With tough frames and increased tire clearance, cyclocross bicycles are often considered off-road bikes. But surprisingly, these specialized racing machines still rely on drop handlebars instead of the riser or flat handlebars commonly seen on mountain bikes.
This guide will go through the perks of using drop handlebars on a cyclocross bike and explain why they are the preferred choice. Let’s get started.
Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) Requirements
As per the strict rules of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), cyclocross bikes must have a handlebar width no greater than 50cm. Therefore, flat and riser bars cannot be used while still allowing full functionality. However, drop bars are approximately 44 cm wide and can be incorporated without exceeding the UCI limits.
Also, the length of a cyclocross bike cannot exceed 185 cm. This is why drop bar bikes are an ideal choice for those participating in the sport, as they have a smaller overall profile and can easily fit within the width and length limits established by UCI.
Low Utility For Flat Bars Less Than 50cm
Cyclocross bikes use drop bars that are wide and paired with a short stem to compensate for the lack of stability when riding over rough surfaces. The wider bars provide better leverage for precise control and improved stability, making them an ideal choice for cyclocross riders.
Comparing the bar choice for cyclocross to mountain biking, you rarely see flat bars under 500mm (50 cm) in the latter sport. Furthermore, short flat bars are typically only seen on urban fixie bikes, which are used to optimize narrow profiles and facilitate aggressive riding through city traffic.
But coping with the terrain of a cyclocross race requires a wider bar, as shorter bars would be too low-utility to control easily. In this case, riders must rely heavily on leaning when steering due to reduced maneuverability. Thus, drop bars are the more suitable option for cyclocross bikes.
Width Of The Drop Bar Bike
They are narrow, and the width varies between 380mm and 440mm (38-44cm) measured from the center of one drop to the other. There are a few reasons why drop bars are preferred over modern or retro MTB bars:
- Clearance: The narrow profile of road or cyclocross drop bars gives extra clearance when cycling in tight packs, reducing the chances of bumps, collisions and other accidents.
- Reduced Drag: They also provide more aerodynamic advantages, as they offer less drag compared to wider MTB riser bars. This is an attractive advantage for road bikers who are always looking to minimize any resistance on their bikes when cycling and wany more upright riding position.
- Better Handling: The shape of the drop bars provides a better grip when riding on roads and trails, allowing you to stay in control even at higher speeds, compared to flat bar bike.
The Perks Of Drop Bars
Apart from the technical advantages of drop bars in a cyclocross race, there are several other benefits that come with using them.
1. Multiple Hand Positions
You can easily switch your hand positions when you have drop bars. This allows you to vary your position and prevent fatigue on longer rides. Try placing hands on the hoods, on the drops, or in between. Also, to facilitate acceleration out of the saddle, you can put your hands in the drops and push off with extra power.
2. Improved Aerodynamics
Drop bars help to reduce drag and wind resistance, making them great for racing or time trials. This gives you an edge when it comes to speed and performance. The lower position of the drop bars also allows for a more comfortable ride with less back strain.
3. Added Comfort
The sloping design of the narrow drop bars gives riders more space to move around in, allowing them to find a comfortable position while they ride. In addition, the curved shape of the drops also helps distribute weight evenly, making for a more pleasant experience as you pedal.
4. Easier Climbing
The hoods of drop bars are wider than regular straight bars, making it easier to climb hills and mountains. This is because the extra width gives you a wider range of motion, allowing you to push more effectively with both arms.
1. Are There Drop Bars Specifically Designed For Cyclocross?
Yes, dirt drop bars are specifically designed for cyclocross and gravel bikes. They provide a higher level of control than regular handlebars and allow for more comfortable hand positions. With flared hooks, dirt drops allow for more leverage when riding on difficult terrain, making them a great choice for cyclists transitioning from mountain biking.
The downside is that the hook shape may make the top position uncomfortable. Nevertheless, dirt drops are designed to encourage cycling in the drop position, even on rough surfaces.
2. Do Drop Bars Make It Hard To Use Brakes?
To some extent, drop bars can make it more difficult to use brakes. Braking from the hoods requires more effort since the index and middle fingers are not in an ideal position relative to the brake levers, leading to fatigue and possible wrist or forearm strains in certainly extended descents.
If a person has short fingers, reaching for the brakes while riding in the drops may be an additional challenge, although, with modern compact drop bars and dirt drops, this is less likely to be a problem.
3. Are There Drop Bars Wider Than 44cm?
Yes, there are wider drop bars available in a range of sizes from 40cm to 46cm. These can be found at most bike shops and online retailers. They allow for more control and comfort when riding on rough terrain or in tight corners. It’s important to ensure that the bar is the right size for your specific cycling needs. Wider bars can also help with better bike handling, especially on long rides over rough terrain.
4. Why Don’t Cyclocross Bikes Use Short And Flat Bars?
The reason is simple. Flat handlebars with bar ends are technically forward-facing bars and are therefore prohibited in cyclocross races due to the potential risk of hurting oneself or another competitor. The technicality increases the alertness of a rider, as their hands are almost always covering the bars.
Bar ends are a different story, usually used for climbing and not for braking or shifting gears. This riding style decreases the riders’ alertness and raises the chance of unintentionally coming in contact with other cyclists or objects.
Drop bars have hoods that provide more control when descending, braking, and shifting gears instead of bar ends. Also, the time spent on bar ends is less than on the hoods of a drop bar, which further reduces the rider’s alertness and increases the risk of injury.
Following the above points, it’s clear that drop bars are the go-to choice for cyclocross riders. They provide better control of the bike, and they also look great and can be customized to fit any rider’s needs. With their lightweight and aerodynamic design, the drop bars offer an unbeatable combination of comfort and performance.