Shape of bend
Shape of bend
The other factor with handlebar reach/drop is that it’ll have an effect on the shape of the bend.
A traditional road handlebar will have a fairly deep drop and, as a result, a gentler curve to the bars. In contrast with this, a compact set of bars will have a shallower drop and a more pronounced bend. There’s also a third popular option these days, and that’s the ergonomic shape. Ergo shape bars are designed as a sort of middle ground between traditional and compact bars, and the drop on these doesn’t follow a traditional bend, instead having a flatter section below where the levers mount making it easier for your to rest your hands there.
The benefits of each type of drop are relatively self-explanatory, but, in brief, traditional drop bars offer a deeper drop, making for a lower body position on the bike whereas compact bars keep you higher and work well for people who are less flexible, or aren’t racing and therefore don’t need to be chewing the stem. Ergo bars offer drop depth in the middle of the previous two designs, but a lot of riders find the flattened section in the drops more comfortable to hold and easier on the wrists.
A further option when it comes to choosing the shape are flared designs; handlebars such as the Salsa Woodchipper, which are designed for use on cyclo-cross bikes where the additional width across the drops makes for increased steering leverage.
As if that wasn’t enough, you also need to think about the positioning of the bends. Some bars will drop away steeply from the flat top section as they transition into the drop and with this style you’re forced to take a lot of weight on the Thenar space (the area between thumb and forefinger) when you ride with your hands on the brake hoods. However, with a bar like the Ritchey Evolution, the transition into the drop remains relatively level before it reaches the area where the controls normally mount. This subtle change means that you rest more of your palm on the bars spreading your weight over a greater area for increased comfort.
Which type of bar you decide upon should be a reflection of your riding style and where you like to place your hands the most. If you spend a lot of time on the hoods then a design like the Ritchey would be beneficial. For anyone who prefers to ride in the drops an ergo bar can offer more comfort, but for those that spend most of their time in the drops with their hands towards the bar-end plugs then a traditional shape will do the job very well.