Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Hand Positions on the Dahon Boardwalk X20-R

Have you ever tried riding a bicycle equipped with a drop bar? Usually, only road bikes are equipped with drop bars, unlike mountain bikes or almost every other type of bike that comes with a flat handlebar. Drop bars are used for road bikes mainly because it offers the rider an option to get into an aerodynamic position, minimising the drag. Besides the aerodynamic advantages, there are also other ways in which drop bars are different from bullhorns or flat handlebars. In this blog post, I will take a look at the drop bars which I recently installed on my Dahon Boardwalk X20-R, and see what gripping positions it offers.

1) Riding in the hoods
This is the primary riding position for drop bars, as it allows shifting and braking. This is one of the most comfortable position to maintain over long periods of time. Not as good as the primary position for bullhorn bars, because you may tend to get numbness in the hands if you grip too tightly.

 Some people like to put their index finger over the front of the shifter.

Use the 2nd and 3rd finger to push the brake lever or release lever in order to shift gears

 2) In the drops
If you want to chase down a breakaway group or fight the headwind, assume this riding position. Getting into the drops of the handlebar gives you a smaller aerodynamic profile, reducing the drag acting on you. This is more obvious when you are going fast.

Braking and shifting are both possible from the drops, although shifting is a bit harder compared to from the hoods as it is difficult to exert strength in this position.

Assuming the sprinting position

Braking from the drops

3) Centre of handlebar
This gripping position is useful when climbing hills, as it gives you a bit more leverage and something to pull on when charging up the slopes. Also good as an alternative on longer rides to prevent hand numbness.

I have added cyclocross brake levers (otherwise known as interrupter levers) to allow me to brake when I am holding the centre of the handlebar. Not a necessary feature, but good to have, especially if you are used to flat handlebars. Shifting is not possible from this gripping position.

Gripping the centre of the handlebars

Braking is easy!

4) "Driving" the bicycle
An unconventional gripping position, this is. Not a primary riding position, as braking and shifting are not possible. However, it is comfortable, similar to the primary position for bullhorns. The bends help to support the palm and steering is easy, somewhat like a steering wheel in a car. Good alternative for long, uninterrupted stretches of road.

"Steering wheel" on a bicycle!

5) TT riding position
This must be one of the strangest way to "grip" a drop bar. When in this position, the hands are actually gripping thin air! However, because the side of the hands are able to push outwards against the shifters, this is actually more stable than it looks. The main advantage of this position is that it allow you to rest your elbows on the top of the handlebar, and puts you in a low aerodynamic position similar to when in the drops.

Tricky to maintain for long stretches, as it may be unstable, especially if there are crosswinds. Shifting and braking are of course not possible from this gripping position. However, this is excellent for long, unbroken stretches of nicely paved straight roads.

Push outwards with your hands to maintain good control when in this gripping position.

These are the 5 gripping positions that I use on my drop bars. When compared to bullhorns or flat handlebars, each type of handlebar has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Main Advantage of Drop Bars: Aerodynamic positions available
Main Disadvantage of Drop Bars: Less stability and control for downhills

Main Advantage of Bullhorns: Extremely comfortable
Main Disadvantage of Bullhorns: Less stability and control for downhills

Main Advantage of Flat Handlebars: Good control and stability for all terrains
Main Disadvantage of Flat Handlebars: Less comfortable for long rides, less aerodynamic

As you can see, each type of handlebar has its own merits and downsides. Depending on your riding style, you can choose the handlebar that suits you best. If you are not sure, just try another bike that has a different type of handlebar and see how it feels like!


  1. I enjoyed your review of drop bars and learned much. I have started to enjoy the drop bars on my Friday and appreciate the aero position it offers esp when the need for speed arises. Still not sure about its merits for touring though...

    Thanks for sharing such a valuable article!

  2. Thanks for the compliments! for touring, drop bars are probably not so good, a better option would be bullhorns or butterfly bars.

  3. Hi, just happened to browse your very interesting blog! Learnt a lot so far! Would like to ask if one is able to bring a foldie with a dropbar into the MRT/Bus? Seems like mine would not fit into the required dimensions =l

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. I have not tried it on a bus, because the aisle is quite narrow. no problem for going onto mrt, even though it is a bit bigger. but then again for a drop bar bike you will be riding it more often than bring it on public transport.

  5. True that. Thanks for your input! Am considering a CarryMe on top of my current bike. Looks like a fun ride which I can use to commute around but don't know if it is worth the high price tag..

  6. Hi, I am new to foldie.
    Recently got a Dahon P8 China imported, was thinking of changing to drop bar.
    Is this model suitable and what are the things I need to change

    1. Well you can read through these articles thoroughly, and if you can't find any info you need, you can leave a comment on any of the posts.

      Asking for info directly without doing any research is just lazy. It wouldn't help you if I provided a list of components. You will need to state your preferred type of shifters, brand, type of riding and etc. If not there is no way I can provide a list as I don't know what you are looking for.

  7. told u i am new to folding bike
    i did do some research however there are so many different info and confusing
    some info are base maybe they have interest in certain brand
    not a techie guy like u, just need some basic info....