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Road Drop Bar Geometry

Posted on | March 2, 2009 | 83 Comments

Which drop bar shape and size is best? That depends on your anatomy, conditioning, position on the bike, type of riding you do, how your bike is equipped and your bike’s geometry. One cyclist’s ergonomic heaven is another’s hell. I’ve assembled samples of a representative range of most of the traditional road bar geometries together with current production shapes. I’ve omitted anatomic bars as I’ve never found one that fits my anatomy,  so apologies to fans of anatomic bars.

Get Adobe Flash player

You can navigate the images using the thumbnails, use the arrows left and right to jog through the menu and the bar specs will display in the lower left above the thumbnails if you roll over the main image.

As Mitch has pointed out in the comments you should note that the bars are pictured for easy  comparison of the shape, reach and drop may or may not be at the angle they are likely to be mounted. Different riders will rotate the bars by differing amounts and place the brake/shift levers in different postions. The range of preferences can be pretty wide but generally you will wind up somewhere in between these positions depending on your preferences:mounted handlebar

Road bar shapes can be roughly grouped into the following categories:

Track / Pista: These bars closely mimic the shape of track bars providing more clearance for the arms when sprinting out of the saddle then any other road bar shape. The Cinelli model 65 Criterium bar (144mm drop) and 3ttt’s Gimondi bend (drop in the 155mm range) are the classic examples. This style bar all but disappeared with the advent of aero brifters but is making a big time comeback with fixed and single speed bikes.

Shallow / Italian Classic: The 138mm drop of the classic ‘shallow’ drop bar is actualy quite large compared to today’s compact bars. Classic examples include the Cinelli model 64 Giro D’Italia (138mm drop) and 3TTT TdF bend  (138mm drop). Modern Italian classic bars include the Deda Newton / 215 shallow (135 mm drop) and and the 3T Rotundo (139 mm drop).

traditional bend bar

Deep / Belgian / Pave: The traditional deep drop bars like the 3ttt Merckx bend and the Cinelli Model 66 Campione Del Mondo had drops of around 158mm. The current Deda “deep” has a drop of 145mm.

Compact: Aero shift/brake levers changed the cyclist’s cockpit moving the main position for braking and shifting to the hoods from the hooks / downtube. It also moved the postion forward out past the hooks as the brifter grew into a full handlebar extension. This required riders to lower their bars relative to their saddle to maintain the same riding position. Manufacturers responded with an ultra shallow bar with a short reach that raises the drops and moves the in the hoods position back.

Compact bars

Clearance for the arms with a 125mm drop is maintained by having a shallow bend out of the hook and extending the drop farther back then with traditional bars. The shape of the bend is somewhere between anatomic and traditional with some bars having a flatter more anatomic looking bend and others slightly rounder bend. The trade off with compact bars is less variation of position between hand positions. An advantage to some a deal killer for others.

Randonneur: The tops are upswept raising the hooks and drops and the hooks are angled outwards making for a very comfortable long distance bar. You can see in the illustration below how for the same stem height the Randonneur shape gives a more upright riding position. Grand Bois and Nitto currently make Randonneur style bars.

French Maes: The classic Philippe Professionel had a long reach, shallow drop with parallel ramps and drop. This shape is available today with the Grand Bois Maes bar.

These classifications are not well defined. The pista style bar is defined not by the amount of drop but by the shape with the distinctive curve starting almost immediately from the ferrule (see the tops illustrations below). The shallow and deep drop bars are distinguished by the amount of drop with a wide variety of shapes among the different models within each category.

ZIPP bar geometries

3ttt offered all of it’s road models in a Gimondi (Pista) bend, Merckx (deep) bend, Tour de France (shallow) and in later models anatomic as well. So you could get a Super Competizione or Prima 220 marked with a GIM (Gimondi bend) or MEX (Merckx bend). In one 3ttt catalog I have seen they refer to the Merckx and Td’F as if it were the same but in the sample bars I have the Td’F drop is shallow and the Merckx drop is deep but the shape and angle of the ramps is the same. Unfortunately the new 3T has not maintained the practice of different drops/shapes for each model but Deda offers the 215 / Newton in traditional shallow and deep bends as well as  anatomic and have a compact model (Presa / Zero 100) as well. Zipp and Ritchey now offer their bars with a choice of traditional round (shallow/Italian), compact and anatomic bends.

comparing drop bar shapesIn the above illustration you can see how the shift/brake lever as handlebar extension and main control center has impacted the size and shape of road bars. Campagnolo’s new 11 speed brifter has 2 hand positions on the hoods and claims braking from the hoods as effective as from the hooks.

If you stretch your arms straight out in front of you, your wrists will naturally be at an angle not far off that of the Nitto Randonneur. This makes for a very comfortable braking position in the hooks.

But if you are braking and shifting from the hoods with a brifter you might find the angle awkward as it turns your wrists out. In that case you might prefer a straight or only slighly angled hook like the Deda 215.

The equipment you use can change your preference in bar geometry.

tops-xI’ll be replacing the above animated gif with a navigable Flash animation once I have a few more samples ready to include. More to say about the tops then.

Handlebar partsGrant Petersen of Rivendell likes high trail bikes, a more upright riding position and wide bars. Grant designed the Nitto 177 Noodle bar. Here is Rivendell’s take on handlebars.

Jan Heine of Bicycle Quarterly prefers low trail bikes and narrower width bars. He rides in Paris-Brest-Paris and other long distance endurance events and uses a GB Randonneur bar. You will find an excellent article on handlebars that goes into the relationship between bar width and bike geometry as well as a bit of history and reviews of the GB Randonneur and Maes bar by Jan in the Winter 2008 issue of Bicycle Quarterly.

The Competitive Cyclist sells racing frames and gear to competitive cyclists. Andy at Competitive Cyclist makes the case for compact bars in this video review of the FSA compact bars.

If your equipment preferences and the type of cycling you do aligns with any of the above three you will likely find your handlebar preferences will be similar to theirs as well. So you can use that as a guide for where to go for expert advice.

Sheldon Brown on handlebars.

Sheldon Brown on handlebar clamp sizes and tubing specs.

And what bar do I use? For years I used a 3ttt Ergo Due with Merckx bend. It’s got double grooves for my Campagnolo Ergopower shifters and it’s dimensions work well for my long arms and long fingers. Now that I have switched to Campagnolo’s newest shifter I’ve lowered my bars and am about to give the 3T Ergosum a try. The deep drops are now to low with my lowered hoods. If I was still using brake levers and bar end or DT shifters I think I would go with the GB Randonneur.


83 Responses to “Road Drop Bar Geometry”

  1. Doug Peterson
    March 2nd, 2009 @ 4:18 pm

    This is great info. I’ve never seen all this in one place and it’s good to be able to compare and contrast. Thanks for pulling this together.

  2. Brad Riendeau
    March 2nd, 2009 @ 6:28 pm

    Some bars to add- TTT Fausto Coppi bend- TTT’s pista bar
    and the SOMA 456 Track bar. You are to be commended for your site.

  3. ruedatropical
    March 2nd, 2009 @ 6:49 pm

    Brad, I’ve not been able to find even a picture of the Coppi bend. I’d love to see one. There are quite a few bars I would have liked to have included but I did’t have access to. I was going to keep it to road bars but as there are so many fixxies out there I suppose track bars are being used on the road a lot these days.

    Over time as I can get schematics, a bar to photograph or get photos that are suitable for tracing I’ll add more bars.

  4. mitch
    March 2nd, 2009 @ 7:37 pm

    Great site for picturing bar dimensions that are difficult to visualize if you haven’t seen the bar.

    For those planning out your set up, remember that you don’t set up the traditional bars with the drops parallel to the ground as they are often shown in catalogs, as above. Set ‘em up that way if it’s comfortable for you, but most riders have always had the drops angled down a little so the top forward extension is not angled down as steeply. Also gives more room on the top forward extension so you can rest your hands on the ramp and move them forward to the hoods as you like.

    For example, the Cinelli 66 side view above might look like you ride this bar with the ramps pointed almost straight down. The way my Cinelli 66s are set up has the top ramp angled down a little bit and the drops angled down a little bit, and there is lots of ramp to rest your hands on without sliding down too much. Apply this same set up to all the trad. Cinelli and 3ttt bars listed above and you can imagine how they should work.

    Look at the side by side comparison of the Randonneur, Deep Drop, and Compact bar above, and tilt the rando bar up till the tops are level, then tilt the deep drop up till the tops have the same angle away from vertical as the drops. Then move the brake lever down both bars, and you’ll have the comfortable and efficient set up with these bars. The compact bar is already positioned in the graphic for comfortable and efficient riding.

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  7. Grant
    March 5th, 2009 @ 12:38 am

    Great stuff…

    how about the nitto 176 dream bar,
    it’s another great mid drop choice, sort of between the cinelli
    64 and 66


  8. paleo
    March 23rd, 2009 @ 9:11 pm

    What a wonderful analysis, I’ll be very appreciate your permission, if you allow me to transfer this article into Chinese (abstract).

  9. ruedatropical
    March 23rd, 2009 @ 9:14 pm


    Thank You, I’d be very happy to see the article translated. You are welcome to use the images as well as long as you include a credit and link.

  10. paleo
    March 23rd, 2009 @ 11:45 pm

    Thank you for all your generous and friendness

  11. ruedatropical
    March 24th, 2009 @ 5:40 am

    Send a link when you post it and I’ll add it to my post.

  12. Duppy F
    April 13th, 2009 @ 9:01 am

    Excellent resource – thanks for pulling this together!

  13. CG
    May 6th, 2009 @ 12:59 pm

    Very nice. I’d really like to see the Ritchey Classic and Zipp Traditional added.

  14. fixednwinter
    May 6th, 2009 @ 1:58 pm

    This is a fantastic page. Excellent research.

    I use the older style bars like Cinelli’s with a slight tilt, as Mitch pointed out. Around 10 degrees seems to be comfortable – helps flattens the upper ramp.

    As one of my colleagues pointed out, even a minor tilt like this will give you a touch more reach and more drop. Both measurements move forward and away from the rider.

  15. conrad
    May 21st, 2009 @ 7:57 am

    it’s very cool to have all this info in one place. thanks for putting it up.

    back in the late 80′s i only rode with cinelli mod 66s or ttt merckx’s. i kept using them through the 90′s cause i couldn’t stand all the anatomic bends that were coming out. thankfully, the traditional’esque bends are making a comeback, though they are almost all 31.8 oversize.
    i like the new compact bends like the one offered by FSA. i have a few pairs on on a few of my modern bikes and find them to be very comfy. but i’d like to find new bars for my old steel merckx (1″ threaded). any 26.0 clamp traditional (shallow or deep drop) bars out there besides the ones offered by deda?

  16. ruedatropical
    May 21st, 2009 @ 8:14 am

    NOS 3TTT Merckx bars are still available on ebay. With the exception of Nitto the number of companies offering new 26.0 bars is dwindling rapidly. If you can live without grooves for cable routing Nitto and Grand Bois have several models of traditional bars to choose from. The Ritchey classic road and the Oval Concepts R701 are still available in 25.8/26.0 sizes.

  17. conrad
    May 21st, 2009 @ 4:16 pm

    nittos are fine and all, a bit heavy but classic. i have a B115 on a heavy surly bike and like them, though the drop is a bit too deep for me. the oval’s look pretty nice, i’ll look for the 26.0 ones.

  18. conrad
    May 22nd, 2009 @ 4:11 am

    just looked around online, and i guess richard sachs is the only place to get the 701′s with a 26.0 clamp. i might just get me a pair. thanks again for the tip!

  19. Martin H
    June 15th, 2009 @ 9:43 am

    Fabulously useful resource, thank you!

    You might wish to add 3T ERGONOVA to your presentation. It is now the best-selling 3T bar, pushing even further in the ‘compact’ direction of ERGOSUM:


  20. Modern Classic Bend Drop Bars «
    August 14th, 2009 @ 8:14 pm

    [...] There are now several manufacturers making classic bend drop bars. The Deda shallow and Ritchey WCS have a shallow (Italian) drop, The Deda Deep has a deep (Belgian-Pave) drop and the 3T is in between. The modern shallow and deep drop bars actually have less drop then the classic bars like the Cinelli Giro d’Italia and the 3ttt Merckx bend bars. You can check out the geometry of the classic bars in Road Drop Bar Geometry. [...]

  21. Andrew
    August 19th, 2009 @ 10:42 pm

    Thanks for the page.

    I’ve currently got my Nitto B115′s of the bicycle and was wondering if you’d like a photo of them to include.

    Fantastic to have all this in one spot.

  22. Old Git
    September 30th, 2009 @ 4:08 pm

    Very interesting information, glad to see someone prefers ‘proper’ drop bars! In my opinion, ‘ergo’ bars are the least ergonomic items on the planet!

    How about the ‘intermediate’ drop Cinelli 63? Similar overall shape but slightly less back breaking than the 66, especially now I’m older.

    I have a Cinelli catalogue from around 1980 with all the dimensions etc. of their full range at the time if it’s of interest.

  23. conrad
    September 30th, 2009 @ 7:43 pm

    an 80′s Cinelli catalogue you say? yes, would love to see that. please scan it and share!

  24. Monty Pinson
    October 8th, 2009 @ 10:28 pm

    Thank you! Great work giving us new to biking a starting point for comparisons and useful information to help us with so many options that are out there.

    I just bought a 68-ish to early 70′s Bianchi Celeste – haven’t gotten the bike yet – but looking at the pics of the bars so far it looks like I have the Nitto 135 Grand Randonneur set. I think I have something similar on my 76′ Araya Randonneur as they rise similarly. I just didn’t want to unwrap them to find out.

    I love it when I research for hours and finally come across a site like this to find out answers I know are there. It’s like a big “AH HA!”.

  25. Ian
    February 6th, 2010 @ 1:02 am

    Hi Can you do a review of these? They are the ritchey WCS Logic 2. I am thinking of getting them, they seem like the shallowest possible bars, which would help me maintain position in the drops for racing. Could you please do a review? This site is pretty informative and these ritchey bars are like the most extreme compact bars can get.


    ( I don’t have a pic, but the measurements are here)


  26. ruedatropical
    February 6th, 2010 @ 7:47 am

    The FSA Omega Compact has the same drop and a much rounder bend. The Deda Zero 100 has a bit more drop and a rounder bend and a nice round bend going into the ramps. I’m not a fan of anatomic shaped bars like the Ritchie but some people love them. I don’t review bars as what works for me and the way I ride might suck for you. Good luck with your search.

  27. Ian
    February 6th, 2010 @ 3:23 pm

    Yeah, FSA doesn’t make their bars in a 38 cm width. Do you know whether Deda makes bars with that width?

  28. ruedatropical
    February 6th, 2010 @ 4:49 pm

    I don’t think the Deda’s come in 38. The 3T Ergonova does and it has an even shorter drop at 123. It’s anatomic but the hook is not straight it has more of of gradual radius so that’s another you might check out.

  29. Ian
    February 6th, 2010 @ 5:09 pm

    I like the Ergosum more than the Ergonova, but they don’t have the 38cm and have a little more drop, which perhaps is negligible. 3T does not list their list of stores selling the bars however, and on the online order list, they only have 42 and 44 cm listed…Maybe I can ask my LBS.

  30. Road Handlebar Drops « Asterisk*Cycles
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  31. ajt
    February 24th, 2010 @ 3:12 pm

    Hey, nice work.

    Wondering if this is enough detail for the 3T Ergonova’s.



  32. ruedatropical
    February 24th, 2010 @ 3:16 pm

    Unfortunately my work around for getting flash into wordpress no longer works so I can’t make any changes/additions to the handlebar application.

  33. Chop & Flop setup? - London Fixed-gear and Single-speed
    June 14th, 2010 @ 9:07 pm

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  34. Billissimo
    September 22nd, 2010 @ 11:23 pm

    Private Message

    I’ve referred to your excellent animated road drop bar profiles file many times the past couple of years.

    I was going to show it to a friend who just acquired a new bike, but I think she needs a compact bar with shorter ramps.

    However, despite me having Flash 10 installed, I can no longer get the file to view on my laptop running Windows 7.

    Anyone else having this problem?

    Thanks for the great info you provide!

    Bill Solomon
    Roswell, GA

  35. jerry
    October 22nd, 2010 @ 3:04 am

    just wanted to say thanks for putting this out. found it to be informative. will pass it along.

  36. Road Drop Bar Geometry «
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    [...] The blog has moved. You will find this post now at: http://ruedatropical.com/2009/03/road-drop-bar-geometry/ [...]

  37. admin
    November 6th, 2010 @ 4:07 am

    Flash is now fixed with new blog hosting.

  38. New Site for La Rueda Tropical :
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    [...] off of wordpress.com so I can provide Flash based content. Check out the expanded and improved Road Bar Geometry post. You will be seeing a lot more of this type of content in the future. Thanks for [...]

  39. Don Gillies
    November 18th, 2010 @ 6:39 pm

    You should NOT call Grand Bois handlebars ‘GB Maes’ because GB (Gerry Burgess) was the largest UK Handlebar maker and they made more than 2 MAES designs (the traditional MAES and the Ventoux deep-drop MAES bars.)

    Pick some other acronym, maybe GraBo.

  40. admin
    November 18th, 2010 @ 7:05 pm

    Good Point. I’ll make an adjustment as soon as I find the time.

  41. Spooky
    December 23rd, 2010 @ 5:54 pm

    Hi, great comparrison you have come up with! Well explained! I’d like to see the Syntace Racelite2 and Racelite CDR in there as well.

  42. Andy
    December 28th, 2010 @ 6:20 pm

    This is fabulous. Thank you!

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  45. pattern
    March 9th, 2011 @ 4:40 am

    Nice illustrations, cleared up some confusion for me

  46. EJ Levy
    March 29th, 2011 @ 5:34 am

    Interesting article. While many claim that the ergo bars on the market are anything but my personal experience and that of numerous customers begs to differ. I would not even consider a classic shape if purchasing a new set unless the bike were to just sit on a stand in my living room. If I’m riding it an anatomical bar with a flat top and perhaps an ergo structure in the drops along with a somewhat rounded bend at the top to my leg does not hit in a sprint or a climb(was that ever mentioned in the article anywhere as that is a crucial design element)and perhaps a shorter drop than in the past to encourage me to go down into the drops and stay there.

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  49. Jon Wood
    April 20th, 2011 @ 4:52 pm

    Superb – and more importantly, near the top in a google search on “compact road bars” :-) Excellent way to show the difference in shapes for what tend to have similar quoted dimensions 80reach/125drop and manufacturer photos never seem to be taken from useful angles. Bontrager VR-S and Profile Legra would be useful additions (for me at least).

  50. Henrique Tono
    April 25th, 2011 @ 4:48 am

    Is there a way to superimpose one over the other for a direct comparison?

  51. admin
    April 25th, 2011 @ 1:09 pm

    Sorry, not at present time.

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  58. pastrjo
    July 2nd, 2011 @ 1:09 pm

    I’m looking at shallow drop bars, could you make some recommendations for someone with smaller hands/shorter reach?

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    September 15th, 2011 @ 11:25 am


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  66. Mason
    October 17th, 2011 @ 2:40 pm

    And, yet, nobody makes a Randonneur bar that fits a 31.8mm threadless headset without using a shim.

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  69. Anybody using Deda Speciale 26 Bars?
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  70. Leslie
    December 10th, 2011 @ 7:33 pm

    @ Mason:

    Nitto has a new version of the Dirt Drop (akin to a Randonneur) that is a 31.8mm clamp:


  71. Tony
    December 31st, 2011 @ 7:21 am

    Your comparison of handle bars is great. However, I need a narrow bar (~38cm c-c) with a short reach and drop and the bars you have listed don’t meet this need. Could you add the following bars – it will be helpful to me and I think others that need the option for a narrow bar:
    3T Ergonova
    Easton EC90 SLX3

  72. Scott
    February 1st, 2012 @ 11:33 pm

    Just wanted to thank you for this, I was looking for reach and drop explanations because I was thinking of getting a compact bar, and this info was amazingly helpful. Your visualization applet there is tremendous! Thanks again.

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  74. First Cinelli, Now Deda - Page 2
    March 20th, 2012 @ 5:58 pm

    [...] Re: First Cinelli, Now Deda Originally Posted by GrantM Yeah, and they don't. Personally, i just moved on after trying every round bend, medium and shallow drop bar imaginable. I finally gave in and bought a Deda Zero bar, and it's so much better with contemporary shifters I have no desire for handlebars that were designed for nouvo record brake levers, unless of course, i'm using them, or maybe 7402 levers. Flat ramp bars just work with the shape of all the contemporary shifters. YMMV, IMHO, ATMO, Buyer beware. -g I've got a 3TTT competition with gimondi bend (almost a track bar bend) and ergo shifters and I like it. The big curves are nice on the hands (I hate square shouldered bars). The drop between tops and hoods provides 3 really different positions. Tops more upright and drops really dropped. I'd rather have a longer reach on bars then a longer stem. I like the bigger differences in position. That said, I also really like the Modolo X-tra – a sort of scaled up compact bar. Its going on my new build. Shallow radius curve like a compact bar with a 102 reach and 145 drop, straight ramp, but a nice curve to the shoulder. See diagram here (its close to the end): Road Drop Bar Geometry : La Rueda Tropical [...]

  75. Handlebars
    March 22nd, 2012 @ 2:19 am

    [...] I found this neat comparison thingy… [...]

  76. Kerry
    May 19th, 2012 @ 10:30 am

    I would like to propose one more parameter to use for describing the shape of handlebars: the angular difference between the ramp and the drop.

    For many moons I’ve wanted a bar like the ones that they are finally coming out with now, short drop with the ramp and drops more parallel. I have always liked the tops of my bars low with the ramps parallel to the ground. More parallel drops allow me to grip the drops more like I would a tennis racket, like a handshake, rather than with a stiff wristed death grip that transfers the road shock right up my arms.

    More parameters can be more confusing but the bar does need to be described more completely, especially since we rarely get to see or handle the bars before we buy them, ordering from a shop or online.

    One last parameter might be how far the drop extends behind the top of the bar, possibly with the ramp parallel to the ground. This could indicate how much room there is for different hand positions while in the drops.

    The differences in the Zipp bars you have pictured illustrates the need.

    Thanks for the work you’ve done. This is the best discussion I’ve seen since I started riding in 1972!

  77. Ashok Captain
    May 21st, 2012 @ 7:47 pm

    Greetings from India.

    Thanks a lot for this, especially including the ‘trad’ drops. I grew up on steel (!) and ‘alu’ versions of these – basically all CInellis (where one was able to sprint out of the saddle using the drops).



  78. Handlebar width? - London Fixed-gear and Single-speed
    July 9th, 2012 @ 8:36 am

    [...] A lot depends on preferences among other things. But a good start is to measure your shoulder blade width (not total shoulder width like outside of one arm to another). Your uses also have an effect. The narrower the more aero you will be, but then your breathing might be affected and it might not be as comfortable. Off road or in the city you might want it a little wider. You've kinda got to try it. Also different manufacturers and shops measure bars differently. And different shapes have an effect. This is also worth a browse: http://ruedatropical.com/2009/03/roa…-bar-geometry/ [...]

  79. Brian Rourke 653 - Page 5 - London Fixed-gear and Single-speed
    July 30th, 2012 @ 7:22 am

    [...] This thread needs more bars: http://ruedatropical.com/2009/03/roa…-bar-geometry/ [...]

  80. drop handlebars and brake lever position - London Fixed-gear and Single-speed
    September 17th, 2012 @ 4:59 am

    [...] this as a reference (from this useful site: http://ruedatropical.com/2009/03/roa…-bar-geometry/) The standard "neutral" way of setting up drop bars and levers is to place a ruler [...]

  81. Craig
    October 12th, 2012 @ 9:45 am

    I love this article on road bars – thanks. It has really helped me get my head around the differences between modern bars and classic bars and the range of variety within both. I just got back into road riding (bought a 90′s vintage racing bike) and am tweaking the bike to fit better. I just want to do long sport rides on this bike – not race it – so comfort is important to me. I’m toying with the idea of a Nitto noodle in a wider size, but want to keep riding the current bar until I sort out stem length.

    Thanks again. Great site.

  82. Drop Handle Bar Geometry « the pig's eye cyclist
    October 14th, 2012 @ 9:21 am

    [...] As I was using the internet to study the differences in geometry of various types of drop handle bars, I stumbled upon this website. [...]

  83. CRD
    December 18th, 2012 @ 2:39 am

    Would edit your description on why cyclist cockpits changed. As “brifters” took over, cyclists began riding smaller frames. This was definitely done to lower the bar height, but your description makes it sound like people just dropped their bars on their old frames.

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