Why so popular on gravel bikes? Advantages and disadvantages of flared handles and how to choose thumbnail

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Why so popular on gravel bikes? Advantages and disadvantages of flared handles and how to choose

Flared handlebars are being increasingly adopted on gravel bikes. We will look at what flared handlebars are and why they are so popular, starting with their advantages and disadvantages.

Modified at: 2023.10.26Posted at: 2022.9.27

What is a flared handle?

A flared handle is a type of drop handle for road and gravel bikes in which the drop portion of the handle is wider across than the flat portion.

normal drop handle and flared handle

MTBs used on rough roads are usually fitted with wide handlebars, while road bikes, which take an aerodynamic position, usually have handlebar widths as narrow as possible to reduce aerodynamic drag.

Flared handlebars incorporate both of these features: in the bracket position, the body is folded down to reduce aerodynamic drag, and on rough roads, the lower handlebars are held in a wider position to improve bike control and stability.

Depending on the product, flared handlebars often widen the distance between the lower handlebars by 10 cm relative to the distance between the bracket positions, transforming a 400 mm handlebar into a 500 mm wide handlebar at the lower handlebar.

A normal drop handlebar drops vertically from the bracket position, but a flared handlebar drops outward, so you can tell if it is a flared handlebar by looking at the handlebar shape from the front and rear.

Advantages of flared handlebars

Increased stability in bike and handlebar operation

The biggest advantage of flared handlebars is that the wider lower handlebar position increases stability on gravel and other rough terrain.

Unlike on the road, which is often ridden in a straight line, sharp turns, such as 180-degree turns, are common on trails such as MTB trails. At such points, the wider the handlebars, the easier it is to maneuver.

Also, on rough roads, where there are many bumps and bumps from the road surface, it is normal to open the arms and use the body like a suspension, but this is not possible with normal drop handlebars. With flared handlebars, the lower handlebars are wider, allowing for both of these uses.

Of course, it is still narrower than “super wide flat handlebars” such as 800mm for MTB, but the maximum width of road bike handlebars is 460mm at the widest, so if you want to go wider than that, you will inevitably choose flared handlebars.

Can carry a lot of luggage

One of the most fun ways to enjoy gravel bikes is bicycle camping and bicycle touring.

When you go bicycle camping or bicycle touring, there are many things to load, such as camping equipment and a change of clothes, and it is important how much you can load not only in the saddlebags and frame bags, but also in the handlebar bags.

The maximum width of a standard road bike handlebar is 460mm, but with flared handlebars, the area where the handlebar bag is attached is more than 500mm, so there is plenty of room for the handlebar bag to fit.

Especially, handlebags with a large capacity, such as those used for bike camping, are designed to be wider than the width of a flat-bar handlebar, which is not wide enough for a road bike handlebar.

Flared handlebars solve this problem.

Disadvantages of flared handles.

Fewer types

Flared handlebars are a type of drop handlebar that has become popular in the past few years, so one of the disadvantages is that there are still few types of products.

Since the popularity of gravel bikes is rapidly increasing worldwide and in the industry, there is a possibility that the number of flared handlebars will increase in the future, but at present there are only a few types, and the choices in price, material, and shape are limited.

Easier to hit obstacles

With normal drop handlebars, the maximum width is only about the rider’s shoulder width, so it is unlikely that the handlebars will come into contact with obstacles on the road while riding.

However, with flared handlebars, the lower handlebars are wider than the rider’s shoulder width, so if the rider slides through the handlebars as if riding a road bike, there is a greater chance of hitting a tree, guardrail, or other obstacle. If the other party is a person, it will lead to an accident against the person, so care should be taken.

How to choose a flared handle

Pay attention to the size!

Road bike handlebars are sized by the distance of the lower handlebar portion, which is determined in two ways: C-C (center-to-center: distance from the center of the bar end to the center of the handlebar) and outer-to-outer (outer-to-outer distance from the outer bar end to the outer bar end).

For normal drop handlebars that are vertically down, you can just look at the specs as indicated, but for flared handlebars, the bracket portion and the lower handle portion are open, so the handlebar size will be completely different depending on whether the size indication is for the bracket portion or the end portion.

For example, ZIPP gravel handlebars are sized C-C on the specs, but ZIPP officially states that "C-C is the distance between the bracket portions, not the distance between the drop end portions.

ZIPP gravel handle size chart

This area varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, so be careful when choosing.

Be aware that STI levers may tilt.

This also varies from product to product, but the curve may start from the bracket part because the drop part is spread out in the shape of a “C”.

In this case, the STI lever will be tilted together, which not only makes it difficult to brake and shift gears, but also makes it easier to hurt your hand because you will have to twist your wrist when you grip the bracket.

Some may say, “It doesn’t matter if it’s at an angle,” but for some people it just doesn’t fit their bodies. Some products are vertical up to the bracket and flare out from below it, so be sure to choose such a product.

Shallow drop is better for aggressive roads.

Drop handlebars vary in how far down they curve from the bracket depending on the product. If you are gripping the flared portion for more control on gravel, a regular larger drop will give you too deep a forward lean, and you risk losing your balance and falling forward.

If you are using the drop portion for power on paved roads, this is not a problem, but if you plan to use it on rough roads, it is recommended that you choose a product with a smaller drop.

Gravel Bike Position Guide

Gravel bikes have a slightly different approach to position than both road bikes and MTBs. This section explains how to optimize the position.

Easily convert your bicycle to gravel bike

Gravel bikes are often bought from manufacturers who sell them as "gravel bikes," but it is also possible to customize a road bike or cross bike and "gravel bike-ize" it.

Customization for comfort on rough roads

Gravel bikes on gravel roads, for example, are subject to more vibration and shock from the road surface than those on paved roads. Optimizing for rough roads can make riding more comfortable.

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