This post compares bullhorns to flat bars equipped with bar-ends.
Bullhorns – narrow handlebars with ends resembling the horns of a charging bull. Narrow bullhorns are normally found on fixed-gear bikes, pursuit bikes, modified road bikes, and some folding bikes.
Bar-ends – a bolt-on handlebar add-on dating back to the beginning of mountain biking. Once installed on flat bars, bar-ends also resemble a set of horns. Currently, bar-ends are not nearly as popular as they were before (learn why).
The Advantages of Bar-ends
- Compatible with different bars
Bar-ends are an add-on and can therefore be added to bars of different designs and widths. This is a strong advantage over bullhorns which are generally limited to about 400mm width.
Bullhorns are narrow because they are designed for aerodynamic bikes (e.g., fixed-gear, pursuit bicycles…etc.) and need to have a smaller profile.
However, leisure cyclists do not need the aero edge offered by narrow bars and may prefer wider handlebars which give the rider more leverage and make it somewhat easier to breathe because the wide grip opens the rib cage.
- Can be removed at any time
Bar-ends are not a permanent feature. They can be removed by untightening two bolts.
Bar-ends are an old-school accessory, but they’re still in use and far from instinct. Companies are still making a surprising number of models. The bar ends on the market differ by shape (long, short) and material (plastic, metal, or carbon fiber).
If one set of bar ends does not fit your expectations, you can replace it.
- Angle Modifications
Bar-ends can be rotated, and thus the rider gets to choose the angle at which they meet the handlebars.
The Disadvantages of Bar-ends
- Not Brake-Friendly
In general, it’s difficult to install a brake-lever on bar-ends. In theory, reverse-pull brake levers should work, but in practice, this doesn’t always happen due to the shape of bar-ends.
For example, some models have a curve near the tip that prevents the use of brake-levers that have to insert into the bar-end. The only solution would be to cut the bar-ends, but when you do that, you will lose their ergonomics.
Another option is to use Guidonnet brake levers which are designed specifically for bullhorns and allow the rider to trigger them from both the tops and the horns.
However, to combine those with bar-ends, you will need to have fairly narrow bars. And in that case, you might just as well run real bullhorns instead of bar-ends.
- Not Aesthetically Pleasing
Some people like the extra hand positions and leverage offered by bar-ends but dislike their appearance because they look retro and non-unified with the bar.
Below is a table with the weight of popular bullhorn bars:
|Cinelli Bullhorn Handlebar||290g|
|Profile Design Wing 20C UD||200g|
|Rodeo Pursuit Handlebar||255g|
|Origin 8 Pursuit Bars||320g|
Conclusion: The average weight of bullhorns is about 270g.
To know whether bullhorns are a lighter or a heavier option, we have to compare their weight to that of a flat bar + bar-ends combo.
The table below contains the weights of flat bars and bar ends:
|Flat Bars||Weight||Bar Ends|
|Procraft Elite XC OS Flatbar||190g||SQlab 411||108g|
|LEVELNINE Race MTB||285g||KCNC BE2||60g|
|Ritchey Trail 2X||276g||Procraft Hyperends Pro II||160g|
|LEVELNINE Pro Team Carbon||232g||BBB Classic BBE-07||144g|
|Ritchey Classic 31.8||340g||PRO Alloy Anatomic Bar Ends||140g|
|DEDA Dritto 26||190g||XLC Pro SL BE-A15||64g|
|Ritchey WCS Carbon||183g||SQlab 411||40g|
|PRO LT 31.8||280g||RFR Bar Ends Standard||103g|
|Procraft Pro 720TF||215g||KCNC BE2 Bar Ends||68g|
Whether a flat bar + bar-ends combo is heavier or lighter depends on the models that the rider chooses. The heaviest flat bars in the table are Ritchey Classic 31.8 (340g).
When combined with the heaviest bar-ends in the table (Procraft Hyperends Pro II), the total weight goes up to 500 grams – almost double the weight of average bullhorns.
However, there are also some pretty light bars and bar-ends that result in a lighter package.
Ultimately, it depends on the combo, but in most cases flat bars + bar-ends weigh either as much as bullhorns or slightly more.
Truth be told, the extra weight isn’t detrimental to performance but could be seen as a detriment by people trying to build the lightest possible bicycle.
The Advantages of Bullhorns
The flat bar + bar-ends combo consists of two separate parts whereas bullhorns are one unified package and thus many find them more aesthetically pleasing.
Bullhorns allow the rider to assume a very aerodynamic position by bending the elbows and tucking them in. Bar-ends do not offer that option because they’re shorter and often coupled with flat bars that are far wider than basic bullhorns.
- Brakes on the horns
Bullhorns allow you to easily install reverse-pull brakes on the horns. Thus, the brakes are accessible from the horn position too.
If you want to have additional brake access from the tops, you will have to install inline levers.
As shown above, bullhorns are often slightly lighter than flat bars equipped with bar ends.
- Bar-tape Friendly
Technically, one can wrap bar tape around bar-ends too, but the juncture where the bar-ends meet the handlebars is a bit tricky to cover. Bullhorns, on the other hand, can be easily wrapped, and the final product looks aesthetic.
- Comfortable Secondary Hand Positions
The curves of bullhorns are more comfortable to grab than bar-ends’ connection points.
- Built-in Drops
Pursuit handlebars come with a built-in drop position which allows cyclists to get low and assume an aerodynamic stance. Bar-ends don’t offer this option.
The Disadvantages of Bullhorns
Bullhorns are often between 37.5 and 40cm. Some people may find those dimensions too narrow.
- The shape of the horns is permanent.
Bar-ends allow you to replace them if a set feels uncomfortable, but the shape of bullhorns is permanent. Once you buy a unit, you’re stuck with it.
- Shifters and Brakes Away From Each Other
Flat bars give the rider simultaneous access to the brakes and the shifters. On the other hand, bullhorns provide that option only if one uses brake levers on the horns in conjunction with bar-end shifters. But even in that case, the access isn’t as fast.
That said, one can also install brake levers on the tops of the bullhorns in conjunction with flat bar road shifters. However, this setup isn’t as common because most people prefer to have the brake levers on the horns since this is the most aggressive position.
Summary: What You Need To Know
- Bullhorns offer more aerodynamic positions and are therefore better suited for bicycles designed to be quick on the road (e.g., fixed-gear, road bikes…etc.)
2. Bar-ends can be combined with wider bars. This property makes them more appropriate for old-school MTBs, gravel bikes, and comfort city bicycles.
3. Bar-ends give the rider more opportunities to customize his/her set-up.
4. In most cases, bullhorns are ever so slightly lighter.
5. Bullhorns are better suited for bar tape.
6. It’s quite cumbersome to install brakes on bar-ends. In most cases, it’s best to withhold such plans.
7. Bar-ends allow you to change their angle.