Should I go with bullhorn handlebars?
February 3, 2010 8:21 PM   Subscribe

Should I put bullhorn handlebars on my bike?

I commute by bike about 6 miles per way, about 2-3 times a week when the weather does not suck.

I ride a single speed road bike with drop handlebars. I find that I almost never ever use the drop position. When I do, it hurts my back pretty quickly and I can't see traffic very well. (Maybe this means the handlebars are generally too low?) Instead, I almost exclusively use the top or flat bars -- I even had cycle-cross brakes installed because that's where I tend to have my hands. I also have the regular brakes out front of the drop downs - so it's a little goofy.

So, I started thinking -- if I want to blow a little money on my bike this season, maybe I should try bullhorns? It would definitely be cleaner, and it would seem to fit the way I ride better.

But, I've never tried them. So, what say you?
posted by Mid to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've never been especially happy riding in drops. Like you I haven't figured out why. I have bullhorns on the fixie that I use for around-town riding. I like it because it lets me keep my head up in traffic and still change my grip occasionally to avoid fatigue. I have a proper road bike for longer distances, but on a couple of occasions I have done 50+ miles on bullhorns without issues. If you just want to test it out you can make a set cheaply by "flipping and clipping" an old set of drop bars.
posted by indyz at 8:39 PM on February 3, 2010

Make sure you get the right width. I bought the nashbar special and they are a little too wide causing me to rotate my wrists uncomfortably. When I'm not noticing it they feel fine.
posted by thylacine at 8:49 PM on February 3, 2010

Go for a professional fitting session. Unless you are severely out of shape or inflexible, something is quite wrong if being in the drop hurts your back.

It could be that the bars are to low. Or too close. Or too far. Or perhaps your saddle is too far back, or too far forward, or too high, or too low. It could be anything -- you get the opinion of a pro.

If your bike is correctly set up, you should feel very comfortable in the drops -- in fact you'll find that it's the ideal position for generating the most power using your entire trunk rather than just your quads. You'll ride on the hoods when you're taking it easy, and you'll rarely be on the tops -- only when you're sitting up.
posted by randomstriker at 8:54 PM on February 3, 2010

Bullhorns are useless, in my opinion. City riding presents too many opportunities to get them hooked on something, and you'll never be allowed to use them at a track. Something else is wrong.

Generally, when I'm in the drops, I'm out of the saddle half the time (sprinting), and the other half is a gnarly descent. If you don't use the drops, bullhorns won't fix much other than to take the choice away from you.

Try another set of drop bars with a MUCH shallower drop and reach. I really don't like most "anatomical" bars, since they're about twice as ovaloid as I'm comfortable with.
posted by kcm at 9:03 PM on February 3, 2010

I've had bullhorns on a single speed for a few years now.
I got them because I never used drops [I have a bad neck and back and I can't look where I'm headed from way down there] and because they make it really easy to carry boxes or cardboard rolls balanced on your bars.

If I were to buy some new bars now, I would go with moustache bars. They offer different grip positions and a different sort of look, but don't have the pole-snagging qualities of bullhorns. I have never actually snagged a pole, but I have nearly gored some cars.

A much doofier-looking option is to flip your drops upside down. It gives you the option of sitting straight up, and offers almost as many ways to grip it as the proper position. I like it for some purposes, but you really need to *own* it to pull it off. I suppose that bullhorns flipped backwards would be sort of like moustache bars, but I would check for knee clearance and mounting ease before doing that.
posted by Acari at 9:24 PM on February 3, 2010

I have a Redline 925 with the stock bullhorn handlebars, and I really love them—I love the way they look, and they're very comfortable. Lots of easy leverage for standing up and sprinting/climbing.

(I have more standard drops on my road bike, and I like those, too. It's just a different experience.)
posted by pts at 10:14 PM on February 3, 2010

The bullhorn riding position is essentially identical to what you have now if you were to put your hands on your brake hoods. If that's uncomfortable, you should get a shorter stem. Bullhorn bars aren't going to bring the brakes much (or any) closer to you if you fit them with bar-end levers. You'd have to put the cross levers on the bullhorns, which is going to look even more goofy than what you've got right now.

Personally, I think bullhorns look out of place on regular road bikes, but of course that's up to you. You could also fit a flat or riser bar with the cross levers if you like that aesthetic.

If you are relatively new to road bikes, you might also want to just give it some time. A lot of riders begin to prefer more stretched out / low riding positions after they've spent a fair bit of time in the saddle.
posted by fearofcorners at 11:08 PM on February 3, 2010

I have them one bike and I regret it. Not using your drops is hardly the sort of problem that requires you to get rid of the drops it is? I mean, they're not hurting anything are they? I'd say try adjusting your current handlebars to move them up so that your drops are more usable and the top of your handlebars puts you even more upright.

Furthermore in my experience I spend the great majority of my time on the hoods of my brakes on my regular handlebars. But it turns out that that is more comfortable than the equivalent position on my bullhorns at least.

Anyway I wouldn't use my drops on a 6 mile ride either. I use my drops for variety or when I'm trying to take it up a notch and I can afford to be a little more hunched. This only happens on 20+ mile rides. So I guess that's an argument that you don't need them but then we're back to (1) they're not really hurting and more importantly (2) in my experience the bullhorn position is actually more comfortable on brake hoods than on bullhorns.
posted by Wood at 11:56 PM on February 3, 2010

Flip your drops and chop them. Bullhorns. I did it on my daily commute fixie and never looked back. Respect the bullhorns.
posted by jnnla at 12:10 AM on February 4, 2010

I've had bullhorns on my bike for about 2 years, and it's the greatest thing I ever did. But it's really more about your riding style than it is about "bullhorns r grate you should get them".

Seconding the easier climbing, vision, leverage.

If you're riding in the city and it's really just a commute, I would believe bullhorns are the way to go. Good compromise between vision, short sprints and climbing. All necessary in a city.

Before you make the leap, I would try riding one with your hands as close to the stem as you comfortably can, you'll probably ride in this position a lot as it gives your head a ton of clearance. I wouldn't ride more than 20 miles in this position though, it's a bit weird. But your commute is six miles so I wouldn't worry about it if I were you.

Plus, I'm pretty sure that bullhorns hooking onto things and having bullhorns on your bike have nothing to do with each other.
posted by bam at 12:10 AM on February 4, 2010

I love my pursuit bars. They are extended bullhorns. I have a long torso. Maybe I needed a longer stem on my drop bars. The leverage is great. I can put my whole body into it. I commute around 6 miles each way 5 days a week.
posted by GregorWill at 12:44 AM on February 4, 2010

This is such a personal preference, I say go for it, and if you don't like it, unload them on Craigslist for 75% of what you paid. Done.

I personally almost always stay in the drops. It's more aerodynamic and I seem to sprint better. But it's so easy to make this swap, why not try it and see if you like it?
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 4:33 AM on February 4, 2010

How about getting straight handlebars with bar ends? You can adjust the bar ends however you like and I think they'll keep you in a more upright position than bullhorns. Not exactly the most fashionable option, but when I commute on my bike (~10 miles each way) it's very comfortable. Keeps your wrists in a more ergonomic position, and you can grab the corner where it attaches to the handlebar instead of using the entirety of the bar ends.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:05 AM on February 4, 2010

I have a fairly short daily commute in downtown traffic. I have 2 bikes, one for crap weather and a Pretty Bike. Pretty Bike has bullhorns, crap weather bike has drops. On Crap bike, I never ride the drops, either upright or on the hoods. I prefer the position of the bullhorns quite a bit. Flipping/chopping is a decent way to go, especially if you have an old set of drop bars around. Alternatively, go to the bike shop in town that has the largest selection of fixies, tell 'em you're nosy about bullhorns, and ask if they have any bikes your size with horns that you can try out.

It really just comes down to personal preference; figure out if bullhorns are yours.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:21 AM on February 4, 2010

Your current brakes might not transfer to bullhorns. Just keep that in mind. You might be purchasing both a new bar and new brakes (Well, the levers at least ... why am I even explaining this to you? You get it). I'm not trying to discourage you in the least. It's just not something I had thought about until I looked into the switch.
posted by kthxbi at 6:00 PM on February 4, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks all for the pointers -- I will need to have an intensive consultation with my neighborhood bike shop guy.
posted by Mid at 12:17 PM on February 9, 2010

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