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 pedalling 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 pedalling regardless of the terrain.
The tyres will be wider than traditional road bike tyres but narrower than mountain bikes tyres, normally ranging from 28mm to 32mm. This tyre 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 AUD$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 fibre 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 mould 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 optimised 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 tyres, wider range of gearing, an even more upright ride position and often front suspension. Hybris bikes are designed to be ridden on non-sealed roads and so often feature tyres with light tread.
And now onto the bikes. In no particular order, here is our selection of the top ten flat bar road bikes at AU$800 or under for 2017. All models are all available through retailers in Australia.
Merida Speeder 20 disc
The Speeder 20 disc features an aluminium frame paired with a steel fork, and is one of the few bikes in this list to feature disc brakes (hydraulic). While a little heavier, disc brakes offer superior brake control and durability, especially in the wet. There are 24 gears at your disposal with three chainrings on the front, and eight sprockets on the cassette at the rear providing an exceptionally large range to choose from. The wheels are double walled alloy providing a good amount of strength and are complimented by thick and robust 32c tyres.
- RRP: AU$749
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 tyres provide good security from punctures.
- RRP: AU$799
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 colour 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 tyres, and rack and mudguard mounts are ready to go.
- RRP: AU$749
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 tyres.
- RRP: AU$650
Apollo Exceed 20
A bike designed in Australia. The biggest selling point for the Exceed 20 is the great value frame and fork. The aluminium frame is triple butted which reduces weight without compromising on stiffness, the fork is carbon which will help reduce road vibration and there are pannier mounts should you wish to carry additional luggage. The rest of the build doesn't sacrifice as a result of the frame either, there are still 24 gears and double walled alloy wheels. The tyres are skinner than most at 28c, which is done in an effort to save weight and increase the speed of the bike. Due to this. it's best suited for commuting and fitness riding on sealed paths and roads.
- RRP: AU$779
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 tyres.
- RRP: AU$749
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 tyres 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.
- RRP: AU$599
As we mentioned earlier, Flar bar road bikes are sportier than both urban and hybrid bikes and have gearing optimised for speed, and no bike on this list typifies that more than the Osprey from Reid. Much like standard road bikes, the Osprey has only two chainrings at the front which reduces weight and potential mechanical issues. This does, however, mean there are only 16 gears to choose from (two chainrings on the front paired with eight sprockets on the rear cassette) instead of the more common 21, 24, or 27. This reduced gear range, combined with the narrow 23c racing tyres means the Osprey is best suited to faster riding on sealed paths and roads. It may be one of the quickest riding bikes selected, just don't expect as smooth of a ride as you'll find with the other bikes. If that sounds good to you, the aluminium frame and carbon fork are met with components that scream value for money.
- RRP: AU$599
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 tyres are the equal largest of all the bikes on this list and paired with double walled alloy rims, provide plenty of strength and security.
- RRP: AU$749