cycling is one of the most popular physical activities in the United States and even more so around the world, as well as being a popular sport. If you’re a professional racer you no doubt know exactly what you like from having tried so many different types of bicycle handlebars. However, if you’re a day tripper, weekend warrior or simply someone who rides occasionally, knowing which handlebars are the most comfortable can be some handy information.
In this article, we’ll take a look at one of our fave types of bicycle handlebars, butterfly handlebars, and compare them to several other types. When you’re done reading you’ll have a much better idea of what’s out there, and what the features, benefits and drawbacks are to various bike handlebars. This will help you to make a more educated choice and, ultimately, will help you to ride more comfortably and for longer distances with less fatigue.
Why Does the Shape and Curve of your Bicycle Handlebars Matter,
The average bicycle rider usually purchases a bicycle with very little regard for the shape of the handlebars but, in truth, they are an important factor (or at least should be) due to the position the handlebars force you to use when riding.
For example, if you purchase a road bike for long-distance riding and touring, most of the handlebars you’ll find on this type of bike put you into a lowered position that’s more aerodynamic and allows you to ride faster using less energy. On the other hand, if you purchase a mountain bike, you’ll find that their handlebars have varying widths and fewer curves so that, when riding challenging or treacherous terrain, you have more control over the bike.
Also, the handlebars along with the stem of the bicycle will determine the amount of weight that’s placed either forward or backward over the bicycle while you’re riding, putting more pressure onto your arms and hands and the front of the bike or your legs and feet and the rear, respectively. As you can see, the shape and curve of your bicycle’s handlebars are more important than most novice bicycle riders believe.
Butterfly Handlebars Pros and Cons
Quickly identifiable due to their eccentric butterfly shape, butterfly handlebars are more commonly found in Europe than the United States but are still quite popular among those riders who build their own expedition bikes themselves rather than purchase one ‘off the shelf’. Butterfly handlebars are often referred to as ‘trekking handlebars’ for that reason.
PROs of Butterfly Handlebars
- A wide variety of hand positions while riding
- The ability to change positions frequently and reduce fatigue
- Being able to sit upright if desired for better posture and less back pain
- Better control over rougher terrain
- Generally less expensive than other types of handlebars
- They have a unique and discernable look that some find appealing
CONs of Butterfly Handlebars
- Tend to flex quite a bit more than other handlebars
- Uses multiple curves which, over time, can get stressed more and break more easily
- Make it a bit more difficult to mount bags, bars, lights and other accessories
- Force you to move your hands if/when using the brakes
- Brakes may be too close for comfort for some riders
- They reduce aerodynamics
- May create the need for a longer stem so that the bars don’t hit the bicycle frame when turning
- Over time, due to the intense curvature, most bar tape will fall off and have to be replaced, possibly frequently
- Some find their look unappealing or even ugly
Drop Handlebars Pros and Cons
Most people who know a little about bicycles will know what drop handlebars are simply because they’ve seen them so many times. Traditional drop handlebars have a relatively gentle rounded curve in the front that creates a steep drop underneath, allowing the rider to position themselves low and thus in more of an aerodynamic position. Drop bars are very common although, over the last few years as new and better designs are created, they are being used less and less.
PROs of Drop Handlebars
- A decent variety of hand positions while riding
- Can help lower neck and shoulder fatigue when hands are placed on top
- Allow for a very aerodynamic position for more speed using less energy
- Are relatively inexpensive for moderate/high-quality bars
CONs of Drop Handlebars
- Due to being narrower than other types of handlebars, stability is reduced
- Curved bars have a tendency to bend or flex which, over time, can cause failure and the need for replacement
- Fewer hand positions than other bars which can cause more fatigue on long rides
Straight Handlebars Pros and Cons
Straight handlebars have very little curvature and are more like the traditional bike handlebar that’s been around for hundreds of years. They allow for a more upright riding position which, on a long ride, can be less fatiguing and more comfortable.
PROs of Straight Handlebars
- Very stable due to their width, especially on rougher roads and terrain
- Practically indestructible, straight handlebars will usually last much longer than curved bars
- Allow for a more upright position which is better for posture, more comfortable and causes less pain and fatigue
- Gives the rider better vision, which is good when touring for sightseeing purposes
CONs of Straight Handlebars
- Very little variety when it comes to hand positions
- Lower aerodynamics which can mean more energy use when riding into the wind
- Little ability to change positions and thus the possibility of more fatigue and pain over longer rides
So, what’s the best handlebar?
The fact is different riders like different bars for different reasons. Depending on the amount of bicycling you do, and for what reason (exercise, pleasure, competition, etc.) your opinion of what’s ‘best’ will no doubt be different from another rider’s. Your best bet is to try out several different types of handlebar before you make a purchase and remember that, if you plan to ride a lot, you can always change one bar for another. We hope you enjoyed this article. If you have any questions or would like to leave a comment please do so in the space provided, and best of luck out there on the highways and byways while bicycling!