Why no drop handlebars?

Mike in Boulder

New Member
I'm searching for an e-bike to replace stolen cyclocross but everything on the market seems to be straight handlebars.

Why aren't manufacturers distinguishing their product? And any thoughts on when this will change?
 

JayVee

Well-Known Member
You mean something like this?
image.jpeg



https://www.giant-bicycles.com/en-ie/bikes/model/road.e.1/25099/90807/
 
I don't understand your term, 'distinguishing their product'. While looking at e-bikes I saw them available in all shapes, sizes and configurations. I ended up getting a touring e-bike, a configuration that I haven't owned for almost 50 years because, for me, this allowed me to to gain the most advantage from the pedal assistance. If I'd wanted speed I'd have bought a lightweight road bike, for real off-road work I prefer the mountain bikes that I already own, their weight advantage over the e-bike is huge. I wanted to simply extend the range that I could reasonably expect to do comfortably to enjoy the countryside and ignore the hills. The touring style works for me. I spend a lot of time pedalling without assistance because in most situations the bike is capable of exceeding 25km/h. I live in Europe and that is our permitted top speed for assistance. If I had bought an assisted, drop handlebar, properly configured road bike I would have ended up with something far heavier than it needs to be that very rarely needs or uses the electric motor. My sons on their unassisted road bikes can easily match my average speeds across country. I suppose it's horses for courses but to me drop handlebars and pedal assist don't really go together.
 

Cameron Newland

Well-Known Member
I'm searching for an e-bike to replace stolen cyclocross but everything on the market seems to be straight handlebars.

Why aren't manufacturers distinguishing their product? And any thoughts on when this will change?
Ebikes with drop handlebars are indeed available from Haibike and Giant, however, in general, ebikes use mountain bike components (brakes, shifters, etc) which are designed for flat/hybrid/mountain bike bars. Also, since 2015, higher-quality electric bikes have been shipping with hydraulic disc brakes, and there are very few options for hydraulic disc brakes that work well with drop handlebars, and the few options are quite expensive. Until the costs for hydraulic disc brake road brifters fall and their availability increases, we'll continue to see only a few ebike models sold with drop bars.

Another reason that drop bar ebikes aren't popular is that ebikes generally offer a better user experience when they use a front suspension fork, especially for high-speed S-pedelecs that can cruise at 28MPH. It's not advisable to build an ebike from a rigid aluminum frame because aluminum weakens over time and then fails catastrophically, and ebikes often travel at higher speeds which can exert greater forces and higher loads on the frame, which can weaken the frame faster. If you want to build a rigid-frame ebike, it's a better idea to go with chromoly steel as a frame material, especially if you're planning on cruising at speeds above 25MPH.

There is one ebike model that's coming to the US in 2017 that has drop bars combined with a front suspension fork, however, the name of that model escapes me at the moment. AFAIK, it will be the only drop-bar/suspension ebike on sale in the world.
 

Berry78

Active Member
Drop bars exchange road view for aerodynamics. The motor allows the rider to keep his head up.

Of course for those that prefer the drop bar, it is great that they are becoming available.
 

Mike in Boulder

New Member
Thanks for all the feedback. I didn't realize the hydraulic brake issue, etc.

I couldn't find the KTM bike Eddie added a picture of on their website - they have 68 models - all flat handlebar or similar.

I should have mentioned I'm looking for something that I can add racks.

I'll be excited to make my first ebike purchase - looks like a lot of options getting added to the market.

Mike
 

Ravi Kempaiah

Well-Known Member
Thanks for all the feedback. I didn't realize the hydraulic brake issue, etc.

I couldn't find the KTM bike Eddie added a picture of on their website - they have 68 models - all flat handlebar or similar.

I should have mentioned I'm looking for something that I can add racks.

I'll be excited to make my first ebike purchase - looks like a lot of options getting added to the market.

Mike

Mike,
This might interest you .... https://electricbikereview.com/forums/threads/dail-e-grinder.8972/#post-70019
 

Dunbar

Well-Known Member
As a pretty high mileage road cyclist (8-10k miles per year) I think that electric drop bar bikes are a pretty niche market. Narrow tires and a more aggressive position are good for efficiency but not for comfort . The narrow tires at high pressure are no fun cruising at the higher speeds of a speed pedelec. I do agree that drop bars are more comfortable on longer rides due to the multiple hand positions available (hard to understand if you've never used them.) But most e-bikes on the market just don't have the range to do 2+ hours of riding. When you throw an electric motor pumping out a few hundred watts of assist on an upright flat-bar bike you no longer have to worry about the ultimate efficiency of the riding position.

Also, it seems like most of the drop bar electric bikes are just a flat bar bike with a drop bar installed. So the geometry of the bike isn't going to be optimized for drop bars. That said, I would love to test a drop bar e-bike but I just don't see how I could justify one for myself. If I'm riding a road bike I'm looking to get a workout. If I want to wear street clothes and avoid sweating I hop on the e-bike.
 

Ravi Kempaiah

Well-Known Member
As a pretty high mileage road cyclist (8-10k miles per year) I think that electric drop bar bikes are a pretty niche market. Narrow tires and a more aggressive position are good for efficiency but not for comfort . The narrow tires at high pressure are no fun cruising at the higher speeds of a speed pedelec. I do agree that drop bars are more comfortable on longer rides due to the multiple hand positions available (hard to understand if you've never used them.) But most e-bikes on the market just don't have the range to do 2+ hours of riding. When you throw an electric motor pumping out a few hundred watts of assist on an upright flat-bar bike you no longer have to worry about the ultimate efficiency of the riding position.

Also, it seems like most of the drop bar electric bikes are just a flat bar bike with a drop bar installed. So the geometry of the bike isn't going to be optimized for drop bars. That said, I would love to test a drop bar e-bike but I just don't see how I could justify one for myself. If I'm riding a road bike I'm looking to get a workout. If I want to wear street clothes and avoid sweating I hop on the e-bike.

Haibike Race has very narrow tires but that's not the case with Bulls Dail-E. It has 2" tires.
One could easily go upto 35C tires on some of these bikes (Giant, Haibike etc) making it almost like Cyclocross or Touring bike.
A bike like Surly Long Haul Trucker with 1.5Kwhr battery would be ideal...
 

JRA

Well-Known Member
I live in the Portland metro area and the lions share of bicycles you see here are drop handlebar ones. As a 35 year veteran of mtb'ing I have never been attracted to road riding but as much as the PDX is touted as a bike town, by that they mean road bikes, as the trail network scene is lacking or requires a car ride to the trailhead.

I live outside of town a little ways in a more country environment. Still no trails but miles of gravel roads and 2 lane pavé. I have been trying different methods of motor assist bicycles since 2000, both gas and electric, and with what I know I decided to try a what they call a "gravel bike" out to see if it would work for my needs.

I considered a BBHSD but I have always been intrigued with the two wheel drive aspect of using a front hub motor so I went that way instead. Not wanting to spend a whole lot on it and not having a suitable bike I ended up with a Bikes Direct Motobecane MotoStrava aluminum frame/carbon fork that came with WTB TCS wheels, an 8 spd./3 ring drivetrain and mech disc brakes for $600 delivered. I got a 9c motor kit (1000w legal here in the OR) from ebikes.ca to match my 52v Em3EV 12.5ah battery and all in was around $1600.

Took most of a day to get it all fit and finished. The bad thing with hub motors is that they are made for 10mm dropouts and most bikes, including the one I got, have 9mm dropouts. It is possible to file the axle flats down to fit but it takes some time to do it right. Another issue was the shoulder where the rotor mounts on the hub is about 2mm to fat which puts it too far outboard and it turned out to be a problem getting the stock caliper in position where it didn't rub and in fact I never did get it to work right so I rode it for like 225 miles before I figured out a solution. I ended up with an Avid BB7 caliper that I still had to perform surgery on to make work but at least it does now.

After getting the motor on there and the controller and battery set and the wires all tucked and tied away I came to the throttle, which I prefer over PAS. I had a thumb throttle sent with the kit and road bars are a different diameter so I couldn't mount it on them I knew right away. It was a really hot day so I went and hopped in the river about 5 minutes from my house and floated around for a bit thinking about it and came up with what I thought might be a workable solution. A trip to town for $3 worth of parts (two screw on bar end plugs, a washer and a piece of handlebar of the suitable dimension) and with a little fiddling and some zip ties got the desired effect. As seen in the enclosed pic, it looks a bit kloojie but works surprisingly well and I have grown to like it. Could probably clean up the concept a lot with the aid of some CAD and a 3D printer but those options are beyond my scope at this time.

My first ride was in to the city to my son's house which is 22 miles away. I did a full throttle run and made it there in 44 minutes @ an average speed of 26mph. Whoa. It takes me longer than that in my car sometimes. I recharged and took it easier on the way back against a pretty stiff headwind most of the way that had developed and only averaged 23mph. So I was pleased with those results but still didn't like riding on the pavé all that much. So I started poking around using what is around me and found out that the bike goes on gravel really well. I should say at this time that it came with 40c WTB Nanoraptors but I switched to the 45c Riddlers for a bit more cushion and have been riding them in the low 30's psi ever since. The frame and fork (more on that in a moment) will even fit them with fenders! The gravel led to cow trails which I was very surprised that the bike took to them like a duck to water. Granted I am not going real fast but going none the less.

The one thing that wasn't working was that I was running out of effective gear ratio at around 28mph. I installed a Schlumpf High Speed drive that I have had in stock awaiting the right time and it upped that considerably so now I have a 28" to 148" gear range which is working very well and simplifies the shifting without having to use a front derailleur. Only 16 spds. but with the power of the motor and using a throttle you can start off in the highest gear and get it spinning in pretty short order. But to save watts I usually get in a lower gear before stopping to facilitate the next start.

Shortly after getting things sorted I took a 3 week vacation that ended up with a trip on my single speed up and over a 12,700' pass. Being a sea level dweller I was expecting to really suck wind doing it but the 150 miles that I put in on the e bike at altitude prior to the event was a great tune up and I found that I was able to be more efficient on my pedal bike as I was more in tune with where my limits were and able to back down before I got there. I have always maintained that the best thing about e bikes is that you can get to the edge of a sweat and stay there and this was proven once again. An old friend calls it "Speed Training". Works for me!

I am really happy with the Cycle Analyst also. It tells you everything you need to know and with a little simple math on the fly you can tailor your ride easily to go as far as you want and come home with a pretty much used up battery. As fast as the bike will go on the open road, even against a stiff headwind, it still demands that you go slower on gravel and single track so most of my rides are combo's of all those and I manage to average 20 wh/mi easily. Sometimes I will go 5 or so miles on trail which knocks my average speed down per ride but I don't care because I am going where I want to be. Wh/mi is a much more practical equation to me and the one I use to gauge the performance of a ride. BTW I pedal actively 98% of the time to achieve this, I am in to the exercise I get as well as the fact that I sold my KTM and this is giving me the trill of speed that I miss from that along with it!

Oh, and about that Carbon Fork. I am sure that most of you are thinking WTF you shouldn't do that but all I had to do after fitting the axle to the drops was to file off the lawyer lips so that the washers would sit flat and install a Grin torque arm. After 525 miles it shows no sign of stress related to the motor even though I have pushed it to its 1136w limit many times, especially on some super steep loose double track climbs which due to the 2 wheel drive this bike excels at. I am going to replace it because I picked up a rock in my spokes on an old mining track downhill in the Alvord Desert on my trip that made a dent in the fork leg and stopped me pretty quick!

So yes I would have to say that Drop Bar bikes are possible and in fact probably most desirable for those that do mostly any road type riding. The ones coming from the big players are all PAS which as I said doesn't work for me. Reason is that I prefer to be able to dictate my cadence and effort and feed motor input in to it rather than having it controlled by the system. Also I can shift into any gear under full power or in cruise control mode at any time if I need to or just stop pedaling in some of the rougher sections and still maintain good forward momentum. Works better from a standstill also and if I have to get off on a hill I can just blip the throttle and the bike comes along nicely. YMMV but don't think that throttles are the devil just because the industry is painting them to be.
 

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Dunbar

Well-Known Member
So yes I would have to say that Drop Bar bikes are possible and in fact probably most desirable for those that do mostly any road type riding. The ones coming from the big players are all PAS which as I said doesn't work for me.

You should try a bike with a torque sensor based PAS. My Cross Current feels much more like a regular bike than the cadence based PAS I've tried. I was on a cadence based PAS bike while my CC was getting fixed under warranty and the feel just doesn't compare to torque sensing IMO. On the CC I can dial the assist level down and get a good workout or turn it all the way up and do 28-30mph. All along it acts like a normal bike where the assist is more or less proportional to the pedaling effort. Unfortunately the only torque sensing systems out there are OEM complete e-bikes or something like a Bionx conversion kit which is big bucks. Bafang was supposed to be working on a 750W rear hub motor with built-in torque sensing but I don't know if/when it comes out.
 

JRA

Well-Known Member
I have tried the latest and greatest and also a Thun torque sensing bb enough to know that it still isn't working for me. I can dial my assist level with a throttle in much finer increments than an eco/mid/hi system easily and match my desired cadence to it. It probably takes a little more thought to do so but I find it easy enough to accomplish. Have you ever tried a throttle?

The biggest thing is if your whatever system it is has gearing that allows you to do your desired cadence/effort at all ends of the power band. I don't see the manufacturer bikes supplying this. That Fantic for example will spin out before you hit 25mph, but it probably is only powered to do about that. If you want to pedal at 28mph and be getting a workout you need at least the equivalent of a 52/11 which on a 700c bike with 40c tires is a 133" gear.
 
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Dunbar

Well-Known Member
I have the optional throttle on my Cross Current but it's more of an on/off switch so it wouldn't work the same way you use your throttle. I hardly ever use it BTW but it is nice to have when you need it. I've heard the Thun isn't a very good torque sensor. I think Bionx is really the only company offering a good aftermarket solution with torque sensing.

I do agree about gearing for a high speed e-bike. I upgraded my Cross Current from wide range 9sp 11/34 to a narrow range 10sp 12-28. I get one tooth cassette jumps above 20mph which makes it much easier to cruise in the 22-28mph range. You don't need a 52-11 on a 700C wheel unless you're cruising above 30mph. I run that gearing on my road bike and 52-11 starts to feel spun out around 34mph IME (meaning around a 100 cadence.) On my Cross Current it's tough to go much faster than 30mph even down a hill with the controller pulling most of the power at that speed. I've thought about swapping out to a 48T chain ring (52 is a huge gear) but it's probably not worth the effort.
 

JRA

Well-Known Member
I am not trying to talk anyone in to using a throttle or think that they are for everyone btw. It does kind of make me sad that the industry has "said" that it is PAS, outside of blip throttles, or nothing basically. My personal experience from years of mixing motorcycle and bicycle riding just happens to not support that and I feel I get the best of both world's using one. Not to mention my reluctance to commit my $$ to a proprietary system that I would not want to own out of warranty. The "I've heard or I've read and the best people say" approach to marketing seems to be enjoying broad appeal these days but I have a "must experience" factor that I abide by before I submit an opinion on any given subject.
 

Dunbar

Well-Known Member
I'm sure it works for you but realize most people just want to get on an e-bike and ride it like a normal bike. Not constantly be futzing with a throttle to adjust it to the conditions and desired speed. Torque sensing is the closest feel to a regular bike feel out there. It's not perfect but it's only going to get better as the technology and controller tuning improves.

Throttles on e-bikes are mostly used by people who want an electric scooter (not saying that's you) that can be ridden in the bike lane. I see a guy Pedego beach cruiser and another guy on a DIY electric fat bike regularly riding throttle only at 20+ mph. Despite the lament I see by throttle fans I don't see them going away anytime soon. If somebody wants a throttle there are plenty of brand new e-bikes offer them as an option if they don't come stock. It's just that PAS has gotten much better over the years so there is less of a need for throttles. Regulations are also part of the reason throttles are less available since a 28mph bike is not allowed to have a throttle under the California e-bike law.
 
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