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If you’re on the fence about installing bullhorns on your bike, you should be aware of the pros and cons of these handlebars before making any commitments.
Your bike’s handlebars will significantly influence your riding style and performance, which is why it is important to find something that truly works for you and how you like to cycle. Bullhorns are particularly popular handlebars for road bikes and commuter bikes, but they are not for everyone, which is why you should understand the advantages and disadvantages of installing them onto your bike.
The pros of bullhorn handlebars are that they offer hand position variety, brake access, aerodynamics, climbing performance, visibility, and comfort. Whereas the cons of bullhorn handlebars are that they’re poor for sprints, brake-shifting, descents, and hauling cargo, and are not suitable for MTBs.
Bike riding has only increased in popularity over the years - with more and more people cycling for fitness, commuting, and leisure than ever before. With that said, every rider is different which is why you need to pick a bike that is going to suit your style and needs. One characteristic that you do not want to overlook when buying or customizing a bike is the type of handlebars that you use. Your bike’s handlebars will play a significant role in how efficient and comfortable you are when you are cycling. A go-to option for so many riders out there is bullhorns. These are dynamic handlebars that give you a lot of variety when cycling, which is why so many flat bar riders tend to make the switch over to bullhorns. However, bullhorns are not going to be the best handlebars for every rider given their design. To help you understand this further, we are going to take a closer look at the pros and cons of bullhorn handlebars.
After extensively researching cycling forums, I have been able to gather enough information to determine the pros and cons of bullhorn handlebars. My research has indicated that bullhorn handlebars are particularly beneficial to riders who cycle on road and hybrid bikes.
Pros: Bullhorn Handlebars for Bikes
For a lot of cyclists, bullhorn handlebars are the only way to ride. Drop bars, flat bars, and bullhorn handlebars all have their advantages but some are undeniably better for certain situations.
With that said, a key characteristic of bullhorns is that they are dynamic for so many different types of riders, which is why they are so popular. Let's break down the pros of riding with bullhorn handlebars.
Hand Position Variety
If you are transitioning from a flat bar to a bullhorn handlebar, you are really going to enjoy the hand position variety that you get while riding.
Instead of feeling locked in with your hands and shoulders in one position throughout the entire duration of your ride, you can change up how your cycle by switching over from 3 different positions:
When you ride with your hands in the same position, your wrists, shoulders, and joints will start to feel stiff and sore after a while. One of the best ways to prevent this is to alternate between the various hand positions that you have on your bullhorns.
Safety is the first thing that you should prioritize when customizing your bike - with quality brakes being absolutely essential. However, your top-notch hydraulic disc brakes are only good if you can quickly reach your levers.
Braking should be effortless when you are cycling and some handlebars are not as efficient for precise stoppages. Bullhorn handlebars make braking very easy and reliable, as the levers are conveniently positioned right underneath the horns.
When you are cycling with your hands on the horns of the handlebars, you can access your brakes instantaneously - making these some of the safest handlebars that you can install on a bike.
If you are an active cyclist who rides for their daily commutes or for sport, then you want to ensure that your bike is aerodynamic. Improving the aerodynamics of your bike is going to enable you to ride efficiently, which mainly has to do with your body position when you cycle.
Bullhorns allow the rider to drop into a lower seating position when there is a headwind. Flat bar riders do not have this luxury, as they are only able to ride in a single seating position.
The increased aerodynamics that you get with bullhorns will ultimately make cycling faster, more efficient, and less tiring.
Climbing up hills and dealing with incline slopes when riding is never fun. However, having the right handlebars on your bike can make a huge difference in how challenging it is to get over hills - with bullhorns being particularly good for climbing.
The biggest advantage that you get with bullhorn handlebars when going up hills is that you have exceptional pulling force. Given that you have so much hand position variety with bullhorns, you can get excellent leverage to pull your bike.
Flat bar riders, in particular, struggle with this given the lack of mobility and variation that they have to change up their hand and body position. All in all, if you are tired of painfully having to crawl up hills on your bike, a bullhorn is going to make the process a lot more efficient.
Staying visible while you ride is so important for safety while cycling. You want to make sure that all cars, pedestrians, and cyclists are able to see you easily, which is why having handlebars that allow you to be in an upright seating position are so important.
The great thing about bullhorns is that they are a perfect balance between the one-dimensional seating position that you get with a flat bar and the hunched-down body position of a drop bar. With a bullhorn handlebar, you can sit upright and have the flexibility to lean forward when needed, so that you have improved visibility while riding.
Ultimately, one of the best things about installing bullhorn handlebars onto your bike is that they are very comfortable for riding. The variety of hand positions allows you to change up your riding style effortlessly so that you can cycle dynamically.
Bullhorns strike the perfect balance between the minimalism of a flat bar and the competitive performance of a drop bar. You can ride in a completely upright seating position, or you can drop down for better aerodynamics. The versatility that you get with bullhorns makes them one of the most comfortable types of handlebars that you can install onto your bike.
Cons: Bullhorn Handlebars for Bikes
Riding with bullhorns equipped to your bike comes with a lot of benefits, but also certain drawbacks. Given the characteristics of these handlebars, they are not going to be ideal for every type of cyclist.
Before you go out and buy bullhorns for your bike, make sure that you understand the cons of riding with this type of handlebar.
While bullhorns are solid handlebars for speed, they are not the best for sprinting. Active cyclists that like to race, exercise, or simply get to work as quickly as possible, may not like bullhorns since their shape is not as good for sprinting as drop bars.
That is why you will rarely (if ever) see a competitive cyclist using bullhorn handlebars instead of drop bars in races, as they simply do not offer the same mobility for sprints. With that said, bullhorns are still better for sprinting compared to drop bars.
Having easy access to your gears is a huge plus when you are cycling competitively and wanting to achieve peak performance. Bullhorns are solid for shifting but they are not nearly as efficient as drop bars.
The main reason for this is that bullhorns are not suitable for brake-shifting installations, which is something you will usually only find with drop bars. Instead, bullhorn handlebars offer the following types of shifting options:
- Downtube shifters
- Top shifters
- Bar-end shifters
Casual cyclists who ride for their commutes and leisure are not going to be significantly affected by the lack of brake-shifting with bullhorn handlebars. This is primarily a drawback for competitive and performance cyclists that want to have an edge in a race.
Bullhorns are praised for their excellent climbing performance, but not so much for descents. The hand positions that you get with a bullhorn will allow you to get uphill efficiently, but you will be less aerodynamic once you start descending.
Given that your body cannot get hunched down quite as low with bullhorn handlebars, as it would with drop bars, you are going to catch more wind resistance as you go downhill. This is not such a major drawback for casual riders but this can be a red flag for performance and fitness cyclists.
While not all riders value having optimal cargo and storage capacity, commuters and travel riders certainly do.
The ability to haul additional gear with you and transport goods while cycling is an essential characteristic that a lot of riders look for when picking out or customizing a bike. You may find that you have some limitations with how much cargo you can carry on your front rack with bullhorn handlebars installed.
Depending on the bike that you have as well as the style of bullhorns that you are using, equipping a front rack may be challenging. If you want to transport cargo on your front rack, make sure that your bike and bullhorn handlebars are compatible with the setup.
Not for All Bike Types
Bullhorn handlebars are dynamic and versatile but they are not going to be suitable for all bike types and riding styles. These are particularly good handlebars for cyclists who ride road bikes and hybrids.
While you can install bullhorn handlebars on just about any bike, they will feel awkward in some situations - especially for rugged mountain biking. Mountain bike riders that like to hit adverse terrain that involve a lot of jumps and slopes will find that bullhorns are not the best type of handlebars for their riding style.
However, if you primarily use your mountain bike for gravel riding and cross-country cycling, bullhorns will still be a great fit.