Flat bar road bikes are popular among cyclists who want the technology and performance of a road bike but don't like the aggressive riding position traditional racing bike dropdown handlebars provide. As such, when looking for a flat bar road bike, you should be looking for similar features as a drop bar road bike of a similar price, which means a lightweight frame, comfortable seat, efficient brakes and easy pedaling gear ranges.
Flat handlebars offer a fast yet comfortable ride and good visibility, making them perfect for fitness riding and commuting on sealed bike paths and roads. The relaxed geometry improves the bike's overall stability and puts you in an upright position, allowing you to see far ahead and past traffic when commuting. There is typically a wide range of gears to choose from that enable easy pedaling regardless of the terrain.
The tires will be wider than traditional road bike tires but narrower than mountain bikes tires, normally ranging from 28mm to 32mm. This tire size allows you speed and efficiency when riding and also offers good puncture protection and some security from obstacles like tram tracks and curbs.
Look for fender or rack mounts to make carrying extra luggage easier and reduce the chance of getting dirt or grit on your clothes if you plan on commuting in all weather conditions.
Spending a little more than $800 will reduce the weight of the frame, and the steel fork that we (mostly) see featured on the bikes below, will likely be carbon which will reduce weight and dampen road vibration. Shifting (changing gears) will become more precise, braking will become more secure and the bike as a whole will be more durable. Jump up a few price points and you'll typically see flat bar road bikes become more like their racing siblings, with carbon fiber frames, higher-end components and a ride that's lighter, faster and more comfortable.
Flat bar vs Hyrbid vs Urban
Many bikes seemingly fit into the same mold when it comes to recreational riding but there are some subtle differences between each that will affect your purchase. We've outlined the basic differences between the most common type of recreational and commuter bikes below.
Flat bar: Flat bar road bikes are sportier than both urban and hybrid bikes with quicker handling, lighter weight and gearing optimized for speed. Flat bar road bikes feature the same technology and performance as traditional road bikes but without the aggressive riding position of drop down handlebars. The greater comfort and visibility make them a perfect vehicle for recreational riding, fitness and/or commuting. There is no suspension on flat bar road bikes, as this would add unnecessary weight.
Urban: Urban bikes are designed with lower speed commuting in mind, and often feature racks and wet-weather fenders. They too will typically have flat style handlebars but a more upright riding position and smaller gear range than that of a flat bar road bike. They're also built stronger to handle the rigors of the urban environment, and so are heavier as a result.
Hybrid: A Hybrid bike combines a number of popular features from other styles of bike to create something both comfortable and efficient to ride. When comparing to a flat bar road bike, a Hybrid has wider tires, wider range of gearing, an even more upright ride position and often front suspension. Hybridbikes are designed to be ridden on non-sealed roads and so often feature tires with light tread.
And now onto the bikes. In no particular order, here is our selection of the top six flat bar road bikes at $800 or under for 2017. All models are all available through local retailers.
Giant Cross City 1
A long standing model in Giant's range, the Cross City offers an aluminium frame and carbon fork which will help soften road vibration at the front of the bike. 27 gears are available with three chainrings on the front, and nine sprockets on rear cassette providing the largest gear range of any other bike on this list. Double walled alloy rims provide good strength and large 32c tires provide good security from punctures.
Trek FX 2
The Trek FX 2 consists of an aluminium frame with a steel fork, and while it might seem trivial, the bike is offered with a good variety of color choices which could help stand out in traffic and breathe a bit of life into your ride. There are 24 gears to choose from, double-walled alloy wheels are paired with super large 35c tires, and rack and mudguard mounts are ready to go.
The base model Sirrus costs a little less than most other bikes listed here, but it's aluminium frame and steel fork are easily comparable. The frame, like all the other bikes listed here, features fender and rack mounts to aid in its versatility. There are 24 gears to choose from, while the double-walled alloy wheels are wrapped with 32c tires.
Norco Vfr 5
Canada's Norco is another of the few brands at this price point to provide disc brakes (mechanical) over rim brakes, providing better modulation (control) and performance in all conditions. It's worth noting that mechanical disc brakes do require similar maintenance to standard rim brakes, whereas more expensive hydraulic options need less attention. The Norco's frame is aluminium paired with a steel fork, can accommodate fenders and racks, and 24 gears are available to the rider. The disc wheels are double walled alloy, paired with large 32c tires.
Fuji Absolute 2.3
The Fuji Absolute 2.3 ticks all the boxes in this category without being a standout performer. An aluminium frame, steel fork, multiple gears and large tires all feature, although the 21 gears (three chainrings on the front, seven sprockets on the rear cassette) are less than most other options on this list. Still, when you consider the price, it's high on value.
Cannondale Quick 8
The foundation of the Quick 8 is an aluminium frame with a steel fork. Once again we see three chainrings on the front but only seven sprockets on the rear cassette, providing 21 gears to choose from. The 35c tires are the equal largest of all the bikes on this list and paired with double walled alloy rims, provide plenty of strength and security.