Can a Gravel Bike Have Flat Bars?

Can a Gravel Bike Have Flat Bars?

If you currently ride a drop bar gravel bike, you may have wondered what it would feel like to switch to a flat bar setup instead.

The more upright position and different hand positioning of flat bars appeal to some riders.

Converting your existing drop bar gravel bike to use flat bars is very doable for those looking for a change.

In this article, we’ll explore the pros and cons of making the switch, step-by-step instructions, and key factors to consider before modifying your bike.

You’ll learn valuable information to help determine if converting to flat bars aligns with your riding style and preferences.

So if you’re intrigued about outfitting your drop bar gravel bike with some flat bars, read on!

We’ll provide details to assist in making your decision.

Let’s dive in!

Can a Gravel Bike Have Flat Bars?

The short answer is yes, you can absolutely put flat handlebars on a gravel bike if you want to.

Gravel bikes are designed with a more upright geometry than traditional road bikes, making them compatible with flat bars.

Many production model gravel bikes even come stock with flat bars, especially lower-end and beginner-friendly models.

Brands like Marin, Poseidon, and State Bicycle all offer flat bar gravel bikes right off the showroom floor.

You can also convert your existing drop bar gravel bike to have a flat bar setup.

This conversion involves replacing the drop bars and shifters with flat bars and mountain bike-style shifters.

You may need new brake levers and cables as well.

It is a bit more involved than just swapping the bars, but it can be a great way to customize your gravel bike to better suit your riding needs and preferences.

So in summary – yes, gravel bikes and flat bars are a great match if that’s the setup you prefer!

The gravel bike geometry lends itself well to both drop bars and flat bars.

Do You Need Flared Bars on a Gravel Bike?

When converting a gravel bike to flat bars, one question that arises is whether you need flared bars, or if straight bars will suffice.

Flared bars are flat bars that curve outward toward the ends, creating a wider stance compared to straight flat bars.

Flared bars provide some key advantages for gravel riding:

  • Increased control: The wider flat section and backsweep of flared bars give you more leverage when navigating loose or technical terrain.
    This added control inspires confidence.
  • Extra hand positions: The flared ends allow you to move your hands into multiple positions which helps alleviate hand fatigue on long rides.
  • Better aerodynamics: Flat bars are not as aerodynamic as drop bars.
    But flared bars are more aero than straight bars since your arms and chest can stay narrower.

So in general, yes flared bars are recommended for gravel bikes with flat bars.

But straight mountain bike-style bars can also work fine, especially if you value simplicity and don’t ride overly technical trails.

It comes down to personal preferences and riding style.

My advice? Try out both to see what feels best for you and your typical gravel adventures.

What Are the Advantages of Flat Bar Gravel Bikes?

There are some good reasons why you may want to put flat bars on a gravel bike:


Flat bars keep the cockpit and shifter setup straightforward.

You don’t have brake/shifter integration or complex cable routing.

For newer riders, flat bars are simply less intimidating.

Upright Riding Position

The upright position of flat bars is preferred by some riders.

It’s comfortable and less aggressive than drop bars for all-day rides.

An upright position also provides better visibility of the trail.

Better Maneuverability

Flat bars facilitate easy steering, tight turns, and precise handling.

The wide stance gives you more leverage and control.

This nimbleness is great on twisty singletrack but comes at the cost of aerodynamics.

Lighter Weight

Basic flat bars cut down on weight compared to more complex drop bar setups.

Less weight means snappier acceleration and handling.

Familiar Feel

If you’re used to a flat bar mountain bike, the transition to a flat bar gravel bike will feel natural.

The hand position and shifter style stays consistent.

For these reasons, flat bars work well for casual or novice riders, bikepackers concerned with control on technical terrain, and anyone who values a simpler, more familiar setup on their gravel bike.

Why Don’t Gravel Bikes Have Straight Handlebars?

While you can certainly use straight bars on a gravel bike, most gravel bikes come equipped with drop bars or flared bars instead.

There are some good reasons why straight mountain bike-style bars are not as common:

Multiple Hand Positions

Drop bars and flared bars allow you to change hand positions frequently, which boosts comfort over long distances.

Straight bars lock you into one position which can lead to numbness or soreness.

Better Aerodynamics

Straight bars create a wide frontal profile that leads to a lot of drag at higher speeds.

Drop bars are more aerodynamic for faster road riding and cyclocross-style gravel events.

Handling Difficulties

The narrower stance of straight bars reduces leverage for technical handling.

The bars can feel twitchy on rough terrain compared to flared bars.

Less Control Descending

The lack of multiple hand positions on straight bars also reduces control when descending rugged gravel roads or singletrack at speed.

The takeaway is that straight MTB-style bars work fine for casual gravel riding.

But most experienced gravel riders prefer either drop bars or flared bars for the enhanced comfort, handling, and control they provide.

Are Flared Bars Better?

To wrap things up, let’s directly compare the pros and cons of flared bars vs drop bars on gravel bikes:

Flared Bar Advantages

  • Increased control and leverage
  • More hand positions vs straight bars
  • Still allow an upright position
  • Simple shifter/brake setup
  • Natural feel for MTB riders

Drop Bar Advantages

  • Greater aerodynamics
  • Even more hand positions
  • Integrated brake/shifter units
  • Allow riding in the hooks or drops
  • Better for racing-focused riders

So are flared bars better than drop bars on gravel bikes?

There’s no definitive answer — it depends on your riding style, preferences, and priorities.

Flared bars are great for technical terrain, bikepacking, or casual riding where control trumps aerodynamics.

Drop bars provide a bit more speed and flexibility but require some adaptation from mountain bikers.

If you’re still unsure, try renting or borrowing both setups before committing to a purchase.

And keep in mind you can always change your bars later to dial in the fit. Both are great options!

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this breakdown gave you some clarity on whether gravel bikes can have flat bars.

While drop bars are still the most popular choice, flat bars offer a simpler and more upright position that many riders love.

If going with flat bars, flared bars provide better control and hand positions compared to straight MTB-style bars.

But you can ride happily on gravel with any of these setups.

At the end of the day, choose the handlebar type that fits your riding style, terrain, and personal preferences.

One of the beauties of gravel riding is experimenting to find your perfect setup!

Ride on my fellow gravel-grinding friends!

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Joey B. Ramsey
Passionate cyclist, father, and blogger.
I've been riding bikes since childhood and enjoy sharing my knowledge with fellow cycling enthusiasts.
My diverse bike collection allows me to write reviews and advice based on personal experience with various bikes and accessories.
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