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To keep it short: Are flat bars or bullhorn bars a bad idea on a gravel / commuter / everything bike?

Long Story: I have ridden road and mountain for a while. Haven't owned a real "road bike" for a few years, but my commuter was an older steel road frame, converted to 1x10 with mt bike handlebars. Fun bike (everyone who rides it asks if I will sell it).

Anyway after building a gravel bike for my wife I'm going to build one for myself (my commuter barely fits 28c tires). I'm thinking about handlebar choices. I'm not racing it but would like to do longer rides occasionally. Probably will do 1x again.

Any downsides to doing a flat mt bike handlebar again? Other option I thought was using an aero base bar, something like this: Bicycle part Composite material Metal Steel Leather

Possibly could throw on aero extensions occasionally. With electronic shifting and blip buttons this seems more do-able.
 

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Any downsides to doing a flat mt bike handlebar again?
The downsides with flat bars over dropped bars is whether the frame geometry is conducive to using either bar...drop bar-specific bikes typically have less reach, shorter top-tubes; so using a flat bar on a gravel bike designed around drop-bars may put you into a position that is too upright, or require running a stem that is longer than you're comfortable using. If you spend most of your time riding on the tops of your drop-bars anyway, flat bars may work just fine. If your bike fit is optimized for riding on the drops, then flat-bars are going to require some consideration in order to maintain the overall fit of the bike.

Other option I thought was using an aero base bar, something like this...
The concerns here might include the narrow hand positions (40-42cm...) and what options you have for brakes/levers. MTB levers will not fit the bullhorns; road levers may not have enough lever travel before hitting the bulge; TT-levers may or may not be compatible with whatever calipers you choose to use (and/or you may have to mix/match lever and caliper for everything to work right).
 

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I've used round base bars on my 1987 mountain bike and had no problems doing mostly commute miles on them. Prior to that I had DIY cowhorn bars and even did a 500 mile loaded tour with them. I was more flexible back then and I think I used the stock stem (150mm? Remember, this is '80's vintage mtb), but I went to a shorter 120mm stem at some point.

As mentioned before, the main issue is figuring which brakes and shifters to use, though I guess discs make things easier. You can easily mix and match Shimano TT, road, or mountain brake levers with any of their hydraulic disc calipers.

Shifters? Well, I guess that's an excuse to go DI2 :) though there are other options too. That's probably been beaten to death in other sub forums.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·

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Interesting what makes them "designed" to work with STI levers exactly?
The main part is the curve up at the ends so regular drop levers don't bottom out too soon. On the base bars with the straight ends, you want either reverse mount levers or mtb levers if you can make them fit.

I'm kinda leaning towards a TT bar as I was thinking of doing disc brakes and e-tap anyway
Yeah there are either road or TT e-tap hydraulic brakes. Depends on where you want to put the shift buttons, though you still have the option of blip buttons too.
 

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To keep it short: Are flat bars or bullhorn bars a bad idea on a gravel / commuter / everything bike?

Long Story: I have ridden road and mountain for a while. Haven't owned a real "road bike" for a few years, but my commuter was an older steel road frame, converted to 1x10 with mt bike handlebars. Fun bike (everyone who rides it asks if I will sell it).

Anyway after building a gravel bike for my wife I'm going to build one for myself (my commuter barely fits 28c tires). I'm thinking about handlebar choices. I'm not racing it but would like to do longer rides occasionally. Probably will do 1x again.

Any downsides to doing a flat mt bike handlebar again? Other option I thought was using an aero base bar, something like this: View attachment 1263601
Possibly could throw on aero extensions occasionally. With electronic shifting and blip buttons this seems more do-able.
I commuted on my jones for a couple of months after my gravel bike got broken in a car dooring. The Jones bar was pretty nice, the upper loop was a nicely aero location to hang out in and the multiple hand positions were convenient. I seriously considered adding a Jones to my replacement bike as I felt it was such an nice option. You would need to figure that your hands are much farther back than on a flat bar which might mean a longer than usually stem, or deciding where to put the grip area to determine if aero is choice location. Other negative is having to move your hands to get to brakes, when needed if you are up in the loop.

Ultimately I decided to stay with gravel drop bars and leave the jones bar on my mountain bike. Sometimes i regret the choice but most of my rides I don't.
 

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Are flat bars or bullhorn bars a bad idea on a gravel / commuter / everything bike? ....Any downsides to doing a flat mt bike handlebar again?
Nothing wrong with flat bars! But i think it's easy to bodge things together and create a goofy bike. Here's some potential downsides...

Fewer hand positions
Shifters/brakes geared toward mtb kit
Most road frames will put your weight in an odd place when you put flat bars in the right place
Different frame geo can make it tricky to get a comfy/good handling flat bar road conversion
Loss of an aero position
Loss of front-weighted position for cornering
Bar/stem lengths play in to steering geometry

None of those concerns are insurmountable (or possibly no issue or preferable), but it's stuff to think about. You're exploring some weird drop bar options, and those will further complicate things. The nitto bar pdkl45 linked to solves a lot of those for you, if you're cool with the 'hoods' hand position. Alternatively, starting with a flat bar road bike or a hybrid frame can be helpful.

The bars/stem are a lever that feels weird when it's out of sync with the bike's trail. IMO. More trail- bigger lever. And vice-versa.

I think the greater issue is that drop bars are more fussy for set up because they offer so many hand positions. A really great drop bar bike is comfy on the hoods, upright on the tops, and in the drops it's intuitive both to bunnyhop or carve the fastest possible line through a corner... without neck/back fatigue. The big disadvantage is that they're hard to get right. And you have a hand position that you can't brake from.

I would not feel safe riding tri bars on a commuter, personally. Usually aero extensions won't fit comfortably on a bike that fits with a flat bar.
 
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