a narrower riser (about 15mm cut shorter) than what I would ride on my MTB.

    I like it. I've been contemplating going back to drops, but I like the simplicity of the riser and I've learned to transition to shoulder pretty quick with the riser (for run ups), under crossing the top tube, around the head tube with my forearm and grabbing the left side of the bar with my right hand - with a drop you'd grab the left drop with the right hand (if you're right hand dominant). For 'cross racing you have to consider this kind of thing. Oh yeah, I was able to bunny hop a lot of obstacles easier this way than with a drop bar.

    Oh, I have to 100% agree with what Andrew said about riding the flats. When I see guys on the flats during a race for anything but flat/smooth dirt or asphalt, I cringe.

    Here's my bike. I ride this on anything and everything - 1X8; 34T X 11-32

    I also switch to lighter, skinnier tubeless tires for racing. Currently, this thing is nothing but a "skinny 29'er".

    Road bars vs. MTB bars-img_1278.jpg

  6. #6
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    CX originated because people were taking their road bikes off the road.

    Drops are the standard for road bikes.

    So I use drops (albeit dirt drops) because it's a road bike... That I take off-road.

    Duh.

    Well, that and the fact that my road calipers wouldn't work with flat-bar levers.
    I've made some bad decisions like taking the gears off my bike. So here's the warning: Do not as I say, nor as I do.

  7. #7
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    Road calipers work fine with flat bar levers. You just need the old-school short-pull kind.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post
    Road calipers work fine with flat bar levers. You just need the old-school short-pull kind.
    I use $20 Shimano levers and they stop just fine.

    Wait... I use cantilevers brakes. Nevermind.

  9. #9
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    ^^^
    Did you get the purpose-built cantilever brake levers? That's what I'm talking about.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post
    ^^^
    Did you get the purpose-built cantilever brake levers? That's what I'm talking about.
    Don't ask how I found out that v-brake levers don't work.

  11. #11
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    If you're racing, I recommend staying away from flat-bars.
    The wider flat bars can get tangled up when riding fast and close in a race. Last season, I was passing a guy with flat bars when he moved over a few inches unexpectedly. The front of my brake lever caught on the end of his grip and turned his handlebars sideways, resulting in a pretty good crash for him. I felt terrible, but there wasn't that much I could have done differently given the circumstances.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by mhickey79 View Post
    If you're racing, I recommend staying away from flat-bars.
    The wider flat bars can get tangled up when riding fast and close in a race. Last season, I was passing a guy with flat bars when he moved over a few inches unexpectedly. The front of my brake lever caught on the end of his grip and turned his handlebars sideways, resulting in a pretty good crash for him. I felt terrible, but there wasn't that much I could have done differently given the circumstances.
    Yeah, but that's just racing. I crashed on my own, got into shoulders with another rider... my bro got tangled up with another rider which resulted in bloody, gravel filled wounds, and so on...

    Anything bigger than 680mm is too big for the tight sections, but crashing happens no matter what. I wouldn't let "crashing" be the determining factor whether a rider should go with a MTB bar or not - it's whatever they feel most comfortable with first.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post
    Road calipers work fine with flat bar levers. You just need the old-school short-pull kind.
    I found my Cane Creek levers on Craigslist.... My frame doesn't have canti mounts.... I built up my bike on the way cheap....
    I've made some bad decisions like taking the gears off my bike. So here's the warning: Do not as I say, nor as I do.

  14. #14
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    I think Dion and I are probably being a little confusing.

    The deal with mechanical brakes is that there are two groups - brakes that need a lot of cable pulled with less force, and brakes that need a little bit of cable pulled with a lot of force.

    Road caliper brakes, BMX brakes (I think - not really my area of expertise,) road disc brakes, and cantilever brakes all need lots of force, and not much cable pull. So the levers are interchangeable, and the brakes have limited cross-compatibility - most frames and forks will only accept one kind.

    V-brakes and most mechanical disc brakes require that a lot of cable be pulled, but not much force is necessary. The lower force is why the levers and road brakes don't work well together.

    So there are flat bar and drop bar levers available for any type of brake. It's just less common to find flat bar levers for road brakes and drop bar levers for what are usually considered MTB brakes.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  15. #15
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    In the post I quoted in my post above, you were talking about short-pull brakes, not levers?
    I've made some bad decisions like taking the gears off my bike. So here's the warning: Do not as I say, nor as I do.

  16. #16
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    Both. The levers need to match the brakes. So there are short-pull calipers and long-pull calipers, and short-pull levers and long-pull levers. It's most common that road levers are short-pull. Outside of MTB, it's the dominant system, although hybrids usually have MTB brakes. Within our dirty little world, long-pull is more common. That's probably why the flat bar levers you had didn't work - they were for a mountain bike brake system, not a short-pull system.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  17. #17
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    Yea.... I think we've both been on the same page. It's still good to find out that there are long-pull levers for flat bars though. I didn't know about that part.
    I've made some bad decisions like taking the gears off my bike. So here's the warning: Do not as I say, nor as I do.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by erik1245 View Post
    Yea.... I think we've both been on the same page. It's still good to find out that there are long-pull levers for flat bars though. I didn't know about that part.
    Usually brake levers will say what they're compatible with. Shimano makes a great cantilever compatible lever that I use on my bike.

  19. #19
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    I can't ride drops in the dirt to save my life so I heart my flat bars. You see lots of flat bars at the cross races here in Portland, though it's mostly singlespeeders so maybe that explains it.
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  20. #20
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    FWIW, the Race Face riser is a bit too high to my liking (it was in my parts bin). I opted for a Truvativ T40 flat bar with no rise. They come stock @ 700mm, so I'll have to cut them down, definitely.


  21. #21
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    I gotta say, I love the look of flat bars. I know they're not fashionable, but whatever. It reminds me of a bow. The entire bike is the arrow, just waiting to be loosed.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  22. #22
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    Can you race CX races with a flat bar? I was told you had to have drop bars in order to race. Furthermore, I was told even alt. bars like the Midge would not work.

    I use a Salsa Cowbell and like it for gravel, grass and road. Haven't had significant single track or races on it yet. Feels promising so far though.
    CyclingCentralVa.org

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidR1 View Post
    Can you race CX races with a flat bar? I was told you had to have drop bars in order to race. Furthermore, I was told even alt. bars like the Midge would not work.
    None of my series seem to have received the memo.

    No forward-pointing bar ends. There may be some more restrictions in an event that selects for international competition.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post
    None of my series seem to have received the memo.

    No forward-pointing bar ends. There may be some more restrictions in an event that selects for international competition.
    While I'm not surprised by this at all, and I'm not sure how my local CX races deal with these regulations, the UCI does mandate that:

    Comments on Article 1.3.022:
    Only the traditional type of handlebars is authorised for use in massed-start road races, cyclo-cross and track
    competitions (except for individual and team pursuit, kilometer and 500 time trials). The attachment of any
    additional handlebar component or extension is prohibited. The area of the point of support of the hands on
    the handlebars is defined by the diagram below:

    (please note that a picture of a bike with standard drop bars is pictured in the "below diagram" on the UCI site)

    Of course this may or may not influence the OP's decision.
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  25. #25
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    Assuming you're in the US, it usually doesn't matter what the UCI says. Almost all of our races are either licensed with USA Cycling or non-sanctioned. I'm too lazy to go through the USA Cycling web site, but our rules, in general, are a lot looser - basically the bike needs to fit inside certain dimensions, not have things that project too far forward from the bars (like bar ends) and have brakes on both wheels.

    USA Cycling enforces UCI rules in events that are part of a greater UCI tour, or that select for teams that compete internationally (so that includes Nationals.) In my area, that's one or two events a season. I can see sticking with a UCI-compliant bike for someone who thinks he might one day have a shot at nationals, or for gifted juniors, but for most of us, as long as the bike is USAC-compliant, it's enough.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

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