I probably field more e-mail questions regarding North Road and Albatross handlebars than any other subject related to bike set-up and components. It seems there are many people interested in converting their drop- and flat-bar bikes to a more upright handlebar for commuting and urban riding. Given the number of inquiries I receive, I’m curious to know what type of handlebars people are actually using out there. Please feel free to elaborate in the comments below.

What type of handlebar do you prefer for commuting and city riding?

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33 Responses to “Handlebars”

  • Rob Sayers says:

    I ride on drops now and really like them. I rode for almost a year on trekking bars which I really liked for the various hand positions.

    After going directly to drops, I find that I like them even more. Being able to get low in a headwind really helps when trying not to sweat too bad before work. It feels like I can move my hands just as much as before as well.

  • Croupier says:

    My single speed (the only bike I ride regularly right now) rubs flipped Moustache Bars. The bike that I’m currently building will use them in their normal position. Both of my BMX bikes use 4-piece bars.

  • Ben says:

    Bullhorns. Love ‘em.

  • Alan says:


    Added bullhorns to the survey…

  • Mike says:

    Three of my bikes have swept-back bars, north roads or a close approximation of them. I’m trying to see if I can overcome my reluctance to drop bars in order to keep an older NIshiki mixte in its original gear. My every day bike is a road frame (a 70s-era Corsaro) with riser bars that give me greater control but still bring me a bit more upright.

    I’m constantly re-thinking handlebars. I refer often to your post detailing the four different bar styles among your four primary bikes. So, I’m very pleased to see you take up the topic again. I’ll be eagerly reading the responses and checking the results!


  • Zyzzyx says:

    Using a partially swept bar, but moreso than then OnOne Mary. A RANS B-37, works great on the RANS Street. Combined with Ergon grips, I love it.

  • Charlie says:

    A common misconception is that choosing drop bars necessitates a low, bent-over position. In fact, they can be a great, comfortable choice even for a more upright position, made possible by a tall quill stem, a tall head-tube, a tall steerer, and/or a steerer extension. You can set them up so that you are super-upright on the top, straight section; moderately upright on the brake levers; and a little bent over on the drops. They allow you to vary how upright you sit, and vary the way you grip the bar, to adjust for different situations. Also, I like riding with my arms rotated so my palms face in rather than down–less wrist strain–and they work well for that.

  • Rex in Phoenix says:

    I’m currently riding Wald’s 2.5in rise touring bar, which most approximates a partially swept upright bar. If you don’t mind the weight of CroMo it’s a great bar for ~$13!

    Having said that, I got them for commuting but am finding that I ride harder than I expected and feel myself wanting to go back to drops. Still a great bar and if I had two bikes I would have one set up with either a partially swept of fully swept upright bar at all times for shorter rides, cargo, etc.

  • Eric From Portland says:

    I am in process of changing my city bike from MTB bars (1.5 rise) to a full sweep Velo Orange bar using a shorter, taller stem. I also am added a wider saddle as more weight will be on that part of me body.

    This will be my first bike with a swept back bar – EVER! I am excited to feel the difference.

  • Erich Zechar says:

    I have done commuting on drops, flats, bullhorns, and moustache, and I have to say my favorite is definitely the moustache for an all-around bar. Drops are fine, but the sweep of the moustache gives me both the stretched-out and low riding position for quick riding and the wide, upright position for low-speed maneuvers, especially on dirt. Wasn’t sure how they’d hold up on singletrack, but they’re just great.

  • Charlie says:

    You can also mount two different handlebar styles, simultaneously, on one bike. Link from my name is Sheldon Brown’s page on his bike set up that way.

  • Len says:

    3 bikes, one albatross, two north roads.

    When commuting in an urban environment, I find the upright bars make it much easier to see what’s going on around you. That is essential for commuting around lots of cars and pedestrians. Traffic is fairly slow where I ride and it’s relatively flat and urban.

  • David Spranger says:

    My vote is for drop bars, but I can fully understand why some would choose alblatross/dove/northroad. I just replaced a straight bar on my wife’s bike with a dove and the difference for her has been nothing short of dramatic.

  • charles says:

    I prefer mustache bars for the powerful braking position and when mounted high enough they allow a good stretched out position as well as a more upright wide grip for slow speed maneuvers or quick sprinting. The grip is also secure over rough surfaces. I will admit however to trying Albatross bars upside down and they worked well too but I should have worked out a spot for the brake levers at the curve instead of at the normal grip area. I have gone back to two styles of drop bars, Nitto Randonneur on my deraileurless bicycle and Nitto Noodles on my geared bike because I like my Blackburn hood mounted mirrors.

  • Dave says:

    After discovering this blog, and learning about how to make cycling enjoyable (rather than an adventure) I took the step to make some changes on my MTB. I have a Kona Blast, which I now call my FrankenKona, because of all of the changes I’ve made. I found a nice swept back handlebar at my LBS (for all of $14 to boot) and mounted that on a riser stem, I ditched the shifters and I modified the derailler to simply take up some slack in a shortened chain so I can ride pseudo single speed. I added a rear rack and added a larger wooden platform, then took a nice plastic bin and added clips to the bottom so it just slides onto the platform to carry more stuff. I’ve made my own saddlebags, something along the lines of the typical grocerybag carriers. I also switched out the pedals to BMX pedals for the larger platform they provide. Oh, a slightly softer seat was also added.

    Riding has become very easy, comfortable, and mainly enjoyable. I don’t have to crane my neck around to see what’s going on. My shoulders, arms, wrists, and neck don’t ache anymore after a ride. It may be a fright to see, but I love my FrankenKona.

    Oh, that makes my vote for swept bars. Sorry about the long comment. But thanks for the inspiration.

  • eddie f says:

    been to moustache, been to albatross…pretty much standardized on the 44 noodle. for my exercise and club riding neither upright experiments worked well for me. could not stand up on pedals easily and never felt supported in the upright position. like noodles set up with tops a couple of cm’s above saddle height. Brooks B17 on slight set back post with a decent amount of weight on my hands, but not too much.

  • doug says:

    My city messabout is equipped with swept back bars.

    Instead of North Road I went with the narrower French style Nitto Promenade (the variant with rise). I have a massive CETMA rack clamped to them.

    They work perfectly for city riding. They work great for more than just city riding, though. In fact, a couple summers ago I rode something like 600 miles on the Pacific Coast with them. On a loaded bike (an old Bstone MB-4 pulled out of a ditch) going NORTH, against the fabled Pacific coast wind. Yep. Everyone had something to say to me about my choices, but guess what? It worked fine.

    Handlebars, and the bikes they are attached to, are a state of mind.

  • Giffen says:

    I use my bike for several short (.5 – 3.5 mile) trips around the city and I love my Wald 867 bars.

  • reubencollins says:

    I like to flip & chop the drop bars for my singlespeeds. Does that count as bullhorn?

  • townmouse says:

    I’ve gone from flat to trekking bars – I’m too much of a wuss for drops – and I like the compromise of a largely upright posture with a range of hand positions. Flats or upright bars would be my choice for shorter journeys though

  • brian says:

    I use albatross bars on my touring/city bike. I like being more upright for looking around and enjoying the view when touring and watching traffic while in the city. On my e assist commuter I use the mary bar. I find that at the higher speeds I reach on this bike that the mary is much more aggresive.

  • David says:

    I use a riser bar on both my tandem and my triplet. My Quest Velomobile (Due Next Week) uses a tiller type of steering set up.

  • jamesmallon says:

    I agree with Charlie about drop bars: they’re great if you don’t put them as low as a racer! Don’t even get me started about the idiots who put track bars at the level of their knees. My favourite bars are Nitto Randonneurs: they’re just so many different comfortable steering positions. I’ll admit I have not ridden mustache or North Road bars, but the reason drops are ubiquitous must be that nothing beats them for number of hand positions, and for getting low into a headwind.

  • Robert Ault says:

    I have tried a lot of different bars and in the end I always come back to the Nitto Noodle bar. I think it is just about unbeatable for any type of riding. That said, I may well try something new tomorrow. Tinkering with the setup is just another wonderful aspect of the bike affliction.

  • John says:

    I’ve switched to upright bars because: (1) I’m not racing and therefore don’t need to be as concerned about aerodynamics; (2) they’re more comfortable for my neck, back, and wrists; and (3) the upright position affords me better visibility in traffic.

  • Logan says:

    Great topic Alan!

    I have a Surly long haul trucker like the one pictured above. After discovering fantastic Rivendell accessories I also switched to an albatross bar for awhile and I found the ride to be conformable and relaxed. I also loved the aesthetics of the albatross. The reason I switched back to drop bars was primarily speed and hand options on long weekend rides. I wanted more speed to keep up with my riding partners on the weekends and to keep up with car traffic on my bike commute. To speed up over 15 mph on the albatross bar always felt uncomfortable with my weight set too far forward for the bar. I still have the albatross bar and I look forward to building up a utility bike like a surly big dummy or a CETMA cargo bike with it in the future. ;)

    Cheers, L

  • Larey says:

    I’ve bike commuted with a couple different set-ups. My least favorite is flat bars because of time in the saddle and headwinds. I like drop bars for a bunch of reasons, but mostly because they allow for a more aggressive riding style. I also agree that mounting them too low spoils the ride.

  • Joel van Allen says:

    I’ve been on my Trek Soho since 2007, using only the stock handlebar, which most reviewers seem to hate or to want to change right away. The handlebars are a wide crescent flat bar called the Bontrager Satellite Plus. A smaller, inversely welded bar serves as the mounting point, leaving the entire sweep of the handlebar clear for grips, end bars, brakes, assorted lights, a bell, and a bike computer, without feeling cluttered. If I used a handlebar bag or needed to mount a basket, there’d still be room left. With Ergon GC3 grips (the stock Soho grips are stylish but impractical for anything but a leisurely pedal through the park), hand positioning moves a bit inside, and gives a comfortable ride through congested city traffic– sorry about those sideview mirrors, folks!

    When I first bought the bike, I was commuting almost 50 miles r/t to work, three times a week, partially in a dense urban environment, but much of it along hilly, forested highways and a long, suburban country straightaway. These handlebars, although not quite as nimble (or fashionable, ahem) as short flat bars in strictly urban settings, are perfect for multi-landscape commuting, particularly when wearing a backpack full of work clothes, etc.

  • Andrew says:

    I really loved my flat-bar + bar-tape-wrapped bar-end combination, but in preparation for a long tour come next summer I’ve swapped them out for a trekking bar. I haven’t quite dialed it in yet, and the way the bends end up, it’s actually a lower, closer hand position by default, but I think once I’ve tweaked the rotation a bit and wrapped the whole thing, it should be good. I’ve also transferred the bar-ends to the front of it, so I’ve got a very stretched out aero-bar style position.

  • scherzo says:

    I didn’t vote in this poll, because I find that multiple types of bars work equally well in urban or suburban traffic. I am currently riding the following regularly:

    – “Macadamized” (my term) mountain bike with North Road bars

    – SWB recumbent with a laid-back riding position

    – 2 road-style bikes with drop bars

    I find all of these equally useful for riding in urban/suburban conditions. In recent years I have raised the handlebars on the road bikes but continured to use drop bars. Raising the bars made riding more comfortable, but handling in the city was not a consideration.

  • Dwainedibbly says:

    I switched to On One Mary bars on my highly modded Bianchi San Jose (SRAM iMotion 9 rear hub) and really like them for my 7 mile commute, but there aren’t a lot of places to mount a Dinotte headlight because no part of the bar runs perpendicular to the centerline of the bicycle.

    That said, I’ll second the comments about drop bars being nice if they’re raised up. My tandem is set up that way and it’s one of my most comfortable bikes.

  • RI SWamp Yankee says:

    I tried the Albatross-style swept-back bars. My problem with them was that there was no place you could place your hands when leaning forward that wouldn’t cause numbness, and when upright, they were a little too narrow to be comfortable and confident steering through tricky terrain. I’ve discovered flat bars aren’t much better, and drops are straight out (I hate ‘em, always have), but the Mary-Bar, H-Bar or Satellite-Plus Treking might fill the bill. Swept back, but not too much… closer to a beach cruiser bar than further. I loved the hell out my beach cruisers, and if I lived someplace where the hills weren’t as vicious, I’d be riding one today. (If I hit the lottery, I’ll get a 29’er cruiser and fit it with a Rolhoff! Big wald wire panniers… that’s the stuff!)

  • EcoVelo » Blog Archive » Versa VRS Levers says:

    […] many questions I’ve received regarding their installation and performance. This, along with our poll showing drop bars as the top choice among our readers, leads me to believe there may be a growing interest in IGH-equipped drop bar bikes. Personally, […]

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