Popular with commuters, leisure and fitness riders alike, flat bar road bikes are perfect for riders wanting a more spirited riding experience.
Sportier than both urban and hybrid bikes, flat bar road bikes feature quicker handling, lighter weight and gearing optimised for speed. These bikes will generally offer similar technology and performance as a traditional road bike 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.
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 pedalling regardless of the terrain.
What to Expect
At around $1,000, flat bar road bikes are starting to mirror the same specification found on traditional entry level drop bar road bikes. Aluminium will be the common frame material, with most models offering carbon fiber forks (usually with metal steerer tubes).
Expect eight, nine or ten-speed shifting, while braking will typically come courtesy of either mechanical or hydraulic disc brakes. The tires will be wider than traditional road bike tires but narrower than urban or hybrid bike tires, ranging from 28mm to 35mm. The larger tire size allows for a good balance of rolling efficiency and puncture protection as well as some additional security from urban obstacles like tram tracks and curbs.
If you’re a year-round cyclist, it pays to look for fender and/or rack mounts to make load lugging and riding in inclement weather that little bit easier.
Spending a little more than $1000 should see a more premium frame and fork used, saving weight and improving ride comfort. 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.
And now onto the bikes, in no particular order, here is our selection of the top ten flat bar road bikes to be had for $1,000 (or close to it).
Trek Zektor 2
Industry stalwarts Trek are no strangers to the fitness bike game, producing a range of flat bar bikes suited the urban environment. The Zektor is most at home in the city, featuring an aluminium frame, mated to a rugged steel fork, meaning that this is one bike that is engineered to last. It’s a little heavier than the slightly more expensive Trek FX 3 Disc flat bar road bike, but we prefer its build that’s optimized for commuting, but equally ready for fitness riding.
All-weather hydraulic disc brakes feature, as does a Shimano Claris eight-speed groupset mated to a standard compact (50-34T) crankset, gearing that’s nearly identical to a traditional road bike. A Bontrager handlebar, stem and seatpost take care of the contact points whilst a Bontrager wheelset wrapped in commuter-friendly reflective 32c tires completes the build.
Specialized Sirrus Sport
The Sirrus has been the flat bar bike of choice in the Specialized line-up for a number of years now. Whilst it’s the most expensive bike on this list, it has the component specification to match. A premium A1 aluminium frame is mated to a FACT 9r carbon fiber fork to provide a vibration dampened ride.
Shimano provides its Sora nine-speed groupset which is complimented by an adventure-spec 48-32T crankset paired with an 11-34T cassette out back. Tektro hydraulic disc brakes paired with 160mm rotors provide the stopping power. A double-walled aluminium wheelset shod with 32c wide reflective Specialized Nimbus rubber completes the specification and should prove plenty durable.
Bianchi C Sport 2.5
Standing for “Cross Sport”, the C Sport range courtesy of Italian marque Bianchi aims to provide riders the rugged durability of a mountain bike, with the lightweight and smooth rolling efficiency of a road bike. In many ways, it’s a flat bar version of a cyclocross bike and so is best suited to someone that has to deal with the occasional patch of gravel on their rides.
Sitting mid-pack, and available in both mens and womens specific models, the C Sport 2.5 boasts a well-considered build kit. An aluminium frame and fork lay at the heart of the bike, whilst Shimano provides the eight-speed Acera groupset. 620mm wide handlebars feature as the main contact point, sure to provide a nice balance of handling and stability whilst fellow Italian company Selle Royal provides the comfy perch.
Kona Dew Plus
Designed for the day-to-day spirited commuter, the Dew Plus’ aluminium frame and fork can accommodate fenders and racks, allowing riders to load up and stay dry when commuting year round. 27 gears are available to the rider courtesy of a mixed Shimano Acera/Altus groupset whilst Tektro provides its confident hydraulic disc brakes. WTB 650b rims wrapped in 35c Schwalbe rubber complete this versatile build.
Polygon Bend FX4
As we mentioned earlier, flat bar road bikes are sportier than both urban and hybrid bikes and have gearing optimized for speed. No bike on this list typifies that more than the Polygon Bend FX4.
Much like a standard road bike, the FX4 has only two chainrings at the front which reduces weight and potential mechanical issues. The groupset and build kit is one the most impressive found at this price-point, something that we’ve come to expect from big value, brand-direct companies like Polygon.
Outfitted with a Shimano Tiagra ten-speed groupset, flat mount mechanical disc brakes and a quality aluminium frame, the FX4 is one of the sportiest bikes selected. It’s worth noting, however, that as a result of the speed-over-comfort emphasis of the build, don't expect as smooth of a ride as you'll find with the other bikes featured here. If that’s not an issue for you, then this is one bike that screams speed and value for money.
Cannondale Quick 5 Disc
American company Cannondale have offered it’s Quick range of urban and fitness bikes for a number of years now, with the moniker now stretching across both flat bar road and hybrid categories with the Quick CX. The Quick 5 featured here sits at the midpoint of the range.
A SmartForm C3 aluminium and fork serves as the foundation of the Quick 5 and features provisions for racks and fenders. Once again we see three chainrings on the front which are mated to a mixed nine-speed Shimano Altus/Acera groupset. The 35c Schwalbe tires are the equal largest of all the bikes on this list and are paired with double walled alloy rims, providing plenty of strength and security.
Focus Arriba Altus
Serving as the flat bar road offering in Focus’ product line up for over 10 years, the Arriba range features two different geometry options for men and women, as well as a range of build options to suit any budget.
As its name suggests, the Arriba Altus is outfitted with an eight-speed Shimano Altus groupset and is matched with powerful hydraulic disc brakes. The aluminium frame and fork feature provisions for fenders and racks whilst grippy Continental tyres and a comfortable Velo VL saddle round-out this well-rounded and no-fuss steed.