Biking for transportation is on the rise in North America. Despite this fact the bike industry in the US is content in serving only MAMILs (Middle-aged man in lycra) and completely ignoring the NATBs (North American Transportation Biker).
Nowhere is this more apparent than your local bike shop. And no example illustrates the point more clearly than selling bikes with drop bars for transportation.
Drop bars are a handlebar style found mainly on road, 'cross, and touring bikes. These bikes are frequently sold on their "versatility". Not only will they get you around in the city, but you can also ride recreationally to mystical faraway lands inaccessible on a hybrid or single speed bike.
But the fact is that drop bars, on most bikes, cause us to make big sacrifices in safety.
Proper road bike posture means riding with your back straight and your torso at a 45 degree angle. This is great for aerodynamics, but it sucks when it's time to change lanes.
Try this: sit up straight and look over your left shoulder. What do you see? Whatever is behind you.
Now lean forward, keeping your back straight, until your torso is at a 45 degree angle. Look over your left shoulder. What do you see? Your shoulder.
Changing lanes is already dangerous. Hop on a Dutch city bike and see for yourself how much safer it can be.
Ease of Use
You know what else is more difficult with drop bars? Riding one-handed. Turns out this tricky maneuver isn't just for showing off. You have to do it every time you want to signal a turn or lane change.
When you're in Superman position on your road bike you and your bicycle are one beautiful hybrid of human and machine. Now remove one hand from your handlebars. Suddenly supporting that finely sculpted superhero torso is a lot more challenging.
The big book of cycling dogma would say "tighten your core!" That's great when you're pounding through the Tour de France (one handed). But what if you're slowing down to turn or change lanes or you just don't want to bike that hard?
Most bikers will move their non-signal hand to the flat of their drop bars. This allows them to sit upright and more easily signal their turn. Unfortunately this leaves the rider's brakes inaccessible. Good thing we don't signal our turns when we're racing...
Ever feel like your road bike just isn't the right size for you? Do you find yourself riding up on the flats because the hoods just aren't comfortable? It's because your bike is designed for sprinting and you're jogging.
When your posture is dialed in and you're pounding hard on your road bike it feels amazing. Your monstrous thighs throb with power. Your core is tight. Your back is supported. All is in beautiful and comfortable harmony.
But who the hell does that on their commute?!
For most people much of their weight rests on their hands. This frequently causes sore hands, wrists, and shoulders. The inevitable question we then ask is "should I ride on the flats and sacrifice my ability to brake or should I ride the hoods and sacrifice my wrists?"
Buy a commuter bike (like this one, this one or this one) that wouldn't put you in danger every day. Keep the road bike around for that once a month jaunt outside of city limits. That's what it's for.