Should I put drop handlebars on my bike or get a second bike?
August 9, 2010 6:19 PM   Subscribe

Should I put drop handlebars on my bike or get a second bike?

I bought a Jamis Coda about a year ago. I've grown to really like riding, I ride just about everyday for errands etc. and as I've gotten fitter, enjoy longer just-for-the-sake-of-riding rides, like going to Central Park, and doing the Bike NY rides.

While I like my flat bars for my commute and short rides in and around Queens, I'm thinking I'd like drop bars for the longer rides so I can move my hands around a bit.

I can't decide if I should get a second (perhaps fancier) bike that's just for the longer rides or put drop bars on the Coda.

My LBS said I'll need new brakes b/c the V-brakes won't give enough force and with STI shifters it'll be ~$250. I couldn't spend more than $1000 on a second bike, so I don't know if I could get a bike that would be all that much "better" than my current bike. But would spending $250 on a bike I paid $500 for be a waste of money?

I can't say I would care if the bike is lighter, or had better components, and I don't know if I want to have two bikes in my apartment. One pro of a second bike would be the possibility of getting clipless pedals at some point.

So the question is, drop handlebars on the Coda (less money, one bike in my apt.) or a second bike (more money, a bit better bike, variety)?
posted by JulianDay to Health & Fitness (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sell the Coda, buy a road bike. One much nicer and lighter bike for an affordable amount. Win.
posted by The Michael The at 6:27 PM on August 9, 2010

Yeah, I would suggest buying a road bike too. I have been through a handful of Jamis bikes, and one of my favorite bikes I have ever owned was one of these. Personally, for city riding, I like bullhorn bars more than drop bars, just because they tend to make it a bit easier to navigate narrow spots in traffic, but they still give me more options than flats. They can be a pain with a fully geared bike, but they are still totally workable. I may have a strong anti-drop bias though... for some reason, for about the past 4 years, drop bars make my posture feel way off while riding. I went so far as to use a sawzall to cut a pair of drops into a super narrow flat bar while they were on the bike (I cannot control my bike anger!).

But yeah, going from the Coda to any nice road bike will be a monumentally pleasurable experience. The first time you step up onto a well tuned and fitted road bike is an unforgettable and great thing.
posted by broadway bill at 6:43 PM on August 9, 2010

Have you ridden with with drop bars for any length of time? You may find that you like them just fine for commuting and short rides and then you can just replace the Coda. Is there someone from whom you can borrow a bike with drop bars for a little while?

It really isn't worth it to replace the handlebars on your current bike, because, as you note, you'll either need new brakes and shifters/levers or you'll need new levers and bar end shifters (which are not great for city riding). Have you considered butterfly bars or another style that would allow you to keep your current shifters and levers?
posted by ssg at 6:44 PM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you have the money and room, there's really no good reason not to buy more bikes.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 6:53 PM on August 9, 2010 [4 favorites]

There's no need to spend even that much. A good used road bike will be cheaper; for that matter, I recently spend $650 for a brand-new Jamis Satellite Sport and I love it to death; I ride it for errands and short trips, as well as commutes and longer rides.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:00 PM on August 9, 2010

I have drop bars on my vintage 10-speed "road" bike, which I use for all my bicycling needs.

I don't find that I change my hand position all that much, even on long rides. I have a couple or three sweets spots, and that's about it.

When you talk about longer rides, what do you mean? Do you mean touring and 50-60 mile days? The occasional century? Shorter than that, like riding 15-20 miles around the city? I don't find that hand positioning is an issue, at all for the latter sort of riding. The few times I've done more than 50 miles in a day, the ability to change up my hand position was nice. But I don't know that it made such a difference that I'd buy a whole new bike just for that.

Lots of my friends use bar end shifters for city riding and swear by them*. I have old-school friction shifters on my stem/headset and have no problem with that at all. You really don't need indexed shifting to ride in New York. It's just not hilly enough to need to shift that often. Though that's neither here nor there since I'm not advising you to change out your bars (I say use what you've got unless you decide to really get ambitious with your riding).

* I know approximately zero people who use indexed shifting here in the city. Every single cyclist I know either has a vintage bike with down tube or headset friction shifters, or bar end shifters, or a single speed/fixie. We're all doing very well, thank you.
posted by Sara C. at 7:16 PM on August 9, 2010

I'm also a fan of the "you can never have enough bikes" argument. However, if you decide to stick with the Jamis, I would think more about adding bar ends than the drop bars. With drop bars, you spend very little time in the drops, most of your time is spent up on the brake hoods, so they aren't a panacea. If your real issue is numb hands on long rides, there are a number of other (cheaper) fixes. I mentioned bar ends -- you can also invest in a nice pair of gel cycling gloves. You could also change up your cockpit geometry and take some of the weight off your hands by buying double bend handle bars (mountain bike handlebars that bend up, raising the handlebar height, but would allow you to keep your brake/shifter setup); you could raise your stem; you could buy a new stem. Make no mistake, long rides are much more pleasant on a road bike, but you can certainly get by on your Jamis until you make that investment.
posted by kovacs at 7:37 PM on August 9, 2010

You also can opt for a set of drop bar levers that work with V-brakes such as these Dia Compes.
posted by meowzilla at 7:44 PM on August 9, 2010

A minor note: I recommend compact-form drop bars, if you go that route. FSA et al make some with a generous flat section and a large-radius but shallow drop, so you get the variety of hand positions without the dramatic change in fit you'd find in a Maes-bend or criterium bar. Many compact drops actually pull the drop section back toward you as well.
posted by a halcyon day at 8:24 PM on August 9, 2010

Response by poster: By longer rides I mean 30+ miles. I did 55 on a Bike NY ride a few weeks ago would like to do 75 or a century next year.

I don't go numb on my current handlebars, but I've borrowed my brother's road bike for short (10 mile) rides and could see the potential benefit of having more options for my hands, and posts like this one got me thinking about drop bars.
posted by JulianDay at 8:27 PM on August 9, 2010

How often do you plan to do 50+ rides? If this is something you see yourself doing a lot of, then you should invest in a road bike. It sounds like you really enjoyed the one you tried out, and it can only get better from there.

If you aren't sure if you're ever going to do a lot of long rides, I'd stick with what you have until you know it isn't working for you anymore.
posted by Sara C. at 8:36 PM on August 9, 2010

Riding on the brake hoods of drop bars is super comfortable. How fast do you go? Wind resistance starts to be a problem around 10mph and again drop bars help a lot with that.

I would stay with 2 bikes, if you get a nice road bike you won't want to leave it locked up everywhere when you go on errands.
posted by thylacine at 8:36 PM on August 9, 2010

Riding on the brake hoods of drop bars is super comfortable

It's funny, but I don't find this to be the case. Though I see a lot of cyclists with drops riding this way, so some people must find it comfortable. YMMV, at the very least.
posted by Sara C. at 8:42 PM on August 9, 2010

Response by poster: I'd like to go on one longish ride a week. I did 30 miles this past Saturday and really enjoyed it.

Thanks everyone for all your input. I think I'm leaning towards two bikes now.
posted by JulianDay at 9:14 PM on August 9, 2010

Sara C. you need to fiddle with your bar angle and shifter position. A flat or slightly upward transition to the hoods is what most people find comfortable.
posted by randomstriker at 10:20 PM on August 9, 2010

may be chiming in after the decision has been made but yeah, drops aren't gonna get you anything in the city. maybe you'll occasionally get into them on the downside of the bridge or in central park or prospect but in traffic being that far down restricts your vision and strains your neck to much to be really useful. you're not going to get into them just to rest your hands. i use bullhorns and they let me stretch out a tad if i want to. plus, lets face it they look really hot. little kids are constantly shouting out shit about my bike. pretty sure it's the nitto horns catching their eye.

if you plan on getting out of the city and going on long rides then you'll use them but in that case you should buy a road bike anyway as people have said.
posted by nathancaswell at 11:39 PM on August 9, 2010

You won't get into the drops in the city, but you might like the narrower bars in the city anyway.

JulianDay: "I think I'm leaning towards two bikes now."

The correct number of bikes to own is n+1 (where n is the number you currently own).
posted by markr at 4:29 AM on August 10, 2010

There is no way in which drop bars are a problem in the city for navigating traffic. The bars are supposed to be the width of your shoulders. If you can't safely get the bars through, you can't safely get your body through, and shouldn't be trying it. Likewise, bar-end shifters are no problem at all; properly installed, they move totally vertically and can't get hit by anything that isn't already going to crash you, and you'll mostly be using the right hand one which means your left hand will still be on the primary brake (and if you shorten the drops, you can actually work them without taking your hand off). I ride with both through horrible traffic, and have never had the slightest problem, and the drops give you a set of real handlebars for when you get out of town.

That said, my estimation puts just the parts you'd need at about $200+tax, so you could save yourself a little money by doing the work yourself (or via a friend who'll take beer as a bribe), but not much. Less than $1000 will still get you a reasonably decent new road bike, or get you an excellent used one with repairs.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 4:38 AM on August 10, 2010

Counterpoint to the above: whether you're using bullhorn or drop bars, bar-end shifters are located at the least-upright, most weighted hand position. It's certainly not impossible to use in a city, but many cyclists prefer having brifters for this reason— not to mention the ergonomics have vastly improved in, say a 2010 Ultegra brifter vs. a 1980 Dia-Compe brake lever, which encourages riders to keep their hands on the hoods.
posted by a halcyon day at 4:59 AM on August 10, 2010

I have a similar hybrid to your Coda and found that putting bar-ends (the ones that point forwards and slightly upwards, commonly seen on mountain bikes) on it made a huge difference in comfort, particularly on 100-160km rides, not to mention they're awesome for climbing. You get a number of positions, including one identical to the hands-on-dropbar-brake-housing arrangement, and don't need to change the bike up in any major way at all. The shifters and brake levers move inwards maybe 20mm and the ends just bolt-on. They cost like $20.
posted by polyglot at 5:28 AM on August 10, 2010

On my hybrid I eventually added bar-ends as described by polyglot and I'll second that it made a difference. I did the Trek Across Maine ride (180 miles) before and after adding them and having them made a huge difference in terms of comfort and climbing. I took that bike on weekend rides of about 30-40 miles and a daily commute of about 15 miles.
posted by mikepop at 5:46 AM on August 10, 2010

bar-end shifters are located at the least-upright, most weighted hand position

If you're shifting correctly, you're never moving your body or putting any weight on the bars with the shifting hand. A properly setup bike should allow you to ride without your hands doing any actual support anyway. You simply move your hand to the shifter, tap it, and move your hand back. If your bike is fitted properly, you can do this from any riding position without moving your body or grabbing the bars with your shifting hand.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 5:52 AM on August 10, 2010

Sara C. you need to fiddle with your bar angle and shifter position. A flat or slightly upward transition to the hoods is what most people find comfortable.

To clarify, it's not that I find riding on the hoods painful, it's that I don't find it the most personally comfortable way to ride.
posted by Sara C. at 5:56 AM on August 10, 2010

I added bar ends to my hybrid, but it ended up merely being a stop-gap. The truth is, the bikes that come with drops tend to have different geometry overall. If all you want is a different place to put your hands, bar ends are fine. If you are feeling fitter and find yourself wanting to be in a slightly more aggressive position (which is what happened to me) the bar ends will not solve your problem.

I ended up getting a touring/cyclocross bike (Bianchi Volpe) for about $800 because it was a 2008 model. Even full retail it's more or less in your price range at $1000, as are a lot of entry level touring and cyclocross bikes. Test ride a few and see. I ride my Volpe in city traffic every day on my commute as well as on centuries and the like. I have a bike computer and used to be pretty religious about tracking every ride, and I am 1 - 2mph faster, on average, on the new bike.

I haven't touched my hybrid since I got the Volpe, although I kept it to use as my winter bike. I might cry when I go back to it once it starts snowing.
posted by misskaz at 7:14 AM on August 10, 2010

Ha, misskaz that is more or less exactly what I ended up doing eventually (except I got a Jamis Aurora) last spring. It was quite the adjustment going back to the hybrid for the winter (especially when you factor in the studded tires).
posted by mikepop at 7:26 AM on August 10, 2010

Heh. This happened to me too. A cheap bike for commuting, then bam, serious dough on a touring fame. I've never regretted it, but learing to ride on the drops takes about a month of transition and feels very weird at first. You may not like it initally, but after being on a road bike for a while, you'll find the hybrid upright geometery uncomfortable to go back to.

As misskaz says, frame geometry the reason putting drop bars on a hybrid is less than optimal. The hybrid is designed for you to sit more upright, while a road bike (and bars) presumes a more stretched out, horizontal posture. You may find that you need to change your stem too, for example to reach the hoods properly.

If you want/need to keep your hybrid, there are other options:

1. Bars ends are the cheapest solution.
2. "Treking" bars are the normal solution for hybrid riders who want more hand positions. You can keep your current shifters and brakes with these bars. They are not very aerodynamic though.
3. "Moustache" bars also work well on hybrid frames and work well with your v-brake levers.

I would avoid the bull/cow-horn and time trial bars on that page as, like road bars, they move your hand positions further forward. You would probably need to change you stem length with them, like the drop bars.

Any of 1, 2, or 3 would enable you to ride 50 to 60km comfortably. Of course, so would a road bike.
posted by bonehead at 11:03 AM on August 10, 2010

Sara C., I suspect your stem is a bit long.
posted by bonehead at 11:06 AM on August 10, 2010

Yeah, the other issue you'll have with drop bars is that the bar diameters for drop bars is different, smaller, for the standard road drop bar than the standard "mountain-bike" flat bar. That means that you may need a shim to get your current pods and brakes to fit on a drop bar. You may also need a shim to get the bar to fit on your stem.

Many people think this is a bad idea though. Handlebars can take a lot of force when riding and making the bar more likely to slip, as a shim does, may not be conducive to your health.

For these reasons, safety and size incompatability, when you change bars, you will probably also need to change your stem too.
posted by bonehead at 11:14 AM on August 10, 2010

making the bar more likely to slip, as a shim does, may not be conducive to your health

I am a professional bike mechanic. This is a very easy problem to solve -- just add smear some anti-slip paste (the opposite of grease) on both the inside and outside surfaces of the shim. Though it's meant for carbon, that stuff works just as well for metal-to-metal interfaces.
posted by randomstriker at 5:25 AM on August 12, 2010

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