Flat bar road bikes

Pat is getting close to wrapping up her training for the Hill Country Ride for AIDS, which is this coming Saturday. One conclusion she’s reached this year is that the heavy old hybrid she rides needs to be replaced.

She’s not ready to take the plunge just yet. She wants to ride the Ride on the bike she’s been used to. But once it’s all over, she’ll be ready to scope out something new.

The other day we were at the LBS, to get some adjustments made to her bike, and to stock up on stuff we’ve run low on, like bum cream. While we were at it, she suggested we look at some bikes, just to see what the possibilities are.

She liked the Specialized Sequoia, with its kind of upright riding position (for a road bike). The price is OK, and she likes the added brake levers on the bars, rather than just those on the hoods. She wasn’t fired up about the Specialized Ruby and Dolce, two WSD bikes. Then we asked to see some flat bar road bikes.

The salesman showed us the Trek FX 7.5. She raved about it. The handlebar was comfortably familiar, and the brake levers were right there. The brakes themselves are cantilever, in the hybrid style, which added to the familiarity of the bike. It had 700C x 32 tires, which offered a feeling of security. Priced well under $1,000. Then, he pointed out the Trek FX 7.6. A real step up from the 7.5. Carbon fiber seat stays and seat post, Shimano 105 rear derailleur, skinny tires, lighter wheels. She got on each of them, asked about modifying them to raise the handlebar to a more upright position, but turned down the offer of a test ride, since she didn’t plan on buying a bike right away.

The Trek FX 7.6.

I was impressed with the bikes. I had never considered anything other than a traditional road bike, so I was unfamiliar with these. I knew they could be fast, because I remembered being smoked on the Veloway by a guy on a Cannondale flat bar last summer. As riding in a road bike position becomes less comfortable for me, now that I am of a certain age, a switch to a bike like these might be worth some thought.


  1. Michael says

    I’d stay away from flat bar road bikes, especially for riding any distance. You won’t have enough hand positions to take the stress of your wrists. I ride a touring bike a “go fast” road bike, higher handlebars which make the drops useful (not so far down you can’t comfortably use them) and a Cro-Mo Steel frame that reduces the road buzz. It also has all the mount points for fenders and racks if you want to tour or commute on it. You can still run skinny tires but it will accept large tires if you want (I can use 700×37’s with fenders and I have 700×40 snow studs that I need to remove the rear fender to allow them to fit).

  2. Michael says

    Dang it, distracted while writing the first comment…ignore the phrase “a ‘go fast’ road bike”–I was going in a different direction with my comment before I was interupted.

  3. south says

    Even though I rarely use the drops, it is nice to be able to change hand positions on long rides from the flats to the hoods. For that reason, I don’t think i could ever go to a flat only bike. But that’s me.

  4. DesertDude says

    The 7.6FX is a really nice bike for someone wanting a less agressive seating position than a drop bar road bike with racing geometry.

    I almost pulled the trigger on a 7.6 but took a decent deal on a new 7.7 instead. There are definitely spec differences between the two models, but the frames are the same…and the ride is very similar. Not being accustomed to a flat bar, I did find myself wanting more hand positions. I added a set of Ergon GC2 locking grips shortly after purchasing the bike. The small, integrated bar ends are super comfy, add a desired hand position to reduce numbness issues, and don’t look goofy like so many other bar ends. They aren’t particularly light, and they aren’t cheap…but I wish I had been using them from day one. And the sacrifice of a few grams for comfort isn’t a sacrifice at all.

    My regular rides are 35 to 50 miles. Time and weather permitting, that’s usually over 150 miles/week. I finish rides with plenty of energy to spare and no hand numbness or soreness whatsoever. So, comments suggesting that a flat bar isn’t suitable for rides of 10+ miles aren’t necessarily based on experience with the bike Pat is looking at.

    The FX will perform well for fitness, charity/fun rides, commuting, you name it. There are flat bar road/street bikes of similar geometry from other manufacturers, but you’ll find the 7.6 a respectable balance between performance and value. As an upgrade from a true hybrid that Pat’s been riding, I think she’ll love experiencing the ride of a road bike with brake/shifters that remain in a position familiar to her hands.

    If Pat does take the “flat bar route,” I again recommend taking a look at the Ergon GC grips. If your dealer stocks them, you might want to get the stock grips switched out upon purchase.

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