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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everyone,

My girlfriend and I are looking to buy our first road bikes. I've done some mountain biking in the past, so I'm relatively comfortable with the learning / adapting to the "drop" position on road bikes. My girlfriend, however, is not.

So my question to you is - is the idea of putting a flat handlebar (similar to mountain bikes) on a road bike ridiculous? Would it cost a lot? Would it make the bike horrible to ride? Or should we start her off with a "fitness" bike (i.e. Specialized Vita, Cannondale Quick, Trek FX WSD, etc.)?

I want to get her a bike that she can somewhat keep up with me speed wise, and that she can grow in to. Problem is, she doesn't want to begin with a road bike. I completely understand her concern and I don't want to turn her away from the sport because she has a bad learning experience.

I'm concerned with getting a "fitness" bike for her because what if she gets comfortable with riding in a few months? Do we then have to pay more $$ for a road bike? I would like to avoid this if it's feasible and makes sense to put flat handlebars on a road bike. When she gets comfortable, we can simply swap back to the road bike handlebars.

Please advise!

Thanks,
John
 

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Anti-Hero
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Why not take her to a shop and let her try a few out? Like a good shop- one that will take the time to make sure whatever she tries is set up properly & all. It's likely that a well-fit road bike is much more comfortable than what she expects.
 

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You're Not the Boss of Me
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Buy a bike that's built that way already... the conversion would be pricey with no real upside. As others have noticed, there are a number of options (in addition to those named above, Bianchi and Terry).
 

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Shoot, you can buy them that way...

My wife rode for years, including a couple of centuries, but never did like drops. When she got a new bike three or four years ago, REI had a mid-priced K2 that was road to the bone, but had a flat bar and grip shifters. She loves it. I also had a flat bar on my singlespeed (converted Trek tourer) for awhile, but swapped it for a mustache bar.
If you use a mountain bike flat bar and convert a normal road bike, you'll need new brake levers and shifters (I don't use brifters, so I can't envision whether they'd work). It's not a hard conversion, but could run into some money. If you don't buy a readymade flattie, you might consider mustache bars, which will work with road levers. See them here, but you can probably find them cheaper somewhere else: http://www.rivbike.com/products/list/handlebars_stems_and_tape?a=1&page=2#product=16-028
 

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Sure. Its easy.

You will need Flat Bar shifters, brake levers and a new FD. Can be had for under $200
 

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Flat bar road bike.

John L said:
I'm concerned with getting a "fitness" bike for her because what if she gets comfortable with riding in a few months? Do we then have to pay more $$ for a road bike?
Your 'what if' scenario assumes that someone on a flat-bar road bike will always be slower than someone on a drop-bar road bike. That's not necessarily true. For one, many people riding drop-bar road bikes jack their bars up and never use the drops, so they might as well be riding a flat bar road bike. And when your girl friend "gets comfortable", she could just put some slightly narrower, high-quality tires on her flat-bar bike to make it a bit easier to bring up to and keep at speed.

I can't agree with the "it's easy" assessment of a conversion and later re-conversion. Because the shift lever is integral to the brake lever on a drop bar road bike, the conversions would involve some know-how, considerable time and / or $$. Not something I would do.
 

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another option

My wife has a standard drop bar road bike. but with additional brake levers on the flat portion of the bars... she moves her hands to the hoods or drops to shift but can ride the tops when she feels control is important, making her feel more comfortable all around. these come on some bikes.. but can be super easily added to any .. and are sold at your lbs mine are made by tektro and are a simple mtn style lever
 

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Power Napper
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My only concern with this set up is that it leaves little variety for grip position. With a flat bar the grip is always "thumbs in" ; unless you put bar ends on and how weird would that look? Standard drop bars provide three hand positions giving her a variety of grips. Much more comfortable imo.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks for all the responses!

You all make valid points. She has already tried a few drop bar road bikes at our local LBS and the drop bars really intimidate her. A lot of of it probably has to do with the "racy" look of the bike, but regardless, I don't want her to be uncomfortable - physically or mentally - when she begins riding.

However, I know she will eventually get more comfortable with biking. It might take 100 miles or 1000 miles, once she does, I'm sure it will make more sense for her to ride a more traditional drop bar road bike. This will be true especially if we end up doing longer rides, and as several have pointed out, flat bars are uncomfortable for long rides.

With all that said, the reason the flat bar conversion idea came up was because we wanted to avoid having to buy bike a flat bar bike first and have to "upgrade" to a second drop bar road bike in a few months. So, does it make sense to go through the trouble and cost (~$200 as indicated above) to covert the brake lever, shifters, etc. on a drop bar road bike for a few months until my girlfriend moves up the learning curve? Or should we eventually pay for 2 bikes - assuming she would eventually want a drop bar road bike.

Thanks again,
John
 

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John L said:
Hi everyone,

My girlfriend and I are looking to buy our first road bikes. I've done some mountain biking in the past, so I'm relatively comfortable with the learning / adapting to the "drop" position on road bikes. My girlfriend, however, is not.

So my question to you is - is the idea of putting a flat handlebar (similar to mountain bikes) on a road bike ridiculous? Would it cost a lot? Would it make the bike horrible to ride? Or should we start her off with a "fitness" bike (i.e. Specialized Vita, Cannondale Quick, Trek FX WSD, etc.)?

I want to get her a bike that she can somewhat keep up with me speed wise, and that she can grow in to. Problem is, she doesn't want to begin with a road bike. I completely understand her concern and I don't want to turn her away from the sport because she has a bad learning experience.

I'm concerned with getting a "fitness" bike for her because what if she gets comfortable with riding in a few months? Do we then have to pay more $$ for a road bike? I would like to avoid this if it's feasible and makes sense to put flat handlebars on a road bike. When she gets comfortable, we can simply swap back to the road bike handlebars.

Please advise!

Thanks,
John
No issues. I wouldn't worry a bit. However you may have to do some of the conversion on your own, or pay extra for some parts.

https://www.supertouchart.com/2009/...lance-armstrongs-new-barry-mcgee-trek-madone/

 

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What is she uncomfortable with? bBraking? Shifting?

I ask because I bought a fitness bike 9 months ago (Giant FCR) for the exact same reasons, and within a few months I traded out the hanlebars for a stoker style bullhorn (with no drops), but had to finagle my brifters onto the bar. it isn't pretty or elegant. But it does work. it took a little getting used to (about a week) becuase the narrower bars were a bit titchy. I got used to it and I haven't looked back.

Flat bars left me without enough hand positions to avoid numbness and pain. I had added clamp on bull horns, but still had trouble, AND it added weight, AND it looked, well, huge. I could have steered a semi with alll that.

I've since bought another bike, lighter, faster, better components, with drop bars. No training brakes, either, although I can see how they would be nice especially for city riding. One of my husband's bikes has the trainer brakes on the bars, and he does use them.

If braking or shifting is scaring her, make sure she test rides a set up with 15.5 inch (from hood to hood) bars (narrower, for women mostly), with short reach shifters, and possibly shims to bring in the levers closer to her hands.

I used to think the only way to brake or shift was from the drops. Not true, of course! But I didn't know, and the only bikes I'd put my hands on were designed for people with bigger hands. it didn't seem safe or possible to brake from the hoods with a bike that was too big for me. I can understand her fears.

If HER goals are to ride distances of 20 miles or more in one day, I'd suggest she skip the flat bars and at least test ride something set up to make her more comfortable.

If she doesn't plan on riding more than 20 miles a day, flat bars would probably be OK.

Just remember that the clamp on brakes/shifters they put on flat bars can rarely make it around a bend of any other style bar. I had to bend mine with pliers, risking ruining them, to get them on a stoker bar, and all the wires and hardware BARELY fit on the flats of the new bar. It really isn't pretty.... I'll try to post a pic after I get home.
 

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I don't really understand the issue. Explain to her that she is not required to EVER get in her drops. make sure her bike has a short enough top tube/stem that she can be comfortable riding in the hoods. You brake and shift from there.

I'm an experienced , reasonably speedy female rider, and I get in my drops for maybe 2 minutes everytime I ride. I don't care for the position + it's harder braking/shifting from the drops even though I have women specific handlebars.

I helped teach a seminar for women cyclists last week and one or the ladies surprised me by asking a similar question. Apparently there is a big misconception that you have to ride in the drops.

You can look at some race pics from my women's team here: http://www.defeetcycling.typepad.com/

I see two girls down in the drops in all of the pics.
 

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I ride with moustache bars. Love them. Gives you more hand positions than flat bars. I have road dura-ace shifters on them...it works. Tricky part is stem height. If interested google them and there's some great websites that explain the pros/cons of these bars.
 

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I’m jumping in a little late, but here goes. Don’t force her into doing something she is uncomfortable doing. You run the risk of alienating her from the sport altogether. I’m speaking from experience. If your GF is seriously afraid of drop-bar bikes, she might be better off starting with a flat-bar bike. If she decides she should have bought a drop-bar bike, then you are out some money, but she is still in the sport.

One option would be to buy an inexpensive used flat-bar bike so she can try it out for an extended period. Another would to ask the shop for a long term rental with the rental fee applied to the eventual purchase price of a new bike.
 

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Wouldn't it be easier to get the bike with the drop bars and swap girlfriends for one more comfortable with that type of riding?
 

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I don't think I've ever posted on here, and I guess it might be a little late, but when I went to buy my "road" bike I felt the same way as your girlfriend about handle bars. The reason being that I mostly ride mtb and the idea of drop bars freaked the heck out of me. To this day, I still can't comprehend how you work the shifters/brakes. But...I really really wanted a road bike. I ended up getting a Specialized Sirrus (Vita), and love it. So, it might be worth it to get something along the lines of a hybrid/fitness bike that's styled more like a road bike (skinny tires, road bike geometry) but has the straight bars. Plus, apparently it's pretty easy to make the swap to drop bars. I see a bunch of Sirrus' around here with them. Good luck. :)
 

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Here's what I've seen from experience:
straight bars tend to be harder to get positioned so as not to put a lot of pressure on the palms of the hands and you may wind up with a skyscraper (angled upwards) stem to keep from being stooped over. Have you considered mountain bike style bars? Sometimes these are referred to as "downhill" bars. A set of these bars with a modest 2 inch rise could be a much better option. And yes, I have seen people with these bars and bar-ends attached to their bars. Never hurts to have a few more places to put your hands on.
 

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Interesting I came across this post because I'm seriously looking into setting up a road bike with flat bars. My reasoning. I come from a heavy mtb racing background. I used to race downhill and cross country while also training on drop bar road bikes.

The upright position of the mtb bikes reduces pressure from the back and arms. The same applies to a road bike with flat bars. Plus on flat bars, you're spreading the weight of your body across your whole hand. When riding on drop bars with your hands on the hoods (thumbs facing up or neutral wrist position) the body weight rests mostly on your thenar eminence, the muscular part of your hand housing the muscles that control your thumb. The load is placed on a smaller area of your hand. This position also makes for less leverage on the brakes vs. flat bars.

I prefer flat bars for the comfort and better leverage on the brakes.

Converting from drop bars brifters to flat bar mtb shifters and brake levers can be expensive. You have to replace the bars, shifters, brakes and buy grips and possibly shorten or replace the cables and housing. The flat bar shifters need to be specific for road gears and derailleurs. Regular mtb shifters wont work since the rear cassette is smaller than mtb cassettes and the front derailleur moves much more on a road bike than an mtb. Shimano makes shifters specific for this application though.

Here's a compromise that might be interesting for you..
http://www.stanford.edu/~dru/moustache.html
 

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A friend bought a Specialized Langster recently, and after 6 rides was wanting to sell it due to the position. I converted it to flat bars last weekend, total cost $50 for ultegra flat bar brakes, specialized Rocca grips and cables (I had some EA50 bars I wasnt using), time 15 minutes. She's still got the old bars, levers and cables to swap back to or sell to offset the $50.

1) I dont know if all flat bar road bikes have the same geometry as the drop bar ones, so if you go flat bar, then convert to drops, it might not be right. I'd size the bike (either sort) for drop riding (if thats the final goal), and then have the flatbar position 'worse', as I would think a poorer fitting flatbar would be less of an issue than drops.
2) If you get the shimano flat bar levers, buy the 550 one, not the 770. They use the same casting and I couldnt tell the difference.
3) I'd check with the specific bike, but I think the flat bar versions might offer slightly better tire clearance, and if she's used to mtb, then running 25's or maybe 28's might provide more confidence (I know my friend wishes her langster could take 25s or 28s).
 
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