Both bullhorn and drop bars add better aerodynamics, stability, and comfort to your ride.
But drop bars have a slight edge over bullhorns in terms of aerodynamics, positioning, and performance when going downhill. Bullhorns, on the other hand, offer more stability, better weight distribution, and superior uphill climbing experience.
Today, we’ll do a side-by-side comparison between the drop bar and the bullhorn handlebar to help you make an informed decision.
As the name suggests, the bullhorn bars look like a bull’s horns. They provide a more racy and upright feel and are perfect for riders who like to ride a bit aggressively from time to time.
These handlebars are especially good for climbing uphill since they shift the weight more towards the front wheel, offering more maneuverability on the rear one.
Drop bars come with a drop-down angle to the handlebars. They are more aerodynamic and offer multiple hand positions according to the speed you want.
Drop bars are perfect for those who want more versatility out of their bikes and care about aerodynamics. These handles are especially good for downhill racing.
Bullhorn vs Drop Bars: What’s the Difference
Bullhorns offer 3 primary hand positions for more stability and speed. The positions are named top, horns, and drops/sides. Switching hand positions offers more comfort, speed, and control depending on the riding conditions. They also offer two secondary positions (curves and sides).
The drop-bar provides more hand positions than the bullhorn. In addition to the 3 primary (hood, drop, and top) hand positions, drop bars also offer 3 secondary positions (under-hood, cups, and sides) for more comfort and stability.
The design of the bullhorn handlebars can give you more paddling leverage. You’ll be able to generate more out-of-saddle power and that can help you climb uphill more efficiently. This advantage comes in handy for single-gear bikes.
It’s a bit more hassle climbing uphill with a bike that has a drop bar. You won’t be able to leverage your padding and won’t get help from the out-of-saddle power. Even if you manage to climb uphill, you’ll never catch your friend that has a bullhorn handlebar installed.
The scenario is different when you go downhill. The bullhorn may give you an additional advantage while you climb, it won’t be able to catch up to a bike that has a drop bar. The good news is, your friend won’t be able to catch up with you this time.
Drop Bars rule the downhill track. They allow you to get low, making your position more aerodynamic and offering a mechanical advantage over the bullhorn bars. Drop bars offer more comfort and speed downhill.
Both types of handlebars offer aerodynamic positions. However, bullhorn bars don’t allow you to get your body much lower. You can take an aerodynamic position, but it will be challenging to maintain that position for long.
Drop bars allow you to lower your body and flatten your back. This can make your position more aerodynamic and cruise through the road at a higher speed. Additionally, you’ll be able to switch up different positions with relative ease.
Shifting seamlessly without taking your hand away from the hood is a great advantage while you are racing downhill. Even if bullhorns offer you the choice of installing down tube, top-mount, and bar-end shifters, they simply lack the superior convenience the drop bar offers.
Drop bars offer better break shifter installations, especially the STI options. Not only you’ll be able to shift/brake seamlessly without taking your hand away from the hood, but you’ll also be able to upgrade to the superior options easily.
Bullhorn loses the lead again with the default brake position. The default brake position is fitted either on the top or in the horns. Bullhorns require in-line levers to improve accessibility. With an inferior brake setup, bullhorns just can’t compete.
In the case of standard drop bars, the livers are fitted into the hood. This will give you more control while you are riding aggressively or at a medium speed. They are more accessible and offer superior control.
Bullhorn wins this competition by a narrow margin. They offer better visibility since your eyes don’t need to be stuck on any particular side. You are free to see the road ahead and keep an eye out, which increases road safety.
Due to their design, drop bars force your body to take a low-lying stance. That way, your eyes get stuck on the reload beneath you, instead of the road ahead of you. Even if that isn’t much of a safety issue, they limit your visibility and that can cause problems.
Here, the competition gets a bit stiffer. The advantage here depends on where you are going. Bullhorns help to climb uphill better than the drop bars. They provide more comfort and control when you need to climb high-elevated roads.
Due to their superior aerodynamic design, drop bars can provide more paddling leverage and make your sprint faster and more enjoyable on the level ground. As a result, they are better at sprinting on the road whereas bullhorn bars are better at sprinting uphill.
This is also a sticky comparison. The bull horns are better at carrying cargo and can fit a front rack or basket. That’s why they are perfect for people who need to carry a small amount of cargo around.
This might be true that the drop bars don’t allow much cargo space, but they offer a crucial placement that can be used to increase your road safety. Unlike bullhorns, drop bars allow you to install a rear bike mirror in multiple positions, which can improve your road safety significantly.
Both bullhorns and drop bars are aerodynamic and purpose-built for better performance. Bullhorn bars can be fit into all kinds of road and commuter bikes. They offer better climbing performance and comfort.
The performance and comfort a drop bar offers aren’t negligible as well. They are better suited for sprinting over a comparatively flat surface. Drop bars are suitable for tour bikes, trekking bikes, and road/urban bikes. Both the handlebars have unique uses and performance.
Other Prominent Types of Handlebars
As the name suggests, most flat bars are entirely flat. Some of them have a slight bend towards or from the rider. They offer precise control and are commonly used in cross-country biking.
However, they lack speed in comparison to other types and are not qualified for rough terrains.
Riser bars are usually wider than the flat bar and are commonly used in trail biking. Wider bars provide more leverage to the rider, making turns easier.
On the flip side, they are a bit more costly and aren’t good enough to be used in climbing uphill.
They are the descendants of the early safety bikes that were in use during the 1890s. They are easy to use in an upright position and provide a comfortable and stylish way to crouse around.
They provide comfort, safety, and style – all you can expect from a whole cruiser-bike experience.
Butterfly (Touring) Bars
This is the closest you can get to a steering wheel on a bike. The butterfly bars are purpose-built for touring/trekking and offer complete control over a wide range of gears.
They are usually a bit heavy and slow at the hand of an inexperienced rider but offer phenomenal comfort and control.
They are specially designed for the “out-of-the-saddle” experience that BMX street riding promises. These handlebars are strong enough to withstand heavy punishment while offering your safety and comfort.
BMX bars are designed to distribute the impact force of your jump evenly, making the jump safer. They also allow you to pedal hard and pull back whenever you need.
Also known as the Time Trial (TT) bars, the aero bars are basically an extension for your handlebars made from carbon fiber. The carbon fiber allows the bar to take complex shapes.
Many wind tunnel trials have increased the performance and complexity of these bars and they can really increase your aerodynamics.
Which one to choose
It all depends on your personal riding style and preference. If you are climbing uphill, drop bars can make your journey miserable. The same applies to bullhorn handlebars when you are descending.
However, drop bars have a slight edge over the bullhorn bars because of the better aerodynamics, comfort, and stability.
We recommend that you go for the bullhorn if you prefer more leverage on peddling and want to be able to shift your body weight across the wheels.
On the contrary, go for the drop bar if you are looking for better aerodynamics and control over your ride. It’s not like you can’t try out other handlebars if you’re not satisfied.
Q. Are drop bars good for commuting?
Yes. The ability to fit through the tight, high-traffic areas, better paddling leverage, and aerodynamics make drop bars exceptionally good for commuting. They are also good at cruising through cities and metros.
Q. Are bullhorn bars dangerous?
Not always. The bullhorn handlebars shift your body weight to the front side of the bike and that can cause the bike to flip over, especially when you are going downhill. That’s why you need to be extra careful while descending.
Q. What are bullhorn bars good for?
The aerodynamics of a bullhorn is especially suitable for speed-oriented biking such as track racing. They are also good for the time when you need additional leverage and weight in your front wheel such as when climbing uphill.
Q. Why do people like drop bars?
Drop bars can increase your efficiency and speed by allowing you to crouch down and reduce drag. You will feel the difference while riding into the wind, descending a hill, or riding on long flat terrain.
Q. Can you put shifters on bullhorn handlebars?
Generally, mountain shifters don’t fit on bullhorn bars as their sizes don’t match: shifters 22.2mm (7/8″) and bullhorn bars clamp area 23.8mm (15/16″). You’ll need to grind the clamp carefully if you insist on doing so.
Q. Why do gravel bikes use drop bars?
If you ride faster (faster than 15mph), the drop bars can give you a significant aerodynamic advantage by reducing aerodynamic drag as the frontal area of the bike is free to let the wind pass.
Q. Are Drop bars good for touring?
If you ride a touring bike for a long time, it can be beneficial for you because it provides the chance of changing your back-angle. It also reduces wind resistance as it is designed to help riders lower their body while riding.