Drop bar bikes are being designed to be ridden differently. Frame makers and major bike manufacturers are introducing and adapting features to accommodate a new style of riding being adopted by everyday cyclists. The line between road, gravel, endurance, cyclocross and adventure bikes is being blurred. Here are 10 trends that are new or newly entrenched in the world of drop bar bikes:
1. Wider tire clearance and room for 650b
Roadies are heading off the beaten track seeking out bikes that can be ridden on gravel, single track and beyond. A big part of the trend is simply providing room for much wider tires than we have ever seen on drop bar bikes. Models like the Cannondale Topstone, 3T Exploro and Cervelo Aspero can all run traditional 700c road wheels with ultra tire 38 mm or 40 mm rubber or 650b mountain bike wheels with 2.1″ or 2.2″ tires. Even pure race bikes like the Cannondale SuperSix EVO can clear 30 mm tires and endurance bikes like the Trek Domane are often equipped for 38 mm tires.
2. Slacker geometries
While there will always be a place for slammed stems and ultra-aggressive crit racing geometries, bike makers and manufacturers are increasingly catering to a more leisurely style of riding. Frames with longer wheelbases, greater stack heights and often shortened reach lead to bikes with more relaxed positions that are easier to hold for long rides. This is leading to frames designed to be comfortable that feel stable on all sorts of bumpy terrain. These are bikes made for everyday riders, not just riders looking to get every ounce of speed out of their bikes.
3. Aero tubing
Despite a trend towards all-road and gravel riding, bike manufacturers haven’t forgotten that cyclists love to go fast. While aero isn’t everything anymore, it’s definitely still a big considerating. Many new bikes utilize truncated aero tubing like the Cannondale SuperSix Evo and the Pinarello Dogma F12 for better performance in the wind tunnel without adding as much material as full aero tubes require.
4. Mounts for fenders, extra bottles and racks
You probably don’t always want to run fenders on your drop bar bike unless you are exclusively using it as a foul weather bike or commuter. You might only go bike packing once a year so rack mounts will usually be left empty. It’s also not very often that you need to be able to carry a third water bottle or a storage box for extra snacks. But it’s certainly nice to have the option and more bike makers are realizing that having eyelets to accessorize gives bike owners the flexibility to do a lot of different things with their drop-bar bikes.
5. Dropped seat stays
So many new bike models are introducing dropped seat stays from Specialized’s road range to Cannondale’s new SuperSix and Topstone, Ridley’s Noah Fast and the list goes on. The reason is dropped seat stays are intended to improve the comfort and compliance of the frame while also improving the frames aerodynamic properties.
6. Gravel specific groupsets
Shimano released the first gravel groupset with GRX earlier this year. It was only a matter of time that one of the major component manufacturers went all-in on the emerging segment of drop-bar bikes that demand a blend of properties from road riding and mountain biking. SRAM was onto something when they gave their new AXS wireless electronic groupsets cross-compatibility between road and gravel components, so riders could put a custom setup made for the specific needs of gravel on their bike. Lower gear ratios, sturdy handholds over bumpy terrain, better performance in mud and on bumpy terrain are all characteristics of these new components making their way on more and more drop bar bikes.
7. Tubeless-ready rims
Tubeless is finally really penetrating the world of drop-bar bikes. More stock models come with tubeless-ready rims and manufacturers are producing models of road, cyclocross and gravel tires that are tubeless-ready as well. With the trend to run wider tires in general, making them tubeless to run lower tire pressure and prevent pinch flats just makes sense.
8. Flared handlebars
One way to give a drop-bar bike a handhold position that provides the rider with greater stability is with flared handlebars. When the ground gets rough or when descending technical terrain, the flared bars offer a wide secure hold to control the bike while the brakes remain easily accessible. Flared bars are making their way onto more and more bikes designed for an evolving style of riding.
9. Metal is in style
Building bikes from metal is nothing new but the quality and variety of metal bikes is a testament that they are enjoying a moment. Steel, aluminum and titanium are all being used to build some very fine bikes. Aluminum has often been regarded as a budget option but big companies such as Specialized, Trek and Cannondale have invested in their Allez, Trek Emonda AL and CAAD13 models respectively delivering top-performing bikes with builds to match. Steel is being used by smaller builders to deliver sturdy, lovely riding bikes while titanium continues to be a sturdy premium material, offering a quality ride while being strong and light. Gravel, adventure and off-road riding lend themselves well to sturdier materials.
10. Bikes that aren’t made to go outside
One of the big takeaways from Eurobike was that riding indoors is enjoying a period of explosive growth. Zwift, Sufferfest, VirtuGo, RGT Cycling and Bkool have changed the landscape of indoor riding giving people immersive training, riding and even racing experiences. Smart trainer makers have responded in kind building indoor bikes for those who want a feature-rich indoor riding experience. Tacx has the Neo Bike, Wahoo has the Kickr Bike and many other companies have designed bikes that don’t move or go outside.