GRAVEL BIKE HANDLEBARS: Speed and Control Optimization

GRAVEL BIKE HANDLEBARS: Speed and Control Optimization

The trend of gravel bike handlebars with drop bar flares has grown in popularity as gravel bikes have grown in popularity. The  handlebar flares are like hybrid handlebars, which take the advantages of a narrow race bike handlebar with a wider handlebar, resulting in a handlebar character suitable for gravel bikes.

Handlebar flare or flared drop bar, also known as gravel handlebar gravel, is a drop bar that is modified at an angled drop to get a wider grip. Flare drop bar still prioritizes speed over stability control. For better control and comfort, Mountain Bike (flat bar) handlebars are still the best choice.

When to Use Flared Gravel bike Handlebars

Mountain bike handlebars usually have a width of between 600 – 780 mm. While racing bikes with drop bars have a width of 420-520 mm. There is a difference in width of about 200mm or 20 centimeters. Even though they both chase speed, the difference in handlebar length is due to the different character of the cycling terrain.

The Mountain bike handlebar is positioned closer to the cyclist, with an extended arm position, for an upright body position, wider visibility, a wider arm position for greater stability, stability, and better bicycle control on bumpy and winding roads – twist.

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While the handlebars of racing bicycles, are made more bent and tighter, to get the body position to get an aerodynamic advantage, for faster bikes.

Then, what handlebars are suitable for gravel bikes, bikes that play on dirt roads and light off roads for high speeds, while also being used on asphalt roads? This is where the flared drop bar concept will be optimal.

With a lowered body position, plus a wider hand position, we will get a balance between speed, control, and stability of the bike. The flared drop bar sacrifices a bit of aerodynamics to help control and balance the bike. The advantage of this flare drop bar does not mean much if we use it on asphalt roads, roads with smooth surfaces, which require less balance and control than uneven roads.

Specifications and Geometry of Flared Drop Bar

To select the flared drop bar gravel bike handlebar, there are several parameters that we must pay attention to. Not all flared drop bars are the same, not just drop bars that flare out. There are geometry factors on the handlebars that need to be considered, especially for hand and body comfort, which will ultimately affect the speed and feel.

gravel bike handlebar

source: amazon.com

Bar width (WIDTH) is the width of the gravel bike handlebars / handlebars measured from the center / center point of the tube left to right. Just like on regular racing bicycle handlebars, the width of the handlebars can be 420mm, 440mm, 460mm, 500mm or 520mm.

Especially for drop bar flares, because the bottom is wide, some brands will provide two types of width, the regular width like the number above, and the width of the bottom handlebars which is definitely a bigger value.

Drop is how far or how deep or how far is the distance between the tube part on the stem and the lowest tube. Usually, the common handlebar drop ranges from 125-145mm.

Reach is how far the handlebar extends forward. Generally, the drop bar reach number is around 70-90mm.

Sweep or Back sweep is the value of the angle or length of the handlebar bent towards the cyclist from the center position of the handlebar (stem). This back sweep can help a closer grip on the top of the handlebar.

Flare Out or also called upsweep, is the value of the angle or length of the handlebars curved upwards from the center position of the handlebar (stem).

Drop Flared is the part of the handlebar drop bar that extends outward (away from the center point of the handlebar). The value of flared drop bard is expressed in angle units. The flare angle itself can vary from 5 degrees to 30 degrees. The larger the flare angle, the wider the handlebar grip.

Flare Out versus Flare drop bar.

Flare Out and flared are values that widen the handlebar, but they are two different things. Out sweep is the bottom of the handlebar (below the brifter or brake position) that extends outward. Flared for the top, and flare out for the bottom of the drop bar. A larger flare out value will bend the bottom of the drop bar (hood) back to a straighter one. So that in a bent position and hands to the lowest part of the handlebar, the position of the hands is straighter, more natural, and more aerodynamic. But this preference can vary between each cyclist. Not all handlebar brands include the flare out value, an example that uses the flare out value is the Ritchey Venturemax Gravel Bar.

Gravel Bike Handlebar flares are often combined with a compact drop bar shape, which has a drop value that is smaller than the drop on a racing bike. And a more angular or ergonomic arch shape, for a more comfortable and stronger hand grip position.

Although we might say, the more technical the gravel cycling area is, the greater the flare angle required; but actually, there is a turning point of optimization, Which at a certain width, the advantage is already reduced. Too narrow is not comfortable, too wide is also not comfortable. Just like the width of the handlebar, narrower does not mean faster, suitability with body proportions also determines.

Disadvantages of flared drop bars

Not the fastest

As explained above, the flared drop bar reduces the aerodynamic factor for control and comfort. But on off-road roads, better control and balance, better cornering, can help speed.

Tilted brake lever/brifter position

The brake levers mounted on the drop bars tend to follow the direction of the handlebars, tilting outwards, not as straight down vertically as on racing bikes with regular drop bars. Depending on the inclination of the flare angle, with a flare angle of around 5-6 degrees, it usually takes a little time to get used to it and is more comfortable.

Conclusion

For cyclists who like a more upright body position or cycling terrain where we have to look more at the road, so that the hand position is more holding the top of the drop bar, flared bars do not provide much benefit. For conditions like this, maybe you can consider a riser bar, which is a drop bar that has a higher part of the bicycle stem.

There are many different types of bicycle handlebars and handlebars. Choosing a size that suits your body posture and cycling style is much better than choosing the type. The drop bar is definitely the most aerodynamic type of handlebar. If we rarely hold the drop, maybe we can raise the handlebar position to make it more comfortable, and we can take advantage of its advantages.

Gravel bikes do not use flared drop bars. But if you want to upgrade or change to a flared drop bar, make sure you use the right size. We must understand the style of cycling that is comfortable for us, the geometry of the handlebars we are using today. Unlike choosing a bicycle frame, which is usually guided by the height and inseam and geometry of the bike, the handlebars brand only provide specifications. Because of the short length of the stem, seat post, saddle position can affect the position of the handlebars.