Drop Bars vs. Flat Bars: Pros & Cons Explained

Drop bars vs. flat bars: Left half of the picture shows my road bike with drop handlebar from the front, and the right half of the picture shows my mountain bike with flat handlebars.

This article helps you decide whether to buy a bike with a drop or flat bars.

I have rich experience with both handlebar types, so I explain their pros and cons below.

In short: Drop bars are popular among road cyclists and gravel bikers because they allow you to ride in a more aerodynamic position. They also offer more hand positions. Flat bars allow you to sit more upright, so you don’t have to be as flexible. You will also have a better field of view and reach the brakes more easily.

Let’s dive in.

What Are the Pros & Cons of Drop Bars vs. Flat Bars?

I summarized the pros and cons of drop vs. flat bars in the following table. You will learn more about them below.

Handlebar typeProsCons
Flat bars• More suitable for less flexible riders
• Better maneuverability
• Easier cable maintenance
• More space for bike accessories
• Better visibility (more upright riding position)
• Brakes are easily accessible
• Fewer hand positions
• Are often wider so they won't fit in narrow spaces
• Won't allow riding in an aerodynamic riding position
Drop bars• More hand positions
• Are often narrower so they fit narrow spaces
• Allow riding in a more aerodynamic riding position
• Require more flexibility
• Worse for maneuverability
• Cable maintenance is more difficult because of handlebar tape
• Less space for bike accessories
• Worse visibility
• Require replacing handlebar tape more often than grips
• Brakes are more difficult to access
This table shows the pros and cons of having flat vs. drop bars.

Hand Positions

The most significant difference between a drop and flat handlebars is the number of possible hand positions.

The flat handlebar only allows you to hold the grips (eventually also bar-ends/bullhorns). You can also hold the tops near the stem, eventually, lay on your forearm (don’t do this unless you are on a smooth tarmac):

Drop bars allow much more hand positions. These include hands on the:

  1. hoods
  2. ramps
  3. tops
  4. hooks
  5. drops
  6. forearms on tops (don’t use unless you know the roads well and are smooth, it’s risky because you have very low control over your bike)

More hand positions are great for better riding comfort during long rides. You can easily change your hand position to a more comfortable one.

Riders use different hand positions based on their riding styles. For example, many cyclists (including me) prefer tops for long climbing.

Drops are ideal for attacking, sprinting, or descending. Hoods are suitable for group rides, etc.

Riding Position & Visibility

The riding position goes hand in hand with the hand positions on the handlebars.

Road and gravel bikes are designed to allow you to sit in a more aerodynamic riding position.

Better aerodynamics means less energy spent at the same speed (compared to the same speed and worse aerodynamics on flat handlebars).

This makes road and gravel bikes ideal for long rides at relatively high average speeds.

Your field of view will also differ depending on your hand position on the drop bars.

When riding on drops, your head will naturally face more toward the ground, thus impairing your field of vision.

The more aggressive geometry of road bikes than hybrid or mountain bikes also contributes to this.

TIP: Read these comparisons of road vs. hybrid bikes and road vs. mountain bikes for more differences between them.

Conversely, bikes with flat handlebars often allow for a more upright riding position. This provides a wide field of vision, ideal for riding in terrain and traffic.

Cable Maintenance

Most bikes with drop bars have the cables (from brakes and shifters) routed under the handlebar tape. Nowadays, integrated cockpits and cable routing are also becoming increasingly popular.

This means that accessing and then servicing them is far more challenging than with flat handlebars, where they are normally routed externally.

If you use an electronic groupset or don’t service your bike yourself, you may not care about this difference. However, don’t be surprised if the workshop charges more for a bike with integrated cable routing.

You might also be interested in the differences between electronic and mechanical groupsets.


Most cyclists agree that maneuverability is much better on flat handlebars.

This is partly due to a more upright and stable riding position, a different center of gravity (less weight on the hands), wheelbase, wheel size, and leverage.

Drop bars are not ideal for technical terrain (cyclocross riders are an exception).

Brakes Access

Flat handlebars provide easier access to the brakes than drop bars.

Because flat handlebars offer fewer hand positions, you’re more likely to have the brakes within reach.

With a drop bar, you have to think ahead to see if you need the brakes. When riding ‘tops’ uphill, you probably won’t brake. This position is all but inappropriate when riding downhill.

So if you need to brake suddenly, you’ll have to make an extra movement, which can be the difference between a crash or hard braking.

Remember that this only applies to certain hand positions. For example, riding on hoods or drops allows easy access to the brakes.

Space for Accessories

Since drop bars have a larger portion wrapped in handlebar tape and provide more space for your hands, they take away space for potential accessories such as bells, lights, etc.

In most cases, you will be able to attach these essentials to the drop bars, but if you are a hardcore bike packer, you may have a problem.

Drop Bars vs. Flat Bars FAQ


I hope this article has helped you clarify the pros and cons of drop vs. flat handlebars.

Remember, one type is not better than the other for all riders. It always depends on what kind of cycling suits you and your riding style.

For example, road bikes almost always have drop bars, while hybrid bikes tend to have flat handlebars.

Feel free to comment below on what type of handlebar suits you more and why.

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