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New bike: Are drop bars more dangerous (especially in TW)?

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New bike: Are drop bars more dangerous (especially in TW)?

Postby Hobbes » 13 Feb 2012, 14:13

I’ve been thinking about purchasing my first bicycle in (almost exactly) 20 years. If anyone has any general comments or advice for me before I decide what to buy, I would certainly appreciate the input, but I am especially curious to hear what people think on the specific issue of safety and drop vs. flat handlebars that I describe below.

In a way I suppose my situation is similar to PaddB’s situation from the “Getting started in Taiwan: hybrid or full-on trail bike?” thread, except for me the choice is closer to “hybrid or full-on road bike”.

Here’s the background:

My goals for the new bike are:

(1) to get back into some semblance of physical shape;

(2) to go for casual rides with my wife and the two boys around the neighborhood and along the riverside bike paths; and

(3) to go for some longer rides (what I consider long, maybe 40-100km) either by myself or with friends or larger groups on weekends.

My initial thinking was that:

• pretty much any bike would work for purpose (1);

• for purpose (2), I’d probably like more of a mountain-bike type set-up, that was easy to get on and off of (e.g. no special shoes required), with flat handlebars and the ability to attach a rack on the back for carrying groceries, picnic supplies, etc.; and

• for purpose (3) I’d probably want a light road bike with drop handlebars, thin slick tires, clipless pedals, etc.

Given the above, the options as I saw them were:

(A) get two bikes, a utility model for riding around town with the family, and a dedicated road bike for long rides;

(B) getting a hybrid type bike with flat bars and just accepting that it would not be as well-suited for longer rides; or

(C) getting a more dedicated road bike with drop bars and just accepting that it won’t be ideal for running errands or casual family rides.

For reasons of cost and storage space, I had to rule out option (A), at least for now. So I was left weighing the tradeoffs between options (B) and (C).

After reading a fair amount online, getting advice from a friend of mine back home who’s opinion I value on this, and just letting it tumble around my head for a while, I eventually decided that I was willing to sacrifice some practicality and go with the road bike.

I haven’t bought anything yet though, and my wife has recently suggested that I might want to reconsider, and at least get flat handlebars, even if I go with a relatively light frame and thin wheels/tires.

Part of her concern is that if I go with drop handlebars (which I generally found to be somewhat uncomfortable when sitting on a few bikes at a store recently) I will end up riding the bike less often and not getting it as much out of it. I’ve told her that I hear that once one gets used to drop bars many people actually find them *more* comfortable (depending on how they are set up) because your hands/body aren’t in the same position for the whole time on a long ride. Then again, that’s just what I’ve heard – I guess I won’t know if its true in my case unless/until I give drop bars a try.

I think part of her concern is also a suspicion that I just like the drop bars because I think they look cool and want to pretend I’m a racer (she knows me so well :wink: ).

But the final part of it is that she’s concerned about safety. In talking to other people she’s heard scary stories about cycling in Taiwan, people getting hurt, etc., and been told that flat handlebars mean better control over the bike if, for example, I need to move over to a rocky side of the road to avoid traffic. They tell her “Of course his friends back home are going to say to get drop handlebars, but they are used to safer riding conditions. They don’t know what it’s like to be riding up to Wulai with the roads in bad condition after a heavy rain, dodging scooters and little blue trucks that come flying around every other corner.”

I know many of people here use drop handlebars; do any of you feel like you’d be safer using flat handlebars? Are there other pros/cons to one type of handlebars that I haven’t thought of? Any other tips for me before I decide on a bike and make the purchase?
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Re: New bike: Are drop bars more dangerous (especially in TW)?

Postby jdsmith » 13 Feb 2012, 14:26

No idea, hobbes, but how long did it take you to type all that? :lol:
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Re: New bike: Are drop bars more dangerous (especially in TW)?

Postby the bear » 13 Feb 2012, 15:13

Hobbes wrote:I’ve been thinking about purchasing my first bicycle in (almost exactly) 20 years. If anyone has any general comments or advice for me before I decide what to buy, I would certainly appreciate the input, but I am especially curious to hear what people think on the specific issue of safety and drop vs. flat handlebars that I describe below.

In a way I suppose my situation is similar to PaddB’s situation from the “Getting started in Taiwan: hybrid or full-on trail bike?” thread, except for me the choice is closer to “hybrid or full-on road bike”.

Here’s the background:

My goals for the new bike are:

(1) to get back into some semblance of physical shape;

(2) to go for casual rides with my wife and the two boys around the neighborhood and along the riverside bike paths; and

(3) to go for some longer rides (what I consider long, maybe 40-100km) either by myself or with friends or larger groups on weekends.

My initial thinking was that:

• pretty much any bike would work for purpose (1);

• for purpose (2), I’d probably like more of a mountain-bike type set-up, that was easy to get on and off of (e.g. no special shoes required), with flat handlebars and the ability to attach a rack on the back for carrying groceries, picnic supplies, etc.; and

• for purpose (3) I’d probably want a light road bike with drop handlebars, thin slick tires, clipless pedals, etc.

Given the above, the options as I saw them were:

(A) get two bikes, a utility model for riding around town with the family, and a dedicated road bike for long rides;

(B) getting a hybrid type bike with flat bars and just accepting that it would not be as well-suited for longer rides; or

(C) getting a more dedicated road bike with drop bars and just accepting that it won’t be ideal for running errands or casual family rides.

For reasons of cost and storage space, I had to rule out option (A), at least for now. So I was left weighing the tradeoffs between options (B) and (C).

After reading a fair amount online, getting advice from a friend of mine back home who’s opinion I value on this, and just letting it tumble around my head for a while, I eventually decided that I was willing to sacrifice some practicality and go with the road bike.

I haven’t bought anything yet though, and my wife has recently suggested that I might want to reconsider, and at least get flat handlebars, even if I go with a relatively light frame and thin wheels/tires.

Part of her concern is that if I go with drop handlebars (which I generally found to be somewhat uncomfortable when sitting on a few bikes at a store recently) I will end up riding the bike less often and not getting it as much out of it. I’ve told her that I hear that once one gets used to drop bars many people actually find them *more* comfortable (depending on how they are set up) because your hands/body aren’t in the same position for the whole time on a long ride. Then again, that’s just what I’ve heard – I guess I won’t know if its true in my case unless/until I give drop bars a try.

I think part of her concern is also a suspicion that I just like the drop bars because I think they look cool and want to pretend I’m a racer (she knows me so well :wink: ).

But the final part of it is that she’s concerned about safety. In talking to other people she’s heard scary stories about cycling in Taiwan, people getting hurt, etc., and been told that flat handlebars mean better control over the bike if, for example, I need to move over to a rocky side of the road to avoid traffic. They tell her “Of course his friends back home are going to say to get drop handlebars, but they are used to safer riding conditions. They don’t know what it’s like to be riding up to Wulai with the roads in bad condition after a heavy rain, dodging scooters and little blue trucks that come flying around every other corner.”

I know many of people here use drop handlebars; do any of you feel like you’d be safer using flat handlebars? Are there other pros/cons to one type of handlebars that I haven’t thought of? Any other tips for me before I decide on a bike and make the purchase?


Respect for writing such a big post. IMHO the drop handlebars are acting as a red herring to you. Lots of people have drop handlebars but rarely if ever ride in the drops. You can ride on the hoods and still change gear and brake. Your wife is simply repeating typical Taiwanese nonsense picked up from the office rumor mill. Sure you need better bike handling skills on a road bike but they're not actually dangerous except when descending at 60 km/h in the rain :cool: . Taiwanese riding conditions are actually safer than overseas because you don't get wankers trying to buzz you and people give you plenty of room.
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Re: New bike: Are drop bars more dangerous (especially in TW)?

Postby Wookiee » 13 Feb 2012, 15:16

I'm no expert, Hobbes, but I'll give you my :2cents:.
I think it's good that you ended up on the road bike with drop bars side of the equation. I rode a mountain bike with flat bars for years, but I found myself customizing it bit by bit, and in the end it was looking so much like a road bike that I said the hell with it and bought a true road bike. For the kind of riding you describe, I think drop bars will suit you much better.
Though I'm not sure about the relative safety, on the technical side, of either drop bar or flat, I think one would be safer on what was more comfortable. However, I can tell you that it was a great relief to my hands when I went to a road bike with drop bars, especially on long rides. Also a road bike should not hinder you from leisurely rides along the bike path with your family.
That's all for now. I'll try and add to this later. It would be good to see you out on the hills some weekend!
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Re: New bike: Are drop bars more dangerous (especially in TW)?

Postby Mother Theresa » 13 Feb 2012, 15:18

Hi Hobbes,

Get the hybrid with flat bars, but make sure it doesn't have wide, gnarly offroad tires and/or shocks. Those will seriously slow you down. Instead, look for no shocks and moderately narrow tires. As for the bars, while drop bars will be preferable once you start racing :wink: , you don't need them even for 100k rides over the hills to the coast and back. My flat-bar Giant works just fine for that purpose (ask wookieee if I have trouble keeping up with him on his titanium road bike with drop bars).

I confess, when I did a triathlon in Taidong a few months ago I got a serious craving to buy a lightweight, drop bar racing bike (and I will this year). But that was because I was racing against lots of guys on super-light bikes, every minute mattered, and that bike course was a long flat one into the wind (and back), for which drop bars would've made a significant difference.

But riding around town or by the river or up in the hills... mayo wente, flat bars will work fine. And, for just starting out again, I think it's a good choice to start up with flat bars. More easy and comfortable, no need to get all lycra-ed out, just hop on and ride. Or, if you want to wear lycra and clip on shoes with your flat bars, that's fine too. As I said, my flat bars haven't stopped me from climbing Yangming Shan, etc. If you get serious enough, get fanatical about it, and put in enough miles on the flat-bar bike, THEN you can discard this bike and upgrade to a good racing bike....and if you put in the miles first your wife should permit it :)

Glad to hear of your new quest. Have fun.
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Re: New bike: Are drop bars more dangerous (especially in TW)?

Postby Mother Theresa » 13 Feb 2012, 15:23

Hey wookieee! Oops, I didn't see you just posted. Sorry about contradicting you. :lol:

Straight bars, drop bars, I guess that's less significant. Most important is getting a decent bike, not too heavy (no shocks or wide, mountain-bike tires) and getting out on some regular rides. The river's a great place to start -- I still enjoy that -- but once you make it out into the hills you'll be blown away. :thumbsup:
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Re: New bike: Are drop bars more dangerous (especially in TW)?

Postby Steviebike » 13 Feb 2012, 15:58

Buy a bike, any bike, ride it. If you start riding it a lot, get a better one. Road bike or mtb is fine to start on and get you into it.

If you want a truly practical bike, then get a folding bike. They ride better than you might think.

If you really can't make you mind up, then a hybrid is for you, with nice wide tyres.
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Re: New bike: Are drop bars more dangerous (especially in TW)?

Postby Wookiee » 13 Feb 2012, 16:11

Mother Theresa wrote:Hey wookieee! Oops, I didn't see you just posted. Sorry about contradicting you. :lol:

Straight bars, drop bars, I guess that's less significant. Most important is getting a decent bike, not too heavy (no shocks or wide, mountain-bike tires) and getting out on some regular rides. The river's a great place to start -- I still enjoy that -- but once you make it out into the hills you'll be blown away. :thumbsup:


No, we're on the same page, MT. I still believe you should get a drop bar for your bike. :)
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Re: New bike: Are drop bars more dangerous (especially in TW)?

Postby finley » 13 Feb 2012, 16:11

I’ve told her that I hear that once one gets used to drop bars many people actually find them *more* comfortable (depending on how they are set up) because your hands/body aren’t in the same position for the whole time on a long ride.

FWIW - it's been a while since I did any serious cycling - I did quite like the ability to shift one's arms/hands around on a long ride. OTOH I can't remember ever actually using the "drop" position for any length of time. I don't think the handlebar structure affects control of the bike as such, although of course it takes a bit of getting used to. You'll probably use a bit more muscle effort that you might otherwise with flat handbars, but that shouldn't be a big deal.

If you really can't make you mind up, then a hybrid is for you, with nice wide tyres.

I must say I think MT is right in that regard. Wide tyres with chunky treads just add rolling resistance and probably won't grip properly on wet roads.
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Re: New bike: Are drop bars more dangerous (especially in TW)?

Postby Steviebike » 13 Feb 2012, 16:43

If you really can't make you mind up, then a hybrid is for you, with nice wide tyres.

finley wrote:I must say I think MT is right in that regard. Wide tyres with chunky treads just add rolling resistance and probably won't grip properly on wet roads.


Wide tyres on a hybrid are only around 32mm on a 700c wheel. No or very small tread is needed. It won't impede rolling resistance to a larger degree, than say a 23mm 700c tyre but, will add significant comfort.

When it comes to mtb tyres (that are designed for mud) they can be like driving a tractor on the highway!
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